It is proposed to take Item No. 3, Second Stage (Resumed) of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. It is proposed to sit until 1 p.m. There will be a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. We will continue from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Item No. 3.
Order of Business.
Could the Leader of the House indicate what his proposals are for Item No. 2 on the Order Paper? Secondly, could I strongly support a request made by Senator Murphy yesterday that the Leader give urgent consideration to a debate on Northern Ireland? It is appropriate at this point that the voices of the Members of this House be heard on the current situation there. A debate would be helpful, useful and timely at this stage. Thirdly, could I remind the Leader of the House that very early on when he became Leader he was supportive of and open to the idea that Private Members' Time might be extended and that a full debate would take place each week? As it now stands, the various groups are entitled only to about three or four items a year. He did, at that stage, indicate some positive thinking about adopting the system in the other House, whereby a Private Members' debate would take place over one period each week. That would be welcomed by Members on his own side as much as by the various groups on this side. I know it is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, but I would like him to give it urgent consideration. It is a reform we could put in place straight away.
I strongly support Senior Manning's request for a debate on the North in view of the changing situation there. The Berlin Wall may be down but there is a new Berlin Wall here within this island. In the evenings, there are queues of traffic with gates locked——
I would ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House on the Order of Business.
I rise to support the request by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning. The House must continue to monitor and express a concern about the situation prevailing there. I am not anxious to discuss the details. If I am referring to the particular problem, I am just——
Senator, you have expressed your support.
Could I express the hope, which I am sure is shared by the House and by the Leader as well, that the Birmingham Six will at last begin to get justice, starting from today? A number of Members of the House are actually at a fundraising breakfast at the moment for this issue. I would like to move on to the question of the Middle East. We discussed yesterday the question of a debate on the Middle East with particular reference to the Gulf War. I understand that the Leader of the House gave an indication that he felt such a discussion would be appropriate. Could he give an indication as to when we may have another debate on this? I know we have had one but it was delayed until after the war had commenced, although we would have liked to have had it before that. It would be more effective if we could have these debates at a more appropriate time. Would the Leader agree with me that the timing could not possibly be more appropriate than at the moment in view of the fact that both King Hussein of Jordan and Perez de Cuellar have condemned the conduct of the war? Could the Leader confirm that Ireland is included among the countries with which Iraq yesterday broke off diplomatic relations? If this is so, would he agree that this suggests a certain ludicrous aspect of Irish foreign policy?
At the risk of sounding repetitious, I would like to join with Senator Manning in asking the Leader of the House to arrange, as soon as possible, for a debate in relation to affairs in the northern part of this island. We read recently that plans may be going astray. While the Government may be paying considerable attention to the issue, it is certainly a matter which should be debated in our Parliament. I would strongly urge the Leader of the House to arrange that that debate takes place next week, if possible.
With regard to the Altamont Bill, my understanding is that an adequate explanatory memorandum, letter or documentation has been circulated in relation to this issue. We should probably take that item very soon as well. I would like the Leader of the House to address himself to that issue also.
I wish to ask the Leader of the House if he would make time available for debate on communications so that we might have an opportunity to discuss the grim effects on the lives of many people who are about to be made redundant from An Post, as announced yesterday.
I would also like to ask the Leader of the House if he would make time available for a debate on the effects on employment of below-cost selling and, indeed, how the present laws on this matter might be effectively enforced.
Finally, I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senators Manning and Staunton in relation to the need to reorder the way in which we do our business here. I am particularly anxious that people should have an opportunity to raise matters in this House. I hope the Leader may be able to take some initiatives to allow that to happen, either by modifying the present system in relation to matters on the Adjournment or making more Private Members' Time available. I am not opposed to a reduction in the time available under these headings.
I wish to ask the Leader of the House if he could establish when, or whether, the Government will respond to the very worrying reports in the media today that two major Irish ferry companies still rely on rope ladders as a main means of evacuation for passengers? I accept that they probably comply with maritime law but one has only to think of the very old, the very young or the disabled to realise that that situation cannot be allowed to continue. Perhaps the House could be told, on another occasion, what action the Government plan to take in this area.
I wish to ask the Leader of the House if he will give time for motion No. 67: "That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to immediately decriminalise suicide and set up a task force to tackle the mounting problem of youth suicides." Would he indicate the Government's views regarding this motion or has he any plans in regard to this item?
Senator Manning and Senator Staunton asked about Item No. 2 on the Order Paper. The parliamentary agent some time ago indicated that he would like to discuss this matter with me. After I meet him I will bring forward a report to the House, if that is necessary, and we will take it from there.
Regarding the request for a debate on Northern Ireland, I indicated yesterday that I had no proposals for a debate on Northern Ireland at this time. That is the reply I would also give to Senator McGowan.
Regarding an extension to three hours per week of Private Members' time, I indicated yesterday that I had no plans or proposals to implement that at this time. Obviously, if Senator Manning wished to raise it at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges he is totally entitled to do so. At this time I have no plans to change from the present position.
I am sure we all share the sentiments of Senator Norris regarding the position of the Birmingham Six. We are all very optimistic that they will be released as quickly as possible. I wish to say to Senator Norris that the position regarding the Gulf War is quite the opposite. I did not give any indication yesterday of having a debate on the Gulf War. As I explained, we had a day-long debate only two weeks ago today on that point.
Senator Staunton asked about Northern Ireland. I would give him the same reply. On Item No. 2, and, indeed, on the two matters he raised regarding communications which include problems in An Post, and also the question of below-cost selling, I would have to say to Senator Upton that I have no plans or proposals for a debate on those issues.
The question of modifying the Order of Business is obviously something for consideration at any time. There should be ongoing concern about it and there should be change if that is necessary. This is something for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It may be raised there. The point raised by Senator Doyle regarding the ferry problem is not a matter for the Order of Business. I wish to say to Senator Neville that I have no plans regarding the item he mentioned.