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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 May 1989

Vol. 122 No. 20

An Blascaod Mór National Historic Park Bill, 1989 [Seanad Bill Amended by Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 82 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Taoiseach may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as a report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of these amendments.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for Final Consideration."

As Members are aware, they may only speak once on this question.

Mar is eol duit ghlac an Dáil leis an mBille seo le dhá mionleasuithe ar 24 Bealtaine. As Senators are aware, when the Bill was going through the Seanad I undertook to look at two small matters which were of concern to them. One was the suggestion that before making a by-law the office of the Commissioners of Public Works would consult with the Fondúireacht and the other was that Deputies and Senators would have access to the by-laws as passed. In deference to the wishes of the Seanad I asked the Dáil to agree to these two minor amendments which they duly did and now I bring them back here for the Final Stages of the Bill. The amendments are quite simple. The first one reads:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 10, after "Minister", "and after consultation, in any case where the Commissioners consider such consultation appropriate, with the Foundation" inserted.

The other amendment is to the effect that the by-laws made under section 3 (8) shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, therefore, will be available to Senators and Deputies in the Library.

As the author of the initial amendments which produced this response from the Taoiseach while welcoming them they are somewhat weaker than I would have liked and the consequence is that the Oireachtas will have no powers to overturn by-laws. That is as I understand the position and perhaps the Taoiseach will correct me if I am wrong. Henceforth we will simply be notified of the effect of such by-laws. That does not give an Fondúireacht any appeal, outside of a direct appeal to a Government Minister, in circumstances in which there might be a conflict of opinion. That is regrettable. It will be possible to have a debate on the matter but it will not be possible for the Oireachtas to overturn a by-law. This means that a considerable proportion of my objections, criticisms and queries raised on Committee Stage in this House have not been met.

I would have liked to have seen the position of the Foundation strengthened. I am not happy that the commissioners "considering consultation appropriate" is the best way to ensure they will consult with the Foundation when the latter feel they ought to be consulted. Unfortunately it is true in general that the perception of what is in the public interest is usually in inverse proportion in the State bureaucracy to the degree of public interest in the matter, that is the greater the public interest, the less the bureaucracy is prepared to have the matter discussed.

The commissioners may well consider consultation inappropriate whenever they fear the Foundation may take exception to an issue being raised or discussed or a matter being changed. Nevertheless the fact that the by-laws will have a formal requirement to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, the fact that the Commissioners of Public Works at least have to think about the possibility of consultation is a step forward.

I regret we have not got to the stage of clarifying once and for all that people within a local community with local initiative — whether it be a health board or Fondúireacht na mBlascaod — are by far the best people to take responsibility for their affairs and welfare. I dislike centralisation intensely. I dislike the way we have centralised this nation in a bureaucracy that would do justice to the Soviet Union. I dislike the fact that members of the Foundation will not be able to decide what is good for an area into which they have put so much work.

I am happy to accept the amendments. They are a step forward but only a small step forward. I hope the Taoiseach will have a long holiday in the Blaskets after the general election. He can choose to interpret that as he wishes but I hope he has a long and pleasant holiday. One way or the other, I intend to have a long holiday near the Blaskets and perhaps we will meet and be able to discuss these matters in a more informal way next August.

I support the amendments. They finish off what has been a very innovative Bill brought forward by the Taoiseach. Senator Ryan's fears are somewhat unfounded. This Bill is a great step forward and these amendments complete it.

Céim í seo in achmhainn dúinn ó bhaineamar ár saoirse amach. Amhail gach céim spreagúil eile, thit sé ar fhear a bhfuil inspioráid, léargas agus tuiscint thar an coitiantacht ann í a thógaint. Dar ndóigh is don Taoiseach atá mé ag tagairt.

Tréaslaím an gníomh fadradharcach seo ó chroí leis, agus tá dóchas agam go gcúiteoidh muintir na hÉireann a shaothar leis go luath amach anseo agus níos faide anonn.

Molaim do Sheanadóirí lán-tacaíocht a thabhairt don tionscnamh rí-thábhachtach seo.

I welcome both amendments and, in particular, the fact that the Taoiseach has taken on board the idea that the by-laws governing the conduct of visitors to the islands should be placed before each House of the Oireachtas. I say this well aware of the Oireachtas. I break of individualism that was prompted by an amendment, which I subsequently withdrew, which dealt with the control of nuisance by noise on the island. I felt that amendment was slightly misinterpreted but I was very heartened by the fact that the Taoiseach in his response to it indicated that he at least was very well aware that the capacity to control such nuisance by noise exists in virtually every by-law regulation in this country and abroad. I am sure that the provision will be considered and that there may be an opportunity to look at this in a broad sense — not in any narrow or anti-individual rights manner — when these by-laws are placed before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I would not like the Taoiseach to think I was churlish. It was simply an oversight that I did not respond to the very generous invitation contained in his introductory remarks on this important Bill when he said he would welcome initiative from other groups for the establishment of similar areas throughout the country. As a city dweller I am sure he will appreciate that I may well represent North Great George's Street or other areas of the inner city, such as Henrietta Street, as being useful areas to look at in some analogous way. I wanted to indicate that I was not being discourteous. It was an oversight that did not respond to the Taoiseach's very generous invitation but I am sure he will be overwhelmed by a response from various sections of the community.

