Is amendment No. 53 being pressed?
Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990: Committee Stage (Resumed).
Section 15 is opposed by Senator Ryan. Is the section agreed?
On behalf of Senator Ryan I would like to put on record our opposition to this section which provides "that no action or other proceedings shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or any bodies referred to..." We will oppose the section.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 16, subsection (2), to delete lines 35 and 36 and substitute the following:
"(a) the best available technology not entailing excessive costs will be used to prevent or limit any emissions from the plant,".
Senator Ryan's amendment is self-explanatory, that the best available technology not entailing excessive costs be used. We argued this on the last day with a similar type of amendment and I have moved it on his behalf.
Is the amendment being pressed?
No. It is being withdrawn.
On section 19 amendments Nos. 58, 59 and 60 are out of order as they involve a potential charge on revenue.
I move amendment No. 57:
In page 17, subsection (2), line 8, after "appoints" to insert "but not later than six months after the passage of the Bill".
I move this because it is important that a date is put in place for the implementation of the Bill once it has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Too often in the past we have seen legislation passed by both Houses left lying on the Statute Book and not implemented. I am extremely anxious that the provisions of this Bill, once it is passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, be implemented. That is the reason I put in this time limit of six months.
I move amendment No. 58a:
In page 17, subsection (3), lines 9 and 10, to delete "and four other directors" and substitute ", four ordinary directors and three honorary regional directors and remuneration, allowances and expenses shall not be payable to the honorary directors.".
I had an amendment ruled out of order on the basis that it would create a cost on the Exchequer and I had to think long and hard about how I would deal with this. As well as the four ordinary directors there should be three honorary regional directors which will not create a cost on the State and which will allow us to discuss the issue.
The present number of directors is too small. We discussed the matter of a quorum at another time, and that is also too low. I am interested in the way in which this Bill would operate and I have looked very closely at models in other countries. In the US there are regional directors and the function of the regional director would fit in very well with our system. He would have responsibility for a region and would look after the initial application for licences under this Bill, speed up the process, take it to a certain level or, indeed, complete it without it taking up everybody's time. A regional director would also have local knowledge of a particular region or area and would also be able to tie it in with planning developments, etc.
My proposal is a very simple one, that the board be extended by the addition of three honorary regional directors each of whom would have particular responsibility for a geographical area of the country. I want to make this point quite clear in order to anticipate the Minister's response. This would not take from the functions this person would have as a director on the board in doing whatever is required of a board member where the board have to operate as a board. In a sense it is giving a direction to and a focus on the way in which the board should operate. It is no more than that. This person would be put on the board as a representative of a region, would have particular responsibility for that region and would ensure that the applications, etc., coming from that region would be processed to a certain point. It happens in other countries, particularly in the US.
I would like to support Senator O'Toole's amendment. You have quite correctly ruled amendment No. 59 out of order, which was to delete "four" and substitute "six". The reason is very simple. Four directors are too few for an agency of this sort, with such an important job to do. An agency for the environment and environmental protection is an agency which requires enormous expertise in several different complicated areas. I can see exactly what the Minister is at. She does not want an agency and a board cluttered up with people and is less effective as a result, but I do think that adding those who have either regional or different functional positions to the board would add to the effectiveness of the agency. There would be great gaps on the board if the number of directors were restricted to four. To be an effective board it has to be small. That is absolutely fair but four are too few because that would be a cosy little number with huge gaps in expertise.
I have no serious objection in principle as to whether there should be four or six directors but it strikes me that within the State we have boards with too many people involved on them. From my experience the most efficient agencies and companies are run by a very tight and small group of people. It is not as if there was not consultation because in section 27 of the Bill, where the advisory committee is referred to, there is an adequate mechanism to have wide consultation in relation to how the agency should work but it does not matter whether there are but four people making decisions when the consultation mechanism has been put in place.
I cannot accept this amendment. I pay tribute to the ingenuity of Senator O'Toole in being able to get this amendment in in the first place. When I saw it I knew what he was trying to do. I did not for one minute think that a leading member of the trade union movement in Ireland was advocating that we would appoint three directors and not pay them, either expenses or remuneration, particularly on Labour Day. However, I will not take literally the fact that they are not to be paid because it would be unthinkable that you would have two different tiers of director. The part-timers and the unpaid people would take from the professional expertise that was being paid and we would have a second grade director who would not have as much clout or respect as a result. I will not take that too literally because I know the intention here. I cannot agree to extend the board of this agency. We often suffer from a paranoia that if things are unwieldy and large that in some way they are ineffective.
This executive board will be made up of people with professional expertise, mainly scientists. We will be doing very well if we can get in this country — we may have to go outside it — the necessary expertise, but I have no doubt that a director general and four others are more than enough to do the job. An Bord Pleanála have six directors who go through about 3,000 planning applications a year. It is envisaged that when this agency is fully operational it will have to deal with no more than 1,000 activities in the country and certainly they will not be coming up for annual renewal or anything like it.
I do not believe we need any more than four plus the director general. When the Bill was initially being drafted many people thought we did not need any more than three. Most of the work of this agency will be done by the professional, expert staff. The board will not do all the work. The board will meet as a management body and make the decisions but the vast amount of work involved in having to make a decision in relation to a licence and so on, will be done by the professional, expert staff on the ground.
The advisory role that Senator O'Toole envisages for these three regional directors will be done by the advisory body and that body will obviously be made up of people from all the regions. We have also made provision in the Bill for regional units to be attached to the agency. The anxiety of Senator O'Toole that the agency should not be centrally dominated is more than catered for by the existence of the advisory body.
In relation to the United States, one man effectively runs that agency and one could not compare the regionalisation that would be required in the United States with what is required in a small country with a population of four million people. Although the agency will be nationally organised in the sense that it will have a national headquarters, it will be regionally organised in terms of its staff. The monitoring staff and so on will all be based in the regions because they will be doing field work a great deal of the time. We certainly do not envisage that everybody will be located at the headquarters of the agency, which would not be adequate. In some cases the staff of local authorities and so on may well work on the agency's behalf.
Additional directors would be unnecessarily costly but, more importantly, would make the board unwieldy and cumbersome. Smaller boards are more efficient and can be managed better. Each of the directors would have a definite function in relation to the agency's activities — people with expertise in relation to water, air, waste or whatever, would make up the range of required expertise. None of the professional bodies I have spoken to has suggested that the board is too small and that within a board of five we could not get the range of required expertise.
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 17, subsection (1), lines 26 and 27, after "Government" to insert "through the implementation of the following procedure".
In reading the Bill there seemed to be some conflict between what the Government could do in making the appointment and then the procedure. I put the amendment down in order to get an assurance from the Minister that the only way the Government could appoint was through the application of the procedure which follows. There seems to be a gap in the Bill. I did not want a situation where the Government could make the decision without having to go through the official procedure. The Bill did not specify that point and I am seeking that reassurance from the Minister.
I can give that assurance. Section 24 (3), (4) and (5) make it quite clear that the Government cannot appoint either a director general or a director except where they are reappointing the outgoing director general without employing the procedure, so I can give the Senator the assurance he requires.
Amendment No.62. Amendment No.63 is an alternative to amendment No. 62 and both may be discussed together.
I move amendment No.62:
In page 17, subsection (1), lines 26 and 27, after "Government" to insert "with the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.".
The motive for this amendment is selfevident. If we are talking about openness and public confidence and accountability in this legislation then there should be no objection to the appointment of the director general being endorsed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. There should be a debate and a vote. I would not anticipate obstructionism. Public accountability and confidence in the appointment would be strengthened were it to be endorsed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. It is in that spirit that I move amendment No. 62:
I support the principles highlighted in both amendments Nos. 62 and 63. The appointment to this important post should be done after consultation with and the support of both Houses of the Oireachtas to ensure public confidence and I would appeal to the Minister to take on board the important principle enshrined in both of those amendments.
That same principle is enshrined in the appointment of the Ombudsman who is appointed, on the recommendation of both Houses of the Oireachtas, by the President. For an office of this type and importance, where the officer appointed will have great responsibility it is proper that both Houses should discuss the appointment and that the appointment should be made either by the Government or by the President after a recommendation from both Houses of the Oireachtas. Those are reasonable amendments and I appeal to the Minister to adopt the spirit of the amendments.
May I assure the House, notwithstanding rumours by my distinguished colleagues, that I have not defected? I am not sure there is anywhere left I could defect to. I am still here, notwithstanding "Questions and Answers" and suggestions about Cork breaking the link with Dublin. I do not subscribe to that type of separatism. Senator Naughten has made the point that we are back again to the principle of openness that the Minister has enunciated so well over the years. Increasing numbers of people concerned about politics and about the way our political system operates, are committed to the principle of openness and the linked principle of accountability, to clear open lines in order to win trust again for institutions in which the public has lost confidence.
One of the areas of severe and serious distrust, particularly where Senator Murphy and I reside, is environmental protection. There is an increasing feeling that whether if be for bureaucratic or political reasons laws concerning the environment are not enforced with appropriate vigour. Deals are done. I will have more to say about this on other amendments but on this one it would be a very valuable signal to take the appointment of director general out of the hands of the Executive and place it in the hands of the Oireachtas so that the proposed individual would be subject to a considerable degree of public scrutiny.
I enthusiastically support the principle of these amendments. The question of what we do with our environment is critical to the future of this country. For those reasons it is extremely important that a position like this should not be seen to be an appointment of the Executive but one to be made by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I support these amendments. What is suggested in these amendments could do nothing but good. This is a crucial central point in much of this legislation. The director general will, to a large extent, be the lynch-pin in the whole procedure. The fact that his or her appointment would be done as openly as possible by being put before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the representatives of the people, would help to restore public confidence. We have an uphill struggle; we are not starting on a level playing field in our endeavour to invest this agency with the confidence of the industrial sector, the general public and the various interest groups involved. Rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling abroad that this agency will provide jobs for the boys and, perhaps, for the girls. That is exaggerated in many instances but it is extremely important that the appointment of this director general should be made as openly as possible.
I feel strongly about this. While I am generally reluctant to press amendments in the co-operative context in which we are dealing with this legislation, on counts both of public confidence and parliamentary accountability, which are central principles of the Minister's own party, I have no option but to press this amendment.
I do not like opposing what appear to be sensible amendments but I have a strong objection to this amendment. I will tell the House why. Reference was made to the Ombudsman. Unlike the procedure for the appointment of the director general, there is no selection procedure for the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is appointed after consultation with the leaders of the parties in the Oireachtas. It is a reasonable procedure although I do not think it is as good a procedure as this. What we are appointing here is a professional, expert board — a director general and four directors who will have the professional expertise to do a particular job. It is important that the procedure be independent but it is also important that that procedure include assessment of the ability of people to do the job.
It will be necessary, although we did not write it into the primary legislation — provisions will be made either through regulations or by direction to this selection committee — that they will have to recruit professional experts to help them assess the merits of the candidates. If we were to employ the suggested procedure the selection committee would, for example, put three names forward to the Government for each of the posts. If a person on the list of three who was not successful, whom the Government did not recommend, felt aggrieved, he could brief the political parties. It would reduce the matter to a very unsigntly political debate.
Members of the Oireachtas will not be in a position to assess the person being appointed unless they have thecurriculum vitae and papers that the selection committee will have and unless they are briefed by the selection committee. Since the selection committee will not be Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas they will not be in a position to put forward a case. Lastly, and equally importantly some people would not put their names forward if they felt they were going to be the subject of a debate in the Oireachtas as to their suitability. If the overwhelming membership of the Oireachtas felt that the person being recommended was suitable for the job and if one Member questioned it and made a strong speech against it, that would place the credibility of that director in jeopardy. It would undermine him or her before they began.
The procedure here is very tight. The selection committee procedure, everybody agrees, is a fairly independent one. You may argue whether X or Y should be on the selection committee but you will agree that the procedure is independent and that they are outside people. If they put forward names to the Government, having gone through all the procedures, looked at the merits and interviewed the candidates, that would be a better procedure than the procedure being suggested here today.
