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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Jun 1993

Vol. 136 No. 14

Order of Business.

Today's Order of Business is item 1, Second Stage of the Industrial Development Bill, 1993, from now until 8 p.m., with a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. I suggest that each spokes-person shall have 30 minutes and other Senators 15 minutes.

I have no difficulty with that arrangement for today's Order of Business. I wish to ask the Leader of the House a number of questions. With regard to the report of the Opsahl Commission, which I have now had a chance to read, could the Leader of the House give definite details as to when this may be debated in the House? It is an important report and I think all sides of the House would like to consider it in detail. It is important that we examine it while it is still reasonably fresh.

Will the Leader of the House ask the Government to let all Members have copies of the ESRI report on Structural Funds? This will obviously be a key report in the formulation of policy. It is only fair that, instead of having to depend upon leaks and garbled versions, all Members should have a full copy of that report.

I also ask on the Order of Business that time be made available, if possible, at the end of today's business for a discussion on the current situation in Aer Lingus. Members on all sides of the House have a very deep concern about what is happening and we would like to brought up to date by the Minister and have a chance to express our views on that matter of great current urgency.

On a housekeeping matter, there is great concern on all sides about the slow publication of the Official Report of the Seanad.

Hear, hear.

It seems to be almost a month behind at the moment. Could something be done about that?

There is no difficulty with the Order of Business although I would like the Leader to indicate that if there are speakers still offering, the finishing time of 8 p.m. would not be adhered to strictly. This is important legislation and people with something to say should be allowed to contribute.

I support Senator Manning's point that it is important that the debates of the House be made available. Whatever difficulties there are — such as an internal staffing problem in terms of resources which might be understandable — it is unacceptable that the reports of legislative sub-committees of the other House are available before the Official Report of this House. If choices and priorities must be set, the workings of a House of the Oireachtas should take precedence.

Last week Senator Kelleher raised the question of a debate on what is happening in former Yugoslavia. People are aware of what is going on there. There are provinces of that country, particularly those close to Albania, which are suffering ethnic and cultural oppression which has yet to hit the headlines and where education has been effectively prohibited. I think there are myriad aspects of that region which could be addressed by many people with different areas of interest. I would ask that time be made available for that.

The Senator is making a speech.

Can we have an early debate on the recently published Law Reform Commission report which has certain implications for landowners? These are of major importance to landowners and to anyone who uses the countryside as a place of recreation. It would seem that if landowners do not take out a public liability policy to cover every aspect, people will no longer be able to use the resources of this country. From a farmer's point of view, it is essential that they should not have to carry the burden of insurance for people who want to use the land. We are becoming a country of litigation.

The Senator is making a speech.

There are very few places in the country where——

The Senator is making a speech. Would he please put a query?

The Senator got a chance last week.

He should talk to his colleagues.

Is there any chance of running a horse show or gymkhana without a claim being made?

That is not a question for the Leader of the House. Please ask the appropriate question.

I am asking that the insurance industry and the Leader of the House and you, a Chathaoirligh——

I thought you wished to have the report of the Law Reform Commission discussed?

Yes. I also agree with Senator O'Toole's request for an early debate on the situation in Bosnia. We should have a debate on civil rights, humanitarian issues and the situation in Somalia.

On a housekeeping matter, I suggest that Senators with offices in Kildare House ask the Leader of the House to contact the Minister with responsibility for dealing with potholes——

Commissioner Flynn.

——to ensure that the pothole at the front gate is repaired as we fall into it every day on our way to the offices.

Ask him also to supply umbrellas.

That is certainly not an issue for the Order of Business. You are out of order. See your city councillor about that matter.

I hope Senator Lanigan is not getting out of his depth.

The Industrial Development Bill is important legislation that arises from the Culliton report. We allocated a substantial amount of time to the debate on the Culliton report. While I accept the arrangements proposed by the Leader of the House, I hope he will ensure that the debate can continue either tonight or tomorrow should Members wish to contribute after 8 o'clock. I am unhappy that the remaining Stages have been ordered for tomorrow, but I will discuss that tomorrow morning. The Bill is fundamentally opposed to one of central recommendations of Culliton and that must be discussed in detail.

I have received the ESRI report which I requested last week. I wish to make a general point about such reports to the Leader of the House. There has been a report on Aer Lingus and there have been references in the newspapers this morning to a report by the Department of Finance on the Structural Funds. Everybody seems to know the substance of these reports before the Members of the Oireachtas and that is a dangerous precedent. Can the Leader of the House ensure that such reports are made available to Members before they are made available to the press? It appears that Members are constantly bypassed in this regard.

I support the call for a debate on the report of the Law Reform Commission. It has now got to the point that people who trespass on land are entitled to compensation and that is contrary to all forms of justice. I also support the remarks of other speakers on the publication of the Official Report. The delay has got out of hand. The most recent report I have received is that of 5 May. The Official Report of Committees of the other House is available almost immediately, while that of the Seanad is several weeks later.

We have inquired about that matter. A number of excuses were given — the audio-typists strike, the Finance Bill and other issues. We are actively seeking the speedy publication of the Official Report.

In view of the fact that the Aer Lingus issue is of such importance to the company, the employees of the company and the country generally, has the Leader of the House received a copy of the report on Aer Lingus and, if he so, will he make copies available to Members?

