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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 Mar 1993

Vol. 135 No. 6

Order of Business.

Before I announce the Order of Business I wish to mention a couple of other matters. I know that the House wants an opportunity to discuss Aer Lingus and the Whips will meet after the Order of Business today to arrange a suitable time for a debate on the matter. This House had an extensive debate on Aer Lingus in late October and would obviously like to afford itself an opportunity to discuss current developments there.

The Criminal Justice Bill which is being dealt with in the Dáil at present will be introduced to this House on 24 March.

I want to thank Senators O'Sullivan and Magner, the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Spring and other colleagues for making it possible to take statements on Northern Ireland on 25 March and I will have further details of times etc., later. I also wish to thank the Minister concerned for the fact that the Unfair Dismissals Amendment Bill is to be initiated in this House today, the first I hope, of many Bills to be initiated here. On the Order of Business today it is proposed to take Item 5 from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Second Stage and Item 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

We on this side of the House are seeking time today to debate the crisis in Aer Lingus because unprecedented action has been taken by the Government in appointing an executive chairman to the company. We want to establish the position of the Minister and of the Government; whether they have handed over complete control to the executive chairman and what safeguards have been provided for the employees of Aer Lingus. This vital national issue must be debated in this House today. We are asking the Leader of the House to provide time, otherwise we will oppose the Order of Business.

I welcome the commitment given by the Leader of the House to a debate on Aer Lingus. I would like to have that debate today and I see no reason why it could not be held at 8 p.m. this evening. This House led a delegation to Aer Lingus last year, long before these problems arose and has sustained a long and continued interest in the company. Aer Lingus was the subject of a comprehensive debate in this House last year and I welcome the decision to hold another such debate. I propose that it be held at 8 p.m. this evening, unless other circumstances prevent this.

I would like to raise another matter with the Leader of the House which I am remiss for not having raised earlier. I would like a time limit on Second Stage speeches of the Bill being taken today. As I said on the opening day of this House, in order to facilitate the effective and efficient conduct of Business there should be a time limit, however long or short, on Second Stage speeches. I ask the Leader of the House to respond. I suggest that speeches be limited to 25 minutes; that is long enough for anybody to speak on a Bill, and would allow speakers to organise their speeches.

I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business: that the Aer Lingus debate be taken at 8 p.m. although I am prepared to withdraw it if the Leader of the House has compelling reasons it should be left until tomorrow; and that there should be a time limit of not more than 25 minutes on Second Stage speeches, with the agreement of the House, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders.

You cannot propose an amendment to the Order of Business. There is no item relating to Aer Lingus on the Order Paper. You may oppose the Order of Business if you wish. That is the correct procedure to follow.

A Chathaoirligh the motion on the Order Paper and the proposal from the Leader is that we deal with the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Bill. I am adding an addendum to that to say that no speaker should take longer than 25 minutes.

Sorry, that is a different matter, I thought it was the Aer Lingus issue we were talking about. I have given my ruling on that.

You have given your ruling on the Aer Lingus matter?

Yes. It is a matter for the House and the Leader to agree on the other Second Stage speech issue.

I accept that ruling.

I support Senator Taylor-Quinn's call for a debate on the Aer Lingus issue. It is unbelievable that one person should be given authority to deal with all of these issues——

I allowed the leader of your group some leeway, but I do not want speeches on the Order of Business.

We must remind ourselves that there are many Deputies in the Dáil on the basis of promises made.

You are making a speech.

May I ask the Leader of the House the position on a request made two weeks ago, last week and again today for a debate on the economy, given that closing down sales are taking place in every second shop in this city? Does the Leader intend to allow a debate on the serious state of the economy?

I would also like to ask the Leader to bring forward the debate on Aer Lingus. There are ways open to us under Standing Orders to advance this matter in an emergency. However, if it is not possible to take this matter today, may I ask the Leader in the event of a time limit on contributions on Aer Lingus tomorrow, to make sufficient time available to enable everybody to have a say on the matter.

I am anxious, like Senator Taylor-Quinn and Senator Farrelly, that the discussion on Aer Lingus take place today. I hope for at least a three hour debate on that matter because of its national importance.

In regard to the Leader's indication we are to have statements on Northern Ireland on 25 March, I ask — and there is an opportunity just now — that we table a motion rather than make statements. I urge the Leader to endeavour with all party Whips to arrange a motion because——

A motion condemning the Government.

——we have recently had a major speech by the Tánaiste on this issue. The comments made by the Tánaiste could be incorporated into the motion I have in mind. The Leader of the Opposition is also——

That is a matter for the Whips to decide.

The reason I mention it is that the Leader of the House has said statements. The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Bruton, has called for a unified approach among the four party leaders. We should have a motion on Northern Ireland.

You have made your point, Senator Enright.