If we go for the procedure being suggested by the Senators only high profile people might ever have a chance of getting the job of director general or of director. If somebody is recommended whom Senators have never heard of, how will they be able to assess whether that person is competent enough to do the job or whether that person is better than somebody else. I feel it would be wrong of us to go down that road. If we were not appointing people who have to have a particular professional expertise, if we were just trying to get somebody who commanded public respect, that is a different thing and I would support it, but that is not what we are about. We are trying to appoint a director general and a board of directors who have the professional competence and expertise to do a very difficult and technical job in a lot of cases. I do not believe that using a political procedure for that appointment is appropriate. I feel very strongly about that.
If the selection committee procedure were not there, that would be a different matter. The reason the selection committee procedure is there is precisely to ensure that the method of appointment is totally above board, that it is independent and I was very keen in the legislation to ensure that the Government can only appoint somebody who is recommended by that selection committee. If, for particular reasons, the selection committee on the first occasion cannot come up with names, then they have to go through the procedure again and so on. I believe the procedure we have outlined is both independent and is capable of getting the competent expertise to do the job. I cannot, therefore accept the amendment.
I do not want to appear to be casting aspersions on people but if we look at the committee we see that the Secretary of the Government is appointed by the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment is appointed by the Government, the Managing Director of the IDA is appointed by the Government and the Chief Executive of the Council for the Status of Women is an indirect appointee by the Government.
I know what is involved here and I support the principle. One has to respond to the increasing and profound disbelief in this country about the integrity of politics in all its forms and the increasing and profound belief that it is a magic circle within which you insert yourself and out of which you get reward. I do not subscribe to that view and I do not accept it. I am not concerned here about a broad principle or dealing with that issue I am concerned about — this is why I support these amendments — the unique nature of this appointment.
As for the sensitivities of the individuals involved, if the people involved are of such a sensitive disposition that a public debate on their suitability for the job will deter them from applying, it suggests to me that the role they will have for themselves as director general of this most important agency will be somewhat less than the vigorous one the Minister and I have in mind.
This will be a high profile job demanding considerable toughness, considerable independence of a large number of influential bodies and a willingness to take a lot of criticism from a variety of interests, from industries, from local authorities and perhaps from sections of Government or people connected with Government, from the IDA for instance and also from environmental interests. That individual cannot be the sort of person who would be deterred simply because one Member of the Oireachtas might raise doubts his or her suitability for the job. As for the concept that people might be deterred from applying for the position because of this, equally there are people who would be deterred from applying because their motivations and their beliefs as to why they might get the job might well be different from those to which the Minister and I would subscribe.
I am disappointed because normally on this Bill the Minister and I would be entirely at one, but on this issue it appears to me that there is less than complete or consistent thinking. If the person is to be tough enough for the job, that person ought to be tough enough for the sort of public scrutiny the Oireachtas will be involved in. I recall the reappointment of the Ombudsman. It was, effectively, the Oireachtas which rescued the reappointment of the present Ombudsman, not the Government. Therefore, there is a good lesson for us there.
I accept that the procedure of selection which is contained in this Bill is a considerable step forward on other procedures. There are other large agencies such as FÁS where the procedure of appointment of a director general is, to say the least, murky. In this case we have a clear procedure. It would be complete in its clarity and would be above suspicion if, having operated these procedures, we then had a procedure where a recommended figure was appointed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. There may well be matters of detail to be tied up here. If the amendment that the person be appointed by the Houses of the Oireachtas is accepted there may well be consequential amendments that will be necessary in later sections of the Bill, but that is not an argument against the principle. The principle is that the person should be publicly and wholeheartedly acceptable to the nation and should be a person capable of putting up with perhaps the different process of public scrutiny of his or her qualifications. If that person cannot take that sort of heat then, in my view, that person would not be fit for the sort of job I want the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency to do.
The Minister has made a good case in response but not good enough to convince me. The least convincing point was that it somehow would not be appropriate to expose the nominee to political scrutiny. It is interesting the Minister should use the word political in respect of an Oireachtas debate. Apparently, there is nothing political about the Government appointment of a person like this. It is a kind of a mute testimony to the way in which governments have shied away from the Oireachtas and have done their business behind closed doors, that it is somehow regarded as indelicate to have a parliamentary debate on the appointment of an individual. I agree with Senator Ryan that if such a nominee has no stomach for being mentioned and discussed in the Oireachtas, then he is obviously not a suitable person to be pushed into the limelight as he will be. This will be a most public office. Among the other things which he or she should take in his or her stride is the limelight of public discussion. Therefore, I am not impressed by that.
I repeat that it is psychologically important to have this provision in the Bill. I do not anticipate, as I said, that it will result in detailed and time consuming discussion of the merits of a particular individual. That is not at issue any more than it should be in the case of the Ombudsman. Psychologically, it is of the utmost importance that this central approval by the Oireachtas be explicitly stated in this subsection of the Bill.
I would like to support these two amendments. They are important amendments and they address precisely the kind of issues that have been consistently raised in briefing material addressed to all Senators.
The Minister, in introducing this excellent Bill, spoke about the independent nature of the agency. Nothing could better guarantee the independent nature of this agency than to have such an appointment subject to political scrutiny. Here I would differ with some of the other speakers. Such political scrutiny is valuable and I would welcome it if it occurred. After all, as the Bill stands, this is nothing other than a political appointment and political appointments, in my opinion, are dangerous particularly when they are not subject to scrutiny.
I would also like to point out that in America senior appointments in the Judiciary, for example, are subject to precisely this kind of scrutiny with very beneficial affects. I do not see why the credentials of somebody appointed to so pivotal a position in terms of the protection of our environment should not be subject to this kind of examination. It is important that the appointment should be subject to this examination. If the person, man or woman, who is appointed to this position is to be useful and valuable in terms of implementing the measures in this Bill then that person will undoubtedly move fairly rapidly into controversy. This controversy will not necessarily be contained within the cosy confines of this country because we may well find them subject to the kind of public relations attack that international combines and multinational companies can very quickly and very efficiently mount so he or she had better be a fairly tough cookie. If the appointees are incapable of sustaining the kind of examination, which I do not think would necessarily be hostile but would be informative, then I do not think there would be any use at all for the job. It is important that we insist on these amendments.
I do not anticipate a bad appointment, I may say without being too grovelling, with this Minister but there is a possibility, however, that we could have a scandalous and nakedly political appointment which most definitely, should be subject to the scrutiny of the Oireachtas. If the appointment is not subject to the scrutiny of the Oireachtas then that examination will take place outside the Oireachtas in the public media and will do damage to the agency. It is very important that we guarantee and copperfasten the independence in the agencyab initio by clearly marking out the independence of the principal appointment.
I appeal to the Minister to accept the spirit of both of those amendments. I fully share the views expressed by the three previous speakers that if the director general is that shy that he would not wish his name to be discussed or dragged into the political arena then I doubt very much if he is the type of man who will be capable of handling the job that is envisaged in this legislation.
It is important from the point of view of public accountability that the Oireachtas would have the opportunity to discuss this appointment and that the person would be appointed after approval by both Houses of the Oireachtas. That is the line we should adopt. I appeal to the Minister to examine the possibility of accepting those two amendments. They are worthwhile. By accepting them we will undoubtedly have a better process for appointment and we will have one in which the general public will have more confidence. Indeed, as has been pointed out by Senator Ryan, we have the Secretary of the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and the Managing Director of the Industrial Development Authority, all Government appointees, who form three of the six people envisaged to sit on this selection committee. I appeal to the Minister to accept those two amendments.
The Minister made what seemed at first to be a good point but if you weigh it up, on balance the way it is proposed in these amendments is better. The Minister made the point that this will be a professional appointment and the selection committee will have to go into all the backround of the professional qualifications and so on. The Houses of the Oireachtas will know that. They will know that any names put before the Houses of the Oireachtas when the Government make the selection that presumably they have that professional background. The Houses of the Oireachtas, by giving their imprimatur to the appointment, know they will help to add to the public confidence. Perhaps the Houses of the Oireachtas would have a sort of political, in the broad sense — I do not mean party political — input into it in that they will ensure that the person being appointed is not only professionally qualified but has all these other qualifications which have been mentioned here, that that person will be able to stand up to the opposition they will undoubtedly encounter and also that the individual concerned will engender confidence in the public.
The committee are requested under section 21 (7) (a) to put forward three names to the Minister if there are three suitable candidates or whatever sufficeint number. One must assume that all those three names, if they are put forward by the selection committee, will all have the kind of professional qualifications and the professional background but one might nevertheless be better than another in the broader sense. Senator Ryan touched on this point and I mentioned it earlier.
People in this country, whether we like it or not as politicians, believe that this is a cosy set-up, that if you are in the know you get the job, etc. As politicians, we know that happens only in a rare number of cases but it is the public perception of what goes on. If the Minister would accept these amendments it would be advantageous to the director general starting out on a very onerous job not only to have gone through the rigours of the committee selection procedure and to have been nominated by the Government but to know they had the full confidence of the people and the imprimatur of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I am opposed to these amendments. We share with our distinguished colleagues opposite our concern about the independence of this person. The question, of course, is not the independence of the person but how that can be established. The submission from the benches opposite is that it can only be through consultation with the Oireachtas. My view is that the composition of the committee, the Secretary of the Government, the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, the Chairperson of An Taisce, the Managing Director of the IDA, the General Secretary of the Irish Congess of Trade Unions and the Chief Executive of the Council for the Status of Women, would ensure that the person appointed would have the necessary toughness and independence. In my view if we were to bring the name to the Oireachtas it would change nothing. In fact, it might make matters worse because the Government of the day, with an inbuilt majority, would be able to dictate who was appointed. Having spent such a inordinate length of time recently discussing the difference between atmosphere and air, I can only imagine how long it would take to get this person appointed to the very important job.
First, we would have to find the time and, secondly, there is also another very important issue, that is, we can say things in this House about people and get away with saying them which we could not say outside. That gives us an undue degree of influence in terms of being able to undermine the prospective appointment, in terms of being able to say things about the person which that person is not able to defend. From that point of view I do not see why these two amendments are necessary.
I always like to listen to the debate to see if it helps to change my mind but the more I listen to this the more I become entrenched in my view, which is perhaps a bad thing. I do not think any of the Senators opposite would suggest that, for example, if academics were being appointed they should be subject to a debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas or whatever.
I would. It would be most helpful.
The Senator would be an exception. The United States is not a good example of how things should be done. Outstanding career diplomats can get fired once the political atmosphere changes and politicians can be brought in and political friends can run embassies and the like. I would not go down that road too far if I were the Senator because I do not think it is a good system. If anything it is the worst example of where very good people are put down because of their politics or lack of interest in certain political activities.
If the Houses of the Oireachtas are to decide X should be appointed rather than Y they need to know the alternatives, the choices. If they need to know that, they need to have an idea of the qualifications, they need to be able to talk to the selection committee and so on if they are to be able to decide it was right that X got appointed over Y. I honestly do not believe that is appropriate. There are many people who would qualify; it is not that they are not tough, it is that they are so independent-minded that the last thing they would want is to have their career up for voting in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Many very good professional people do not want to be dragged into political debates about being appointed. There are also other people who may not want their employers to know that they have applied for a particular job, unless they are sure they will get it because of the career implications involved.
If we were to suggest, which I think is the implication in the Senator's amendment, that if the Houses of the Oireachtas were to approve the appointment, they would need to know what choices were before the Government. The Government will only make the formal appointment. The selection committee effectively carry out the selection. If there are any arguments about the selection committee that is a matter for a different debate and we can debate it when we come to it. The Director of Public Prosecutions is appointed on this basis. The chairman of An Bord Pleanála is appointed on this basis.
I do not think anyone has suggested that there are not independent people in those two examples. I cannot be as co-operative on this amendment as I have been on others. It would unnecessarily politicise the appointment in a party political sense. If, for whatever reason, a political party decided, because they were lobbied by candidate A and felt candidate A should have got it and not candidate Y, and decided for that reason to oppose it, that would get the agency off to a very bad start and would place a huge question mark over the credibility of the Director General. It would raise a lot of questions as to why party X decided, for whatever reason, to oppose the appointment.
