An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: Céim an Coiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha. Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Committee and Remaining Stages.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?


Aontaíodh na Céimeanna eile a thógáil inniu.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Cuireadh an Bille tríd an gCoiste agus tuairiscíodh é gan leasú.

Bill put through Committee and reported without amendment.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go rithfear an Bille anois."

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach and those who took the Chair on occasion for the efficient way in which this debate was conducted. I particularly compliment the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Roche, who attended the House for long periods, both yesterday and today, on the fine contribution he made in summing up the debate on the Bill today. His robust style lends itself to this campaign because it is entirely neccessary that the fallacious arguments made in print, on radio and television are rebutted whenever they can be. That type of rebuttal was missing in the last campaign and untruths were allowed to pass unchallenged. There is a need for somebody who is literally in one's face and able to answer every false argument made.

I appreciate the way in which the Minister of State has dealt with this debate and also the contribution of all Members, whether new to the House. It was wonderful to see so many newcomers putting their feet in the water, in a good sense, and getting involved in the debate. Once they have spoken we will not be able to stop them. That is the way I hope the House will do its business. I also thank the officials who have been courteous, helpful and painstaking in the work which has gone into the Bill.

I concur with the comments of the Leader of the House and pay tribute to the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Roche, for his contribution. The Minister certainly has a tough task ahead of him in the coming weeks but he can leave this House heartened having felt the strong wishes of the majority of Members that this treaty is put to the people in a very positive and dynamic fashion. Hopefully, it will be passed by the people.

Like the Leader, I was greatly impressed by the contribution of my colleagues from all sides. I do not know how many sides we are supposed to have in this Seanad. In particular, I congratulate those who made their maiden speeches. It is quite a daunting task to make one's first contribution but those who did were most impressive. It augurs well not only for the Nice treaty debate, but for the workings of Seanad Éireann in the coming years. I was also impressed by the number of Members who stayed and listened to the contributions. In politics we often have a tendency to say our bit and then rush away at such speed that it looks as if we are training for the Olympics. There was a great willingness among Senators to listen to what colleagues had to say. We have all learned from each other.

I take on board the mild criticisms of some of the speakers on the Government side that we should not introduce doubt about Government policy regarding this treaty. That is something we will tease out in the coming weeks. The criticisms made by this side of the House were made in good faith and were relatively mild. They were made to ensure that we will try to draw a clear line between the Government and the treaty debate. They are two separate issues. The treaty debate and the passing of the referendum is of crucial importance to this country. We want to ensure the debate will be about the referendum and nothing else.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Roche, for his attention. His officials have informed me that since his appointment he has worked 25 hours a day and I know he did not take a break during August. That intense level of political activity will have to be continued until the day of the referendum.

Some people are always suspicious when there is a political consensus – my colleague, Senator John Paul Phelan, raised that issue. Just because the vast majority of politicians are calling for a "Yes" vote should not arouse the public's suspicion on this occasion. We cannot all be wrong. If the Communist Party, Socialist Party, Socialist Worker's Party, Sinn Féin and other groups are against this treaty, I am happy enough to be for it.

I congratulated the Cathaoirleach on his election in his absence and I now reiterate my best wishes to him. I thank the Minister and his colleagues for being present at this debate and replying to it. I pay tribute to the leadership that has been given by the Minister, Deputy Roche, in dealing with all the issues raised in the Oireachtas and nationally.

This debate has been a very good experience for all of us. Across the House we have started on the right note, we have been constructive and listened to each other. Fine Gael Senators might like to know that I was on local radio at 11.30 a.m. and I quoted something Senator McHugh said which had struck me. We should not be partisan if we do not have to be.

Since I have come from a different position I would like to note the tremendous work that is done by civil servants working on European affairs in many different Departments. They make a tremendous contribution in offering support and providing the materials that allow the political system to move forward.

I reiterate my congratulations to the Cathaoirleach on his appointment and wish him well in his term of office. I concur with what the previous speakers have said about the debate we have had in the House. I compliment the Minister on the tremendous leadership he has shown, not only to the Oireachtas but to the people. I am hopeful that he will join the ranks of the Sonia O'Sullivans and Eamon Coghlans and become the champion of Europe by successfully delivering a gold medal to the people by having this referendum passed.

We may have carried out our legislative function in the past two days, but we now have a responsibility to ensure that message is passed to the people. We have to be vigorous in that. One of the most appalling aspects of the last referendum was the turnout of 34%. We all have a responsibility to ensure that does not happen again. I encourage everyone to reiterate the sentiments they expressed in this House and ensure they are heard by as wide a range of people as possible, particularly in light of the recent opinion poll which showed that so many people are undecided. That is our challenge now and in the weeks ahead.

I thank Senators for their very kind remarks. At one of the interminable meetings that one has with ambassadors, one ambassador said that he could not understand why there were concerns in Ireland about the Treaty of Nice. He felt that it was a triumph for Irish diplomatic negotiators. He pointed out that we had led the way in holding on to a Commissioner for the small countries and that our negotiators had been forthright, resilient and steadfast on the issue of taxation.

The time for kicking one another in the shins has passed. We have a crusade now and a responsibility to carry the message to the people and to make up for what we failed to do last year. Remember, the failure last year was not one of the people, it was a failure of those of us who passionately believe in Europe to bring the message clearly to them. If we bring the message clearly and vigorously to the people they will always make the right decision. Whatever decision the people make, we will accept it as democrats.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

Question put and agreed to.