Avant de commencer, est-ce que je peux dire que nous sommes trés honorés aujourd'hui d'accueillir des Membres du Sénat de la République Francaise? Il y a toujours eu une grande amitié ainsi qu'une alliance entre la France et l'Irlande. C'est quelque chose de trés important pour nous que ces Sénateurs sont parmi nous aujourd'hui.
Order of Business.
Today's Order of Business is Item 1, the Stillbirths Registration Bill, 1994, which will be initiated in the House today. I hope it is the desire of the House to make as much progress as possible on this Bill. I am sure each Member has constituents who are pleased that this legislation is coming before the House. Item 29, which is on the supplementary Order Paper, will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Adjournment will be taken at the conclusion of business.
On the Order of Business, we are happy to progress the Stillbirths Registration Bill, 1994, as far as time will allow. It is long overdue legislation.
I hoped the Leader of the House would anticipate me by producing a timetable and schedule of legislation for the coming session. I do not want to be in the position six or seven weeks from now where I, Senator O'Toole, Senator Dardis and others are asking the Leader of the House for the programme of legislation. I hope he will be able to facilitate us by giving us time to plan in advance and letting us know what legislation it is proposed to take.
It is the desire of all parties in the House to have a debate in the near future on Northern Ireland. A great deal has happened, or has not happened, there since our historic debate before Christmas. Many Members did not have an opportunity to speak in that debate and all would like a chance to contribute our observations on events since then. I hope that in the spirit in which the offer is made, and also in the spirit in which debates on Northern Ireland have been held in this House, the Leader will be able to accede to that request.
I also propose that the House do something to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. This seems to have been overlooked by the Government, although I am not assigning any blame to it. Perhaps the Whips could find some way this House would commemorate that event during this session.
Finally, I presume the Whip would like to make time available to discuss the question of ethics and advertising as it relates to the last general election.
That seems far too subtle for a debate in the Seanad.
Regarding some of the changes that have taken place, I note that since the Seanad last met an extraordinary level of confusion has been created in the classrooms of Ireland with the implementation of the legislation on the establishment of three extra counties. May I ask the Leader of the House to outline where that leaves the classrooms of Ireland in terms of education and geography? What happens car registrations? Do people residing in these counties have a new address and have we solved half of the national question, now that we have 29 counties while there are six in the North? Is this Government policy?
I am sure, Senator, that you will find that information for yourself and that the Leader of the House will not even endeavour to do so.
Regarding the issue of participation in legislation raised by Senator Manning, for all Senators who wish to participate adequately in debates on legislation it is important that the legislative programme be made available. It is important that this matter be raised and it is regrettable that it is not in place already. I recognise the pressure that the Leader of the House is under with respect to this matter, but we should continue to demand such a programme, together with a breakdown of the legislation the Leader of the House intends to initiate.
I welcome the fact that the Leader of the House has put Item 3 on the Order Paper, the Report on the National Education Convention. The Leader will recall that I raised this issue on the final sitting day of the last session and that he gave a commitment to have a discussion on the report. May I ask for some indication as to when he intends to deal with this matter? A discussion on this report could perhaps be interactive in the same sense as a previous discussion on the Green Paper on education. This was quite historic with regard to the workings of this House in that the Minister took questions in a structured and formal way. May I ask the Leader of the House to approve some similar arrangement in a discussion on this report?
I welcome the Stillbirths Registration Bill, 1994, which will be considered by the House today.
I ask the Leader of the House to request the Minister for Equality and Law Reform to attend this House and explain what is to happen following the message the House received from the President that the Matrimonial Homes Bill, 1993, has been found to be repugnant to the Constitution.
I believe that the principle of joint ownership was accepted by all Members of this House as desirable and I cannot believe that the Government is now accepting that it has neither the expertise nor the interest to bring forward legislation that would be found to be constitutional. This is a matter of urgency to the women of Ireland and I would like to see legislation introduced as soon as possible.
I agree with Senator Manning that there should have been some celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the Dáil. I am proud to be one of the women who did not let the occasion pass without acknowledging the election of the first woman to that Dáil, Countess Markiewicz. I believe that the women in Leinster House were aware of the anniversary and celebrated it.
Regarding a matter of some urgency, a proposal by the Office of Public Works to slaughter two thirds of the Mullaghmore goats, may I ask the Leader of the House if he would cooperate in either making time available, or alternatively to convey my concern and the concern of many others to his colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works?
