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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 12 May 1988

Vol. 119 No. 11

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Items Nos. 1 and 2 today.

I should like to raise on the Order of Business the question of the Ombudsman. This morning on the "Gay Byrne Show" Mr. Byrne announced to the nation that the Ombudsman was being choked out of existence by civil servants. I would like to say that the blame should be put where it fairly and squarely belongs. This is a political act by the Government.

The Senator is not entitled to make a speech on the Order of Business of this House.

I am simply trying to raise a matter which has caused great concern and outcry throughout the country and some time ago we put on the record our very strong views on that. I would appeal to all parties here to urge this Government to change their policy on this matter. Otherwise it will be difficult for us——

The Senator knows quite well that that does not arise on the Order of Business here this morning.

I would like to put the Government side on notice that this is an issue about which we feel very, very strongly and we ask the Government side to do their best to get the Government to change the policy which is causing outrage throughout the country.

The Ombudsman has just published his report and perhaps the House should have an opportunity to discuss it at some agreed date.

Regarding the Order of Business, I have no problem with it today but, in view of the fact that the Finance Bill is on Report Stage in the Dáil, could the Leader of the House indicate when this House is likely to get it and, if we are getting it next week, are we likely to sit on Tuesday?

I would like to ask Senator Lanigan if, in view of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, and the widespread concern about the role of the Ombudsman and the interest which this House has already taken in this position, he will take Item No. 45?

Senator Norris, Senator Manning did not take notice of my telling him that he was not in order. Now, I am putting you in order.

I shall be perfectly in order. I am simply proposing that we take Item No. 45, which is a motion which states: "That Seanad Éireann takes note of the special supplementary report to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas from the Office of the Ombudsman" in the names of myself and Senator Joe O'Toole. I feel it would adequately reflect the concern of the House if the Leader of the House was gracious enough to take it this morning.

I wish to raise two matters, a Chathaoirligh. One concerns the Finance Bill. I understand it is coming to this House next week. I would like clarification from the Leader of the House on when it is proposed to take Second Stage and then Committee and Report Stages. I understood that perhaps we would be doing both next week. Usually it has been the practice to take Second Stage one week and then Committee Stage and subsequent Stages the following week. I would be concerned if there was any departure from what is the usual practice in order to allow Members to reflect on the Bill and make the fullest possible contribution on Committee Stage.

I do not wish to be obstreperous, but I support the call of Senator Manning concerning the extraordinarily worrying situation which has developed in the Office of the Ombudsman. There was one very telling headline in the Irish Independent today which stated: “‘Stop Killing my Service’ says the Ombudsman.”

The present Government when in Opposition agreed to set up the Office of the Ombudsman.

Senator Bulbulia, you appreciate that you cannot make a speech on the Order of Business.

I do, but I want to see the fullest possible debate on this service of the Ombudsman which is a valuable bastion of democracy. I want to see that debated in this House as speedily as possible with all-party support and approval. I would also like to make reference to the worrying and disturbing situation which has arisen concerning the Kilkenny Design Workshop, where there is confusion, uncertainty and dismay. Newspaper reports——

We cannot have speeches. You are entitled to ask the Leader of the House a question but we cannot have speeches.

I accept that, and I am not normally difficult or truculent but I would say to the Leader of the House, in view of the fact that he comes from Kilkenny, that the Kilkenny Design Workshop is one of the jewels in the crown of Kilkenny——

We cannot have a discussion of this now. Order.

I must refer to Item No. 45 on the Order Paper. This motion is down in the names of Senator Norris and myself. I am supporting his call and, indeed, the call from various other Members of this House this morning that we should debate that item today. I recall for the Leader of the House that during a Private Members' Motion on the Ombudsman some months back, and afterwards, the Leader of the House gave us a commitment that we would deal with the report of the Ombudsman when it came out. We have now before us both the special supplementary report and the annual report. I ask the Leader of the House to carry on and do what he promised to do at that time, being now in a leadership position here. I would ask him now to support the call for the taking of Item No. 45 today. I propose as an amendment to the Order of Business that we take Item No. 45 first this morning.

Could I ask the Leader of the House if he has any information as to why the members of the restaurant staff of this House have seemingly been ordered to desist from entering the House through the main entrances and to enter through the side entrances. That sounds like a return to the tradesmen's entrances of the Victorian era. I would like to know the reason for this and I would hope that the decision, if this information is correct, will be reversed.


Hear, hear.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House a very specific question. In view of the Taoiseach's noted interest in and concern for the development of the marina and port at Dún Laoghaire, would the Leader of the House indicate——

Where is that on the Order Paper?

I am asking a question.

It does not arise.

The whole point of raising matters on the Order of Business——

What item are you on?

I am asking if the Leader of the House intends that the Taoiseach might take an interest in the Port of Lough Swilly?

With respect to Senator Loughrey that is exactly what brings this House into disrepute.

No, I am asking a question. Is the Cathaoirleach suggesting that Lough Swilly is bringing this House into disrepute?

Could I ask the Leader of the House if he can confirm when Item No. 61 will be taken and if in that context he would take the opportunity to condemn the appalling savagery which has been meted out to unfortunate swans and I means this in the most serious manner — on the Dublin waterways culminating in the savagery yesterday when a male cob protecting the signet and the eggs in the nest was, according to a newspaper report, deliberately driven over by two drunken drivers. This caused enormous distress to local residents in the Lucan area who had been feeding and caring for the swans. I ask the Leader of the House if in the context of Item No. 61 he would perhaps take the opportunity to express this House's total condemnation of such appalling savagery contrary to our nature and the interest of our wildlife?

