Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Dec 1990

Vol. 127 No. 5

Order of Business.

The Order of Business for today is, items Nos. 3, 4 and 5. We will take all Stages of No. 5 first followed by items Nos. 3 and 4. As you, a Chathaoirligh, have indicated item No. 4a will be debated in January when we resume. If the Unit Trust Bill is finished at about 12.30 p.m. or thereabouts we continue with the business but if it goes on to 1 o'clock we will have a sos from 1 p.m. to 2 o'clock and, hopefully, commence the Appropriation Bill at 2 o'clock.

I will not try to compete with the Leader of the House in the Comprehensive nature of the good wishes he bestowed or, indeed, to digress — as he so eloquently did — but may I, on behalf of my own group, join with him in wishing all Members of the House, especially the staff who serve this House so well and the media named by the Leader of the House who give us a particularly good service, a happy Christmas. If at times we complain we do not get the coverage which I think we deserve, it is not the fault of those who report on what happens. It is due to a wrong sense of values and priorities by the editorial staff and, perhaps, we should try to persuade them to change in the coming year. I thank the ushers, the reporting staff, the Clerk — I am not sure whether we have a Clerk Assistant as yet — and all members of the office of the Clerk, and wish them a very happy Christmas and a quiet New Year.

I will not join with the Leader of the House in discussing the different types of Senators we have. I do not think it would be very helpful at this stage but the Leader of the House has brought a great stability to the position of Leader of the House and has dealt with all parties in a very courteous, helpful and positive way. He has been open-minded to suggestions for change. He would like to see more changes taking place and, hopefully, in the new year some of them will become a reality. Certainly, he has been most helpful to all sides.

On the Order of Business, I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he can give us a definite date for the return of the Seanad. I do this on purpose because the Leader of the House, for all his charm, is often very hard to pin down. Frequently, at this time of the year we are told we are coming back two weeks or a week before the other House but, invariably, we do not for reasons usually outside the control of the Leader. If we have him pinned down today and he gives us a definite date for the return ahead of the other House then there will be no way out.

Some time ago this House agreed to a new procedure whereby distinguished persons can be invited to address the House. I would like to ask the Leader of the House if he has any plans in the coming year to invite any such persons to address the House or, if not, will he put together a small all-party committee to suggest names of people whom it would be appropriate to invite to address the House under the proposed change.

I would like to join in the good wishes which have been flowing around in an uncharacteristic manner this morning and to wish the Cathaoirleach wisdom in 1991.

In the university of life.

I thank Senator Fallon for his kind remarks and ask that his remarks on academics should be responded to by the only professor in this House, who is seated on his left. I should like to echo the words of Senator Manning in wishing the staff of the House a very happy Christmas but I would urge a certain amount of caution on the suggestion that we have distinguished visitors to address the House. Apart from the fact that we are addressed by distinguished people at every sitting, it is unwise that we should rush into that and give discretion to Members to invite people to address us. It could bring this House into some controversial areas which we do not want to go into. It sounds a very good idea on the surface but it needs very careful examination.

I do not wish to single out the Progressive Democrats for particular attention today. They are always welcome here, even at Christmas. It is very unfair of the Leader of the House to single them out for a particular welcome. That welcome will be here next year, the year after and, when they begin to accept this House, it will be there also. I wish them also a very happy Christmas.

I would like to join in the seasonal good wishes to the Cathaoirleach. I join Senator Ross in wishing you wisdom, patience, understanding and an increased tendency to indulge people from time to time when they stray from the straight and narrow of what is before us. I want to pay a special tribute to the Leader of the House, Senator Fallon, for his courtesy and the attention with which he treats every Member on the Order of Business. It would be ungracious of me not to pay a special compliment to him arising from his success in having the Environmental Protection Agency Bill debated here before it goes to the other House. I raised this consistently and I am very pleased he succeeded. On that note, I join in the good wishes.

I join with the Leader and other Members of the House in wishing you, Sir, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, and all Members of the House, a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year and also the Members of the staff, the press, the ushers and everybody who has been mentioned by the Leader. We are very gratified to have the Leader, and people on the opposite benches, pay us personal good wishes for Christmas. We very much appreciate those wishes and the attention is welcome. While we are here, and naturally we shall be here for several years to come, we will contribute fully, as we have done in the past, to the workings of the House. We will contribute in every way we can to preserving its dignity while it exists.

Finally, I endorse what Senator Manning said about inviting distinguished persons. I hope we will be as flexible as possible in extending a welcome to distinguished people to come to address us. I have already mentioned that I was embarrassed that Mr. Dubcek who had promoted the freedom which is spreading in Eastern Europe had not been able to address us and had to sit in the Visitors' Gallery when visiting Ireland. I hope that will not happen again and that an Irish welcome will be extended to people who come to visit us.

