It is intended that we take items Nos 1 and 2 today and that we take item No. 1 until 1 o'clock.
Order of Business.
With regard to Item No. 2, I am rather distressed that apparently this is going to be taken at 1 o'clock. We all try to make specific arrangements to be here in the House. A number of us, from various sections of the House are professionally engaged. We try to rearrange our work so that we can be here. I regard the item to be taken as a particularly important piece of legislation on which I want to comment. I really am distressed. I got an indication yesterday that it was going to be taken at 4 o'clock. I know that is not binding, but I made arrangements. I re-arranged my professional schedule in order to be here at 4 o'clock. Can we have some indication from the Leader of the House whether it is intended to railroad this through in an unseemly hurry? It is a very dangerous piece of legislation in certain aspects. I really want a right to speak on it. I am going to speak against certain provisions and certain very damaging and dangerous omissions in it.
Yesterday I was to go away and come back with a message to the Members through their Whips, and I did so. I rang Senator Joe O'Toole at around 4 o'clock. I told him what was happening today. It is his responsibility to inform the other Independent Members. I am sorry for Senator Norris but his group were aware of this from 4 o'clock yesterday evening.
I would like to thank the Government Whip for the very strenuous efforts he made yesterday to ensure that the debate on Northern Ireland should take place today. From this side of the House we appreciate what he did. Secondly, could the Leader of the House clarify that only the Second Stage of No. 2 will be taken today?
On the Order of Business, I want to make clear that yesterday afternoon, when I called for a division on the matter of adjourning, I was not doing so for any trivial reason — nothing so trivial as a tea break or otherwise. I was making my protest at the failure to make explicit at the outset of the business that there was to be an afternoon break. I was not the only one so inconvenienced. I may point out that the next item on the agenda was the EC motion, which was to be resumed. Waiting outside for a very considerable time was a team of ministerial advisers on that motion. That was a waste of public resources, in my view. What I am suggesting, a Cathaoirligh is that in future the Leader should, when announcing the Order of Business, explicitly state when or whether there is going to be an afternoon break on that day.
I would like to have clarification as to whether the debate on Northern Ireland, which I feel is one of the most important debates we have had here for some time, will be open-ended or whether we are going to be limited in time in our speeches? I would support the idea of an open-ended debate.
There is no time limit proposed.
I want to put on the record my appreciation of the Leader and the Whip of the Government side in facilitating the comments we made yesterday in looking for a compromise to have the debate on the North of Ireland begin today and conclude when the Tánaiste is available to do so. They have met the wishes of the vast majority of Members certainly on this side of the House. As I understand the situation of a tea break it is to be taken that there would be one unless it was identified by the Leader that there would not be one. That is as I understood it. I am not sure whether that is written in as a Standing Order of the House or not.
That is news to me.
I believe it was proposed, but not yet accepted.
This business about tea breaks is quite ridiculous. I do not think we should have any at all.
I think we should forget about the tea breaks and get on to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
It is usually the only information we can get from the Leader of the House about what is happening in the next few weeks. Having said that, it is relevant whether we are having a tea break or not. It does matter to Members of this House when we are going to take what business. It arises on the Order of Business every day. Having said that could I——
I am on the Order of Business. What happened yesterday is over so far as I am concerned — tea break or breakfast break or dinner break or any of them. Get on to today's business. Have the debate you all wanted to have for weeks. Let us commence it.
I would like to know when we are breaking in advance of this breaking, and that includes today. I would like to know on the Order of Business today what time we are taking the Incitement to Racial Hatred Bill and until what time. I want to know that specifically without sudden things being pulled on us, without sudden breaks being pulled on us, without notice. Secondly, I would like to know from the Leader of the House when it is intended to resume the debate on Anglo-Irish relations and how long it is intended to give it on that day?
Before I call the Leader of the House — and I said this before as a Senator here for a few years — I do not know why everybody now wants to know specifically by the hour, the minute and the day what is going to happen.
They have to speak.
I know, I appreciate that. I used to speak myself. The only thing that is saving you at the moment is that I cannot speak on things.
This debate has been sought for quite some time. What is happening here on the Order of Business every day is a disgrace to the House. Irrelevancies are brought up every day. Whether we break for lunch or dinner should not be a matter of relevance. The House should dictate what happens. It is ridiculous for people to come in here and say that they have to rearrange their professional schedules to accommodate themselves to this House. We, as Members of this House, do not have to rearrange anything. We are Members of the House. Our first preference is for this House. Whether that upsets us or not is not relevant. We are elected to do a job here. It we have to rearrange our schedules it is a matter for ourselves personally. It is not a matter for the House.
On the Order of Business we are taking items Nos. 1 and 2. We take Item No. 2 at 1 o'clock and we conclude Item No. 2 at 4.30. There is not going to be an open-ended debate on the Anglo-Irish motion in the sense that we will take it until 1 o'clock today. There will be one further day, but as far as speeches are concerned I would hope that people would be relevant to the matter in hand — open-ended in the sense of being relevant but not open-ended in the sense that it will go on forever. It is open-ended to the extent that it will go on for the length of time today and one further day.
Is the Order of Business agreed?
Can we have any indication as to which the next day will be on which the debate will be concluded? This is important. I think the implication has been lost on the Leader. You cannot come to a chamber such as this and expect to do justice to a subject if you do not know what is being debated on that particular day.
You can only ask a question. The Order of Business has been replied to by the Leader and concluded, Senator Robb.
We are still in a fog or smog in relation to which will be the next day on which this important debate will be held.
I understood it might depend on when the Tánaiste will be back from Europe. Perhaps the Leader might like to comment on that?
I would suggest that we get on with the Order of Business.
I would like to raise a point of order. Perhaps unintentionally a serious slur has been cast by the Leader of the House on people like myself, and particularly on myself, by suggesting that I am not giving my first allegiance to this House. I demand that he withdraw that suggestion. The point I was making was precisely that I am; that, acting on defective information passed to me, I am rearranging my professional schedule in order to give primary loyalty to this House. I demand that the Leader of the House withdraw the slur that he cast on me in that matter.
I do not think he meant it as a slur.