I should like to support the amendment to the Order of Business put down by my colleague, Senator O'Toole, that Item No. 45, which relates to the Office of the Ombudsman, should be taken. The words you used, a Chathaoirleach, when speaking to Senator Loughrey just now, are very relevant. You told Senator Loughrey that the sort of thing he was proposing brings the House into disrepute. It is very important that, when the Leader of the House makes a promise that something like this will be debated, we do have a debate on it. Guarantees of debates must hold some water and he must be held to them.

What brings this House into disrepute is not discussing relevant, immediate, topical matters such as the Ombudsman, Anglo-Irish relations and the Middle East. Our real problem is that we will become irrelevant if we continually refuse to debate issues like the Ombudsman today or tomorrow when they suddenly become relevant and of public interest. I ask the Leader of the House to consider this seriously and not just dismiss it as inconvenient for him today, as he has done with other debates of extremely topical importance.

I am sorry for intervening: I usually do not intervene, but every day here of late Independent Senators are asking us to take this motion or that in their names. We decided a long time ago in this House that motions of that kind would be taken in their turn in Private Members' time every Wednesday evening. They know this very well. Their turn will be in two weeks' time and they can put in their motion on that occasion. It is very unfair that they are upsetting rules which all parties here agreed to. If they want motions of that kind brought forward there are other ways in which that can be done. Certainly this House will not break the rules we have made in the past.

With respect, to correct the record, we have an agreement that all-party and agreed motions will be taken at various times. We have a number of examples of that, for example, the one on the Constitution. We had a commitment that the Ombudsman's report would be taken and therefore we feel it is quite within the agreed position that there should be an all-party position taken on the Ombudsman's report. When that was not put forward the only way we could get around to discussing it here this morning was to propose a motion on it.

There will be no change in the Order of Business this morning. The Order of Business is as I have set out. Item No. 45 can be taken, as Senator Willie Ryan said, as the next motion by Senator Norris and Senator O'Toole if they so wish when their turn comes. They want to have their cake and eat it. They have motions on various things down on the Order Paper which they want brought forward while also having their own Private Members' time as well. The report of the Ombudsman is not yet on the Order Paper. If it is placed on the Order Paper we can then discuss when it will be taken.

The Finance Bill will be taken on three days of next week. As against what Senator Bulbulia said, the Finance Bill has always been taken in one week in this House. There is no change from the usual practice. We will take Second Stage on Tuesday and all Stages will be completed by Thursday evening, irrespective of at what time on Thursday evening. The business for next week will include Item No. 61. That debate can take place between Second Stage and Committee and Report Stages of the Finance Bill.

Senator Bradford's comments are not a matter about which we in this House can do anything. They are a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I agree with the sentiments he expressed but, unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about that. It is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and for those who order the administration of the Houses of the Oireachtas. These are the only items that are of relevance to the Order of Business.

Would the Leader of the House agree to take a motion on the report of the Ombudsman on the first sitting day next week? If he would give a commitment on that it would meet our concerns at this stage.

Next week there is the very important business of the Finance Bill coming before the House. I cannot give a commitment that we will address ourselves to the report of the Ombudsman next week. The report of the Ombudsman will be debated here at an early stage. There is urgent Government business and the Finance Bill has to be got through next week. By agreement over the past number of weeks Item No. 61 is the item to be taken during this period.

There is a matter of urgent importance——

The Leader of this House has replied and concluded. Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator O'Toole has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, that Item No. 45 be taken before Item No. 1.

Question put: "That Item No. 45 be taken before Item No. 1."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 18.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bulbulia, Katharine.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Harte, John.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Kelleher, Peter.
  • Loughrey, Joachim.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.


  • Bohan, Edward Joseph.
  • Cullimore, Seamus.
  • de Buitléar, Éamon.
  • Eogan, George.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Haughey, Seán F.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Kiely, Dan.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • Lydon, Donal.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mulroy, Jimmy.
  • O'Callaghan, Vivian.
  • Ó Conchubhair, Nioclás.
  • Ryan, William.
  • Wallace, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Senators J. O'Toole and Ross; Níl, Senators W. Ryan and S. Haughey.
Question declared lost.

On a point of order, I wish to express my grave concern at the misleading information which the Leader of the House gave us. In response to my question as to when we would take the Finance Bill, and my indication that in the past it has been taken over a two-week period, the Leader of the House gave a solemn assurance that, in fact, the Finance Bill was taken in this House over a period of one week. I have had an opportunity to check the dates. In 1986, Second Stage was taken on 14 and 15 May. Committee Stage and remaining Stages were taken on 20 and 21 May. In 1987, Second Stage was taken on 24 and 25 June and the Committee Stage and remaining Stages were taken on 2 July. I merely asked that the precedent, which I had a recollection of, should be observed this year, as in earlier years. The Leader of the House misled the House, probably inadvertently. In view of the information I have given I ask him to order that Second Stage only of the Finance Bill will be dealt with next week and that Committee Stage and remaining Stages will be taken the following week, The Finance Bill is major legislation.

I appreciate the importance of the Finance Bill, as does everybody else in this House. We have not yet decided what we are doing today and we are talking about next week and the week after.

I did not wish to mislead the House deliberately. If, the Bill went through over a two-week period in 1986 and 1987, that is fair enough. The Bill has to be the law within five days of coming out of the Dáil.

I do not think that is so.

It has to be signed by the President before 27 May.

The Finance Bill will be taken over three days next week.

Order of Business agreed to.