I welcome the information given by the Leader that we will have an opportunity on 25 March to make statements on Northern Ireland. I would be satisfied with an opportunity to express our views which will range across the board. It would be divisive and unhelpful to have a motion followed by a vote and a division.

I have ruled it is a matter for the Whips to get together on that issue.

I wish to raise two other important matters closely associated with the same subject. I have requested in the past that this House discuss the important International Fund for Ireland which plays a major role in developing the Border region. I ask the Leader to give this request a high degree of priority. The House should be aware of the valuable contribution made by the Fund and Senators may wish to make recommendations.

Finally, another Border area authority, the Foyle Fisheries Commission make an annual report and I believe this House would be an appropriate forum at which to discuss the commission. I ask the Leader to arrange an opportunity to discuss these two matters of great importance not only to the Border region but to the nation.

I formally second Senator O'Toole's proposal for a limit of 25 minutes on speakers on Second Stage of the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Bill.

I support the other speakers who welcomed the opportunity to discuss the Aer Lingus situation. Given that we will be discussing Aer Lingus because of the urgency of that situation, today rather than tomorrow would be the appropriate time for the debate.

Lest silence on this side be taken as suggesting that we are not gravely concerned, I also suggest an early, comprehensive debate on Aer Lingus. It does neither House credit to note that an Oireachtas joint committee has been examining Aer Lingus for the past three years, among other State-sponsored bodies. That Oireachtas joint committee, which I had the honour to chair and on which Members here served, was stymied in the performance of its task for want of a few shillings.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

I support the call for an early and comprehensive discussion of Aer Lingus. We should learn now that it is time both Houses gave more time and consideration to the operation of our commercial State enterprises.

I join in calling for a debate on Aer Lingus and I also agree with Senator Rory Kiely's request to RTE to broadcast the club championship finals.

I have ruled on that matter, Senator Cassidy.

I call on the Leader to arrange a debate on the low standards of censorship being applied throughout Europe at present. In the UK this matter has been highlighted. I ask for this debate as a matter of urgency given the amount of television violence and pornography coming in directly.

You are making a speech, Senator Cassidy.

There is a consensus in the House on the need for a debate on Aer Lingus. The difficulty is when to have it and how long it should take. The House has stated repeatedly that it wants Ministers to initiate Bills in this House. When that arrangement has been made — and the Bill today impinges on every worker in the country — suddenly there is talk of curtailing the debate and even of rescheduling it. Is the House serious about the initiation of legislation in the Seanad?

You are defending the indefensible.

In the interest of harmoney given that we share the Opposition's concern on the Aer Lingus issue, I suggest that Whips arrange a debate for this evening or tomorrow.

I want to make the point that asking for time to be made available does not put the matter in order on the Order of Business.

I am appalled at the suggestion that there should be a curtailment of the Second Stage debate on the Order Paper today. It does not augur well for approaches to Ministers that Bills be initiated here if we follow that line of thinking.

Regarding the Order Paper and requests to the Leader, I asked the Leader of the House two weeks ago for an opportunity to debate State-sponsored bodies and semi-State companies. On that occasion he did not reply. I raise the matter again today because the time is opportune and I hope abroad and full debate was allowed on semi-state organisations even if we have a debate on Aer Lingus today or tomorrow. This is an appropriate forum for such a debate.

The Senator is making a speech.

Will the Leader allow a debate on the implementation of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy? I have good reason for asking this as it would appear that one component of that policy, the retirement package is totally neglected.

The Senator is making a speech. I have to curtail him. Too many Senators have made speeches and it will not happen again.

Will the Leader allow a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy reform with particular emphasis on the retirement package?

The Senator is making a speech.

I agree with Senator McGowan's suggestion that when Northern Ireland is discussed it should be by way of statements rather than motions. The matter is sensitive and to deal with it by way of motion could be divisive, although I am not saying it would be.

I ask the Leader of the House to find out when the Oireachtas Joint Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies will be reactivated. Over the last number of months a number of State-Sponsored Bodies have had problems and that committee was not in operation. The sooner it is reactivated the better. The funding for that committee was abysmal.

The Senator is making a speech and I would urge him not to.

Will the Leader ask the Minister when that committee is reactivated to ensure that sufficient funds are provided so that it can do its job? It is one of the most important committees and it seems to me that money is available. The programme managers recently appointed by Ministers have more resources than——

The Senator is making a speech. I ask him to ask a question and leave it at that please.

As a separate question I ask that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is requested to come to this House and discuss the activities of the United Nations in terms of peace-keeping throughout the world. The relevance of the United Nations in peace-keeping and in the provision of funding for food for people in deprived countries should be actively debated. We have to give the United Nations power because the United States——

The Senator has put a question to the Leader. I am sure he will reply.

——has taken over the role of world policemen and it is time the United Nations took over that role once more.

I will not make a speech a Chathaoirligh. I have a brief question for the Leader which I asked before and I ask again. Would it be possible to have a debate on the important subject of the enlargement of the European Community so that we can at least tackle this issue before it happens and not after the fact?

