Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 Jun 1987

Vol. 373 No. 5

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take Nos. 17, 18 and 19 (Votes 1 and 2, Votes 7 to 22, inclusive, and Vote 50).

It is also proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. today and not later than 12 midnight and business shall be interrupted at 11.30 p.m. today.

It is further proposed that, notwithstanding anything in the practice of the Dáil in relation to references in debate to matters which are awaiting or under adjudication in the courts, two hours shall be set aside immediately after the Order of Business for Statements regarding aspects of recent court cases and notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders shall be subject to the following provisions: (1) No Member may make more than one statement; (2) The Statement of each Member shall not exceed 15 minutes.

It is further proposed that the proceedings on the Second Stage of No. 17 shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 7 p.m. today and the Minister for the Environment shall be called on to conclude not later than 6.30 p.m. today.

It is further proposed that No. 19 shall be taken not later than 8.30 p.m. today and the Order shall not resume thereafter.

It is further proposed that Votes 1 and 2, 7 to 22 and 50 shall be taken together for the purposes of debate and the proceedings shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 11.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair.

It is further proposed that if a division is challenged on any of the Estimates being taken this week, the taking of such division shall be postponed until 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 17 June 1987.

Private Members' Business shall be No. 29.

Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Before agreeing to the Order of Business I wish to ask a question.

I must proceed with the Order of Business in the ordinary way. Members may make their comments later. I take it the proposal for the late sitting is agreed.

No, it is not agreed. Before agreeing to the Order of Business, which I would like to do, I want to ask the Taoiseach if he will allow the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the acting Minister in the absence of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to come into this House and explain the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Hyster factory this morning, and the activities of a company——

That is not appropriate at this point.

I am sorry but I believe the Taoiseach should be afforded an opportunity to inform me if the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the acting Minister, will be coming into this House to explain what happened this morning.

The Chair must first get an indication if the Order of Business is agreed. I will go through the procedure again.

The Minister for the Environment is hiding behind the trees he planted five years ago around the Hyster factory and took away one day later——


The trees lasted 24 hours.

This is not relevant.

It is relevant to the Order of Business——

Please Deputy Mitchell, allow me to clear the Order of Business. The Chair will insist on clearing in a decisive manner the Order of Business. If Members wish to object they will be afforded an opportunity to do so when I complete putting certain proposals in the Order of Business to the House. As I asked earlier, is the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals in relation to statements as outlined by the Taoiseach agreed?

In relation to the proposal regarding the statements, I have to make the following point. Since it was agreed that time would be set aside for statements the matter on which those statements would be made has come before the courts and is awaiting adjudication. The proposal before us that "notwithstanding anything in the practice of the Dáil in relation to references in debate to matters which are awaiting or are under adjudication in the courts," amounts to a departure, and a very clear departure, from the custom and practice of this House in relation to matters which are before the courts. Since there has been a change in the status of the matter since we agreed to have time made available for statements, I believe it is a matter which should be considered further by you and the Whips before we proceed.

The proposal is that we should be entitled this morning by way of statements to consider and discuss some recent court decisions. I have given this matter some thought and I felt it is in the public interest that we should proceed in the way I have outlined here. I am aware of the practice that has prevailed for many years whereby this House does not wish to prejudice the interests of persons coming before the courts by having the matters discussed here in advance of the hearing in the courts. However, there has to be a limit to that.

I cannot, and I think most Deputies will agree with me, envisage a situation where the House will be prevented from discussing matters of urgent public interest simply because some person, a citizen, decides to initiate court proceedings. We have had cases where libel actions were instituted and this House was prevented from discussing matters which it wished to discuss because initial steps were taken in regard to the libel proceedings and then the libel proceedings were subsequently not proceeded with. I am not suggesting that is the case in this instance. The House would fulfil its obligations of responsibility if it refrained from discussing matters of serious criminal cases, or equivalent types of cases, but I do not think that in this instance we should be prevented from discussing this very important matter simply because preliminary steps, as I understand, have been taken in regard to the institution of libel proceedings.