I have no doubt that if this procedure were to be put in place there would be intense political lobbying. Those with the highest profile would have a much better chance than those better suited for the job. The kind of people who would be very suitable for this job would probably be the last people who would ever go near a political lobby, or would ever contemplate lobbying a political party to ensure that they were flavour of the month.
I believe the system we have put in the Bill of having an independent selection committee, of specifying qualifications, of wanting the selection committee, to employ professional recruitment consultants to help them in the process is best. Sometimes if you get a part-time committee involved in sifting through hundreds of applications it is a difficult task trying to decide suitability, who should be intervieved and so on.
This is a difficult task and we will be ensuring that that committee recruit the services of a professional company to help them in the task because it is a very important task. That system is preferable to the kind of system being suggested here. The Ombudsman does not have to go through any selection procedure. There are no specific qualifications. The Ombudsman is a person who has to have credibility and has to be somebody who has the support generally of the parties in the Houses because of the particular job he has to do.
One cannot compare the kind of role the Ombudsman has to the role these particular people will have because they will be professionals, scientists effectively. It is their scientific expertise that has to be assessed. We could get five, well-meaning individuals who would have a lot of public credibility, who might be well motivated as far as the environment is concerned, but unless they have expertise in relation to toxic waste, water discharges, air pollution and so on, they would not be suitable people for these jobs despite their public credibility.
That is why I feel very strongly that the procedure being suggested is not the appropriate one. It would jeopardise the independence of the procedure and, more importantly, would lead to political lobbying by those who may not be successful. It would put a huge question mark over the people being appointed because alternative names might be suggested that would have been better. For all those reasons, I cannot agree to the amendment.
Let me make one point by way of analogy. The Minister, in passing, mentioned academics, whether we would approve of an academic being subject to the scrutiny of the Oireachtas. The parallel that arises appropriately there is that it is now long established in academic circles that appointments are made by way of recommendations of an assessors' board who are the experts and who would be compared in this case to the selection committee. Except in very rare cases, where there is a hiccup, it is almost universal that the recommendation of the assessors' board is unanimously adopted by the formal appointing bodies.
The bodies thus formerly appointed by statute are rightly reluctant to cede their formal powers to the assessors' board. That is a good analogy with what is happening here. The selection committee are in effect the assessors' board. They are the experts. A great probability is that they will unanimously recommend a nominee and that the Government will so appoint. I cannot imagine politicians lobbying in that sinister sense agaist a good nominee. I anticipate that this thing will go through smoothly just as our academic assessors' board is endorsed by the governing body, in the university senate. No responsible politician, or any politician who cares for his image, will try to attempt some grubby lobbying performance. That is not the point at all. The point is that the public must be made to see that this extremely important official has the confidence and the endorsement of his or her public representatives. That parallel is a forcible one.
It appears that the Minister will not budge on this amendment so I will not pursue it beyond saying that Senator Dardis makes the point that if the candidate is appointed by this committee, who are so independent, what is there to worry about? We should not have any concerns that there will be a problem. To a large extent it may be just a formality but it is an important formality.
I would be prepared not to continue to push for the amendment if I felt the Minister would accept some of the amendments put down to section 21 concerning who will be on the committee. It is a very unbalanced committee who will make this recommendation to the Government. The environmental bodies are represented only by the chairperson of the council of An Taisce. That is an excellent body, but a very conservative body. Four out of the six members of this committee are extremely conservative and, as Senator Ryan said, mainly appointed by the Government. If I felt that the Minister would change something in the composition of the committee I would feel happier about this whole matter.
There is an unfortunate tone to what the Minister says. I suppose it is the perennial backbencher in me and the perennial member of the Opposition in me, at least that is the way it seems to be at present, that somehow the Oireachtas is a little more politicised than the Government. The Government are the most political body on God's earth.
I happen to be in the middle of an enjoyable read of a long account of recent history. The internal documents of Government meetings that the historian in question refers to make it perfectly clear that matters political are very high on the agenda in every single decision the Government take. The fact that matters have to be debated in public, on a public record, by the Oireachtas perhaps prevents people from being as blatantly political in their arguments, whatever about their judgment, in public as many Governments are in private. That is simply from a layman's perusal of the report of the records of the business of various Governments.
Do we understand that the Government will have the fullcurriculum vitae of the three candidates that the selection committee are supposed to recommend? The preferred option is three candidates out of which the Government will make a selection. It is not one candidate to this committee. They can only recommend one member but the preferred option is to select three candidates. What guidelines will the Government use to decide between the three? Will the Government then interview the committee who interviewed the candidates to decide on the best of three, or will they decide on some other mysterious criteria, not political, because the Minister made it clear that the last thing she wants involved here is politics? What criteria will the Government use if they do not interview the people themselves and if they do not interview the interview committee? How will they decide?
With regard to confidentiality, that most secretive of bodies, Fianna Fáil, managed to have the candidates for their general secretaryship leaked to the media. There are no confidential applicants for senior positions here. That is a fact of life and it is a good thing. The efforts of the public apparatus in this State to withhold all information from the public have only been frustrated by the fact that we are a small country and that most things leak out eventually, as in the unfortunate case recently of An Bord Pleanála and Radio Tara, where we discovered that they overruled their own technical experts for reasons we have never fully understood.
I will put forward further arguments about this. Section 21 (6) (a) states: "The Minister may, by order, amend subsection (2)." That means that by the stroke of a pen, a ministerial order without any reference to the Oireachtas——
No, it has to be approved.
It still means that, given the Government majority in the Houses, in a moment of controversy this could be amended not by taking somebody off but by putting somebody on to change the composition of the board, but the board can be changed by the Minister. Subsection 7 (a) states that "The committee shall,...select three candidates, or if in the opinion of the committee there is not a sufficient number of suitable applicants, ..." the word "suitable" is a grand word but it does not say "qualified". I am hoping that there will be a considerable number of suitable applicants for this job. One would hope that if the committee determine that certain people are not suitable they will not bother interviewing them, if thecurriculum vitae or past experience are not adequate. It seems there will be the possibility of consderable argument with this committee if they decide not to recommend three candidates. We will most likely have three candidates going to the Government.
That undermines a considerable part of the Minister's argument, that there will be a political decision, I do not mean in the sense that the Government will look at the politics of the three individuals but that ultimately it will be a political body, the Government, who will decide between three candidates, all of whom have been deemed suitable by this committee. Will the Government get involved in a lottery between three candidates and do so in private, presumably after scrutinising the minutes of the interviews or thecurriculum vitae of the three people, or will the three people be listed in order of merit. All those things are so unclear that the alternative, which is to have one candidate selected by this committee, who would then have to be appointed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, seems to be more independent, clear and likely to reassure the public that there is nothing underhand involved.
With regard to the question of academic appointments, the Minister will know that the Provost of Trinity College is appointed by a complicated process in which there is an election by his or her academic colleagues, as a result three names are submitted to Government and they are then approved by Government. It is usually the name indicated who wins the election but three names are sent forward so the analogy is not quite as——
It is not the Oireachtas, it is the Government.
I would be happier if it was the Oireachtas. The machinery is roughly similar so there is not quite such a delicacy in distancing all academic appointments from the governmental sphere as might have been suggested by the Minister. In regard to Oireachtas approval, for example, if the director general came into conflict with a multinational, it would strengthen his or her hand effectively and for that reason it would be very useful.
In the series of parallels the Minister drew, the case of An Bord Pleanála was a particularly unhappy one. The operations of An Bord Pleanála are a continuing scandal and I regard them as nothing other than a running sore. I would like to see the operations of An Bord Pleanála subjected to precisely the kind of scrutiny that the American Senate committee system embarks on. I do not think it would do any harm at all, even at this stage, to have an inquiry into the operations of An Bord Pleanála. If appointments are made subject to the approval of the Oireachtas and with the free ventilation of ideas, scrutiny of personnel and so on, we might avoid the kind of appalling situation we have with An Bord Pleanála.
Is the amendment being pressed?
- Doyle, Avril.
- Harte, John.
- Hederman, Carmencita.
- Hourigan, Richard V.
- Howard, Michael.
- McMahon, Larry.
- Naughten, Liam.
- Neville, Daniel.
- Norris, David.
- Ó Foighil, Pol.
- O'Reilly, Joe.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Ryan, John.
- Staunton, Myles.
- Upton, Pat.
- Bennett, Olga.
- Byrne, Sean.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Conroy, Richard.
- Cullen, Martin.
- Dardis, John.
- Farrell, Willie.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Hanafin, Des.
- Haughey, Seán F.
- Honan, Tras.
- Hussey, Thomas.
- Keogh, Helen.
- Lanigan, Michael.
- Lydon, Don.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- Murphy, John A.
- O'Brien, Francis.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
Amendment No. 63 cannot now be moved because it is an alternative to amendment No. 62 which has been defeated. Amendment Nos. 64 and 65 are related, amendment No. 84 is consequential on amendment No. 64 and amendment No. 85 is consequential on No. 65 and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 17, subsection (2), line 28, to delete "committee" and substitute "selection committee (henceforth referred to in this Act as committee)".
I do so on behalf of Senator O'Toole. The purpose is very simple. In the Bill there are references to two committees, the selection committee, which we are shortly to discuss and the advisory committee, which will be discussed later. For the purpose of clarity it is suggested that we substitute here "selection committee" instead of "committee" in case of ambiguity.
I support the amendment and I appeal to the Minister to include the word "selection". It is important to define clearly the purpose of this committee. We have used the word "committee" here, and to add the word "selection" would clarify precisely which committee we are talking about. As Senator Murphy stated, there are two committees referred to in the Bill and to have "selection committee" inserted here and at all relevant stages where we are talking about a committee of selection would clarify precisely which committee we are talking about. I appeal to the Minister to consider accepting this amendment.
The intention here is to use the selection committee for the selection of temporary directors who would have to take over in the event of illness or a director not being available and those public servants would be appointed by the Minister on a temporary basis to fulfil the functions of the director. Therefore, since there would be an urgency about making those appointments on a temporary basis, and they would be acting only on a temporary basis, to bring the whole selection procedure into being for that purpose would be unnecessarily difficult and would lead to a long delay. The selection procedure is, by its nature, because of the need to have independence, confidence and so on, a lengthy procedure and it is not necessary to bring the procedure in for the appointment of temporary directors. It would not be desirable to accept this amendment for that reason.
Do I understand that amendment No. 68 is being taken in conjunction with the amendment that was just moved? If so, I would like to speak to it.
We are discussing amendments Nos. 64 and 65 as they are related and No. 84 as it is consequential on No. 64 and No. 85 as it is consequential on No. 65. Is amendment No. 64 being pressed, as no Senator is offering?
No, we are simply trying to be helpful.
Amendment No. 66a is an alternative to amendment No. 66 and amendments Nos. 67 and 67a are related and all may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 66a and 67a are on the list of additional amendments.
I move amendment No. 66:
In page 17, subsection (2), lines 33 and 34, to delete paragraph (d).
The point of the amendment, which is to remove the provision for the presence of the managing director of the IDA on the selection committee, is that one can go through these and find a reason for a number of them. I am not sure why the Secretary of the Government has to be on it, but there are certain political realities which dictate that there is not much point in my arguing about it because most Governments feel the need to be involved in these matters. To have the Secretary of the Department of the Environment makes some sense; they are a major Government Department who will have a considerable part to play and who possess, or have at their disposal, a considerable amount of technical expertise, data and information. Therefore, that person could make a considerable contribution to the assessment of the qualities of suitable or possible suitable candidates. The inclusion of the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce is one way of appointing somebody from the environmental lobby. I agree with something Senator Hederman said earlier. While I respect the work of An Taisce I believe that by the standards of what is needed for our environment and by the criteria by which I would assess bodies, they are a quite conservative body at least, in their public profile, whatever about their private activities. Nevertheless, appointing the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce does represent a significant gesture in the direction of the environmental lobby.