This may appear a silly matter, but these gentle animals have roamed the Burren for centuries. The image of the Office of Public Works has already been seriously damaged in County Clare and it will be damaged beyond redemption if this unnecessary proposal is proceeded with.
The reason advanced for the proposal is over grazing, which I do not accept. However, if that is the case, then what is the next step when the goats are shot? Will it be the sheep or the cattle?
There is widespread concern on this issue. I would appreciate if the Leader of the House could make time to have the matter discussed. If not I ask him to convey my concern and the concern of many others to the Minister of State.
I support the call by Senator Manning that there should be a further debate on the North of Ireland. I am sure, a Chathaoirligh, that you would agree with me that this is, for a number of families, and especially for the McDermott family in the North of Ireland, a very sad day. In that case a three-year-old girl witnessed the butchery of her father. It was one of the most appalling crimes. I place on the record of the House my strong condemnation of it and my rejection of the use of phrases such as Protestant or Unionist to justify this appalling act of barbarism.
I ask the Leader of the House when it is proposed to introduce an anti-discrimination Bills, an intention expressed in the Programme for a Partnership Government. It is urgently required and this has been highlighted by two events today. First, a court found that a young woman was unfairly treated, unjustly discriminated against and wrongly dismissed from her job on the basis that she was lesbian. Because of the state of the law which had not been extended to cover sexual orientation, it could not grant her any redress.
Second, a travelling family was denied the right to hold a wedding reception——
Senator Norris, you are going too far.
I am making those points because I am sure you, a Chathaoirligh, will recall the provisions protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and membership of the travelling community which were passed in this House. I ask the Leader of House to raise this with the Government and to push for the introduction of this Bill. It is important and it could be introduced in this House.
I ask Members to be keep questions to the Leader of the House brief.
I ask the Leader of the House to allow time for the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, to address the House on difficulties resulting from the decision regarding the unconstitutionality of the Matrimonial Home Bill. We spent many hours debating different aspects of the Bill. We put down several amendments and we debated the constitutionality of the Bill during our discussions. We should have the opportunity to discuss with the Minister the implications for the divorce referendum and, indeed, the position regarding ownership of the family home.
I support calls for a debate on Northern Ireland. I recently visited Northern Ireland with a Fine Gael delegation and I would like the opportunity to debate it. Many Members did not have the opportunity to do so in the past. Although we would have liked to debate Northern Ireland, we understood time did not allow this. We should have that opportunity.
I would like to raise an issue which I raised a couple of times before. I ask the Leader of the House to consider a debate on enlargement of the European Union. It is an issue which will profoundly effect the economy and our representation in the organs of the Union. It also has implications for the fishing industry. If we cannot have a debate on that, perhaps we could have one on the fishing industry, particularly in view of the magnificent defence the Minister for the Marine, Deputy Andrews, has made against the intrusion of the Spanish into our fishing box. Perhaps we could have a debate on that at the earliest possible occasion.
Tomorrow is a special day in the west of Ireland because Developing the West will be launched as a response to the Bishops' initiative. The report will be issued in Castlebar, County Mayo. I am sure people in the west and throughout the country would like to hear the response of this House to this initiative. I hope an appropriate debate on this issue will take place in this Chamber in the near future.
I, too, urge the Leader of the House to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the Dáil. It is a pity this important occasion in our history was not celebrated. I am glad the women Members of the Oireachtas brought the portrait of Countess Markiewicz to the House. I would be glad if we could mark the occasion in a general way.
I support the call for a debate on the fishing industry. Before Christmas we debated a motion for two hours and Members expressed the view that it was far too short. Critical negotiations are taking place in the EU in regard to the so-called Irish box off the west coast. Also there have been blatant incursions by Spanish fishermen into our waters. I congratulate the Minister for the Marine on his efforts. He is to be applauded for his contributions at EU level. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to attend the House for a day long discussion on fisheries. I support the call made by Senator Lydon.
I also support calls for a debate on the important issue of the fishing industry. Incursions by Spanish fleets into our waters have been a problem for a long time. Fishing is on a downward spiral at present. Such incursions are contributing to this and must be tackled. Rural depopulation has long been a problem. Fishing can enhance the areas which are most isolated and desolated as a result of such depopulation. I call on the Leader to make time available for this important debate.
