Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Electoral Act 1997 (section 53) Order 2004 and the Presidential Election (Reimbursement of Expenses) Regulations 2004; No. 2, Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Bill 2003 — Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 12 p.m.; No. 3, Commissions of Investigation Bill 2003 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12 p.m. and to conclude at 1 p.m.; No. 4, statements on the Barron report, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude at 4 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed eight minutes; No. 5, National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 4 p.m. and to conclude no later than 5 p.m.; No. 6, Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 7 p.m. and to conclude at 8.30 p.m.; No. 7, Equality Bill 2004 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 8.30 p.m. and to conclude at 9.15 p.m.; No. 8, International Development Association (Amendment) Bill 2003 — Second Stage, to be taken at 9.15 p.m. and to conclude at 10.15 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply no later than five minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 24, motion No. 18, to be taken from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a sos from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

No. 1 concerns an order and regulations in respect of the expenditure limits for presidential elections in the same manner as for Dáil elections, as provided for under the Electoral Act. Where limits are proposed to be introduced, it is required that a draft order be laid before each House of the Oireachtas for positive resolution. As any presidential election, if held, would take place in October and the election period would commence before the Houses resume after the summer recess, this approval needs to be obtained before the summer recess. The amounts are based on the constituency amounts. A note on the matter will be made available to Senators. There is a tradition that we do not discuss presidential matters in either House.

With the permission of the Cathaoirleach, I will make a short statement on No. 8 and another matter. No. 8, the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill 2003, is a Bill from the Department of Finance to enable Ireland to contribute advance loans to the poorest developing countries at an interest rate of 0%, to be paid back over a long period of 35 to 40 years. The Bill is a very fine measure and is approximately four pages long. Bearing in mind its purpose, we have spoken to the leaders of each group about it. Ireland makes a contribution to the fund in question, as do all the countries in the developed world.

I will not take up too much of the House's time raising the second matter. We were requested to take a Bill at 10 p.m. tonight, which I would not do. Apart from the need for us to have a sense of reason, it would be very unfair on staff to take it at that hour. We did it once and it did not work out. I made a sort of promise to myself thereafter that we would not engage in this late night caper. It is not a good idea to take a major Bill of 39 pages at 10 p.m. and process it within another hour the next day. I was receiving conflicting messages on this matter so I went to see the Taoiseach yesterday. I waylaid him when he came out of the House and spoke with him at considerable length. I have learned many matters which are very interesting.

I want Senators to know that the Minister for Transport never contacted me. He never telephoned me. I prefer to be straightforward and I want to tell the tale as it happened because one hears different versions. There is a huge amount of spinning at present. I prefer to be straightforward and honest about the matter. If someone wants to take up the issue on the Order of Business, that is fine. I never received a telephone call or any communication from the Minister for Transport. His office was in contact with my office — Senators know who that was. I regard those interchanges as undesirable.

Be that as it may, I spoke with the Taoiseach and we had a very good discussion. He agreed that it would be ridiculous to rush the Bill through at 10 o'clock tonight and again tomorrow. We will take it next week. I apologise to you, a Chathaoirligh, and through you to the House and to the staff. We had thought that summer was here and we could go on our way. That is not so.

For many years this House was railroaded and regarded as a place where legislation was rubber-stamped. It was thought that Senators were not up to much. I thank Senators for their forbearance in the matter. It is a mark of our sense of authority that we would not allow the Bill to be taken tonight. I do not intend, on my watch, that kind of behaviour to be——

Well done.

I am not looking for praise. I am just saying I do not intend to allow that to happen.

On behalf of this side of the House, I congratulate the Leader——

I do not want that.

——on standing up to the Minister for Transport, who showed unbelievable neck, cheek and arrogance in thinking that a Bill of this magnitude could be brought to the House tonight, to be rubber-stamped tomorrow and the entire matter put in place within 24 hours. This act of bullying was stopped by the Leader and she is to be congratulated on her actions in this regard.

We find ourselves in an exceptional situation. We are being brought back next week to debate what is, in the Government's mind, emergency legislation. Why is this Bill now being pushed through the House against the express wishes of the vast majority of Fianna Fáil backbenchers and of people with considerable experience in this House? I refer in this regard to Senators Daly and Dooley, the Leader, a former Minister, and even, God help and protect us, Senator Leyden. All of these people have expressed opposition to this measure.

(Interruptions.)

Order, please.

That is ignorant. Senator Hayes should withdraw that remark.

Senator Hayes has no manners whatsoever. I resent that remark very much. He has never sat in a Minister's seat. He was never a Minister and never sat in Cabinet. How dare he?