I would like to join in the good wishes that were extended and to thank the Leader of the House for his kind comments. On the question of people addressing the Seanad, I feel the Seanad has a major role to play. Perhaps, we should look at that a little more often and emphasise it a little more. If we are to have distinguished visitors address us the invitation should be extremely restricted. Mr. Dubcek, both for his enormous international reputation and also because he has been appointed chairman of the new free democratic Czech administration, was a particularly appropriate person to address the Seanad. Only the most distinguished people should be invited to address us.

On a slightly sad note, this time last year there was a great deal to celebrate in Eastern Europe but the news this morning that Mr. Shevardnadze has resigned is very sad. I want to pay a special tribute to him and express some concern at the manner and nature of his resignation.

I would like to join in the general goodwill of the season and also express this on behalf of my Independent colleagues, including those who are not able to be with us this morning. I would like also to point out that it is not just a question of goodwill. There are strong spiritual values attached to the season of Christmas in this country. However, this is not always recognised. I recall being in a court in Dublin when a constitutional defence was entered for the Hare Krishna who had been arrested for disturbing the peace. The young barrister representing them said they were exercising a constitutional right to practice their religion. The judge who had appeared comatose up to then snapped up and said: "young man, what defence do you think that is in my court, practising a religion indeed. What do you think would happen in this country if everyone went around doing that?" Perhaps I offer this as a kind of Swiftian Christmas thought on what would occur if we actually practised the Constitution and made this a Christian and democratic State in the fullest sense of the word.

I share the sentiments expressed generally about the efficiency and courtesy of the Leader of the House and all the staff which are very deeply appreciated. I believe the occasional friction and tension to which the Leader of the House referred add a good real of vigour to the House. Although strong views are held and strong positions taken I believe there is no malice between individual Members. That is the way it should be; that is the way democracy works.

I share Deputy Ross's reservations about the invitations to distinguished visitors. It could lead us either into controversy or boredom. As Senator Manning suggested, if this is going to be done, a committee should be set up representing the various interests in the House to ensure that no inappropriate invitation is ever issued.

Finally, I have received very fair treatment in terms of Adjournment debates, and, as always, I greatly appreciate this. However, I have had an item concerning what I believe is a miscarriage of justice down for a number of weeks. Because the person concerned will be incarcerated over the Christmas period I hoped I would have had an opportunity to raise this matter. I do not in any sense question the selection but I hope this matter may be taken early in the New Year.

I understand today is Senator Michael Howard's last day as Whip for the main Opposition party. I should like to thank him for his efforts in ensuring the smooth running of the House over the past year.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank Members for their support, co-operation and the enthusiasm which they can, without permission, generate from time to time. This can be helpful in many respects but it can also cause a little difficulty on occasion. I want to sincerely thank all Senators for the assistance, support and co-operation they have given the Chair over the past year.

I should also like to thank the Clerk of the Seanad and her staff, the staff of the House, the press, the ushers and everyone who has contributed to the good working of the House. I wish everyone a happy and joyous Christmas and hope that you will be safe in your homes and on the streets.

I now call on the Leader of the House to reply.

I note that more statements were made than queries raised on the Order of Business this morning. Senator Manning asked if I could give a guarantee when the House would resume. I want to give the Senator a positive guarantee that we will be back before the other House.

Thank you.

That positive guarantee will be honoured. He queried what the position was in regard to issuing invitations to distinguished people. Some weeks ago we set in place procedures for inviting distinguished people to the House. I do not propose to set up a further committee to consider the matter — procedures are in place and we must abide by them. I am very conscious of the wisdom of Senator Ross who indicated that we will have to exercise caution in this matter. Senators Dardis and Conroy also referred to this. We will be very careful not to lower the prestige of this fine House. Obviously we will not invite every Tom, Dick or Harry. We will only invite very distinguished people. As other speakers have said, we will exercise extreme sensitivity in this matter.

Senator Upton asked about the Environmental Protection Agency. I am very pleased to be able to say that a Bill on this matter will come before us shortly. As I said yesterday, it will be a large and important Bill. I ask Members to analyse the Bill in great detail and to get information either directly from the Department or through our Whip so that we can do justice to it when we come back.

I think Senator Norris's comment about the judge was a sort of statement from the bench. I have noted what he said.

Senator Wright correctly paid tribute to Senator Michael Howard. I would also like to thank Senator Howard who was a very responsible Whip. He will not be in that position any longer, from choice. I thank him for his great efforts in the smooth running of this House. I strongly believe in the Whip system which, as Senator Wright said, is essential for the smooth running of the House. I know Senator Liam Cosgrave, who succeeds Senator Howard, will be as helpful and responsible as Senator Howard.

Order of Business agreed to.