Moving on to the general secretary of the ICTU, environment is not something that happens at the end of the pipe and environmentally unacceptable industries will also, almost by definition, be health and safety-wise unacceptable to the workforce. There is a clear reason to argue that the workforce ought to be represented in terms of this because their interests are of particular importance. I have amendments tabled to this Bill to deal with this need because one cannot begin environmental protection outside the gate or at the end of the pipe.
Finally, I welcome the appointment of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women. Given the appalling record of this country in terms of the exclusion of women from all areas of influence and power for a considerable period, there is a particularly good reason to have somebody who will vigorously ensure as of right and because of his or her position that the cause of women is championed and discrimination against them ended. Let it be said, no matter how many men hold their hands to their hearts and deny it, that wherever you put six men together, prejudice exists. If six men have to make a decision between a man and a woman for a senior job they will pick a man unless there are good and overwhelming reasons to force them to do differently. Let no man tell me otherwise.
What about yourself?
There may not be six of me available in the nation.
Let us be thankful for small mercies.
The impartiality of the Chair is now severely undermined. There are clear and good reasons for including the chief executive for the Council for the Status of Women. The Minister deserves to be complimented for her ingenuity and hard work in ensuring that the chairperson of the Council for the Status of Women is on this committee. After all, those people for clear and good reasons the managing director of the IDA is also involved.
Unlike the rest, this person will be a protagonist. The IDA have been a protagonist — a profoundly unhelpful protagonist — in many environmental disputes. In the last 18 months the Federation of the Irish Chemical Industry have disowned remarks made by the IDA as being unhelpful and undemocratic when the IDA endeavoured to campaign to have the laws which allow third party appeals on other matters diluted to reduce the influence of the environmental lobby, particularly in my own area. The chemical industry, the industry which has been most severely under pressure from the environmental lobby, felt obliged to reprimand the then managing director of the IDA for remarks which they believed were unhelpful to them, to the cause of the environment and, indeed, generally unhelpful.
That is the body whose chief executive the Minister proposes to have involved on the selection committee. It is singularly inappropriate. There is no overwhelming interest of the IDA involved here. The IDA claim that they have no interest in bringing dirty industries into this country. They, therefore, accept the need for a strong, influential, independent environmental protection agency. The best way the IDA can show their acceptance of that is to keep themselves a long way from it. To have the managing director of the IDA a member of the selection committee does precisely the opposite. There is no logical reason — I will listen to the Minister's arguments — for the IDA having a say in this. It is not within their area of competence or interest. It is not related to anything the IDA are involved in; they should be left to do the job they are very good at and another independent State agency should deal with any possible environmental problems. The best way to ensure that is to keep the managing director of the IDA out of this selection procedure.
I am afraid I have to agree with Senator Ryan on this.
You need not be afraid.
I am afraid of it because I think it is a very complicated issue. I imagine what the Minister may have in mind is the idea of balance in the interest of developing industry in the country and so on.
Just give me a second while I engage in what Myles na gCopaleen called "that improbable callisthenic exercise known as pulling yourself together".
Senator Ryan has already made a very forceful case for this amendment, namely, that the managing director of the IDA has no real business in this selection committee. It is not even as if we could call him anadvocatus diaboli, he is not the devil's advocate in the sense that in his heart he wants the Environmental Protection Agency to be set up in a pure state; he has to go through the motions of making a case for industry but in fact his concerns are directly opposed to the whole purpose of the environmental agency. Again, as Senator Ryan has argued in the context of the proposed committee, which is heavily weighted on the side of industrial development as against the side of environmental concerns, he really has no business there.
As has been said, we must accept the presence of the Secretary to the Government and the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, but it might be said that these two departmental secretaries are very much Establishment people. These two secretaries would not be in their present offices unless they had, so to speak, minded themselves and had been naturally cautious and conservative. These are not the kind of people who are likely to put their necks out for the environment. At best the presence of the two secretaries must be regarded as a naturally prudent one.
I will not go over again what has been said about the chairperson of An Taisce. We accept that, with the observation that this is, environmentally speaking, again a conservative body. I would agree with Senator Ryan that the representative of workers has to be there. I must say that I cannot follow Senator Ryan's remarks on the need for the presence there of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women. What he said was that women had been so overlooked in this country that the natural tendency among a male establishment is to do them down and that if men were left to themselves they would naturally kind of gang up against a woman. All of that does not seem to be a reason to assume that "a representative of womanhood", if I may call her that in a quaint de Valera phrase, should be naturally pro-environment.
Senator Murphy, without interruption.
It seems to me to be anon sequitur to say that because women have not got their fair representation in public life we must shove them in here, there and everywhere. Why should we assume that a woman par excellence, as we must assume the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women is, why should we assume that this superwoman should be more concerned about the environment than any man? I think it is a total non sequitur. I would like to know, even though I had not got it down in the form of an amendment, why should we assume that a woman should be put in here ex officio, because, as it were, of gender? I think this is carrying the principle of gender representation much too far. It will sooner or later be time to make a stand against the loonier aspects of feminism.
I am glad that Senator Honan recognises her gender.
I am not in that group you refer to at all; I am with the lads.
May I be the first to congratulate Senator Honan on her sex change.
I am making a point in general about the committee. While accepting that the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women may well be pro-environmentally disposed. I have no evidence that she will be so and I would like the Minister to take this point seriously. The chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women, because of other conditions might be a pro-industrial development person. It is no more than a piece of sentimental feminism that she was moved in here. In the name of commonsense, and perhaps of a new counter-revolution just beginning, I protest against the inclusion of such a person.
Overall, this is a conservative committee. The Minister's point earlier, on the previous amendment, namely, that there should be Oireachtas approval for the appointment of the director general of the agency, was largely based on the good faith of the committee, that this was a representative which would do the right thing and so on. But in its present proposed form it is not the right composition; it is, in my view, unduly balanced in the conservative direction. In particular, the managing director of the IDA, in my view, has no place here. He is simply going to be a counter-advocate, an enemy within the gates, as it were. This was an independent amendment of mine which was coupled for procedural purposes with Senator Ryan's amendment, so I am adding my independent voice to that.
With regard to amendment No. 67, what I am proposing here is to enhance the role of environmental groups in the selection process. We are now at a stage in environmental awareness in this country where there are numerous environmental groups. It simply is not good enough that a vitally important committee such as this selection committee should not represent a whole range of environmental concerns. Therefore the purpose of that amendment is to enhance the role of environmental groups in the selection process and to attempt to give the selection committee something more of a really environmental complexion than it has under the proposed section.
I just want to refer to the various points made by colleagues across the floor. I certainly do not support any of these amendments because I think we have here representatives right across the board. It is totally erroneous to state that the IDA are directly opposed to the aims of the Environmental Protection Agency. It is very important that we have all sectors of society, a balance of representation, in this area.
In relation to the statements about the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women being a member of the committee, certainly I would term myself a feminist, if not a looney feminist. If one were to examine the role of the Council for the Status of Women, which is to represent over 70 women's groups, many of them located in the local community and some of them representing thousands upon thousands of women who have a deep interest in and commitment to environmental matters, it is only proper that that should be acknowledged and I congratulate the Minister for including the Council for the Status of Women among the committee. If only other Government Ministers would bear in mind the role of women in society, then perhaps instead of people having a go at the "looney feminists" we might have an acceptance that women do have a proper role on bodies such as this.
I think there is a common line running through the various amendments we are speaking to at the moment and a common message in that we feel, notwithstanding what the Minister is trying to do, that the balance is wrong. In our effort not to frighten off the most important jobs lobby in the country, a sector we all depend on — and particularly those who are unfortunate enough to be out of work depend on it very heavily — the Minister has gone overboard to make them feel welcome, make them feel a part of the Environmental Protection Agency and make them feel that the Environmental Protection Agency is no threat to jobs which. I fully accept, it is not.
I have said all along and I am on record many times as saying that the protection and preservation of our environment is no threat to industrial development and economic progress of any kind. Neither is economic progress and industrial development necessarily any threat to our environment, providing the standards are laid down and the rules are obeyed. That is what we want — to attract the right type of jobs and the right type of industry to our country. I think we have a wonderful green field situation in this country because, effectively, we are not industrialised relative to other nations, so we can attract the nicest, the brightest and the cleanest of industries. But her effort to ensure that those who might be looking at this Bill and worried about restrictions in it in terms of development generally, I think the Minister has overbalanced in favour of the economic-industrial lobby on this occasion. I say that with respect.
Going down through the paragraphs (a) to (f) in subsection (2), the Minister indicated the different bodies that will be represented through their various chairpersons or managing directors, we find even the Secretary of the Department of the Environment. I must state that I would have absolutely no difficulties with the present man, who came up through the natural environment section of the Department. You could have no better, no more experienced person in here. But it is not the person you are appointing; it is the position that is being appointed. We do not know who in the future will be in the position of Secretary of the Department of the Environment. In particular, if we do not reorganise the functions within the Department of the Environment, you could have a man, God help us, maybe even a woman, Secretary of the Department of the Environment, who could have come up through the administration line with little interest in the natural environment. They could have come up through the local government line with little interest in the natural environment. The personin situ at the moment happens to be a very experienced person in terms of the natural environment, to the sector which is directly relevant to the Environmental Protection Agency and what we are talking about today. I am concerned about naming the position when the person in possession at any point of time in the future may have absolutely no interest in environmental protection of any kind or in the Environmental Protection Agency at all.
I have no difficulty with the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce. I have difficulty with the managing director of the IDA. I have difficulty with the concept of the person in that position automatically being on this committee. The IDA is another semi-State agency whose brief is industrial development. I do not think it is cross referenced to the Environmental Protection Agency or that it has any space on its board or committee of any kind for environment lobbies to sit in and offer their view of industrial projects as they are mooted by the IDA; so why have we now the IDA part of the Environmental Protection Agency to keep an eye open in case the Environmental Protection Agency is too stringent or too strict or goes overboard? There is a feeling that they must have their nose in to keep them quiet, that if we pacify them some way now by letting them feel part of it we will buy them off, buy peace from the various industrial-commercial groups here.
I am all for balance; I have no real problem in relation to it — but not, to be quite honest, by bringing in the chairperson or the managing director of another State agency. I would like the IDA to be doing their job according to the terms of reference — and a very difficult and important job they have to do. I would like the Environmental Protection Agency to be doing their job according to their terms of reference — and a very difficult and important job they will have to do also. The natural tension that will be there will, I think, result in the right decision being made for our country in terms of industrial development that will be conducive to protecting our environment. I like the tension rather than having them all together and some sort of hotch-potch of a compromise by buying peace on all sides. I do not like it.
If you need to have representation from the economic-industrial side, I am proposing in amendment No. 66a that you put in the chairman of the Confederation of Irish Industries. That is an independent body, not tied to Government; it is not semi-State. There is no reason to presume that any chairman of the CII would have more of an interest in the environment than anyone else. But it is removed from the semi-State sector and it represents the same lobby that may be nervous of the Environmental Protection Agency and its intentions. If you want to ensure balance, I would much prefer to see the chairman of the CII, who represents a broad range of industries — the chemical industry included — on this committee rather than the IDA, which is too close to Government, being a semi-State body, an agency set up by Government to do a specific job.
The balance on the committee in terms of environmental representation is just not there, to be quite honest, and this is a major problem. Other speakers have alluded to it. I suggest, in amendment No. 67a, that the chairperson of the National Heritage Council — it happens to be a chairman at the moment — be also included. This would also allow the representatives of our built as well as of our national heritage to be represented on the Environmental Protection Agency and I think there is room for that. We must broaden it.