I make a brief point to all Senators here. It is vital that we stick to the Order of Business. Aer Lingus is a very important issue and is very close to all our hearts but whether it is debated now or later is irrelevant. We should stick to the Order of Business.

There are 7,500 workers in Aer Lingus who would disagree with the Senator on that.

Side-step the issue; it is too hot to handle.

In supporting the desire of all sides of the House for a debate on Aer Lingus, we should take account of Senator Enright's point that we need considerable time for this — the Senator suggested three hours — and it may not be possible to provide that time today as we are initiating a Bill. Therefore I suggest late this evening or preferably tomorrow would be more appropriate. The Whips will make the decision.

I welcome the fact that we are to discuss Northern Ireland in this House shortly. I agree with the points made by other Members that we should seek not to be divisive on the issue. If it is decided by the Whips that motions would not be appropriate, we should accept that decision and take statements. Above all, we must not be diverse on the issue.

I had no notice from anybody about Aer Lingus before I came into the House. I try to anticipate what might come up. I assure the House, for political reasons and because of the area I represent, that I would like an opportunity to discuss Aer Lingus. In the normal way the Whips will meet after the Order of Business and I give a commitment that before the House adjourns this week, we will have had the type of debate we all want.

One Senator made a comment about promises and so forth. It may well be that this Senator is in this House for the lack of promises he made. The new Senators may wish to afford themselves an opportunity to read the debate that took place in this House. It was an excellent debate on the situation that then pertained in Aer Lingus, and unfortunately it has got no better. It was an all party debate.

Members of the Government did not agree.

It was a very constructive debate. I hope that when decisions are made on the future viability of the company many of the suggestions made in that debate will come to fruition in the interests of the workforce and the company itself. Let me reiterate to all those who may want to challenge the Order of Business, I have no objection to a debate of whatever length of time is desired.

I ask that an opportunity is given to organise the debate in a structured way so that it is in the interest of this House. We must ensure that the Minister is here and that everybody has a chance to speak.

I am in favour of time limits on debates. I suggest 30 minutes for the spokesperson and 20 minutes thereafter, and if that was agreeable it would be a structured way of allowing people an opportunity to speak in each debate each week. This would ensure that we would not have the situation we have all suffered in both Houses, of sitting around wondering whether you can attend to some other business because we are unsure about what is going to happen. We should structure the debate and allow 30 minutes for the spokesperson and 20 minutes for each speaker thereafter.

It is interesting that of all the contributors from the other side of the House, not one Seantor mentioned the fact that we are initiating a new Bill here today, one of many I hope. Over many weeks and months I have been asked that we initiate legislation and I assure the House that today's Bill will be one of many new Bills to come into this House before the end of this session. My understanding is that we will be sitting for three days quite soon to accommodate all the legislation that has to be dealt with.

I will come back to Senator McGowan on his request for a debate on the International Fund for Ireland. The Whips will discuss Senator Cassidy's comments on the control of TV censorship. Senator Magner mentioned new legislation coming before the House and my thanks to him for his efforts in ensuring that we will have many new Bills in this House. The Whips will deal with Senator Finneran's request on Common Agricultural Policy reform and I have no objection to a future debate on that on a Thursday. I understand that before the month is out the composition and start dates of most of the committees mentioned will be announced. I hope to have news on that within the month. With regard to Senator Lydon's request for a debate on the enlargement of the EC, we have debated the EC on several occasions and there is no reason we will not get another opportunity to do so within the next few weeks.

Is Senator O'Toole withdrawing his amendment?

I accept the Leader's good faith in the matter and I withdraw the amendment.

Is the Order of Business agreed?

No. I wish to make——

The Senator will not make a speech. You have contributed once and the tradition is that each Senator makes one contribution.

I would like to clarify the position of Members on this side of the House. We agree that the unfair dismissals legislation and the report of the Commission on the Status of Women are very important and in order to accommodate the Government side we agree to sit on Friday. I propose that we debate Aer Lingus now and we will sit on Friday.

The question is "That the Order of Business be Items 5 and 11; that Item 11 be taken between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and that the speech of each Member called on to contribute in the debate on Item 5 shall not exceed 30 minutes for spokespersons and 20 minutes for all other speakers."

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 17.

  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Calnan, Michael.
  • Cashin, Bill.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Crowley, Brian.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Gallagher, Ann.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kiely, Dan.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • Lydon, Don.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • McGowan, Paddy.
  • Magner, Pat.
  • Maloney, Seán.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullooly, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Townsend, Jim.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Wilson, Gordon.
  • Wright, G.V.


  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Cregan, Denis (Dino).
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Honan, Cathy.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Neville, Daniel.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Mullooly and Magner; Níl, Senators Cosgrave and Neville.
Question declared carried.
Order of Business agreed to.