A Chathaoirligh, I am being interrupted.

Order, please.

When he has served in Government, then he can talk. I resent Senator Hayes's remark and I ask him to withdraw it.

(Interruptions.)

I ask for the same protection from him which he demands from others.

I will be forced to adjourn the House.

I do not care if the House is adjourned, I want an apology from that man.

Senator Leyden should resume his seat.

I want an apology.

The House stands adjourned for five minutes.

Sitting suspended at 10.45 a.m. and resumed at 10.50 a.m.

There will be no further discussion of next week's business. We will discuss today's Order of Business.

I request that the Cathaoirleach demand the withdrawal of a snide and demeaning comment directed at me personally by Senator Brian Hayes.

Rubbish.

It is improper to refer to personalities in this House and I will not tolerate it. We will now proceed with today's business.

I requested the protection of the Chair against a snide and demeaning comment made by another Member of this House.

Rubbish.

Whether he withdraws it or not is a matter for the Chair, but I am requesting protection as an elected Member of this House. It is not right or proper that another Senator can make a demeaning and snide remark and the Cathaoirleach allows it to pass without asking him to withdraw it.

The Senator has made his point. To restore order to the House, I ask Senator Brian Hayes to withdraw the remark.

Withdraw what remark?

There was a reference that definitely offended Senator Leyden.

To be clear about this, does Senator Leyden have a difficulty with the fact that he is being grouped with other colleagues who have expressed opposition to the Minister for Transport's plans?

He objects to being grouped with God.

Will I have to adjourn the House again? I am trying to restore order and I would like Senators to co-operate with me. Senator Brian Hayes said "God help us" with regard to Senator Leyden.

On the basis that I might offend the good Lord almighty, I will withdraw the comment.

That is not a proper withdrawal.

To take lectures from that Senator on issues of integrity and probity is a bridge too far.

The Senator is going deeper now.

The Senator should withdraw the remark please.

I said what I have said, Sir. On today's Order of Business, the point I was making is that when the matter is debated in the House next week——

We must deal with the Order of Business for today.

——how can we possibly amend the Bill in question given that if an amendment was passed, the Bill would have to go back to the Dáil and that cannot happen?

It can go back to the House in September.

The Minister for Transport may not be in his job by then.

That is completely irrelevant.

This is a matter for today and I put it to the Cathaoirleach and the Leader that the way in which the Government has dealt with this issue is appalling. It shows no respect for the Houses of the Oireachtas to handle it in this way. We are talking about people's livelihoods in different regions.

That is a matter for next week.

In congratulating the Leader on dealing with this issue in the manner she has, I call on the Minister for Transport to consider his position because he has gone over all our heads.

Issues have been raised by the Leader and responded to by the leader of Fine Gael in the House so I will expect some latitude on this issue on the basis that I have raised it time and again on the Order of Business for the past two weeks. It is an absolute charade. I share Senator Brian Hayes's view that the Leader of the House did her absolute best and defended the integrity of the House, but the reality is that we have finished up, following the intervention of the Taoiseach, with a charade next week where we will debate a Bill that we cannot change.

It can be changed.

We must decide if we order our own business or if others effectively pull the strings elsewhere and order us to do it. The rights of the travelling public, SFADCo workers, people in the Shannon area and union members have all been disregarded in this charade of a Bill, the purpose of which no one can understand. Fair play to Michael O'Leary, his advertisements have worked. Whatever impact he had on the Government, it has conceded so it can get free rides into Shannon Airport on Ryanair. That is the outcome.

The Senator should not mention names. I have ruled in that regard.

It is not that I reject the authority of the Chair but this issue has been raised. What we are doing is wrong and we should look carefully at how we are doing business. The Taoiseach has stated that he wants us to deal with the Bill. I do not understand why because it will upset everyone everywhere. No one is in favour of it and it is completely wrong. I will hold what I have to say until next week, despite the fact that it will cost me a lot of money to be here. Like other Members of the House, I had taken out the bucket and spade and now will have to put them back in the cabinet.

Regarding the exchange earlier, I agree with the points Senator Leyden made about Aer Lingus, but he made very serious accusations against Fine Gael yesterday of selling off the national airline. He raised the hare himself.

We are not discussing that now and I did not hear those remarks.

Members praised how well the Irish Presidency was served by senior civil servants. It is absolutely disgraceful, therefore, that our senior civil servants are being deprived of the normal review of their salaries to which they are entitled. As much as I admire the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, in many ways, this review should go ahead. The senior civil servants are entitled to it. They work hard and represent and defend the State in many ways. I ask the Leader to bring my remarks to the attention of the Minister for Finance.