I have slight concerns about Senator Murphy's amendment No. 67, that the representatives of five environmental organisations designated by the Minister be included — not because I do not fully support the sentiments and the point he is making that the balance is all wrong and tilted away from the environment, which I support, but because I am nervous of leaving it up to Government or to the Minister or to the director general or whoever it will be, to select representatives of any five environmental organisations. I could name five environmental organisations today with which I have a particular affinity and which I think are doing a good job in certain areas. If you ask any of us in this Chamber today we would all perhaps name a different five; there might be a common two or three and then we would add our own two or three pet environmental organisations with which we have a particular affinity. Some are very extreme in their views. That is important for their particular briefs, because to heighten awareness and to get the rest of us on board — those of us who have not been paying enough attention — they need to be fairly extreme and fairly radical in their views and often in their behaviour. But whether they are the type of environmental organisations one should automatically have on this committee I am not sure. I will not fall out about that point, but I fully accept the thrust of Senator Murphy's amendment in that we must tilt the committee in favour of environmental representation and not, as it is now, virtually all protecting the industrial-commercial lobby to buy peace with that sector.
I now come to the point made by Senator Murphy and defended ably by Senator Keogh about the inclusion of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women. I must now tread carefully here. When I first read this Bill and saw section 21 (2) (f) I thought why should the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women be included. Again, the incumbent happens to be particularly able, particularly good and particularly interested in the environment but I am not sure that, by virtue of the office, any of those following her will have the same commitment.
I like to think I am a feminist. I am not a looney feminist; in fact, many extreme feminists would not consider me to be feminist enough at all. I am far too sensible and down the road to satisfy the demands of many of the more extreme feminist lobbies. I think that by getting up and doing rather than talking I am making my statement for the cause of women. But I am worried about tokenism. If the Minister can tell me that there is a good environmental reason why the Council for the Status of Women,per se as distinct from other groups, should be among the six groups only represented on this committee as laid out by the Minister in the Bill, I will buy it. I have no difficulty with the present incumbent being there, but as I have difficulty with the Secretary of the Department of the Environment as at present constituted being there per se, because they may have very little interest in environmental protection in the future, I do not think it should be an automatic assumption that this particular group should be represented. Perhaps there is a good reason that I have missed.
Certainly in recent times the Council of the Status of Women have taken a much greater interest in the environment. They have organised conferences and are really involved in this area. Historically, I regret to say, as a person who has been interested in the environment over the years, despite the excellent work the Council for the Status of Women have done in representing the 70 different groups, their work was not concentrated or directed towards environmental issues. Latterly, that has changed. Perhaps there is a good reason, even if it is only because we have got to keep the numbers of women up. But I am a little bit nervous of tokenism. I would rather we made our achievements purely on merit. I know — and I think the Minister knows — there are enough women out there in all fields to make it to the top if we have the equality legislation implemented. If we can get through on merit, we will get there with the men. I have no difficulty in stating that.
If it is purely on merit, then in regard to section 21 (2) (f), I am all for it; but if it is tokenism in any way, I am a little bit nervous of it. I suspect it is not tokenism, knowing the Minister as I do. I would be delighted to hear her views on it because we need to know exactly her thinking on the matter. It is not just being questioned in this House; it is being questioned all round as to why this particular body are there. It is being bounced off me and I have not been able to give what I consider to be a reasonable reply except that it is to keep the womens numbers up. It is not a bad reason in itself, but I would rather be able to defend it on sheer merit than on sheer head counts. I look forward to the Minister's response, notwithstanding the excellent incumbent that is there at the moment in relation to this post.
I would like to thank the Senators for the debate so far. I am finding it very interesting because we have gone somewhat off the environment in the past few minutes into other issues. Perhaps I could start in relation to the Council for the Status of Women and tell the House why that is there. It is there for precisely this reason. The reason women in Ireland do not succeed to managerial positions or to the boards of many State companies is because they are not around at the decision-making stage, and because they are not they are often not considered. It may well be that when this board is appointed there will not be any woman on it or as director-general. But the Council for the Status of Women, which is the umbrella organisation for all women's groups in the country, will be there seeking out good women, making sure that a good woman is put forward, that she has every bit as much a chance as a good man and that she is not ignored just because she is a woman.
The Minister without interruption, please.
The second reason is that all surveys have indicated that women are far more aware of their environmental responsibilities than men.
Nonsense, more sexism.
If the Senator wishes, I can show him research on that aspect. It indicates quite clearly that women are far more conscious and aware of environmental obligations and responsibilities than are men. It is the intention of the Council for the Status of Women to establish shortly — they are in the process of doing it — a national women's environment group such as in the United Kingdom. The Council for the Status of Women recently organised a very successful seminar which was attended by 600 or 700 people. They are very involved and committed to the environment, as much as many other organisations.
I was reminded recently by a journalist of an experience I had myself which I had fogotten about. Some years ago when I was asked to address a group of women's organisations a poor unfortunate male photographer turned up to take a photograph. He was not allowed in because he was a man and when I protested this offended my audience. So, I am certainly not in the business of tokenism and I would not describe myself by any stretch of the imagination as an extreme feminist. I would like to think that where there are good women they are capable of getting selected to State boards and State bodies and that they are not prevented from doing so because of the bias that exists in our system. As somebody who was turned down from membership of the University Club, not because I was a woman but because I was not a man, I have very strong views on this subject.
In relation to the IDA as opposed to the CII, when we were appointing the selection committee I was keen that as many organisations as possible that would have an involvement in this agency would be involved at the selection stage. It is important that the board of the agency is acceptable to a wide cross-section of groups in society. This is not having a group of environmentalists appointing an environmental agency. That is not what it is about. What we are doing is appointing a group of professionals, scientists mainly, to run a national State Environmental Protection Agency. Essentially, we will be appointing people with particular professional expertise, people who have management and administrative skills and so on. It is not about appointing a number of environmentalists to run an agency. If it were, you would be having obviously all environmentalists doing the appointments.
It is extremely important if this country is to develop in the future that we realise our environment is our biggest national asset. As I said in my Second Stage speech, in Ireland in the future, particularly after 1992, it is going to be very much jobs because of the environment. All the growth sectors — agriculture, food, tourism, micro-electronics and so on — very much depend on a clean environment if they are to succeed. With more competition within the Community we are not going to be able to compete on the bulk markets with the French, Germans and others, so we are going to have to go for what Dr. Tony O'Reilly recently described as the niche markets. He argued very successfully that we have to think of the Marketing Institute in London, that Ireland has to capture the green, pure market in relation to food, beverages and so on. I agree with that.
Therefore, it is important that the IDA be very much involved in the environment debate in Ireland. The IDA have to be out there seeking to get companies and industries located in Ireland that are friendly towards the environment and are benign as far as the environment is concerned. The whole concept of sustainable development is something we are very committed to here, as they are in other European countries. It would be wrong if we had an Environmental Protection Agency that was in some way perceived to be in conflict with the Industrial Development Authority. It is extremely important that the IDA take on the environment agenda. One of the most effective ways of doing that is to have them involved at the selection stage.
Why the IDA and not the CII? The CII lobbied to be included as did the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries and the Irish Farmers' Organisation. Obviously, it would not have been possible to have all three. Since the IDA encompasses industry in this widest sense and since we wanted to have a representative of industry, I felt it was preferable to have the IDA representing the whole industrial sector rather than to choose between the CII or the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries, who argued very well that all of their companies would come under the auspices of this agency and surely they should be the ones in and not somebody else. It was for those reasons we chose the IDA.
I was interested in some of the comments such as "I am delighted you have Congress there, but I do not know why the management or industry is there." I do not accept that argument that you have the workers and the employees but not the management. You can have both, but to argue in favour of one and not in favour of the other is not acceptable.
In relation to the Secretaries of the Departments, I certainly hope nobody will take over the Department of the Environment who is not committed to the natural environment and I do not envisage that happening in the future. While the Department's role is a wide, varied and comprehensive one, it is only in recent times that the natural environment is getting higher on the agenda of the Department because of its role in relation to central and local government and roads and so on. The future of the Department is in relation to the natural and pure environment rather than local government. There are several plans to devolve more powers upon local government and to have a more effective system. That is a different debate.
The Secretary of the Department and the Secretary to the Government are important inclusions because both are involved in the appointments commission for the appointment of top civil servants. They are accustomed to choosing and interviewing candidates and being involved in the process of identifying and selecting people for senior positions in the public service, experience which would be valuable in this process. It is important that when the Government are discussing the recommendations sent from the committee that there should be somebody present — and the Secretary to the Government attends Government meetings — who has been involved in the process and can answer questions. It is a good link which is why I felt that the Secretary to the Government was the next most appropriate person to be included after the Secretary of the Department of the Environment.
In relation to the size of the committee — Senator Murphy's amendment referred to it — I agree with the comments made by Senator Doyle. There are several environmental organisations — Cork Environmental Alliance, the new Howth 2,000 and many others — and to allow the Minister to designate what is an environmental organisation for the purposes of being on the selection committee would be fraught with danger. It would give a Minister extraordinary power to nominate five organisations and to have their representatives appointed to the selection committee. I am not clear if the Senator is referring to one representative or five.
In relation to Senator Doyle's amendment, I was interested when the Senator said that the IDA is a State body and asked why appoint the head of a State body, but the National Heritage Council are all appointed by the Government as well, so if we are talking about involving somebody else I do not think it necessarily follows that you choose somebody who is also appointed by the Government. There will be an important dynamic within the committee since they will all have a different perspective.
If this agency is to have credibility and public support and if it is to be perceived to be doing an appropriate job it must bring as many people with it as possible when it is appointed. It must be an agency that commands respect from a wide cross-section of people in order to be successful. If environmentalists perceive that the people appointed are anti-environment that is not going to be good for the success of the agency; for industry to perceive it to be anti-industry would also be very damaging and would set the agency on a conflictual road. Thereafter, the agency will be free to operate in relation to their tasks and to their role as a standard setting body and in relation to the issuing of an integrated licence. They will operate in accordance with the law as laid down in the Bill when it becomes law.
At the selection stage it is important that a wide cross-section of people who will be affected by this legislation should be involved in that process, which will be good both for the agency and for the environment. People like the chief executive of the IDA will bring to that selection committee a different level of expertise, particularly in relation to the selection of people with management and administrative skills which is equally important to having the appropriate professional qualifications. We have got the balance reasonably right. There are always other ways you can do things.
When I was discussing the composition of the selection committee with the wide cross-section of interested organisations a number of different names were suggested, Greenpeace among them. They are not interested in participating in any official selection committee because they feel it would jeopardise their independence. I discussed this with them. The Green Party was suggested but they are a political party. I do not think they should be involved anymore than The Workers' Party, the Labour Party, Independents, Fine Gael or any other political party. The Council for the Status of Women provision in this legislation is a good precedent and I hope it will be followed in other legislation.
Less than 10 per cent of management in this country, despite all the equality legislation and all the speeches about equality — we have to have to have a second commission now sitting to look at why women in Ireland are still not getting the top decision-making positions in the country and the reason they are not——
There may be other reasons.
There are a number of reasons but one is they are not in at the selection stage. Very often these selection procedures are male dominated clubs and if one of the council's functions is to reverse that trend then it is a worthwhile addition to the selection committee.
I am amazed at the amendments which propose to leave out the IDA. The Minister in her long reply has explained why the composition is as it is and why CII are included and not the IDA. How could the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, whom I support, be included?
I do not.
That is the Senator's business. When trade unions are represented industry should be represented as well. The Minister is correct. We will have a better result. I wonder why anybody would suggest that the Secretary of the Department of the Environment should be left out of this committee. I accept Senator Doyle's worries that the next secretary to that exceptional Department may not be as good a man but down through the years we have had great men in that position.
Not environmentalists, until recently.
We have had great secretaries of that Department.
Yes, but not environmentalists, which was the point I was making.
This Bill is going to make them all aware of everything. That is what it is about.
Let us push it through straightaway, if this legislation makes everyone aware of everything.
If the Minister came in with five or six suggestions you would still want somebody else.
I have a worry about the IDA, although I take on board what the Minister is saying. She is suggesting a situation where she may turn the poachers into gamekeepers and that the IDA will be given a crash course in environmental awareness and sensitivity which they have not always shown. Traditionally they have not been obliged to show this kind of sensitivity. Some firms in this country caused environmental damage. The IDA are very properly out in the marketplace selling Ireland as a good location for industry. That may not always be the most positive situation from which to deal with environmental issues. I am not 100 per cent convinced on that one. I would like to deal with the inclusion of the chairperson of the Council for the Status of Women on the selection committee because I also hesitated when I saw it, but I am fully in support of it for a number of reasons. I do not think I could be described as a rabid feminist although in as far as a man can be a feminist I would like to be considered a feminist.
