I thank the Leader of the Opposition and others for their welcome of item 1. It is a small improvement but it will help the work of the House. Senator Wright very correctly drew attention to the two major successes of the Garda Síochána in recent days. Obviously everybody will be very pleased with that and I think it should help the process of restoring confidence in the efficacy and authority of the Garda Síochána. As we approach the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner, it is time that whatever divisions there were within the force was ended and whatever friction there has been between the Garda Síochána and the Government should be put behind them so that all sectors of the State present a united front in opposing crime.
Senator O'Toole, among others, raised the question of Northern Ireland. I do not think a debate in this House today or tomorrow would assist the situation in Northern Ireland. I hope Senator O'Toole is right that things may be restored to calm when the House meets again at the end of this month. Senator McAughtry drew attention to the murder of Michael McGoldrick and pointed out that it is a long time since we had to stand up and condemn a murder, almost certainly sectarian murder or assassination by people whose only intention is to foment greater disorder in Northern Ireland. This brutal murder deprived a family of their father, and a young man of a career. We must note the words of his distraught parents who placed some of the blame on the wild talk of some politicians. I do not think we have to go too far to point the finger at those indulging in wild talk. There never has been wild talk in this House. Our debates have always been restrained and responsible. In my judgment a debate in this House might not be a great help at this time but I will keep the matter under review.
Senator O'Toole also raised the traffic disruption to accommodate the civil servants who have come here for the European Presidency. I agree with him that there is a sense of disproportion about the disruption which is frequently caused simply to save some people five, ten or 15 minutes getting from the airport. Nothing could be more calculated to annoy people than unnecessary disruptions of this sort. I imagine the criteria are operational ones controlled by the Garda Síochána but it will do no harm to have the Senator's views conveyed to the relevant authorities.
Senator Dardis raised the question of Northern Ireland and I endorse his call to the Unionist leadership to show greater restraint and responsibility than has been shown in recent times.
Senator Haughey and others raised in a helpful way the question of Bord na Móna. Everybody would like to see this matter resolved and we hope it will be resolved one way or the other today. This unseemly matter has dragged on too long and we would like to see it resolved.
Senator Cosgrave raised the question of St. Michan's Church — and I thank Senator Farrell, helped by Senator Norris, for the correct pronunciation. What happened last night was appalling and dastardly. The last taboo has been broken — an attack on the dead. It is also an attack on our heritage. I hope Senator Cosgrave's proposals that some financial aid can be given to help the authorities to do what they can to make good the damage will be forthcoming. There is a general sense of outrage at this vandalism.
Senator Mooney raised an important point. We should be grateful to President Robinson for going to Manchester. Her tangible bridge building at a difficult time, holding out the hand of friendship and making sure that the people of Manchester know that what has happened to them is repugnant to the overwhelming majority of the Irish people, is building in a very personal way a friendship that could have been damaged. Senator McAughtry raised the question of Northern Ireland. I think I answered this point. We are all conscious of the sensitivity of the situation and that Senator McAughtery is one of the few Members who sees what is happening there daily.
Senator Farrell raised the question of libel cases against RTÉ. The public affairs department in RTÉ will give him details of the amount they have paid out, I presume they should, and perhaps then we could use the information.
Senator Norris made a multiple intervention. Some of the points he raised have been answered. The debate on foreign affairs will take place in the next session and the reporting of the foreign affairs meeting is a matter for the Joint Committee for Foreign Affairs. I have no plans for a debate on foreign affairs this session. Senator Magner made the point which was supported by others on the public responsibility not to buy cigarettes which they know have been stolen or imported illegally. That could be as much their way of making a gesture as the signing of condolences or giving flowers. This is a practical way of striking out against those people.
Senator Daly and Senator Townsend raised the question of the environmental health officers. I do not have the up to date position but I will try to find out about it. Senator Roche asked about the Freedom of Information Bill. It will not be taken in this session but I will look sympathetically at making time available next session.
Senator McGowan raised the question of Question Time in this House. Curiously that was one of the points looked at by the Committee on the Constitution. It came down strongly against Question Time in this House arguing that the Government was primarily responsible to the other House. We should look at whether there is some way Members can have easier and quicker access to information. Perhaps we can do that over the summer in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Senator Maloney gave us the benefit of his experiences over the last few days. Senator Kelleher raised the question of prison sentencing. It is my understanding that this is exclusively the responsibility of the governor; it is an operational matter.