I have here a copy of the leaving certificate mathematics, ordinary level, paper which was presented to students last week. There was an error in question four. I want your assistance——

Senator Cotter could not read the question.

It is Senator O'Toole's fault.


Questions on the leaving certificate are certainly not matters for the Order of Business.

You do not have to take the paper, a Chathaoirligh.

The Order of Business is the Industrial Development Bill, 1993.

Can I ask the Leader of the House and the Cathaoirleach to take this matter up with the Minister for Education?

Could you not do that yourself or take it up with the parents?

All Members of the House are very interested in this issue. We do not have to answer the question.

Nobody has more sympathy for the students than I. I have two doing exams at present. It is not the matter for the Order of Business.

Can we have a debate on this tomorrow evening? The same thing happened in the Irish paper. Could the Leader of the House arrange such a debate?


It is not appropriate.

The issue of Bosnia and the problems in the Balkans have been raised previously and we must allocate time for a debate on those matters. Our silence condones the activities of certain ethnic groups there. Could the Leader of the House also allocate time for a debate on the importation of illegal drugs? A change in the legislation may be necessary as the Naval Service does not have the power to apprehend vessels on suspicion of importing drugs or arms.

I support Senator Manning's request for a debate on Aer Lingus. It is important that we discuss the issue. It is also important that Members from the south and west of Ireland have an opportunity to speak on the issue in view of the new attack, through leaks or innuendoes, on the status of Shannon.

Could the Leader of the House examine the staffing levels of secretarial assistants?

That is not appropriate.

I agree with you, a Chathaoirligh. It is inappropriate that there appears to be a difference——

The Senator knows that is not what I meant.

——in the number of staff allocated to Members on the Government side of the House and the number allocated to members of the Opposition.

That is not true.

It is very true.

I ask that this be investigated. If is is not true, the situation should be clarified. I would not like to see some Senators being treated differently from others.

There are other means of raising that matter and Senator Enright knows that.

I am forced to raise it here. I had hoped I would not have to do so.

That matter should be raised with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Senator Enright is in order because the question of secretarial assistants is covered under item 15 on the Order Paper.

I support Senator Kelleher's call for a debate on Bosnia. It is an important issue, this House has not been entirely inactive in that regard. The Seanad is represented on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, although the committee is continually referred to, in the newspapers and in the broadcast media, as the Dáil Committee on Foreign Affairs. However, it is a Joint Oireachtas Committee. There have been three meetings on the situation in Bosnia and last week the ambassadors of the surrounding countries gave us a detailed briefing which I or some othe member of the Committee will present to the House.

I also welcome the Cathaoirleach's indication that he has sought to have the Official Report published in due time. I agree with Senators Manning and O'Toole that it is not acceptable that reports of sub-committees are published before the Official Report of a House of the Oireachtas. I am grateful for the Cathaoirleach's continued support in this matter.

I support Senator Kelleher's call for a debate on Bosnia. Our silence could be seen as endorsing activities in Bosnia.

There has been a great deal of comment about a suggested invitation to Mother Teresa. Perhaps the Cathaoirleach, on behalf of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, would consider making a public statement indicating the circumstances under which the suggestion that Mother Teresa, that unique lady and servant of mankind——

We have had discussions on this in the past. It is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which made the decision.

The public are not aware of the situation. It is time that the public were at least informed as to whether or not——

It is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

I am one of those who signed the request that this great lady be allowed to address this House. I hear someone saying it is scandalous. Others have been invited to address——

It is not relevant to the Order of Business.

It is important that the Cathaoirleach, representing the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, should consider explaining to the nation why a lady who has had the unique distinction of serving mankind and of addressing other assemblies——

As I indicated to others, all political parties are represented on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Members should consult with them.

I have done that, but the decision was taken by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges without consultation.

There will be no guillotine on today's debate on the Industrial Development Authority Bill and it is not the Minister's intention that there should be. I wish to put on the recod our appreciation of the fact that this important legislation is being initiated in this House. If at 8 o'clock some speakers have yet to contribute to the debate, there will be no guillotine. We will accommodate those speakers, and deal with the Committee and Final Stages tomorrow. Senator Manning mentioned the Opsahl report. I gave a commitment last week and I will speak with the Minister to see if we can deal with that important report between now and the summer recess.

With regard to the ESRI report on Structural Funds, the Leader cannot be faulted for leaks to the paper. I understand that the report has been circulated to all Senators and Deputies. Nobody is more aware than I of the situation in Aer Lingus. This House has always debated the issue when necessary. As soon as the Leaders, the Whips and I feel that it is appropriate, this House will have a debate on Aer Lingus. I am aware of the anxiety and concern of the workforce and I hope we will have the opportunity to debate the issue.

Does the Minister have the report?

No, I do not. With regard to the situation in former Yugoslavia, we will make contact with the Minister concerned to see whether we can have a debate before the summer recess. The Whips will also come to an arrangement about a debate on the Law Reform Commission's report concerning public liability of landowners. Senator Kelleher's request for a debate on drugs is being dealt with by the Whips and hopefully we will have some clarification on that. I am surprised, considering Senator Norris's media talents, that he has not got the message across that it is an all-party Foreign Affairs Committee.

Order of Business agreed to.