The Senator is perceived as one.
If I am perceived as such, then I am a feminist.
You are on Committee Stage and your personal preference is of no interest to the environment.
It is of great interest to the environment. I agree 100 per cent with the Minister. I am very glad she said it; if she had not, I would, because I am a representative of the Independent grouping on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights and I know that what she says is perfectly correct in terms of the non-representation of women at managerial level and in the selection process.
This is something of which we in that committee have all become aware. A very good principle is the principle of positive discrimination. That is not the only reason we should have the Council for the Status of Women represented on this committee. Yesterday evening I was listening to a lecture by a distinguished Scottish academic who raised the question, among other things, of the different patterns of thought of men and women. It may be useful to include women because they do not traditionally — this is culturally determined, I am not making a sexist point — all tend to think in the numerical, cost-analysis logical way in which men traditionally tend to.
My experience of women — and I say this from the basis of experience — is that in terms of decision making they adopt an approach of lateral thinking and frequently ask precisely the types of questions which ought to have been asked by men but are not because they engage in a different kind of thinking. Women look with an uncluttered eye at particular problems. I would imagine that a woman member on this committee from the Council for the Status of Women would ask the questions that should be asked. I would like to say in parenthesis that I am taken aback to hear the Minister's experience of the Kildare Street University Club. This is a question that ought to be addressed. I speak as a member of that club.
Not relevant. The Senator can take it up with the Minister after the business of the House this evening if he wishes.
It is quite relevant but, granted, not as urgent as the ESB strike was last week. We differed over that as well.
Last week is certainly not relevant this week.
It is not quite as urgent; I accept that point. It has been largely dealt with. I would think it useful to include the chairperson of the Council for the Status of Women and perhaps at some stage it might be a man. I agree in principle with Senator Murphy's amendment that other environmental agencies should be involved. I was tempted to suggest not only Greenpeace but Earthwatch, but the Minister effectively dealt with that when she said she had consulted with Greenpeace and they were not interested, for a very good reason. All of us here received detailed briefing from interested organisations and to limit it to one is unfortunate since that one organisation has traditionally been more interested in the built environment than in the natural environment. For that reason I cannot agree with the amendment Senator Doyle referred to, in which she apparently intends proposing the chairperson of the National Heritage Council. We are wandering off into the built environment and the Minister, as I understood it, suggested that this Bill was principally dealing with the natural environment.
Finally, returning to the IDA, I was intrigued by Senator Doyle's suggestion of an inter-penetration between the IDA and the Environmental Protection Agency. That certainly is an idea that might be taken up. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If we are having the IDA represented surely we ought to have some representation from an environment agency on bodies such as the IDA. I do not know if amendments to this effect have been put into the legislation but that seems to me to be an excellent idea. I would wholeheartedly support such amendments and if Senator Doyle has not put them down I would be happy to do so.
It would be useful for the Environmental Protection Agency to have the power of nomination onto bodies where there is a direct effect upon the environment. A number of bodies were suggested and then ruled out for various reasons. The farming organisation seems an obvious one to me because there is a massive impact in terms of slurry pollution and so on. Maybe we could give this agency power to nominate onto those boards. I am not going to make any other contribution on this amendment because, as Senator Honan said, if you put something positive in legislation, people will criticise. I have had my say, the Minister has listened graciously, she has answered some of the questions raised and I do not intend to pursue the matter any further.
The composition of this committee is perfectly adequate. We have debated it now for quite a while. It might be assumed by the public gallery that the debate was about regulating the Environmental Protection Agency when in fact what we are discussing is the committee which will appoint a single person to be the executive and director general of the agency. Earlier this morning we decided that a director general and four people could adequately run this agency. The balance of the committee is such that there is no serious need to modify it. The director general obviously has an overriding responsibility to environmental protection but there will be other requirements as well, not least of which will be the ability to administer well. In that case, the Secretary of the Government and the Secretary of the Department of the Environment are well qualified to judge on those matters. I would welcome the inclusion of the chairperson of An Taisce on the committee to make this selection and recommendation to the Government.
As for the IDA, I know that the Minister on Second Stage made the point that it is not the intention of this agency to be anti-industry or anti-jobs. I can conceive of many situations where the people on the opposite side of the House will tell us of our responsibilities in relation to job creation and I would share those sentiments, but there is nothing inconsistent between our wish to create jobs and our wish to protect the environment.
In the future the welfare of the country will depend very largely on its ability to represent itself on international markets as a country which is environmentally friendly and defends the environment. In that context it will be very important for the IDA to be fully involved in the whole question of environmental protection and it is appropriate that they should be represented on this committee.
I share the views that have been expressed in relation to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and I would agree with the inclusion of the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women. I had some reservations about it until I heard Senator Murphy intervene during the Minister's speech when my reservations went out the window. It is important to discriminate positively in this area. For too long women have been deliberately excluded from decision making and from the highest offices within the State. From that point of view, anything that assists advancement of women's rights, as this is seeking to do, is to be welcomed. Six bodies are represented on this committee. We could go on all day including other bodies but in my view it now strikes a reasonable balance. There is no need to have any more than six members because if a board of four and a director general is adequate to run the agency, it is not going to be very difficult for these six people to judge the suitability of the person who should be the director general of the agency.
I would like to support the committee as put forward. It is a difficult task to decide who should be represented on such a committee, which is basically a committee to choose a director general. Overall, the Minister has got it right and has provided very cogent reasons for her choice. I would like to make one or two very brief comments and express a slight concern. The committee will have the Secretary of the Government and the Secretary of the Department of the Environment on it — a very reasonable and necessary governmental representation. The chairperson of An Taisce is an appropriate representative and will give a very good input to any choice or decision. I welcome the inclusion of the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority, together with the general secretary to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and in the present circumstances — I will come back to this in just a moment — the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women.
There is a strong argument for representation from the CII on this committee. I take the Minister's comments — I make no apology for making that suggestion — but in this day and age any industry or business which is not environmentally sensitive is living in the past and has no right to continue. It is far too important for us to ignore as industrialists and we should be properly concerned.
I would have liked to see the CII on this committee because it is the business of the Industrial Development Authority to attract industry to this country and it should be an integral, and I am sure is, part of its beliefs and efforts that any such industry must be environmentally sensitive and appropriate. We and the IDA would be foolish to act in any other way. I do not regard the IDA as acting on behalf of employers or workers; such differences today are, I hope, diminishing echoes of the past because we are all involved in enterprises together and I hope the IDA might be looked on and would itself look upon its efforts to attract industry in the light of environmental awareness.
The inclusion of the chief executive for the Council for the Status of Women on the committee is excellent and, unfortunately, in this day and age very necessary. I see no reason why the secretary to the Government or of the Department of the Environment should not, in due course, be a woman. I see no reason why the chairperson of the Council of An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, should not be a woman.
You should be one yourself.
Our own institution is one of the few in Ireland to include a woman who has earned her place on the board. She is a senior executive director in what was a very conservative institution. Sadly, when I was a student there were no female professors at all.
The logic is for all women——
The institution now has one-third women and rightly so. It should work out somewhere about 50-50 on the basis of the people being appropriate for the job. I would hope that some day the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions might be a woman.
The Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party.
And the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party. I have a candidate here beside me who would be perfectly capable of it and we have one or two in the Lower House——
That was the presidency.
The Senator would do very well but I am sure she would not like to be appointed just because she is a woman. That is a gross insult to women and I hope the day will pass when it is necessary in a Government Bill to make specific provision to employ or appoint somebody because of their sex.
Senator Conroy very ably made a point that had occurred to me as others were talking. There is a presumption, realistically enough on the Minister's behalf, that all these appointments, (a) to (e), will be made. That is very sad when one considers that the chief executive of the Council of the Status for Women will be one of the selection committee. We are assuming that for the foreseeable future all the other appointments will be made. That may be so, but it is a sad reality to have to face. I noted what the Minister said in response to my comments on this. I bristle if anything smacks of patronage or tokenism and we have to be clear about what we are doing here. Even if it is positive discrimination we have to know why and it has to benefit the environment above everything else. I have no present difficult with the incumbents of these positions.
With respect, the Minister rather glibly passed over my suggestion in amendment No. 67a that the chairperson of the National Heritage Council be included. The terms of reference of the National Heritage Council are weighted equally in favour of the physical as well as our built heritage, as indeed are the terms of reference of An Taisce. It was mentioned by another Senator that An Taisce has more to do with our built heritage rather than our physical natural environment. That belief probably derives from the days when An Taisce initially came to national prominence in the campaign for the preservation of Georgian Dublin. It did a wonderful job then. Many people still equate An Taisce with the preservation of Georgian Dublin and our built heritage more than the natural heritage but in practice that is no longer so. They are extensively involved on the ground in relation to the preservation of our natural environment as is the National Heritage Council. One has only to consider those who were appointed by the Government to the National Heritage Council to realise how heavily weighted it is in favour of the natural environment. The present incumbent of the chair is a man of great experience in the natural as well as in the built environment, as was our former colleague here, Eamon de Buitléir.
I would love to see a greater weighting of environmental representation on this selection committee. I do not logistically see how you can include five or six or any number of environmental organisations of your choice even though I fully accept the sentiments of Senator Murphy's amendment. If you brought in the National Heritage Council, which represents a huge range of environmental organisations both in the built and natural heritage, you would give it that tilt towards the environment that critics at the moment feel is not there. I feel strongly about amendment No. 67a which urges the Minister to consider including the chairman of the National Heritage Council and I request that the Minister look at that.
The National Heritage Council is neither a statutory body nor a semi-State agency. I wish it were a statutory body. My remarks about tying in another State agency do not apply as directly to this body as they did to the IDA. I also have an amendment supporting the inclusion of the CII and I feel quite strongly about that. I would be happier to see the CII tied in there rather than the IDA because there is a healthy tension or should be between the IDA and its terms of reference for creating jobs and attracting manufacturing industry and the rôle we will give the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Environmental Protection Agency would be the watchdog or the guardian. It would encourage the attraction of sustainable industries to this country. I see no difficulty in the IDA being off this committee and CII being on it. The CII will represent more effectively, existing industries. A large part of the role of the Environmental Protection Agency will be the question of retrofitting existing industries to comply with the standards we will exact of them in the future. The IDA are more involved in attracting new industries to greenfield sites. It is much easier to apply standards and insist on modern technology in terms of construction, incineration etc. when you are starting on a greenfield site. It is much more difficult to be reasonable in terms of protecting the environment, of recognising a certain industry's profitability and difficulties, to insist on standards in existing industries and demand retrofitting in different areas to comply with these standards. The CII would come on board in terms of both areas, both existing industries and new industries, whereas the IDA would be mainly concerned with industries they will attract in the future.
There is another reason why I would like to see a seventh member on this committee. Six is a difficult number because if you have an even number it is likely to split down the middle in favour of a particular candidate or candidates; you could have a vote 3:3. Can I assume that the Minister will have the final say if that happens? If you have seven on the committee you cannot have a divided vote in the same sense; it has to go 4:3.
It will have to go to a shootout.
Yes or PR or something else would have to come in. With an uneven number a stalemate would be avoided. It would avoid the Minister having the final say or the choice between two different candidates if the board could not decide. I feel strongly about the National Heritage Council to tilt the balance more in favour of the environment and I would prefer the CII to the IDA.
The issues are not quite as simple as they are being presented here. I must say, I never thought de Valera would have much an effect on Senator Murphy's thinking as some of his recent remarks would suggest. I always saw him in a slightly different position.