Ag éisteacht leis an Seanadóir Lydon tá mé sásta go bhfuil muintir Dhún na nGall ag baint inspioráide as na Blascaodaí agus go bhfuil siad sásta tacaíocht a thabhairt don bheartú seo.

Mar gheall ar na leasuithe atá os ár gcomhair, deir an chéad ceann "where the commissioners consider such consultaton appropriate". D'fhéadfá a rá go bhfuil sé sin ró-lag, nach bhfuil a dhóthain fuinnimh ann chun tacaíocht a thabhairt don bhFondúireacht. Is é mo thuairim féin nach mbeadh aon deallramh go ndéanfadh na coimisinéirí iarracht aon rud a chur ar siúl a bheadh i gcoinne mheon nó dhearcadh na Foundúireachta. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta leis an gaol atá idir na coimisinéirí agus an Fondúireacht, agus tá mé sásta chomh maith go mbeadh na coimisinéirí toilteanach, faoi láthair ar aon nós, dul i gcomhairle leis an bhFondúireacht faoi aon fhodhlíthe a chur ar aghaidh.

It would be the height of folly for the commissioners to consider going ahead with any by-law that would not be acceptable to the Foundation inasmuch as the Foundation represent local views, and what the locality feels should be done with the Great Blasket Island should be represented to the Foundation. As the Taoiseach knows will, there is at present a very good relationship between the commissioners and the Foundation. Everything has happened by way of co-operation and consultation, indeed as is represented here today by the Taoiseach's response to the discussion in this House and in bringing back these amendments. It demonstrates that there has been the consistent will that this would move forward by way of consensus and negotiation. This has happened and our hope is that it will continue. At the same time, we would have preferred a requirement that the commissioners would consult with the Foundation and having done so would not be required to accept that advice. However, the way the amendment is worded shows that the Foundation have an official legal involvement in the decision-making process and in consultation prior to that decision-making under the provisions of this section.

There is another area about which I am not clear and which I would like to ask the Taoiseach to explain. It is my understanding that laying by-laws or such other decisions before the Houses of the Oireachtas means they are normally subject either to a positive or negative procedure. The negative procedure would be along the lines that unless either House of the Oireachtas rejects these by-laws within a certain number of days they become law, without any retrospective invalidity attaching. In other words, they are valid until such time as they are rejected. That would normally be the negative process. They are laid before the House, they are listed on the Order Paper and are available in the Library, and if either House chooses to reject them by a negative process within a certain period then they are rejected from that time. That would be the negative process which is not outlined in this arrangement in amendment No. 2 to section 3.

The positive process is where the by-laws would be laid before the House, proposed by the Leader of each House and accepted by the House. I would not, for one minute, suggest it should be necessary to do that. In fact, I would be opposed to it — as I stated earlier this morning we are not allowed to get through the business we have, but that is not a matter for the Taoiseach. In this case I hope the negative process would be implemented — if either House chooses to reject the by-laws over a period of 40 days or 30 days, or whatever number of sitting days is appropriate, that they would be rejected. Some people claimed that certain aspects of the legislation might not be constitutional. Perhaps the Taoiseach can assure us that moves will be made in that direction — I know it is off the point——

I would like to hear the Taoiseach's response to that particular point. This Bill is a major step forward and will be accepted widely. These amendments improve it and, no matter which way the Taoiseach answers, I will be supporting it.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh arís leis an Taoiseach mar gheall ar an mBille seo. Is dóigh liom gur céim an-mhór ar aghaidh é agus gur sampla iontach é ní amháin do dhaoine na tíre seo ach do mhuintir na hEorpa go hiomlán.

I would like to support this Bill again and to congratulate the Taoiseach on putting it before the Seanad. It is a very important step forward and a great example not alone to ourselves but to other countries as well. At times we have been accused of making museum pieces out of Gaeltacht people and people living in rural areas where they are actually practising old ways of life, but even the EC has seen the wisdom in practising the old ways of life.

As I asked Senator O'Toole to stay with the amendment, I am afraid I will have to ask you to remain with it also.

They have been giving grants where it has helped the wildlife of an area to exist side by side with the old ways of life. Again, I would like to congratulate the Taoiseach. We have been accused of making museum pieces of particular areas in the country. May I say that there was a time when we were in danger of becoming museum pieces ourselves when we were threatened with being moved to the museum and I was terrified I would be surrounded by cases of stuffed animals staring out through glass at me for the duration of my time in the Seanad.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Taoiseach mar gheall ar an mBille seo. Tá mé cinnte gurb é ceann de na rudaí is mó a tharla i gceantair Ghaeltachta le blianta fada agus go mbeidh muintir na Gaeltachta an-bhuíoch don Taoiseach mar gheall ar an méid a rinne sé sna Blascaodaí.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis sa toghchán.

The Seanad will be glad to know that the Office of Public Works met with the Fondúireacht last Saturday and they — the Fondúireacht — were very happy with the Bill and the amendments. In reply to the Senator from Corca Dhuibhne this process is a very simple one. It simply means that the by-laws will be brought to the attention of the House for information. There will be no subsequent process and I do not think there will be any difficulty.

Question put and agreed to.
Question, "That the Bill do now pass" put and agreed to.