I have considered the matter carefully. It is a question of balance of advantage and I feel that in this case the public interest demands that we do have a review of the situation and not be prevented from doing so for six months, 12 months or a length of time which might be involved in the court proceedings concerned.

It is with some considerable reluctance that I intervene in this motion which is now before the House. I would not intervene were I not convinced that involved in the proposal here is a principle of enormous importance. This is being brought before the House in an ad hoc manner and without notice. The Taoiseach has raised certain feelings he has about these matters. If this rule is to be dealt with it should be dealt with in a very formal way and not in a casual cavalier ad hoc manner arising out of an emotive case. This is much too serious.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that we can decide this issue on the Order of Business in the normal way but it is not open to debate at this stage.

I fully appreciate that but in my view what I am going to say will be strictly in order. The motion before the House proposes to suspend Standing Orders in order to allow statements to be made in a manner that in my opinion was never contemplated by Standing Order No. 41. However, of greater importance is the fact that the motion invites the House to ignore a rule, known as the sub judice rule, which was established by inheritance and precedent 65 years ago and wisely respected since then.

On a point or order, Deputy Fitzpatrick is referring to a motion before the House but there is not a motion before the House. What we are discussing is the Order of Business. From the point of view of the Government I should like to point out that the procedure which we propose is in response to a request from the Opposition that the House be given an opportunity to review these matters.

There is a motion before the House and it seeks to ignore the Standing Order and this rule.

The Chair should be permitted to go through the proposal for today's business and if there are serious objections they can be dealt with in the ordinary way. To allow a debate develop at this stage would be improper.

I should like to make the point that there is a proposal before the House to do something, notwithstanding Standing Orders. I want to say before the House takes whatever decision it is going to take on the matter, that the House should be clear on what it is doing. At the very least that means that if we are to proceed with these statements Members of the House should take account of the fact that the absolute privilege that applies in this House carries with it a certain obligation. It is well that the House should be aware of that. In addition, since we are dealing with statements, and provision for statements, I would wish to ask — we can deal with this later — the Taoiseach to make time available during the course of the day for statements to be made on the Hyster affair.

I fully accept the sentiment expressed by Deputy Dukes that our privileges carry the onus of discretion and responsibility and I am sure Deputies will bear that in mind. I will consider in what way information regarding the Hyster issue can be disclosed to Deputies in the House.

I gave way on a point of order——

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot allow a debate to develop at this stage. The Chair has a statement to make in respect of this matter and it was intended to make it before the debate commenced. Perhaps I should make it now.

Will the Chair bear with me for one moment?

The Deputy will have to be brief.

I am anxious to explain my position. The motion before the House, with the greatest respect, was put by the Chair when the Chair asked if the House agreed to the proposal for the making of statements today. I am stating why I do not agree and, with the greatest of respect, I will keep strictly within the letter of order. I will not go into the merits of what will be discussed and I have not mentioned them.

The Deputy will agree, from his previous experience and that of his predecessors, that making speeches on the Order of Business is unheard of. I am seeking to allow the Deputy to put his point of view but he must be very brief and succinct.

The motion before the House also directs the Ceann Comhairle to ignore the sub judice rule and it takes away the Chair's discretion. Broadly speaking, the sub judice rule provides for the protection of litigants, lowly or exalted, in that a matter awaiting or under adjudication should not be brought before the House. The object of the rule is to ensure that the trial of the issue which is awaiting trial is not prejudiced by discussion in the House.

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy again but I must point out to him that the Chair is very well aware of the importance of the sub judice rule and has a view to express on that shortly, if the Chair is allowed.

I do not wish to argue with the Chair or appear obstructive but I would like to ask will I have an opportunity before this motion is passed, taking away the protection of the sub judice rule, of saying why it should not be passed?

That is a matter for the House.

Why is the reference to "aspects of recent court cases"? I understood that this related to a particular trial which concluded the week before last. Is it proposed to include other cases in the statements and, if so, what are they?

