I propose that we deal with item 1, Committee and Remaining Stages, today. Item 2 will be taken with the Fifth Stage of item 1 for the purposes of debate. There will be no Private Members' time today. My party has given up the time-slot for Private Members Business to enable the debate on divorce take as long as necessary this evening. I furnished the Leader of the Opposition and the other group leaders with a proposed schedule of Private Members' time for this session which is weighted in favour of the Opposition parties.
Order of Business.
How do we respond to that?
Is it the Leader's intention that we deal with item 1 in its totality today?
Is a time limit being imposed?
I thank the Leader for the information he provided to the party whips and myself in relation to Private Members Business, with which we agree.
With regard to the year of peace we have experienced on this island, this House has had many opportunities to discuss, debate and offer an opinion on what should happen in the future. Will the Leader arrange to have a debate on the latest situation with regard to Northern Ireland and the peace process at the earliest opportunity?
With regard to the headline in a national newspaper last Sunday, will the leader comment on the fact that a former eminent judge stated that the now Minister for Justice has "gone to the dogs"?
I am at some disadvantage because I have not received the Leader's communication regarding Private Members Business. I am sure the problem is entirely at my end. I hope this is not a deferment of the rota of Private Members Business.
No, it is not.
We lost out twice already and are worried about that fact. If it is being made up on Government time then that is fine.
At the United Nations last month the Tánaiste quite rightly urged the implementation of the UN convention on the safety of UN personnel in the field. We saw how important is the implementation of this convention when an Irish officer encountered problems in Bosnia. However, I cannot discover if Ireland has ratified or signed this convention. It is often difficult to obtain information regarding Ireland's signing or ratification of international conventions. Two years ago I inquired if it was possible for the 1977 amendments to the Geneva Convention to be ratified and I do not believe this has yet happened. Could the Leader find out at what stage is the ratification of these various international amendments and conventions?
I support Senator Wright in his request for a debate on Northern Ireland at some point in the near future. We all welcome the progress that has been made in recent days. It appears we are on the road again and that the train has recommenced its journey on the track, whether it is a twin track or single track. It is important that we should debate the issues as they develop. It is also important that political parties on all sides adopt a positive approach and that the build up of trust, which is so important, continues. It would be useful for this House to debate the issue of Northern Ireland in the near future.
Is there any mechanism whereby further information could be provided to this House, on a regular basis, in relation to the happenings in the European Parliament? Not everything that happens in the European Parliament would be of direct interest to us but I raise the issue because I have received a circular of the week's proceedings of the European Parliament and I note items included were pensions for fishermen and that new fishing monitoring proposals were adopted. Proposals which go through the European Parliament directly affect our finances and the way our people live.
Is there any way we could get more or better information on the happenings in the European Parliament? It seems to be an institution detached from us about which we know very little because we are involved in our domestic legislation, yet legislation goes through the European Parliament that affects us directly. The Leader mentioned previously that there may be a future possibility of MEPs addressing us in the Seanad. Has he any further information on the matter?
With Senator O'Sullivan and Senator Wright I also ask for a debate on Northern Ireland as soon as possible. I congratulate the Tánaiste and all concerned on the talks with their counterparts from the British Government on the continuation of the peace process. The first anniversary has passed and many people have gone from North to South and from South to North for holidays, many for the first time. The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr. David Trimble, and his deputy, Mr. John Taylor, have come to Dublin for talks. These are welcome and important developments. Will the Leader make time available for a debate on Northern Ireland?
I associate myself with the welcome to the Kuwaiti delegation. However, I would be failing in my human responsibilities if I did not mention the concern of many about the treatment of Filipino servants in that entire part of the Arab world.
Following on from what Senator Fitzgerald said about the matters emanating from the European Parliament with which we are sometimes unfamiliar, the House will recall I expressed concern about possible changes in copyright law. There was an apparent intention in Europe to push writers such as James Joyce back into copyright from which they had already emerged. I got an undertaking that we would be alerted when this legislation was to come before the House.
I do not accuse the Leader of any dereliction of duty because no such legislation has been put to the Oireachtas. However, it was done via a statutory instrument signed by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Richard Bruton, on 23 June 1995. It is Statutory Instrument No. 158 of 1995 of the European Union, "European Communities (Term of Protection of Copyright) Regulations, 1995". Regulation 3 states: "...the term of copyright subsisting in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work shall be the lifetime of the author of the work and a period of seventy years". This year——
Have you a question for the Leader?
Will the Leader find a mechanism whereby the House could discuss this important matter? It affects the livelihood and wellbeing of people in a number of cultural areas. It is a serious matter when the work of a writer like James Joyce emerges from copyright and is then put back into copyright arbitrarily and retrospectively for another period.
