It is proposed to take the second stage of Items Nos. 2 and 3 together from now until 3.30 p.m. with a sos from 3.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. it is proposed to take item No. 16, motion No. 49 and to return to Items Nos. 2 and 3 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. May I make one suggestion to the House? We will put a time limit on the speeches if the House agrees.
Private Business. - Order of Business.
It is with regret that we cannot agree to the taking of Items 2 and 3 as outlined by the Leader of the House this morning. It is no secret at this stage, in this House particularly, that the passage of these Bills — the original, the amended version, the many lists of amendments on Committee Stage and the new amendments that came in even last Wednesday to the other House — has caused major concern. Our difficulty is that sufficient time has not been given for negotiations with local authorities, with the IVEA, particularly since last Wednesday when new amendments on Report Stage were again entered in the other House. I would ask the Government Parties, particularly the Leader of the Government Party, to allow sufficient time to elapse for detailed discussions at local level in relation to the implications of the Bills today.
Can we be seen in this House to allow central Government to jackboot local government? We need time, we must not rush it as this session comes to an end. There are enormous implications in these Bills and a lot of common ground could be found if they were not rushed through this House today, with the inevitability of Committee and Report Stages being rushed through either on Friday or some day next week. We need time to tease out the issues concerned at local government and vocational education committee levels and then come back to this House and do justice to our very important part of government in this country.
May I also request the Leader of the House to allow us to discuss the sacking of the Chairman of Telecom Éireann? Thinking about the Bills I have just been speaking on and the proposal to appoint chairmen of governing bodies, the day of allowing Ministers to appoint bagmen or bagwomen willy nilly is gone. We need a debate on why the Telecom Éireann board voted no confidence in their chairman and this House needs to discuss a most important body, a body that is very concerned about possible privatisation. We should discuss whether that should be an issue at all. May I ask the Leader to allow a debate in this House before we close this session on the problems at Telecom Éireann.
I beg your indulgence to note the fact that last night we had the 57th or 58th victim of violence in the North of Ireland. Cyril Murray was a teacher in Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne area of West Belfast, recently retired, a man who had given a life in service to his pupils, to his community and to his school. He is just another tragic, innocent victim of violence in Northern Ireland and I would like to extend our condolences to his colleagues, his community and his school. He is no different from any of the other 57 or 58 victims but the fact is he was a teacher and a colleague. I know the House will join with me in offering condolences to his staff and all the people associated with him. He had recently retired, a man of 51 or 52 years of age, looking forward to an easier way of life. This has been taken from him. After working in the most tragic and stressful area of this island, he was not even allowed to enjoy peace in retirement. I do not think his name has been announced yet, but I presume it will be announced shortly. I should perhaps not have mentioned his name on the Order of Business.
I would certainly have to go along with Senator Doyle on the time limit. These are complex pieces of legislation and it is important they are teased out in detail. I would be opposed to a time limit at this time. I would ask that the Leader change his mind on that.
I would be concerned at the build-up we are seeing here in relation to these Bills. As a general rule, I am not too opposed to limits on the amount of time allowed at Second Stage, but I am very concerned about the build-up and about what is going to happen on Committee and Report Stages. I clearly see that we are moving towards a guillotine on an absolutely essential Bill, which is vital to elements such as the vocational education committees which appear to be about to be eliminated. They will be treated in much the same way as the old committees of agriculture were treated, when they had only a short spell after the relevant Acts came in.
I support the call for a debate on Telecom and the reasons behind the sacking of the chairman and on the various issues which seem to be crucial factors in that matter.
I also join with Senator O'Toole in expressing my condolences on the tragic death of a teacher in Northern Ireland last night.
May I also ask for a debate on the whole question of dismissal of the chairman of Telecom Éireann and the statement by the Minister for Communications, Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, that he is to be paid £30,000 by the State? The whole circumstances surrounding the appointment and the dismissal require to be debated.
In relation to the Order of Business for today, I have been calling for some time for a statement from the Leader of the House in relation to when the Dublin Institute of Technology Bill and the Regional Colleges Bill were to be discussed in this House and I got no clear statement about the length of time and when they were going to come before us. The Bills have been in the other House for over 12 months with three Ministers for Education. We are to deal with them in this House——
This is the Order of Business. We are to deal with them in two days. That is what has been presented to us. That, in any circumstances, is a guillotine. Considering that we have just received a Green Paper to discuss the future direction of education, it is a scandal. The least we could do is to leave these Bills over the summer period until we have the opportunity of teasing out a lot of the relevant material relating to third level and vocational training which is incorporated in this legislation so that we would have the opportunity of coming to it after reflection. That would be the time to discuss these Bills.
I would ask the Leader of the House at this late stage not to force through these Bills before the summer recess but that they should be left until the autumn so that there would be proper consultation, proper consideration, proper reflection and the opportunity to incorporate the ideas of the Green Paper.
I also wish to make my stand in relation to the rushing through of these Bills. When the Dáil rises on Friday, what will happen to the amendments we will be putting forward? Have we to accept now that we are merely going through the motion of discussion of amendments unless there is an agreement that the Dáil will come back to sit again to go through amendments that we will put forward in this House. This happened a couple of years ago; it is very sinister and it is not democratic. I do not accept that this Bill should be rushed through. If it has taken 12 months, surely another few months would make no difference. Will our amendments be taken and will the Dáil be coming back to consider them?
I agree with my colleagues. There is an untoward haste about the disposal of two Bills that were allowed to languish in the other House for 12 months without any great urgency while various Minister came and went and carried on their various processes of discussion. I would invite my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, who are aware of the concerns of many of their own electorate about these Bills, to tell the Minister that they want time to talk to people about them. It is they who can pursuade, if not convince, if not threaten, the Minister that a different course of action should be taken — if not in the interests of education then in the interests of their relationship with their own constituents. I would suggest therefore that they would perhaps pass on that message.
May I ask the Leader will the almost invisible Minister for Education be here to deal with the Bills, or will it be his long-suffering and increasingly overworked junior Minister who will be dealing with it?
That is not a matter for the Order of Business. I call the Leader of the House.
I am sorry, a Chathaoirligh, I was not finished. That was a question. I want to reiterate what Senator Jackman said. What is the meaning or significance of Committee Stage of these Bills next week or this week if the Dáil has adjourned? Is it not really a farce? Why do we not simply adjourn on Friday and come back on 1 September and carry on where we left off? That would be far more logical. The amendments could go back to the Dáil when the Dáil get around to coming back. That would be logical in the sense that it would cause no great delay and no procedural problems and we would not go through this Mickey Mouse farce of pretending to do something we cannot do.
It is my job as Leader of the House to ensure that the legislative programme of the Government is brought through the House, and that is what we are doing here. We are giving all day today to the Second Stages of both Bills and we will see how we get on there. We are here all day on Friday as well to deal with the Bills in question.
With regard to a debate on Telecom, I will communicate with the Minister to see what her views are on that.
I must take Senator Doyle up on the comment on bagmen and bagwomen. Is the Senator insinuating that all the chairpersons of all the boards in the country are bagmen and bagwomen?
Only those who need to be sacked after six months.
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