There are no particular cases in mind apart from the case which is uppermost in everybody's mind. It was felt that Deputies in discussing the matter might wish to refer to other cases of a similar kind and that the discussion on one case might be more meaningful if it was taken in the context of others. It is in order to be of assistance to Deputies rather than the reverse.

Is it proposed to suspend the operation of the sub judice rule in future and is there any precedent for its suspension in this House? I cannot recall an instance but no doubt if there is one the Taoiseach will be aware of it. If so, would he let us know because it is an unusual step which requires some explanation. I can recall other court cases of considerably greater importance than this one which were not discussed in the House because of this rule. As recently as a few weeks ago you, Sir, ruled that a particular question submitted by a member of this party was out of order as breaching the sub judice rule although it related to something which was the subject of proceedings abroad. It is curious that a rule which was enforced so rigidly up to a few weeks ago should suddenly be pushed aside.

A number of Deputies have referred to the sub judice rule. I raised this in the House when the previous Ceann Comhairle was in the Chair and he was unable to quote any sub judice rule. It is not in Standing Orders. Could you please quote to me the sub judice rule in question? I understand it is some kind of precedent but not a rule.

It is a long standing practice in the House.

It is a practice; there is no such thing as a sub judice rule.

I should like to make my own comment in respect of these matters pertaining to the sub judice rule. I must advise the House that I have been informed that Mr. Paul Carney, Senior Counsel, has instituted defamation proceedings against two national newspapers arising out of articles which appeared in them. I am also aware that a plenary summons and a statement of claim were lodged in the High Court on 8 June 1987. In these circumstances, the long standing practice of the House in relation to matters awaiting adjudication by a court would prevent reference to the Cavan case in the course of the statements about to be made. If the House decides to suspend the practice for the purpose of this statement then the Chair, of course, will allow the making of references to that case. I would have to insist, in so far as I could, that Members, if this debate is to be proceeded with, would exercise the utmost restraint in relation to any references that may be made to persons outside the House. Members of this House have absolute privilege whereas outsiders do not. If the debate is to be proceeded with, I further appeal to Members to avoid making references which might prejudice the right of any individual outside the House to a fair trial. Finally, in respect of this matter, my predecessor, who is in the House, on 22 October 1986 in a matter pertaining to a sub judice rule, at column 14, Volume 369 of the Official Report stated:

It is very important, therefore that it should be noted that this House has complete control over its own procedures. It can abolish the application of the sub judice rule or it can modify it.

I am satisfied that the proposal made by the Taoiseach in this regard is not in conflict with that ruling. I now propose to proceed to deal with the Order of Business in the ordinary way and if the Order of Business is challenged we shall deal with it and the Members may discuss the matter.

Deputy Mac Giolla rose.

Will the Deputy please allow me to deal with the Order of Business? I now come to the question of the statements which I understand has been challenged. Am I to take it that the proposal in relation to the statements is not agreed?

You are not to take it that it is not agreed.

I am not to take it that it is not agreed?

I wanted to make sure——

I wish to raise a point of order——

Please, Deputy Mac Giolla, Deputy Dukes is on his feet. Please do us the courtesy of allowing the Deputy in possession to make his point of view. I am sure he will not be long and then I will hear the point of order.

I wish to inform you that you may not take it that the arrangements or statements are not agreed. I want it to be made clear in the House that the House knows the step it is taking in this matter. When statements are made in the House on this matter they should be made in the light of the fact that Members have absolute privilege which outside persons do not.

I hope I made that clear.

Could the Taoiseach indicate when he might tell us what arrangements he will make for statements on Hyster?

I asked earlier for clarification in regard to the sub judice rule as it is called. There is no such rule applying to Members of this House in Standing Orders——

I have already replied to the Deputy's so called point of order. It is the long, long practice of this House, to which the Chair will strive to adhere. On the other hand, it is a matter for this House to decide on any changes it may agree upon and the Chair will faithfully implement that ruling.

I am asking for clarification from the Chair——

I cannot have a discussion about the sub judice rule this morning.

It is not a discussion.

I am sorry; you have made your point although it is not a point of order.

