Today's business is items 1, 2, 3 and item 23, motion 22. Item 1 is to be taken from now until 1 p.m. and it is proposed that there be 15 minutes per speaker. Item 2 will be taken from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Item 3 will be taken with the Fifth Stage of item 2. If items 2 and 3 have not concluded by 6 p.m., they will recommence after Private Members' time until completed and I think I will fix that for 8 p.m. even if Private Member's time ends earlier. Senator Lee's Private Members' motion will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Order of Business.
Am I correct in saying that all stages of items 2 and 3 will be dealt with after 8 p.m. but they could be completed before 6 p.m.?
The Minister for the Environment announced a policy for health waste yesterday. He spoke on behalf of the Minister for Health and both Departments are obviously involved. Either Minister might welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter in the House and, while the Leader may well say that it would be more appropriate to raise this matter on Private Members' business or on the Adjournment, he may consider allowing Government time for this important matter next week or the following week.
The business as proposed by the Leader is satisfactory as far as I am concerned. With regard to item 1, I have no objection to the proposal of 15 minutes per speaker but I am not sure of the arrangement when we debated this earlier. It is general practice that the same time limits should apply for contributions in a resumed debate as applied during the previous discussion. Some Members who did not contribute during the earlier debate will have grounds for complaint.
I also wish to raise the matter of the inquest into a young girl's death during a concert at the Point. The jury at the inquest suggested the introduction of a code of practice for events of that nature. Will the Leader bring to the attention of the relevant Minister the need for a review of existing statutory regulations governing the operation of such events? Will he also ask the Government to consider any revisions which might be required to ensure the safety of young people attending large concerts?
Will the Leader make time available for a debate on the implications of the single currency? Its introduction in 1999 will have major repercussions for business, services and agriculture. I am far from satisfied that small and medium businesses are equipping or preparing themselves for that event. It does not matter whether Ireland enters European Monetary Union because the core countries will invoice their products and carry out their business in euros from 1 January 1999. Therefore, we must get our act together and I ask the Leader to consider making time available for a debate on the matter.
Portraits of 17 distinguished people, the Cathaoirleach and his predecessors, were recently placed on the walls of the corridor outside the Seanad Office. I compliment the people responsible for this because it portrays a unique part of history. Every Member of this House can be honoured to walk down the corridor while looking at the faces of 17 distinguished individuals.
The Senator is straying from the Order of Business.
Last night I stood in admiration while gazing at the Cathaoirleach's portrait——
Does Senator Howard expect to be the 18th Cathaoirleach?
My point is very important to the dignity and status of the House. When I looked at the portrait of the first Cathaoirleach I discovered he was robed in a very distinguished and embroidered gown. I made the mental transformation of placing that garb onto the present Cathaoirleach and I suggest he give serious consideration to being attired in that manner.
The Order of Business is being stretched to its limit. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges made the decision to place the portraits in the corridor. I compliment Verona Ní Bhroinn for the help she provided to the committee in that regard.
In case anyone is of the opinion that Senator O'Toole left his front bench without its riding instructions, we also agree to the Order of Business.
Last week I raised the issue of old people living in fear. An old woman living in the county in which the Cathaoirleach resides was severely injured when her house was burgled by thugs. Yesterday I spoke to a person whose 80 year old father lives in fear of being burgled in his home in County Mayo. Old people in rural Ireland live in fear of this happening. Operation Shannon was introduced last year and a similar system must be put in place to ensure that senior citizens are not forced to enter nursing and geriatric institutions against their will because they are afraid to live alone.
The Estimates will come before the Houses in the near future. Will the Leader contact the Minister for the Environment to discover whether water charges will be abolished?
Is the Senator for or against such charges?
I have never had a problem supporting water charges because value for money is provided.
The Senator must find another way to raise that matter.
I seek a definite answer as to whether the Minister intends to abolish water charges. We must know where we stand when the Estimates are debated.
There are other ways to raise that issue.
The House will discuss item No. 2 later today which is very important. Costs pertaining to the free legal aid system have increased by 25 per cent during the past 12 months. Is it not correct that the House should debate this issue and ask questions of the Legal Aid Board? It is difficult to understand how such an increase occurred. Will the Leader make time available for a debate?
On a number of occasions I requested a debate on sport. When one considers the debacle of the recent All-Ireland Football Final, the situation in Northern Ireland last weekend when the match between Cliftonville and Portadown was called off because of sectarian violence, the behaviour of Paul Gascoigne and others——
That matter is not relevant to the Order of Business.
——and the issue of a 50 metre swimming pool, it is apparent that time should be made available for a debate on sport. Violence is creeping into sport and one must condemn the Administrative Council of the GAA for not dealing sufficiently with those who behaved in a thuggish fashion at the All-Ireland Final.