Regarding Private Members' business tonight, I notice that Senator Brennan's name is third on the list under the Fianna Fáil motion. Has there been another change? Are we to welcome Senator Brennan back into the fold? Has the gene pool finally taken——

All of his colleagues assent to the motion.

While I understand the Cathaoirleach's concern for order in the House, I trust that he will not prevent me from responding to what the Leader said when introducing the Order of Business. For reasons that are far more significant and important to me than holidays, I will not be here next week because something is happening that requires me to stay at home. That is not what I want to talk about, however.

Ah go on.

Order, please.

That remark was misplaced but I do not want to embarrass Senator Norris. Which Minister will take the Bill next week? Will the Minister who is driving it be on holiday while Seanad Éireann is being forced to take it or will he be in the House for the first or second time in two years? What exactly did the Leader learn? She tantalisingly said that she learned a number of things and perhaps she will share them with the House. She could explain matters to the House and tell us what she knows about the spinning that has been going on. In today's The Irish Times, the Minister yet again suggested that Cork and Shannon Airports, in their present position, would be perpetually coming to Dublin asking for money. I do not believe infrastructural investment in the regions should be confused with some sort of begging bowl. It is important to point out that Shannon and Cork Airports will be precluded from further State aid or investment under these proposals. Dublin Airport will be burdened with enormous debt and Cork and Shannon Airports will be burdened with an impossible business position. These are significant issues. How is it that having had electronic voting bulldozed through the two Houses in the teeth of common sense objections, we ended up with the debacle from which nobody learned any lessons? Yet again we are about to be subjected to what will clearly be a debacle for Shannon and Cork Airports for reasons nobody can explain nor has explained to the House. That is next week’s business but I did not raise it; the Leader raised it correctly on the Order of Business and as a leader of a group I feel entitled to ask what is going on. I hope the Leader will elaborate in her response.

On today's Order of Business, the allocation of an hour and a half from 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. to the Committee Stage of what all of us on this side of the House would call the Fianna Fáil slush fund Bill suggests a deliberate attempt to get rid of it quickly to avoid the considerable embarrassment that will arise from the effective theft of money from bank accounts by the Government to fund Fianna Fáil's next attempt at buying an election in two years time.

That is rubbish.

I am a member of the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources which has been discussing energy policy recently. Senior officials from the ESB have appeared before the committee. The Minister has made a definitive announcement that there is no case for privatisation of the ESB. It is therefore very difficult for people to appreciate what is happening. A proposed industrial dispute is due to start next Monday. The workers are looking for 20% equity in the company and an 18.5% increase over three years. One particular union group has decided to go ahead with the strike. The intervention by Mr. David Begg is critical. The seriousness of the situation does not seem to be appreciated. I spoke to people in the ESB yesterday and I know it is a serious situation. A major industrial dispute could start next Monday morning and the whole country could be blacked out. The Minister will say it is not for him to intervene but considering that strike action was first proposed on 4 May 2004, I ask him to make a statement on this issue and show his concern, rather than the faceless people within his Department making statements on his behalf. There is no sense of urgency and concern on this issue and that should be expressed now or we could face a very critical situation after the weekend.

I congratulate the Leader on taking a firm stand. She has enhanced the dignity of the House by so doing and has the support of all Members from the various groups. I will not dwell on any of the contentious material that surrounded the subsequent part of that little discussion. I hope the focus will not be blurred because the banter that took place subsequently could have that effect. Something very important happened here today; the Leader had the courage to stand up for the dignity and independence of the House and that will be welcomed and supported by all Members.

The House will be sitting next week. I asked yesterday if time could be arranged for a debate on the Middle East, in particular on Iraq. The Leader reasonably said that since the House was only sitting today and tomorrow, there would probably not be time for that debate. As the House is now meeting next week, I ask the Leader if it would be possible to have that debate or even a short period for statements in the light of the worsening situation. The Government, of whatever legitimacy, of Iraq, yesterday came under mortar fire in its enclosed compound. That does not suggest it is very stable.

I regard Ms Lara Marlowe as a very balanced reporter. In yesterday's The Irish Times she described how the American soldiers spat at her because she was dressed in Iraqi traditional clothing:

Soldiers spitting at Iraqi cars and prisoners being tortured are symptomatic of the same danger, an arrogant, selfish, deaf, blind, but vociferous, US Administration that acts with impunity over the world.

It is important that this is recognised. As people who have the privilege to live in a comparatively safe and comfortable environment, we must put on the record our feelings for people in the rest of the world who are much more vulnerable than we are.