Will the Leader provide time for statements on the Famine? It is important that this traumatic event in our history would be remembered on its 150th anniversary. The events of the Famine are still alive in the race memory of the Irish people around the world. The House should remember those people who died and those who suffered during the worst of times for the Irish people.
Will the Minister for Education make a statement to the House on the new applied programme for the leaving certificate? There is great concern about the type of programme envisaged and the assessment for entry to third level education. Parents are also concerned that the LCAP will have a completely different certificate to that of the LCVP and the ordinary leaving certificate. There is total confusion as a result of all these changes and this is an appropriate time for the Minister to make a statement to the House on that matter.
The automatic entry of law graduates to the Law Society's training course now seems to be impeded by the High Court——
That matter will be taken on the Adjournment this evening.
Before the summer recess we passed legislation on the transfer of prisoners from other jurisdictions, which then had to go through certain other procedures. Will the Leader get some indication from the Minister for Justice on the present status of that legislation? The Leader is also aware of the widespread concern about certain prisoners at present, especially in UK prisons. That concern was reflected in the visit by Members of this House to those prisons to see the conditions there. The implementation of this legislation is urgently required and I would like an indication that the Minister for Justice is expediting it.
Will the Leader make time available for a broad ranging and principled debate on the question of unemployment? I ask this in an apolitical way because over the last four to five years there has been considerable growth in the economy but all the commentators and politicians agree that that is not translating into jobs. It is welcome when high technology firms announce jobs in the suburbs, but many of those jobs are for graduates.
The Leader knows that there are tens of thousands of long-term unemployed people in the north and south inner city of Dublin. That is a structural problem which must be addressed by all parties. The long-term unemployment crisis is so severe in this city, and in this country, that it merits a full scale two day long debate in the presence of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. Will the Leader give serious consideration to such a debate in this session?
The suggestion made by Senator Wright and others for a debate on Northern Ireland and the peace process in the very near future would be very welcome. I will do my best to see how soon the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs can be available, preferably before the visit of President Clinton. With regard to the other point raised by Senator Wright, I would be very happy to go with him and the Minister to Shelbourne Park any evening and I am sure we will have a most enjoyable time — I might not bring the judge.
Senator O'Toole raised the question of Private Members' Time. I sent out a schedule indicating the allocation and it weighs very much in favour of the Opposition, including the Independents. I think they will be quite happy with the arrangements.
I just recall——
If the Senator had opened his post he would have been reassured in time for today.
Fear and Senator O'Toole are a contradiction in terms.
Senator Henry raised the question of ratification of a UN convention. I do not know the answer but I will try to have an update on it for her tomorrow morning. Senator Fitzgerald raised the question of information about the activities of the European Parliament. There is a very real problem in that regard because part of the brief of the Joint Committee on European Affairs is to monitor what is happening in the European Parliament and to act on behalf of this Parliament. However, the question of the committees here relaying their activities back to the Houses of the Oireachtas does not seem to have been addressed and there is a problem with information.
The possibility of having Members of the European Parliament attend the House to speak is one which I have always advocated. The difficulty is that, apparently, late on Friday is the only time that suits the Members of Parliament. However, we could raise the issue with them again and ascertain if some kind of monthly briefing could be possible.
Senator Norris raised the question of the copyright laws. I agree that a statutory instrument does not appear to be the way in which to effect a change like this. I will endeavour to ascertain the position on this matter and whether anything can be done at this stage, although I doubt it. We should always be aware of the appearance of statutory instruments, especially late in a session.
Senator Neville requested a debate on the Famine. I can arrange it if the House wishes. I have no great enthusiasm for such a debate. The issue has almost been talked out at this stage. However, if there is a view across the House that it would be a good thing to have another debate, I am sure time can be found.
Senator Ormonde raised a question for the Minister for Education. I am conscious that we should have a debate on education where all of these issues could be raised. I am pursuing this matter.
Senator Daly raised the question of the transfer of prisoners. These are European regulations and a period of three months must elapse before they come into effect. My information is that they will come into effect on 1 November 1995. All sides of the House share the concern raised by Senator Daly, Senator Neville and others on the question of the condition of Irish prisoners in British jails. I do not believe that any of us were reassured by some of the statements made by the British Home Secretary over the past few days which were insensitive and unhelpful.
Senator Mulcahy raised the question of a debate on employment. I will try to arrange for this, but Second Stage of the Industrial Development Bill, 1995 will take place tomorrow. This will give the Senator an opportunity, at least on Second Stage debate, to air some of his views on this issue.