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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 Mar 1990

Vol. 124 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is intended to take item No. 1 today. In relation to matters that were raised yesterday, at 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, 8 March we will take a debate on the storm damage.

I was not able to be present yesterday. I was attending the inaugural meeting of the Anglo-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Group in London. Let me say, in passing, that I was one of three Members of this House present. It got off to an extremely constructive and useful start. It will have a very significant parliamentary contribution to make in the coming years.

Because I was not present I would like, with your indulgence, to place on the record my own sense of loss and regret at the death of John L. O'Sullivan. He was a fine man from whom I learned a great deal about the history of the earlier years of this century. His was a great contribution and a great example to all of us in politics. I would like my own sympathy to be placed on the record.

I would like to raise item No. 81 with the Leader of the House and to ask him if he would agree to the establishment of a committee representative of all groups in the Seanad to examine ways in which voting rights could be extended to the two new universities as well as to other appropriate third level institutions? There is discrimination at the moment in relation to the two universities and the other appropriate institutions. I would hope this would be redressed. This could be our first effort in the long awaited reforms of the Seanad that we have been looking for since 1 November.

May I congratulate you, a Chathaoirligh, on your fine choice of issue for the Adjournment debate? It is right that Senator Upton should have the opportunity of discussing the issue of accommodation facilities for adolescent girls at risk. Secondly, I have always considered that it was very important that we discuss——

The sound seems to be diabolical. I cannot hear what is going on at the other side of the House.

Can you hear me now? It is a technical matter.

I have always considered it important that we should have the opportunity of discussing current issues. We have had a very good record on this in relation to international current issues. We have discussed Cambodia, the Middle East, Central Europe and South Africa. At present we have a Private Members' motion on aid to Third World countries. In view of what Senator Manning was saying — that he was absent at the inter-parliamentary meeting — to mark that historic occasion it would be proper that we should have a discussion on the issue of Northern Ireland. I raised it some time ago. It was a matter that was raised on a number of occasions. It was suggested by the Leader of the House that time would be given to it——

You are engaging in a speech, not asking a question.

I wanted to draw to the attention of the House the importance of an issue that has been before the House and to ask the Leader of the House, if perhaps we could, at an early opportunity, back up this historic development that has taken place, where parliamentarians in the North, in the South and, indeed in Britain have met together for the first time.

There have been pressing demands from this House and from the Dáil for the establishment of an Oireachtas Joint Committee on foreign affairs. This issue is as pressing as ever at this time. I would like to ask the Leader of the House if there is progress to report in that specific area? In saying that, I would like to make two observations. We are talking here about a parliamentary committee. That is a matter for Parliament and not necessarily for the Government. It should not necessarily need the blessing of the Cabinet for the establishment of such a committee. In addition, there are two Houses within this Parliament. We have the Seanad as well as the Dáil. If there is any reluctance in the Dáil to get on with it would you consider getting together with the leaders of other parties in this House to look into the question of the establishment of such a committee within the Seanad?

I would like to support what Senator Staunton has said and to take the opportunity to remind the House that there is a committee on foreign affairs to which, I understand, Deputy Michael Higgins will shortly be reporting on his visit to Nicaragua.

I would like to mention item No. 30. I will not today be proposing an amendment to the Order of Business because I understand this is under discussion by the Whips. It is not my wish to be pestilential and disruptive, but I would like to ask the Leader of the House, since he only mentioned item No. 1 on the Order of Business, when it is proposed to resume discussion of the Derelict Sites Bill? As you will be aware, a number of us, from both sides of the House, spent a very full afternoon, indeed, discussing this important measure in detail. We are anxious that it should be resumed as quickly as possible.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House what is the position of item No. 9, the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill. I have asked this question several times before. Each time I have been told it is imminent. I thought the Leader of the House might take the opportunity of asking the Minister for Justice, who will be in the House any minute now for the Larceny Bill, what the situation is. Maybe he might let me know when we are getting the abolition of the death penalty or if we are getting the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill.

I support Senator Norris in relation to the urgency of the Derelict Sites Bill on which we had a very full and useful discussion with a very interested Minister here yesterday. It is a pressing problem and I would like to have confirmation that the next Stages of it will be taken imminently.

I would like to ask the Leader of the House whether he proposes to make time available in the near future to discuss Northern Ireland? There have been very many significant developments in recent times. The House should get an opportunity to express its opinions on this matter.

There was a request yesterday about the bombing of the railway line between the South and the North. There are requests this morning to have a debate on the total question of Northern Ireland in relation to the new Anglo-Irish tier that has been set up recently. I do not see any great difficulty. I would like to see those two debates brought together. When the Whips meet later an agreement can be reached on that matter. On the Derelict Sites Bill, can I just say that it will be taken very shortly? I would prefer the Whips to have an agreement on this. The Whips will be meeting immediately after this meeting. I am surprised at Senator Staunton asking about the foreign affairs committee. That is a matter which is under discussion in the House at present. It is a matter of regret that when that motion came before the House it was Senator Murphy who seconded the motion. Senator Costello, we will at all times take urgent, national, current matters.

On a point of order, could I ask the Leader of the House if he could report progress? I did not suggest that matters were not taking place but I wanted a report on progress.

The matter is under discussion in the House. There is a debate going on which will be concluded next week.

I merely sought that progress should be reported. I did not imply that work was not being done.

I am reporting what is actually happening in the House. There was a request from Senator Jackman that a small select committee of this House be set up to investigate the possibility of the extension of voting rights to the new universities. I do not see any difficulties in a small select committee of this House being set up for that purpose. Can I just say that this committee will issue recommendations to the Government, I would presume, on what this House would see as the urgency or the parameters in the matter? I do not see any difficulty at all in that. I would suggest that CPP take that matter up next week as a matter on the agenda for that committee. We do not have the right to do anything. I think that if this House makes recommendations they will be accepted by the Government. Senator Manning thanked the Anglo-Irish Group and complimented them for what they have done in the last couple of days. He was, himself, I suppose, being self-complimentary but——

——let me just say I think that this does introduce a new idea that can be pursued. Members of this House have played an important part in that new tier of Anglo-Irish relations. I would like to thank the Members of the House and the Members of the other House who have gone over and, indeed, members of the British Parliament who have been involved in those discussions. Tosach maith leath na hoibre, they say. I think that "tosach maith" has been made in this case. I would also like to compliment the representatives who went to Nicaragua to address themselves to the elections that took place there and to compliment the Seanad representative, Senator McKenna, for his part in that exercise.

With your indulgence, in the interest of accuracy I would like to say that our motion on foreign affairs, on ODA, was formally seconded by Senator Mary Jackman last night, who was the third speaker. She was the second Fine Gael speaker, even though we welcomed very much support from Senator Murphy.

Is the Order of Business agreed?

With your indulgence as well, I would just like to say that the Leader did not give me any reply on the abolition of hanging Bill.

As far as I am concerned, the Leader of the House has replied and that is it.

It is not an aggressive question. It is just something I think he has forgotten to reply to.

Order of Business agreed to.