I join with Senator Ryan in saying the Leader was very tantalising, almost as tantalising as Senator Ryan himself about his reasons for staying in Cork, when she said that very interesting comments were made to her. I hope she will be able to share those with the House.

I support Senator O'Toole's comments about senior civil servants. We have secured our pay increase to which we are perfectly entitled and which I intend to accept. It is wrong, however, that senior civil servants should be cut out, especially when there have been warnings that we might face a brain drain if the Civil Service, which as Senator O'Toole said is excellent and did us proud during the EU Presidency, is faced with the situation that people with similar talents get twice or four times the amount of money in the private sector. That would be a pity.

In the light of events unfolding, when does the Leader believe operational control will commence with regard to the business to which I cannot refer, No. 21 on the Order Paper, because it is not due until next week? What will be the status of the existing board when that Bill is enacted? What will happen to the Great Southern Hotels group?

The Senator's favourite hotel.

It is not mentioned in the Bill and I wonder what will happen to the group. Will the hotels be sold off piecemeal?

I suggest the Senator raise the matter during the debate next week.

I will do so and I am very grateful to the Cathaoirleach. Will the Leader reply on the main items, the operational control and the board and when the other boards are to come into being? They are in place already like shadow boards. I look forward to the Leader's reply.

I welcome the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill 2003, No. 8 on today's Order Paper. The subject matter of the Bill is the advancement of loans to developing countries and is welcome. I also welcome the initiative taken by Superquinn in respect of Fair Trade coffee and tea and perhaps other products. I hope the fair return to producers will happen and that other supermarkets and stores will consider similar action. The Houses of the Oireachtas use fair trade coffee. It should be a more widespread practice.

I add my voice to the words of congratulation to the Leader for the stand she took yesterday. I believe it has enhanced the reputation of the House and its standing in the eyes of the public. I ask her to reply to the questions about what will happen next week. Will this be a fait accompli and will it not be possible to make amendments? Will Committee Stage consist merely of a debate? I ask the Leader to answer those questions in order to enhance once again the reputation of the House.

It would be remiss of this House not to recognise that tomorrow, a former Member of this House, Mr. Michael O'Kennedy, will be the first former Irish Government Minister to receive an order of merit from the British monarch. It is called the Companion in the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, the CMG. It is said that in Whitehall one is warned not to refer to it as "Call me God". The honour was bestowed on him because of our improving relationship with Britain, the work he has done in the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body and, as Senator Brian Hayes stated yesterday, in recognition of developments and improved relationships in the North.

Hear, hear.

As it is the height of the tourism season, it is too late to debate the current season but I ask for a general debate on tourism in advance of next year's season. The tourism season in County Donegal is not materialising and we are relying on the Northern Ireland market to keep us going. The hundreds of thousands of euro being pumped into marketing are not working.

County Donegal has a quality tourism product on the ground with quality landscapes and scenery. While people speak with goodwill about how great and nice the county is, tourists are not coming. We need an all-Ireland marketing strategy. Fáilte Ireland is the all-Ireland marketing body. Why are tourism figures in Derry, just a few miles across the Border, at an all-time high, when nothing is happening on the Donegal side of the Border? We need a serious debate on the issue.

The Senator may make those points in the debate.

County Donegal has an infrastructure deficit as regards marinas. There are quality marinas from Cahirciveen in County Kerry, to Kilrush in County Clare, the Aran Islands in County Galway and up to County Sligo. County Donegal, however, does not have a single marina or marina infrastructure or facilities. This is one aspect of the major debate we need in the House.

The Senator has made his point. We cannot have a debate on the Order of Business.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.

I share Senator Finucane's concern about the possibility of a dispute in the ESB and its potential to seriously damage power supplies and the power network. Long-established procedures for dealing with such circumstances should be applied immediately to avert a dispute. It appears a small group of people, a maverick outfit, intends to disrupt power supplies. While I am not sure what Ministers can do in this regard, agreed procedures are in place in the ESB group of unions to deal with such matters. Every effort should be made to avoid a dispute which would create power difficulties at a time when we cannot afford them.

The debate on the State Airports Bill should help to clarify matters and allay the fears of many people in the regions, especially Shannon, about the proposed changes and their future employment. Irrespective of our views on the detail of the Bill, it will be useful to debate it in the House because there is serious anxiety in Shannon about the impact not only of the legislation but also of changes I raised yesterday with regard to SFADCo. The opportunity to debate the legislation in the House may allay people's fears about the future.

Yesterday's newspapers featured an item on a reduction in alcohol sales. While that appears to be good news, I ask the Leader to invite the relevant Minister to the House for a debate on domestic violence in the autumn. I am concerned we may have an increase in domestic violence as a result of the smoking ban which has led to more people drinking at home. It has been brought to my attention that a pub is at least a controlled environment but the home is not. We should examine this issue in the autumn.