I am seeking clarification of Standing Orders.

I have explained the position to you.

They should print a new set of Standing Orders in Gardiner Place.

I am now proceeding to deal with the balance of the Order of Business.


I will afford an opportunity to Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick and other Members to speak when I conclude the Order of Business.

We have not agreed the Order of Business.

Some say we have and others say we have not; we shall decide the matter later. If this matter continues to be debated I will put the question.

The views I hold on this matter are not necessarily those of my party.


I strongly feel that I should put on record my views on what I regard as an extraordinary proposal and the first of its kind in 65 years.

I am sorry to interrupt. You have already made your point and your views are now clearly known to us all.

I want my views to be known to posterity.

I am putting the question.

There is no motion——

There is a motion. You have spoken quite considerably on the matter.

I gave way to the Chair and I said I should like to make a statement——

I am now putting the question: "That notwithstanding anything in the practice of the Dáil in relation to references in debate to matters which are awaiting or under adjudication in the courts, two hours shall be set aside immediately after the Order of Business for Statements regarding aspects of recent court cases and notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders shall be subject to the following provisions:

(1) No Member may make more than one statement,

(2) The Statement of each Member shall not exceed 15 minutes."

Question put and agreed to.

Are the proposals in relation to the taking of Second Stage of item No. 17 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal in relation to the taking of the Estimates today agreed? Agreed. We will proceed then with the statements.

Before we proceed with the statements, with respect to my legal friends, I see this as a very important debate——

It is a bad day's work for democracy.

I will leave the legal end of this to my legal colleagues, but as a layman I regard this as a very important debate——

This is not a point of order.

The point I want to make is very important. Statements were made about the people of Cavan town and I want to make it clear——

Those statements were uncalled for. Nobody more than the people of Cavan know this——

If the Deputy does not resume his seat I will ask him to leave the House. The Deputy has been most unruly and if he persists he will have to leave the House.


I am calling on the Minister for Justice to make his statement.

I ask the Taoiseach when we can expect circulation of the interim report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission?

At the risk of being disorderly, I want completely to reassure the Deputy in regard to any fears he may have that there is no such report in existence.

I can only say that the Taoiseach displayed yesterday a much firmer resolve not to be ignored by the Chair by failing to answer that question, but I am happy that he was able to answer it in such a good humoured, expansive and unthreatening way this morning.


When may we expect to receive the report of the Census dealing with the district electoral divisions? Will it be out this month?

It is on its way.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the allocation of national lottery funds, particularly the reduction from 55 per cent to 45 per cent in the amount being allocated to sport.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

What measures does the Minister for Foreign Affairs propose to take to deal with the extraordinary long queues outside the Passport Office?

This does not arise.

Perhaps the Minister would comment on why so many people——

The Deputy will have ample opportunity to raise this matter.

May I ask the Minister for Finance if the 1987 consolidated income tax Bill will be introduced next session as promised by the previous Government?

When we are talking about legislation promised we mean legislation promised by this Government.

I should like to raise on the Adjournment the refusal by the Minister for the Environment of funds to the Seagrange residents in Baldoyle for proper refurbishment——

I will communicate with the Deputy.

I wish to raise on the Adjournment the continuing dispute of junior hospital doctors and its impact on the health services.

I will communicate with Deputy Howlin.

I wish to ask the Minister for Health what action he proposes to take to prevent the closure of the maternity hospital——

It does not arise on the Order of Business.

The situation is very serious and I hope the Minister or the Taoiseach will be in a position to tell us——

The Deputy is devoting much time to matters which are not in order.

The Mid-Western Health Board propose to close the maternity hospital——

The Deputy will appreciate that this is not in order. I am anxious to bring in the Minister for Justice who has been on his feet. The Deputy should resume her seat.

I wish the Taoiseach would give me some response because the people of Clare regard it as a serious matter.

I must ask the Deputy to desist from further interruptions. I hesitate to ask the Deputy to leave the House but I may be obliged to do so. She has persistently refused to acknowledge the ruling of the Chair and I must ask her to leave the House.