I have become aware, with considerable conviction, of the oppression of women. The truth is that, for reasons which would would take a lot more time than we have today, women have been excluded from a variety of activities. The vast majority of men, in what they would regard as important positions, are still convinced that whatever work a wife does is not as important as the work a man does. If there ever is a conflict between the two careers the vast majority of men, including the vast majority of male politicians, still assume what they have to do is more important than what their spouses have to do. Until we get to the stage where the acceptance is that both careers, if there are two careers outside the home, are of equal importance then we cannot presume in other areas of activity that men will adopt an enlightened view.
The evidence of everything I have read and heard is that discrimination against women is not an accident. It is sometimes deliberate in the sense that it is a choice. It is a matter sometimes of omission, perhaps not stated, and in all areas of groups that have been discriminated against it is necessary to involve forceful affirmative action to remedy that discrimination. The reaction the presence of the chief executive on the Council for the Status of Women has produced is, in itself, a justification for the decision to name her, in the first place, as a member of the committee. It suggests the problem still exists.
I am still not happy. The IDA do not represent industry and are not the spokespersons for industry in this country. As I said earlier, they had to be disowned by the Federation of the Irish Chemical Industries because of their outrageous remarks about environmental lobbyists in Cork. They were disowned publicly by one section of industry that many people would regard as the one that would feel most threatened by environmental lobbyists. The IDA have a less than happy record. They introduced a factory processing asbestos to County Cork some years ago. I wonder would they try to do the same again now? I doubt it. They assured us then there were no risks. I am not sure that anybody would stand up now and tell either the workforce or the people living in the immediate vicinity of a factory processing asbestos that there were no risks involved.
They introduced Merrell Dow into an area where there was considerable local unhappiness to say the least and, from my point of view a considerable environmental and scientific argument for a more appropriate location. Merrell Dow's justification for the choice of location was a poor enough commentary on Cork harbour generally. They said they were a health care industry and they wanted their health care industry located in an environment which would enhance the image of their product, the implication being that to be located in the area of Cork harbour, where chemical industries were previously located, would actually damage the image of their industry. That suggests they did not have a particularly good image of the existing industries in Cork harbour and that raises a question. Then, of course, there is an issue in which the prospective TD for Wicklow, who is not here with us might be interested, namely, the factory that is producing mercury soap that will be exported that will be used in a most horrific way in Third World countries. The IDA cannot put their hand on their heart and tell me they are concerned about the Irish environment if they are casually prepared to introduce industries into this country which would not be permitted in some other EC countries.
It was a Fine Gael woman MEP was opposed to the production of mercury soap.
A Fine Gael woman MEP was one of the few public representatives who had the courage to stand up on that issue. I accept that. I was inviting the prospective TD for Wicklow to get involved in the issue.
Senator Ryan, without the support of Senator Norris.
When I endeavoured to interrupt Senator Murphy a moment ago he reminded me rather forcibly that he had not interrupted me. However, he has been making up for it ever since.
Senator Doyle is correct. The Confederation of Irish Industry would be the appropriate body to represent industry on this. There is a problem because industry is a corporate body. It is the workforce in industry who are at risk.
The other body that should be represented is, of course, agriculture. It is important to remember what has been the greatest source of fish kills in this country. It is not industry. It is agriculture and the enrichment of the water supply resulting from agriculture. The most vigorous lobby I received about the representation of agriculture on this committee was from an environment group who felt very strongly that agriculture and its interests should be represented on this board to ensure that a wide-ranging committee existed. The solution seems to be to drop the IDA and put on the Confederation of Irish Industry to represent industry and a representative of agriculture. The present situation is ludicrous. The IDA do not represent industry, agriculture, or local authorities. They are a lobbyist whose primary function is outside the country and whose major area of activity and expertise lies outside the country. The IDA have a role in the fostering of industry in the country but their major area is outside the country. They are a singularly inappropriate body to represent Irish industry. It is the wrong choice. Quite frankly, the Minister has made a mistake in choosing the IDA ahead of the Confederation of Irish Industry. I also think there should be a representative of agriculture.
Let me get subsection (2) (f) out of the way once and for all. To assume that women are kept out of their fair share of the careers sunlight because of some conspiritorial act by the patriarchal establishment, is to make a very large assumption. There are other and quite respectable interpetations of the absence of women from a proportional share of public life. One was put forward in quite recent days, which is at least a tenable interpretation of their absence.
Even if we accept that they have been discriminated against and that we should do something about it, the last way we should do something about it is to rush into putting them on to committees so that they will look after their own. I cannot think of anything more divisive and illogical than having a woman on a committee saying: "Watch out for the woman coming in, we must get her in there", or, "We must see what good points she has", etc. It is a form of stereotyping, it is judging by gender and it would be just as sensible to have a representative of a class in there rather than of a gender.
To say that women are more concerned about the environment than men is something I absolutely reject. For example, you have to break down women by their class affiliations, by their class stratum. I would say a working class wife, whose husband has been unemployed for a long time, would be very much in favour of industrial development in a particular area even if it fouls up the environment somewhat. It depends on individual positions.
To say that by gender a women cares more for the environment is an insult to the other half of the human race. I care as much for the environment as any woman. This kind of inverted sexism leads even someone as intelligent as Senator Norris to make such dewey eyed statements that women have a more "uncluttered eye" for the environment. Wordsworth at his worst would not use the words "uncluttered eye". You can see the kind of illogicalities, contradictions, undistributed middles, if I may use a philosophical phrase, that this kind of thing gets us into.
I take it Senator Norris is one of the undistributed middles.
Why not put all women on this committee and make sure that you remedy the injustice of ages? Why not do it spectacularly? I cannot accept any of this, that because women are discriminated against we will put them on committees so that they will not be discriminated against in the future. This is total sexism and I hope Senator Doyle is not convinced. She was concerned at the outset that maybe this was a piece of tokenism. I suggest that not only is it tokenism, it is rank sexism and it is about time that was said.
This is my tribute to Ministers and Senators who happen to be women, as I would prefer to put it. I am very persuaded by Senator Doyle's argument that it is the chairman of the Confederation of Irish Industries who should be on the committee instead of the manager of the IDA. I was very much taken by what the Minister, not for the first time in this discourse on Committee Stage of this Bill, had to say in defence of the presence of the manager of the IDA on the selection committee, namely, that the manager of the IDA is not to be seen, as I mistakenly said at the outset, as someone against the environment or arguing on behalf of industry against the environment. In the total context of, as the Minister has so often said, an environment, which will create job opportunities because of our particular kind of environment I am inclined to accept all of that. That is my tribute to the reasoning powers of women whom I would not talk about as having "uncluttered eyes" in a million years.
I was very reluctant to speak again because we are prolonging the debate unnecessarily at this point. As my colleague said, there seems to be some misapprehension about just what we are debating at the moment, but I just cannot let some of the remarks that have been made in relation to the Council for the Status of Women pass by. I do not make the assumption that women are kept out of anything. The statistics are there to prove it. If Senator Murphy would like to take me up on the offer I certainly will give him chapter and verse on that. To say that at this stage of our careers we are rushing in to get women on anything is really a bit laughable. After many many years of lobbying to get women involved in anything it is hardly at this stage, rushing in to get women involved.
I submit that one of the main reasons we are having the Council for the Status of Women represented in this forum is that they are representative of so many groups of people who happen to be women, of so many groups of people who have an interest in the environment and they, as a body, have shown their interest in the environment. Senator Doyle said that this was something that had come about only recently. Unfortunately, because of the lack of funding for the Council for the Status of Women, we understand why their commitment in this area has only come about recently. They have had to build up to it.
I believe we are going at a tangent on this. I support that the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women should be involved. I do not believe that it is tokenism. I believe that at long last it is recognition and that is why I congratulate the Minister for including the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women on this committee. I do not think we should in any way assume that women should not be represented on a committee such as this. I submit that if we were more open minded and realised the representative nature of bodies such as the Council for the Status of Women then we would have a much better selection of people to choose from when we are putting together either State bodies or committees such as this.
I hope I am correct in thinking that this committee simply nominate the director general. If I am correct in that we are getting ourselves into a flap over nothing. Now the debate has gone into what I see as the fairly harmless. We should bear in mind that section 21 (7) (b) states that "the committee shall have regard to the special knowledge and experience and other qualifications, including any qualificatins which the Minister may by order specify". The committee can select three candidates and in exceptional circumstances may select fewer than that.
I would have thought that if these people are any way fairminded, or any way reasonable, then if people are exceptionally qualified and if specifications are laid down, regardless of whether or not you happen to be the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, or the managing director of the IDA, they would come to much the same conclusion based on these people's qualifications.
I am at a loss to see how these people would see things totally differently if those criteria are important. In any case, the bottom line is that the director general shall be appointed by the Government. In that sense I presume they have the right not to appoint people they do not like. They also have a selection of three, if the committee exercises their capacity to select three people. For that reason I am at a loss to understand what all the difficulty is about.
My own comment on the committee is that it seems to me to be rather like many of the other committees, the usual type of people who are around the establishment here in Dublin, broadly speaking. I imagine they will come to the usual type of conclusions and we will have another fairly usual type of director general appointed.
My other concern about them is that many of these people, I suspect, are already on a very large number of committees. Some of them might be on hundreds if not thousands of committees. My only concern, therefore, would be that some of these people might not be able to spare the time, even if it only happened to be five or ten minutes, to go along to one of those committee meetings to make the appointment. Other than that, I would not be too bothered about it. It seems to me to be straightforward, run-of-mill stuff.
Senator Upton put it very well. Effectively, we are talking here about an interview board. I am keen that it would not be too large. Obviously six people are about as many as you could possibly have on an interview board to have it effective. The second point is in relation to the point made by Senator Upton that many of them would be involved on several committees — I doubt if it would run into thousands. I accept that most of them are busy people. That is why I am keen that they would recruit the services of a professional recruitment company to help in the process. On a voluntary committee of this kind or anad hoc committee, obviously it is a statutory committee, who are meeting on an infrequent basis to do a job like this, the people involved are very busy people and they will need help in the selection process. We are making provision to ensure that will be the case.
Senator Doyle made the point that when one looks at the selection committee — and this struck me when I was drafting the legislation — the Secretary to the Government is a man, the Secretary to the Department of the Environment is a man, the Managing Director of the IDA is a man, the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is a man and it could well be that the chairperson of the Council for An Taisce could be a man. It happens to be a woman on this occasion. Contrary to what Senator Murphy says, in all these organisations despite the fact that women are not discriminated against legally, they do not seem to be coming through the ranks in any of these powerful bodies and one has to ask questions as to why that is the case.
I am not suggesting by any means, nor would I support the idea that this committee would set out to pick at least one woman director. We are not seeking to do that. This committee have to put forward the best people, whether they are men or women. It is important that that committee is a balanced committee, made up of people from industry representing industry and representing environmental interests, representing official Government interests, representing the trade union movement and representing women's interests. That is a good balance in terms of an interview committee. They are a broadly based committee.
As I said earlier, it is not a question of environmentalists picking a group of environmentalists to run a well-meaning agency. We are talking here about picking competent professional people who have environmental or scientific expertise, who have managment skills, who have administrative skills. I envisage, quite honestly, that they will come to agreement about the candidates and that it will be fairly obvious who are the best people. I do not think the IDA representative will say: "I want somebody who is working in the chemical industry" or that the An Taisce person will say; "I want somebody who used to work with us." I do not think it will be like that. I believe they will try to pick the best, most competent people and that they will probably come to agreement. I imagine there will be a large element of agreement in all the nominations they will put forward. I do not envisage they will say: "We will put forward one person who is pro-environment and one who is proindustry. If that were the attitude the thing would be a disaster.
It is important that the people who are put forward for appointment are competent — that is the first qualification — that they have good skills, that they are confident people and that they are able to do a good professional job. That is most important and the legislation provides for the kind of job they have to do therafter. As an interview board that is a good cross-section of interest; it is balanced, it is fair.
When I started drafting the Bill I have to admit the Confederation of Irish Industry were in my mind but the IFA wanted somebody, the ICMSA wanted somebody and the CII wanted somebody. I realised the whole operation would get most unwieldly and I came to the conclusion that perhaps the IDA cover industry in its broadest sense.
