Today's Order of Business is items 1 and 2. Item 1 will be taken without debate and all Stages of item 2 will be taken today. Business will be interrupted from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Order of Business.
Before agreeing to the Order of Business, I would like to raise the question of item 3 on today's Order Paper. Colleagues will know this matter has been consistently raised by myself, Senator O'Toole and others on this side of the House in recent weeks. This item was restored to the Order Paper recently on the understanding that every effort would be made to resolve the outstanding differences which were championed by Members of Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats and other parties before the end of the last Seanad.
I have been informed by the people concerned that the Minister met them and that the differences have not been resolved. The Minister told them that they can more or less take it or leave it and that the Bill will be completed here tomorrow. If that happens, this Bill, which is a Dáil one, will be finished for good. These people will be the victims of an enormous breach of trust. There has been no agreement and the Minister has no mind to resolve the differences. This Bill must not be taken tomorrow and if the Leader proposes to do so, I will oppose today's Order of Business and we will withdraw co-operation. A serious and specific promise was made by all parties in this House. I inform the Leader that this is known to other Opposition parties and there is no way we will agree to take this business tomorrow.
I call Senator Henry.
I thought Senator Brendan Ryan was to deal with the Order of Business.
We are a very democratic group and never do anything without consulting each other.
I always have difficulty when Senator O'Toole is not in the House.
It is your natural gallantry, a Chathaoirligh, that goes for the female species.
I will not comment on other species, although I am tempted. I support Senator Manning. There are few things which are more infuriating in politics than breaches of the implicit type of trust which we try to work on. I do not know whether this breach was deliberate or accidental, but we support Senator Manning on this issue. Today's Order of Business is innocuous so we will not oppose it. Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar Ceannaire an Tí faoi cheist phráinneach atá an-thábhachtach anois ós rud é gur riailíodh san Ard Chúirt go bhfuil an Bhille faoin mBlascaod i gcoinne an Bhunreacht. An bhfuil aon cinneadh déanta ag an Rialtas reachtaoícht nua a thabhairt isteach chun dúchas an Bhlascaod a chosaint ó na daoine a thabharfaidh "developers" orthu féin? Ba mhaith liom go mbéadh eolas curtha ós ár gcomhair faoin rud tábhachtach seo.
My request is that the issue of An Bhlascaod Mór would be resolved before it and other islands are lost to developers. I hope the Leader can provide information on that.
It is proposed to take all Stages of item 2 today and of item 3 tomorrow. We have already indicated to the Leader of the House that that is unacceptable. There is no great pressure to take all Stages in one day. The necessity of having an opportunity to discuss amendments, to examine the Bill on Second, Committee and Report Stages and to leave some time for reflection is part and parcel of legislation. Will the Leader of the House assure me that we will not continue indefinitely along the route of taking all Stages in the one day as seems to be the case at the moment?
The Labour Party will support Senator Manning in any division over his request that all remaining Stages of item 3 on the Order Paper are not taken tomorrow. Much pressure was exerted to have this Bill restored to the Order Paper. However, there is not much point if, in debating the legislation, it frustrates the intentions in having it restored to the Order Paper.
The Leader stated the last time I raised the matter of a debate on industrial relations that he would seek to have one at an early stage. The situation in Ryanair is being dealt with by inquiry at the moment, so it is an appropriate time to examine the broader aspects of industrial relations.
As regards item 3, Adoption (No. 2) Bill, 1996, there is no intention to do anything other than to ensure everyone is satisfied with the Bill and that the parents of the adopted Paraguayan children get what they require. There was significant pressure to have this matter restored to the Order Paper to the point where there was a division on the Order of Business. I, and others, cautioned that it should not be rushed into because of the need to resolve this problem. It has been restored to the Order Paper as a result of pressure from the Opposition. A Government amendment has been tabled and, if adopted, the Bill will return to the Dáil, which is not sitting next week. This leaves at least a fortnight in which the matter can be sorted to everyone's satisfaction.
We should have a debate on newspapers and broadcasting and, possibly, the RTÉ annual report. It is evident from the Order of Business last week and from other weeks that, if one mentionsThe Irish Times or RTÉ, one can be assured of coverage.
The Senator could be wrong.
There were criticisms last week of the lack of coverage of the House. While one would not wish to intrude into editorial decisions taken by newspapers or by RTÉ, it appears that, if we discuss the media and its coverage, we can be assured of coverage.
Will the Leader bring to the attention of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the concern and disappointment of the General Council of County Councils that it is not directly involved in the boundary electoral commission which will define the boundaries for the 1999 local elections? Since the council is the umbrella body for councillors and it has a huge volume of expertise it is appropriate that it have a seat at the table. I think most Members will agree with my sentiments.
This matter may be appropriate to the Adjournment but it is not relevant to the Order of Business.
With due respect, a Chathaoirligh, this is an important matter which affects councillors throughout the country.
I did not say it was not important, I said it was not relevant to today's Order of Business. I suggest the Senator finds a different way of raising the matter.