During yesterday's debate on the beef industry the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry made a remark about me which was completely untrue and he should be asked to apologise.
We are not dealing with yesterday's business.
My integrity with the farming community is absolute and the Minister made a damaging remark. I insist that he withdraw it and apologise to me in the House.
I will have to consult the Official Report.
No, I want an answer and I must have satisfaction. Members must be protected and it is the Cathaoirleach's responsibility to do so.
I am sure the Senator can raise the matter at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
No, I want it dealt with by the House.
In fairness to the Minister, he was not given an opportunity——
He was asked to withdraw the remark and he should do so. I will not resume my seat until I am informed that he will withdraw it.
I will consult the Official Report.
I have a copy of the Official Report in which the Minister stated: "The Senator seems disappointed that there is not another scare going through the heart of Munster.". He must withdraw that remark and I want a guarantee that——
That matter does not arise on today's Order of Business.
It does arise. I want a guarantee that the Minister will withdraw that remark in this House.
That matter does not arise on today's Order of Business. If he wishes to discuss it with me, he can do so later.
I want a guarantee because my integrity was damaged.
We can discuss the matter later.
I want a guarantee.
The Senator is aware that it is not a matter for today's Order of Business.
I want a guarantee that the remark will be withdrawn.
The Senator may discuss the matter with me later if he wishes. However, it will not be discussed on the Order of Business. I call on the Leader of the House to reply.
No, I want a guarantee from the Cathaoirleach.
I am in no position to give a guarantee.
The remark must be withdrawn.
I will discuss the matter with the Senator after the Order of Business.
No, it must be resolved now.
The Senator will resume his seat.
I will not resume my seat until I am informed that the Minister will withdraw the remark.
For the last time, I ask the Senator to resume his seat.
No, I want a guarantee that the Minister will withdraw the remark and apologise to me. He made a most unfair statement about me.
I cannot provide the guarantee the Senator seeks. I informed him that I will discuss the matter with him later. He is discussing yesterday's business on the Order of Business which is completely irregular.
I am not happy with the situation.
Senator Kiely knows that neither the Chair nor I can give a guarantee on somebody else's behalf. If Senator Kiely feels he has been unfairly treated in what was a heated debate, I advise him to bring the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. That committee is conscious that full protection must be given to the integrity of the Members of this House and I guarantee he will get a fair hearing. However, we cannot give a guarantee on behalf of anyone else. The debate was heated and harsh things were said on both sides. If the Senator feels his integrity has been impugned, the committee will vigorously protect his interests.
Will the committee demand that the Minister comes to the House to withdraw his remarks?
That is a matter for the committee. There is a meeting of the committee today and I have no doubt the Senator's representatives will raise that matter.
I want nothing less than that.
The Senator is being very unreasonable. He must resume his seat. I assure him the matter will be dealt with by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Are Members to be protected from scurrilous remarks made?
The Senator must resume his seat. The matter will be dealt with by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
What redress have I if it is not dealt with to my satisfaction?
The Senator can always have the issue raised again but that is a matter for the committee. I cannot predict what it will do.
Senator Wright raised the problem of clinical waste and I will invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss it at an early date.
Senator Dardis referred to a certain inconsistency in the ordering of today's debate and I accept his point. If speakers feel they need more than 15 minutes that can be arranged. In my experience Members have never been denied their full chance to speak. The Senator also raised the circumstances surrounding the inquest into the death of the girl at the Point Depot. What happened there may not have been an isolated incident and could happen again. I am not sure how we can best discuss the matter but I will pass on the Senator's concern to the Minister. We may find a way for the House to examine the regulations.
Senator Howard is the third Member to request a debate on the single currency. I have contacted the Minister for Finance and he is willing have such a debate. We will try to organise it in the near future. I agree with Senator Howard's point about the portraits of the Cathaoirleach and his 16 predecessors. I hope it is the beginning of a process whereby those who have done great service to the House in the past will find a permanent record to them in Leinster House. There should be a record to those who have served in the past indicating Parliament's continuity.
I would not go as far as Senator Howard to suggest that the Cathaoirleach might wear a wig and gown. He might try it and we could vote on whether he should continue to wear them.
Senator Farrell raised the issue of local government funding and there will be a debate on that matter shortly. The Minister has agreed to come to the House to discuss the various relevant reports.
Senator Cregan raised the issue of free legal aid. There will be a criminal justice Bill before the House in the near future and that may afford him the opportunity to discuss the matter he raised.
In a tour de force Senator Maloney managed to refer to seven different sports in two sentences and to include Northern Ireland. We should have a major debate on sport. The Minister of State responsible is keen to have such a debate and it would be of interest to Members on all sides.
What are the time limit arrangements for item 1?
The limit is 15 minutes but if a speaker feels he or she needs more time the Whips can arrange that.