From a wider perspective I believe the environment debate here will be lost unless the IDA take on the environment agenda. The IDA have to see the environment as the powerhouse behind economic development rather than as a cost or something that is anti-economic development. It is very much part of our economic future in my opinion. Our greatest asset as a nation is our clean, green, healthy environment and we must keep it like that. We are lucky to have it. We were not industrialised at the turn of the century so we have a clean environment. If it is to remain clean it is important that the agency responsible for industrial development is very much involved in the whole environment agenda.
The IDA are not just concerned with new industry. Existing industry that will be putting in new facilities, new controls and so on may well be applying to the IDA for grant aid, I want the IDA to favourably consider grant-aid for environmental controls. Another good reason to have them involved is that they will be more favourably disposed towards grant-aiding particular environmental technologies or controls that industry will have to employ as a result of having legislation like this and not see it as a cost but as something that is important.
Given all the pressures to put different groups on I think we have got the balance right. We could go onad infinitum suggesting new groups, new individuals or new organisations. If we include another environmental organisation we will have to include somebody else from industry and it will become very unwieldly and very difficult to operate. In my experience large committees are ineffective.
The debate we are having now is probably more relevant to the advisory committee. Obviously it is the intention there to have a wide cross-section of interests, particularly to have environmental interests involved. It will be good for the whole thinking and strategy of the agency and the policies of the agency to have a wide group of people and particularly to have many environmentalists involved. People who have served on large committees have said to me that because of their size people do not attend meetings, that it is difficult to get them to work together and, as a result, that they are often not very effective. Their advice has been to keep committees small, that then they are much more effective, and efficient.
I would like the Minister to respond specifically why she feels she cannot take on board the Chairman of the National Heritage Council. I do not accept that it would tilt it so much in favour of the environmentalists that you would then have to get someone else from industry. At the moment there is only one environmental group represented, An Taisce. I suppose you would call the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, certainly in the present circumstances, an environmentalist but that is only two out of six. None of the restper se, in terms of the affiliation of their organisations are environmentalists. I feel strongly that the only heritage body, the only environmental body we have in the State at the moment, given the enormous expertise that is being gathered onto that body is not represented. I will be formally moving my amendment when we get to it. I ask the Minister to strongly consider the chairman of the National Heritage Council being included because to my knowledge all the farm organisations are represented on the National Heritage Council as well as the organisations that could be included here.
Since I will be withdrawing amendment No. 67, and I accept willingly the criticism by my otherwise favourably disposed colleagues that this is not sustainable in its present form, I am certainly supporting Senator Doyle's very reasonable amendment.
I feel very strongly if we start extending this committee we will run into a lot of trouble because, as I said, if we put another environmentalist in the sense of the representative of the National Heritage Council we will be under pressure to put the CII on. Then we are really extending the committee and it will be very unwieldy and difficult. The National Heritage Council are a Government appointed body about to be set up on a statutory basis. The legislation is almost completed. There will obviously be formal consultation between the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Heritage Council. There is provision to have consultation with that body, not specifically, but the intention is in other parts of the Bill.
In relation to being involved in the selection procedure the Senator is effectively saying that somebody who is appointed by the Government will now get involved here. In effect, it is like another official Government representative in a different guise. There are also a whole host of other environmental organisations if we are going down that road. There is the Irish Wildlife Conservation Group, there is the ECO, there is Earthwatch.
We cannot have each individual organisation. I am trying to get an umbrella group that is as broadly representative as possible.
That is precisely why An Taisce are involved. First, they are the oldest environmental organisation in the country. They are prescribed under the Planning Acts as one of the prescribed organisations. They are involved particularly in the whole licensing procedures. They have been very involved in many of the oral hearings and appeals. They have a very comprehensive approach to the environment and they are very well nationally organised. They are a very professional body to deal with, which is equally important if one is to be involved in this procedure. I am just not happy to take on board somebody else onto the committee.
Is it because it is the Department of the Taoiseach or Office of Public Works rather than the Department of the Environment, and the natural tensions that the Minister and I know exist there on environmental matters?
I move amendment No. 67:
In page 17, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following new paragraph:
"(g) the representatives of five environmental organisations designated by the Minister.".
Amendment No. 67a has already been discussed with amendment No. 66. Is amendment No. 67a being pressed?
Will the Senator move the Amendment?
I move amendment No. 67a:
In page 17, between 37 and 38, to insert the following new paragraph:—
"(g) the Chairman of the National Heritage Council,".
- Doyle, Avril.
- Hourigan, Richard V.
- Howard, Michael.
- Kennedy, Patrick.
- McDonald, Charlie.
- Naughten, Liam.
- Ross, Shane P.N.
- Staunton, Myles.
- Bennett, Olga.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Byrne, Sean.
- Conroy, Richard.
- Dardis, John.
- Fallon, Sean.
- Farrell, Willie.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Foley, Denis.
- Hanafin, Des.
- Haughey, Seán F.
- Honan, Tras.
- Hussey, Thomas.
- Keogh, Helen.
- Lanigan, Michael.
- Lydon, Don.
- McGowan, Paddy.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- Murphy, John A.
- Norris, David.
- O'Brien, Francis.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- O'Donovan, Denis A.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Toole, Joe.
- Ormonde, Donal.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Ryan, Eoin David.
I move amendment No. 68:
In page 18, subsection (3), lines 4 and 5, to delete paragraph (b).
Are those mentioned on the previous page, in section 21 (2) appointed on the basis of their affiliation? It would appear that if any of those persons, through ill-health or otherwise, cannot act for the selection committee or the appointment board their organisations should be entitled to send a substitute rather than the Minister availing of the opportunity to snaffle the appointments. I do not understand the logic. If they are appointed because of their affiliation to do a job then those organisations should appoint a substitute rather than the Minister snaffling that power.
A number of those organisations have, within their own rules and constitution, a method by which they can replace people who are no longer able to continue in office by virtue of ill-health or prolonged absence. In those cases they appoint people to act in their place. I presume that a person acting in that capacity would carry out all the duties and functions of the person for whom they were acting. It should be up to each organisation, association or group mentioned to decide on whether to make that replacement. It would be unwieldly if one of those associations or groups had a chief executive, general secretary, or managing director who was not able to conduct the job. It would be wrong for us to hold up the process of appointment.
Therefore, there is a fail-safe in already in that any of the associations or organisations could appoint a person acting in that capacity and in that way carry out all the duties or functions, including sitting on this committee, should that be the case. That would be the position. The Minister or the Government do not decide the appointment of the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions make that decision at any given time through their own processes. It would appear that there is a certain fail-safe in that. I would not like to create a situation where for instance, if two people of the six people mentioned are ill alternatively the process of appointment could be blocked for a long time. I agree with the general tone of the amendment but I would not like the Government to be able to abuse its terms. The associations or organisations mentioned are entitled and can, under their own rules, constitution and regulations, appoint some person to act in the event of a person being unable to carry out the functions attaching to the office for reasons of ill-health, long absence, career break, or whatever. I am not convinced that we need to pass the amendment. It could create a difficulty, which would not be an insoluble difficulty, if two of the people happened to be absent or unwell.
Interestingly enough, Senator Doyle leaves in (a) of that subsection.
I have just noticed that.
Obviously I do not envisage this happening very often. First of all, the selection committee will meet initially when the director general and the directors are to be appointed and very infrequently thereafter, in the case of there being a vacancy. It is unlikely that two people would be ill at the same time. Obviously we are anxious that if somebody were ill or unavailable, for whatever reason, the whole procedure would not be abandoned. That is why there is provision for this kind of arrangement.
My worry about having a nominee instead of the appointed person is that there may be a tendency to always send the nominee. Besides these people being appointed because of the sectoral interest they represent, they are also appointed because of the status they have in that sector. We did not just say anybody from the IDA, from Congress, from the Commission for the Status of Women, or from the Department of the Environment — these are very senior people who are accustomed to being able to adjudicate and select people who have competence, managerial and administrative skills. I would be somewhat reluctant, although I understand Senator Doyle's point, to specify a nominee from an organisation. Obviously it is the intention, and perhaps I can look at it before Report Stage, that the same sector would be represented.
I know the point the Senator is trying to make but this is only to deal with an emergency. I do not envisage it will happen very often. I am sure all the people appointed will be very anxious, eager and willing to participate and I do not envisage that any more than one of them at any time will be suffering from ill-health. I certainly would not like that to be the case.
In regard to maternity leave, as there are only two women in the six, it is unlikely both of them will be on maternity leave at the same time. Please do not encourage Senator Murphy because I found the last debate strange and surprising. Senator Murphy thought they should all be women. He thought that would make me happy.
That is the logic.
I look forward to the day when a woman will be Secretary of the Department of the Environment, with respect to my very able officials here, and in all the other positions too, but I am realistic enough to know that that is a long way off.
I thank the Minister for her reasonable approach to this and I apologise. In a sense (a) may be included with (b) but on reading it again I recall now why I did not include it at the time. If the chairperson, managing director, or chief executive of any of those bodies mentioned in section 21 (2) indicated an unwillingness to act, that might mean that that body itself was not interested in participating any more. Then a deputy or a vice-chairperson would not be the person. In that case the Minister would need to appoint another body to fill the slot in terms of the appointment procedure. That is what I was thinking of.
The fact that illness or any temporary absence by the heads of those bodies will mean they will be unable to fulfil their duties under this Bill should make us very careful about handing over the power to the Minister to appoint anyone. The Minister may appoint number two or an equivalent from the same body or invite the number two or equivalent from the same body, the vice-chairperson or whoever, to take over the position, be it in a temporary capacity or whatever. I am quite satisfied to come back on Report Stage, as the Minister indicated, just to nail that point down.
Is the amendment being pressed?
Amendment No. 70 is consequential on amendment No. 69 and both may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 69:
In page 18, subsection (9) (a), line 44, to delete "particular".
My point is made if these two amendments are seen to be consecutive and if one follows on logically from the other. That is precisely why I put down the amendment. I did not understand it as it was written. The fact that the Government side have seen that both of them run together, which I never indicated, makes the point. It is impossible to read it the way it is written at the moment. Firstly, it reads "a particular request" and then it reads "the request". I do not know if they refer to the same request or if they refer to something earlier. It seems to me that it should simply read:
If the committee is unable to select any suitable candidate pursuant to a request...
That makes sense. It is not pursuant to a particular request, it is any request. It is not "the" request. This is the principle on which it will operate and it applies to any such request. Notwithstanding anything in subsection (7) or (8) and referring to a particular request makes no sense to me.
Grammatically, I think Senator O'Toole is perfectly correct because if you refer to "a particular request", and in the second paragraph refer to "the request" you are quite clearly referring it back grammatically. There is no question about that. So you are actually tying paragraph (b) effectively syntacticly into paragraph (a). I think the Senator has actually unearthed something.
The parliamentary draftsman is very helpful here.
I knew the Minister would say that.
What else could I say? When we get into particulars on paragraphs (a) and (b) I get lost and confused. We are talking about the same request but obviously the Minister can make a number of requests. Therefore one has to specify that it is in relation to the particular request at that time. That is why the word "particular" is there. Is the Senator suggesting that "particular" should be in paragraph (b) as well? The request in (a) and (b) are the same request.
What is outlined here is the method of operation and it does not apply simply to particular requests. It applies to every request. We do not legislate for a particular request. This is the issue, no matter what requests we are speaking about. It even ties in to what has happened beforehand in the section, except in the case of reappointment. It is difficult to know what we are reflecting back on but it is clear that what is outlined in subsection (9) is simply what will happen in the case of the committee being unable to select any candidate pursuant to any request. In other words, it goes on and says that if, following on a request from the Government that (a) and (b) happen, then clauses (i) and (ii) come into effect. But they come into effect following any request on foot of which the committee fail to select a suitable candidate or on foot of which the Government decide not to appoint any of the candidates selected by the committee. It is not pursuant to a particular request, it is any request. That is precisely how it stands and there is no doubt about it in my mind.
We are going to adjourn on that point and it may be as well, so that we can clear our heads.