I will, but given that it is urgent, the commission isin situ and the House will not meet next week, the matter should be considered. Perhaps the Leader could do something about it because there is much concern within the General Council of County Councils on the matter.
I have put down a motion on the Order Paper about the non-publication of the inspector of mental hospitals report for 1996. I ask the Leader if Government time could be given to debate this because, to my dismay. I heard yesterday that a parent of a patient in St. Ita's Hospital is taking a case to the European Court. It would look bad if we had not addressed these reports, produced by a senior official paid by the State, while relatives of patients in these hospitals feel obliged to take cases to Europe to seek justice.
I am aware of your concern, a Chathaoirligh, about raising on the Order of Business matters which would be more appropriate to the Adjournment. However, because of the time implications, I ask the Leader to convey to the Minister responsible for the Office of Public Works my deep concern that the new bridge being constructed over the Royal Canal——
Senator Glynn, that is not appropriate to the Order of Business. The Senator has the same access to the Minister as the Leader and he also could have put the matter down for discussion on the Adjournment as there is only one matter today. It would have been much more orderly to do that.
Pedestrian access under the bridge would render it unnecessary for pedestrians to walk across a busy road.
Since we last met there was a largely unheralded announcement by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the disclosure of the commission on life assurance policies. It appears that he has accepted our motion as outlined at item 16 on the Order Paper.
Then I suggest, Senator, that it would be more appropriate to raise these matters under that motion, which was put down by your party. I am sure your leader would be prepared to give it priority in your party's Private Members' time.
I accept what you say, a Chathaoirligh, but I want to acknowledge the U-turn in the Minister's position since the motion was tabled in January.
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I appreciate that but I welcome the Government's U-turn while awaiting more detail, and invite the Leader to make a statement on the matter.
There is no problem about raising these matters but it should not be done on the Order of Business. Ways and means are set out in Standing Orders by which these or similar matters can be raised.
I appreciate your guidance to a freshman Senator, a Chathaoirligh. I also support Senator Ryan's remarks on the Blaskets. The Act was blatantly unconstitutional, as the former Deputy, Mr. Begley, pointed out when it was debated. Now is the time to make a reasoned, moderate approach to the owners and perhaps on this occasion the totality of the islands could be dealt with.
I support Senator Manning's position on the Adoption Bill. I will explain a point on which Senator Dardis has commented. Yesterday was the first time the parents of the Paraguayan children had an opportunity to meet the Minister and have him explain the position to them and they want two weeks to study the information he has given about the Attorney General's report. I ask the Leader to find a way around this problem because the parents of children adopted some years ago are frightened that the adoption may not be as secure as they hoped.
I also ask the Leader to congratulate the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on two announcements this week of jobs for the west. Yesterday I phoned the president of the Coca-Cola company to ask why it had decided to come to Ireland. He said he was impressed by the help from the IDA and other State agencies but the main reason was that the company has had many successful years in Drogheda. It is important to convey to the Minister that both Abbott and Coca-Cola are coming to Ireland because of past success. The boomerang principle states that if one looks after people well they will come back again. I also congratulate the IDA.
We had a good debate on foreign affairs but many Senators were dissatisfied with it because it was so wide ranging — it covered the Amsterdam Treaty, the Six Counties and East Timor, where Senator Norris has done such sterling work. Given the enlargement of the EU, would the Leader agree to a number of debates on countries which have applied to join so that we could discuss them country by country rather than together? Perhaps we could begin with a debate on Poland in the near future.
Members may not forgive me for raising a matter relevant to the Order of Business but I will dare to do so.
No. Shame on you.
The Senator is breaking precedent.
I support Senator Manning's remarks but I will suggest a compromise. We are supposed to debate all Stages of the Central Bank today but on principle it is dangerous to do this, particularly on such an important Bill. Would the Leader consider taking Second Stage today and the remaining Stages tomorrow? This Bill should not be rushed. Not many Members are interested in it but it is significant and deserves serious consideration on Committee Stage.
What I have to say is also slightly outside the scope of the Order of Business ——
Sit down then.
——but I hope I can have the indulgence of the Cathaoirleach for a few moments; I am sure he will agree I do not waste his time by raising irrelevant questions, and there is no provision under Standing Orders for raising anything other than a matter of concern, whereas I am raising a matter of celebration. Perhaps we should amend Standing Orders to allow this.
You would be quite in order to raise it on the Adjournment.
I welcome the Coca-Cola company to my home town, Ballina, and wish it great success, which I know it will have. It is a great lift for the town because it has been an industrial black spot for a number of years. We lost 350 jobs in Asahi before Christmas but they have now been replaced by this state of the art, world leader company. It is great to have it in Ballina. There was a less than magnanimous response from Wexford Deputies——
It is a pity Senator Avril Doyle is not here.
Senator Caffrey, I have given you a considerable amount of latitude.
Coca-Cola never had any intention of going to Wexford. When they came to Ballina they fell in love with the place and that was it.
