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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 10 Mar 1994

Vol. 139 No. 13

Order of Business.

Today's Order of Business will be Item 2 from now until 12 p.m. and then Item 1, which has been asked for by the House, and I suggest 15 minutes per speaker.

We agree with the Order of Business. As I did last week, I want to refer to Item 11, Statements on Northern Ireland, in the context of what happened yesterday and use the opportunity to condemn the act of merciless terrorism which took place in Heathrow last evening. The logic of the attempted murder of many innocent international travellers defies comprehension. One feels totally inadequate week after week getting up in the House to condemn violence, but the inadequacy we feel should not prevent us doing so. The result of the attack, at a time when the Prevention of Terrorism Act was being debated in the House of Commons, counteracted the justified objections voiced by many in the House of Commons to certain sections of the Act.

It is also disappointing that this act of terrorism should take place when we heard encouraging noises from Mr. John Hume yesterday on the success of the Joint Declaration for Peace. It negates anything that Mr. Hume said yesterday in that respect.

The business should not begin without a clear understanding of the views of the House about yesterday's act of terrorism. It is not that it was in any way worse than what happens on a daily basis in parts of this island, but it is important for us to state that such activity prohibits ordinary people from going about their day-to-day business of commerce, domestic responsibilities or travel. We should recognise that this is what people in Northern Ireland put up with all the time. It is to be condemned wherever it happens. We must put pressure on people on both sides of the Irish Sea to push for peace.

Since its establishment the Foreign Affairs Committee has done a lot of work, and much of the work done there was mentioned by Senator Norris and Senator Manning during the week. On a number of occasions in the Seanad we have noted developments in foreign affairs and that approach allows Members to comment on the situation in various parts of the world. That has not happened in this Seanad, but we have commented in the past about the Middle East and Africa. We take a similar approach when noting developments in the EU and I ask the Leader to revive the practice for the wider world. That may pose a problem for the Department of Foreign Affairs, because it would be a rather broad brief. Nonetheless, it would allow us to make interventions about various regions of the world and is a neat way to approach the matter.

I add my voice to the condemnation of the act of terrorism at Heathrow yesterday. It displays a complete disregard for life to put missiles on a runway of an airport from which planes leave every five minutes.

I ask the Leader about the agricultural debate which has been promised. At least six weeks ago he said he would contact the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry about this debate, but nothing has happened. There has been no debate on agriculture in this House since the start of the session.

Items 35 and 36 on today's Order Paper concern urgent issues in agriculture. There has been a complete breakdown of communication on grants payment between farmers and the Department. The Minister is doing nothing about this. It is scandalous that we cannot secure a debate in this House on a sector which represents 35 per cent of our total industry when the Minister or either of the Ministers of State could be here. I appeal to the Leader to contact the Minister immediately after the St. Patrick's Day break, as I understand we are not sitting next week, to have the debate the week after next.

Is there to be just one speaker from each group on Item 1?

I am sorry, I thought that to be the case when the Leader said the leader of each group would have 15 minutes. Does that mean other speakers have ten minutes?

All speakers have 15 minutes.

Thank you for the clarification. I concur with what my colleagues have said about the IRA action at Heathrow yesterday. Many people are apprehensive about air travel and it is wickedly cruel to add to this apprehension. If these bombs had hit an aeroplane or cratered a runway before a plane took off there would have been enormous carnage and I thank God that there was not. The IRA also scored another spectacular own goal because travellers to this country were impeded, delayed and caused annoyance. It was a classic example of IRA stupidity.

I appreciate the efforts of the Leader and the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip to arrange a debate on East Timor. I ask if there is any firm news of that debate.

I join with other speakers in condemning the act of terrorism at Heathrow airport yesterday evening. It was fortunate there was no loss of life but there could have been a terrible tragedy last night had the bombs exploded when people were in the area. Undoubtedly an attack on an airport does not just have the possibility of causing death and destruction, it also spreads fear through the thousands of people who would travel through that airport on a daily basis. It must be condemned outright.

We must reiterate our call to the IRA to cease such action and take the opportunity to join the peace process. There was some hope that they would respond in the near future and that hope should be reaffirmed. We must call on them to stop their pursuit of violence and join the peace process.

We hope to have a debate on East Timor on Tuesday, 22 March, all things being equal. In response to Senator D'Arcy, the record of this House on agricultural debates is second to none. If the issue was so important to him there have been many occasions for Fine Gael to put down Private Members' Motions on the subject.

I would be keen to accommodate Senator O'Toole's proposal and we would welcome suggestions as to how that could be dealt with in the House. Almost every day Senators from all sides raise international issues and we should try to allow those concerns to be expressed.

Finally, we on this side of the House reiterate the total condemnation of last night's terrorist act; but for the mercy of God there could have been many casualties.

Order of Business agreed to.