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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 3 Jun 1993

Vol. 136 No. 10

Order of Business.

The Criminal Law (Suicide) (No.2) Bill, 1993, has been passed in the Dáil and it is proposed to take it until 2 p.m., item 2 will be taken from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.

The House will sit for three days each week from next week because of the considerable legislative programme coming before the House. Next week we will sit on Friday also and after that it will sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

We will co-operate with the Criminal Law (Suicide) (No. 2) Bill since that Bill should have been initiated in this House.

I draw the attention of the House to an undesirable development over a number of weeks on the adjournment debate. On several occasions Ministers taking the matter on the Adjournment had no connection with the Department concerned. I realise Ministers may be unavailable, but the point of the Adjournment Debate is that the Minister in question is answerable to the Member who raises the issue.

It is essential that the Minister with responsibility for the particular brief be present. A Minister who does not have responsibility for that area does not have the required knowledge and does not deal with the appropriate civil servants. Such practice is an insult to this House and would not happen in the other House. It is not the fault of the Leader of the House, but it is a message which must be conveyed to Government.

Since the Government appear to be granting an amnesty a week, perhaps it might consider an amnesty for those who voted for change in the General Election and instead received more of the same.

I refer to the question of amnesties. Is the Leader of the House worried the Government may be confused with Amnesty International?

Today's newspapers suggest the Ceann Comhairle has favourably received a proposal that a family room be established in Leinster House in order to accommodate the families of Members of both Houses. This is to be welcomed.

However, today we, the Independent Senators, received notice from the union representing our staff that they are no longer prepared to tolerate existing working conditions. Evidently, other committees receive a more positive response from authorities in the House. It is an extraordinary situation and we have now been asked to continue working under these conditions. The ante has been raised considerably and I do not know how the present impasse can be overcome. The union has made its position clear. There is never natural light; the secretaries always work with the lights on. Conditions are overcrowded, unhealthy and unhygienic and somebody must bear the responsibility. I have continuously put on the record of the House our appreciation of your support, a Chathaoirligh, and that of Members on both sides of the House.

We have a benign and powerful Seanad which puts forward proposals that are then ignored. Trying to get any kind of movement is like trying to push-start a streamroller. It is not possible, a Chathaoirligh, for us to tolerate this situation any longer. I know you are giving me leeway to make this point, but it has been made clear by the union representing our staff that their conditions are no longer tolerable. It has been made clear to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges by the Members working in those conditions that it is not suitable and we are no longer prepared to put up with it.

I do not wish to disrupt the proceedings of the House every day but that is the only option available to us in order to make everybody else feel as uncomfortable as we are under our condition. In taking whatever action is necessary, we do not aim it personally at Members on either side of the House but to draw attention to the fact that we cannot do our work. I heard people who attended committees yesterday were annoyed they had to leave for votes and quora — that is how it will continue to be, and worse. I propose a change on the Order of Business to take item 15 so that we can discuss this matter at length today.

I wish to support the previous speaker. Could we be told what the up-to-date position is, why this issue has to be continually raised in this manner and why the Senators in question are being denied the facilities to which they are entitled?

I wish to formally second Senator O'Toole's amendment. Our situation is intolerable and this House should direct the functionaries involved to provide appropriate space. It is not a question of our asking them to do so, we should direct them to solve the problem.

I am repeating what I said in the past, and I have taken a personal interest in this matter although there was no need for me to do so. I have spoken with all of the relevant people whom I thought could help us, at Civil Service and other levels. I accept the situation for the Independent Members is very bad. I will continue to seek a solution and I hope it will be resolved.

This is a sad reflection on us. I have been out of the House for a few years but I did not think it would come to this. Could I ask the Leader if anything can be done before the proposal is put to the House because it reflects badly upon us. It is serious that some Members are not receiving the same benefits as others. I have never seen this happen before and I ask for serious discussions to take place. I ask Senator O'Toole to give talks another chance because a motion like this is an indictment of the House.

I thought the impression was being given with modern facilities and the upgrading of committees, particularly in the other House, that Members want to move ahead. However, in this House some Members and their staff, employees who are here five days a week, do not enjoy the same facilities as others. Serious discussions should take place and the motion should not be put at this time. I ask that it be deferred for another week.

In regard to the level of staffing, as far as I am aware, the ratio is three Senators to one——

We are not discussing staffing, but accommodation.

The motion refers to staff. In regard to the staff situation, with Fine Gael Senators, the ratio is three Senators to one——

We are not going into that; that is a totally different matter. We are talking about accommodation.

It is of the utmost importance in that the ratio appears to be better for some Senators than for others. I want that investigated.

At the moment we are dealing with accommodation for the Independent Members.

It is grossly unfair to the staff who are working for Fine Gael and for other Senators to have a ratio of three to one. It is not right, proper or fair.

Hear, hear, it is absolute nonsense.

I have great sympathy with the Independent Senators as regards their accommodation. I understand a Fine Gael Senator is sharing that accommodation. Perhaps the situation could be dealt with if he was to be accommodated by Fine Gael.

I have been discussing accommodation for the university Senators——

And there are six of them.

——five of whom are Independent, one of whom is a member of a party. I am not getting involved between the parties, they can sort that out between themselves.

In reply to Senator Manning's comments on the Adjournment, I have no control over what Minister comes to the House but I certainly will pass on his concerns and views on that issue. I am sorry we are voting again on the issue of accommodation for the Independent Members. It is regretful in my view that the Order of Business is being disturbed on a regular basis. The conditions in which the Senators and their staff are working are not acceptable. I have made the Government Chief Whip aware of that and it is regrettable that the House will be disrupted yet again.

An amendment to the Order of Business has been proposed and seconded. Senator O'Toole has moved an amendment: "That item 15 be inserted before item 1". Is the amendment being pressed?

While I dislike to disrupt the Order of Business, and I spent much time over the last year attempting to have the Order of Business made an orderly procedure, I must make a protest in some way. Due regard is not being paid to the wishes of this House. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges took a decision and I want to know why it is not being implemented. We are being disregarded and it is in the interests of Members on both sides of the House that this matter be addressed.

The question is: "That the amendment be made."

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 22.

  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Cotter, Bill.
  • Cregan, Denis (Dino).
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Lee, Joe.
  • McDonagh, Jarlath.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Neville, Daniel.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Wilson, Gordon.


  • Cashin, Bill.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Farrell, Willie.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kiely, Dan.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lydon, Don.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • McGowan, Paddy.
  • Maloney, Sean.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullooly, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Francis.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Townsend, Jim.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Senators O'Toole and Norris; Níl, Senators Mullooly and Maloney.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business put and declared carried.