Can the Leader facilitate the House by having an early debate on the issues of relevance to the European Union, and indeed to Ireland, concerning the Amsterdam Treaty and EMU? The Treaty is being debated at county council level and it is appropriate that this House should also fully explore the issues involved.
What reason did the president of Coca-Cola give for not locating in Edermine, County Wexford? Senator Quinn might be aware of the reason.
I support Senator Manning's call that all stages of item 3 not be taken tomorrow. The Leader should accept Senator Manning's proposal.
I congratulate Coca-Cola on moving to Ballina.
Has the Leader any plans to have a debate on asylum seekers? This would be timely as commitments have been given and people have been left waiting for more than a year in a squalid state of limbo. The public temperature, meanwhile, is rising and I feel a reasoned debate which places the facts on the record would be welcome.
The Leader gave an indication some weeks ago that he would favourably consider holding a debate on the future of the Luas proposal, the underground option in particular. Could he look at that and report any progress to the House?
I concur with my colleagues and welcome the Government's firm commitment to job creation in the west. Unlike the previous Administration this is a positive indication of the Government's commitment to develop jobs in the rural areas. I welcome Coca Cola's announcement and the employment it will bring to the county and look forward to their future success.
I am glad to see that during the Lenten season we all appear to be on Coca-Cola.
I would like to ask the Leader about a matter raised by the Labour Party which has been on the Order of Business since October, the health effects of emissions from telephone masts. I attended a seminar on Friday and was very impressed with the honesty of the professionals who advised us there. I would appreciate if the Minister could come into the House and hear a debate on the matter. After that seminar many of the views expressed by that Department may have changed. It is time we had the debate we were promised.
I congratulate the people of Ballina on their achievement. I had discussions with the IDA a month ago. Letterkenny, not Wexford, was in the running for that factory, but I was told the factory was going to Ballina because of the good infrastructure there. It is heartening to know the west can attract such a large company.
For a long time we have listened to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government talking about the restructuring of local authorities. Could we have a debate on this restructuring and on the financing of local authorities? Other Members have asked for this and no answer has been forthcoming. It is important we debate this as the Minister gave the impression there is need for priority restructuring.
Senators Manning, Ryan, Dardis, Quinn, Ross, Costello and Burke commented on item 3. As Senator Dardis said, this Bill will go back to the Dáil because there is an amendment tabled for tomorrow by the Government.
On a point of order, only the Government's amendment can be discussed when it goes back to the Dáil so, technically, the Leader is incorrect.
I am here to carry out the wishes of the Government. The Government has ordered the business for today and I let the Whips know last week the Order of Business and the main items for debate for tomorrow. I have stood here for five weeks listening to demands from the Opposition, and it was agreed by us when we were in opposition, to have this legislation processed. The Order of Business stands. I will come back to the leaders of the groups in the House on their views expressed here today at the earliest opportunity after the Order of Business.
That will be too late.
Senator Ryan sought information on the Bill dealing with the Blasket Islands. I will come back to him as soon as I find out the position on the Bill. Senator Dardis asked for a debate on the RTÉ Annual Report. I agree to a debate on that matter.
Senator Henry asked for a debate on the report for 1996 of the inspector of mental hospitals. I agreed to debate this some weeks ago and will bring it to the Order Paper as soon as I can. I can discuss it when legislation is not pending. Regarding the comments of Senators Quinn, Caffrey, Chambers, Burke, Lydon, Walsh and Bonner about the good news for the west, I would like to be associated with their congratulations to Ballina.
On Senators Walsh and Lydon's calls for a debate on foreign affairs, the Amsterdam Treaty and EMU, in which I know Senator Ross is interested, there will be a whole day's debate on EMU on 7 or 8 April.
Senator Norris requested a debate on the Luas proposal. I will afford time for that at the earliest opportunity and I remind the Senator that his group has Private Members' time coming up soon and he could arrange with his colleagues to discuss it then. The Senator also called for a debate on asylum seekers. I will make time available to facilitate him.
Senator Bonner called for a debate on telephone masts. Everyone in the House agrees this is an important issue and I will try to find time for it before the Easter recess.
Senators Cregan, Burke and others, including Senator McGowan who has been hospitalised lately and whom I wish well, called for a debate on local authorities. I will be pleased to allow time for this at the earliest opportunity.
- Bohan, Eddie.
- Bonner, Enda.
- Callanan, Peter.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Chambers, Frank.
- Cox, Margaret.
- Dardis, John.
- Farrell, Willie.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Liam.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Glynn, Camillus.
- Keogh, Helen.
- Kett, Tony.
- Kiely, Dan.
- Kiely, Rory.
- Leonard, Ann.
- Lydon, Don.
- Moylan, Pat.
- O'Brien, Francis.
- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
- Ormonde, Ann.
- Walsh, Jim.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Coogan, Fintan.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Costello, Joe.
- Cregan, Denis (Dino).
- Doyle, Avril.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Henry, Mary.
- Manning, Maurice.
- McDonagh, Jarlath.
- Norris, David.
- Ross, Shane.
- Ryan, Brendan