It is amazing that the Fianna Fáil Party, one of whose former Senators is a lord, will have another member receive an order of merit from the British Crown. I understand a system of awards is still in place in this country. We should consider resurrecting it as we should be mature enough to have a system of awarding people for making positive contributions. I ask the Leader to look into the matter.

Senators protested yesterday when the House was described as a rubber-stamping Chamber. One must suspect this to be the case, however, given that we are returning next week to debate the State Airports Bill, for which no business plan has been produced. There have been no developments in the Dáil and it is more than likely that no amendments will be accepted in this House. I hope I will be proved wrong.

Amendments can be accepted.

The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Brian Hayes, raised the question of whether the State Airports Bill can be amended. The Cathaoirleach's interpretation is correct. A Bill is brought before the House and amendments can be tabled and either accepted or rejected. That is the business of the House on Committee Stage, as the Cathaoirleach has confirmed. The Senator made his points strongly. Senator Browne should note that the Bill will at least be debated in the House, having initially been ordered to be disposed of in five minutes.

Senator O'Toole described the State Airports Bill as a charade and asked who was lurking in the wings. That is the interesting question. The Senator has shown he is a fine trade union representative in taking up the case of senior civil servants whose pay increases will be delayed until 2007. That is a matter for the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, who, I understand, will come before the House to take the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill 2003 tonight, after which we may have a word with him.

Senator Brennan is welcome in the House in whichever guise.

All is forgiven.

His decision was never contentious. Senator Ryan asked which Minister will take the Bill next week. I understand it will be Mr. Brennan.

Which Mr. Brennan?

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, will take the Bill.

They are both Progressive Democrats.

The Taoiseach was extremely courteous in providing me with information on this matter and I found our meeting extremely helpful. Senator Ryan also raised Cork and Shannon Airports and cited the Minister's remarks in the other House yesterday. I hope we will be able to have a decent debate on the matter next week.

As regards the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill, we debated Second Stage of the Bill between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. last Tuesday. Speakers barely filled the allocated slots and no one who wished to speak was prevented from doing so.

Senator Finucane raised the ESB and the potential dangers of a dispute. I believe moves are taking place in that regard.

Senator Norris requested a debate on the Middle East. I will make inquiries and get back to him.

I would be satisfied with statements without a Minister present.

The Senator also raised an article by Lara Marlowe in The Irish Times. The item made awful reading. Ms Marlowe is a fine journalist.

As regards Senator Coghlan's question, I understand that the board and its subsidiary boards will remain in place until the end of September.

Senator Kitt raised the International Development Association (Amendment) Bill. It is fine legislation and I hope he will able to speak on it tonight. He also congratulated Super Valu — I made a note to do likewise — on its decision on Fair Trade goods.

It is Superquinn.

One gets super value in Superquinn.

Order, please. Allow the Leader to continue without interruption.

Well done to Senator Quinn, whose nice son I heard speaking on the issue this morning.

The Leader is back on the Senator's Christmas card list.

It is a great development. Senator Quinn raised the status of the debate ordered for next week. We will have plenty of time to tease out issues. He also referred to Mr. O'Kennedy receiving an award, which I understand was made in recognition of his work in developing relationships as joint chair of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. I am rather ambivalent about receiving honours from another country.

Perhaps that is jealousy.

I would have the sense not to take it, Members can be sure of that.

Hear, hear.

I have my own mind, thank God.

Regarding the tourism industry in County Donegal, I was unaware it was in the dire situation of which Senator McHugh speaks. Fáilte Ireland is an all-Ireland tourism marketing body so perhaps the Senator should consult it on this matter.

I agree with Senator Daly that a debate on the ESB would be helpful if it helped to allay people's concerns. Senator Browne spoke about the possibility of a reduction in drinking leading to increased domestic violence. I am not sure if this is the case.

It is a strange one. One can go out and get drunk and then return home and engage in violence if one is so inclined. I do not see the connection.

The matter of the awards system was also raised and if it were an Irish system it would be a different matter. I am merely conveying my own view on this and do not wish to belittle the honour Mr. O'Kennedy is to receive.

It is a well-deserved award.

Yes, he has put a lot of effort into his political life. People have different views on the matter of honours.

This House was laudatory yesterday about the contributions of Senators Ross and O'Toole regarding the review of auctioneering which has been established following input from them and from Senator Scanlon. I thank the Senators for their insistence that such a review be established.

Order of Business agreed to.