When is it proposed to take the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993? It is some time since this Bill was passed in the Dáil. One feels there is a need for such legislation, based on experience. Second, could the Leader say whether the Government intends to sign and give recognition to the European Charter for Self Local Government and whether there will be a debate on it in this House?
I support the calls by Senators Lydon and Fitzgerald for a debate on the fishing industry. I compliment the Minister — it is unique that the Minister for Defence is also the Minister for the Marine — on his tremendous defence of the Irish fishing box in Europe before Christmas. The second point I wish to make is one I have previously raised. I ask the Leader if it would be possible to have a debate on the importation of drugs into Ireland and on how co-ordination between the Department of Justice and the Department of the Marine can be achieved to protect our coast from incursions of the kind which occurred before Christmas. Finally, I ask the Leader to indicate when the new extradition Bill will come before the House. I raised this issue many times previously. Before the Bill is brought before the House it would be useful if we had a debate on the issue.
In view of the increasing importance being attached to the environment and, particularly, to the effect of leaded petrol, I ask the Leader if it would be possible to invite the appropriate Minister to come to the House to make a brief statement regarding the fact that very few garages sell ordinary unleaded petrol as distinct from super plus unleaded petrol. Both types achieve the same result. The Automobile Association has clearly indicated that for 99 per cent of cars the cheaper grade achieves the same result as the super plus grade on which garages are making greater profit. Will the Leader inquire whether the Minister could make a statement in the House to clarify this? At a time when everyone is concerned about the environment and health, it is wrong that the major companies are profiting to the extent that the consumer is not gaining any extra benefit.
I support the call for a debate on the North of Ireland. Since the Downing Street Declaration of 15 December a new situation exists. This House should be seen to support the declaration. We have a voice and a contribution to make. If we are not seen to make a contribution we may give the wrong impression. Some people seem to have the centre of the stage. It is important that Parliament expresses its views very strongly at this time. In support of Senator Manning, I ask for a debate. I do this in the knowledge that it is not long since we had such a debate but the situation has changed and I ask the Leader to do his best to arrange a debate on the current situation in the North.
In reply to Senators Manning and O'Toole, I will have a programme of legislation for the coming session as soon as possible. I would draw attention the fact that there are four important pieces of legislation with which this House will have to deal in detail — the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, the Road Traffic Bill, the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill and the Adoptive Leave Bill. Two of these Bills were initiated in this House, as is the Stillbirths Registration Bill which is being taken today. I want to assure the House that between now and the summer many more Bills will be initiated in this House.
It is the intention to deal with Item 3 — Report on the National Education Convention — this month. I take Senator O'Toole's suggestion that the format we used the last time of statements followed by question time was successful. I hope the Minister for Education will agree with this format. Several Senators asked about that item during the past month and I hope the Chief Whip will be able to arrange for such a debate to take place this month.
I will inform the Tánaiste that this House desires a further discussion on Northern Ireland. The Whips will meet with regard to the appropriateness of marking the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the Dáil. With regard to the ethics Bill, I will look up the advertisements the Senator mentioned to see whether there is a need for an ethics Bill. With regard to the three new counties, it was suggested that the Senator was looking for a county of his own which is why the signs were there regarding Fingal.
I thought I had lost my way home when I suddenly found myself in a strange county.
I would suggest to Senator Howard that there are many other ways in which he could raise that issue. I will pass Senator Norris' comments and concerns to the Minister for Equality and Law Reform. Other Senators have also contacted my office today with regard to that issue. I would say to Senator Lydon that the Seanad takes every opportunity to discuss European affairs and I have no doubt we will find an opportunity to discuss the enlargement of the European Union.
I gave a commitment before Christmas on the issue of fisheries. I share the concerns many Senators expressed today about illegal fishing in our waters. The Whips will arrange for the Minister to come to this House at the first available opportunity to discuss fisheries and that particular issue. My understanding is that that issue will be further debated at European level in the coming six weeks. It is important that this House would have an opportunity to support the Minister's efforts to ensure the protection of our fisheries.
With regard to Senator Crowley's question on the importation of drugs, the Whip will contact the Minister for Justice to arrange a time to debate that issue. I will pass on Senator O'Kennedy's views to the Minister for the Environment. We may get an opportunity to make statements or to have a debate. That covers most of the issues raised.