Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 28 Nov 1991

Vol. 130 No. 12

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take item No. 1 — Liability for Defective Products Bill, 1991 and item No. 2 — Statements on the Role of Seanad Éireann. There will be a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and business will conclude at 4 p.m.

Will we have these strange sounds off-stage which are at present coming into the Chamber during the day?

Yesterday my colleague, Senator Cosgrave, asked the Leader of the House about forthcoming legislation and I think he omitted, mistakenly, to give an answer. Could he now tell me what legislation we can expect between now and Christmas and if there will be any new legislation? Is there any legislation promised dealing with the takeover of the B & I? Would he use his influence to see that the Family Planning Bill will be initiated in this House? This House is particularly well suited to deal with legislation of this type, even if some of the moral custodians are not present at the moment. What plans has he in mind for the debate next week on the Maastricht Summit? Could he also tell us if Senator O'Keeffe's crusade to have banking discussed is still alive and well?

I am sure we are all glad Senator Ross has not lost his vision of the broader world or the need for fundamental reforms and is still trying to do things that will change our attitude to all sorts of things. I am very grateful for his continuing interest in the broader issues.

It is almost a ritual at this stage, but can we have a debate on Northern Ireland in this House soon? Can it be an openended debate where we can talk at length about what is happening? I do not want to recite the latest atrocity on the Order of Business every day this House meets. There was yet another horrific story last night. I am horrified by the apparently collective decision to silence democracy on this issue — to silence both Houses of the Oireachtas. We need to expound our views openly and at length. Both Houses need to discuss attitudes to Northern Ireland, its problems and possible solutions. It is an issue I will endeavour to raise as often as I can on the Order of Business. I am sure most Members want a serious level headed discussion on where one part of this island is going and what we can do about it.

Is the Leader prepared to make time available for a debate on the transportation and disposal of hazardous chemicals and various toxic materials? There were two or three very disturbing reports over the last few days. There was the accident where toxic materials were released into the environment and nobody seemed to be accountable or know what is happening. In today's newspapers there is another very disturbing report of the gross inadequacies of the present facilities in Dublin hospitals for the disposal of toxic waste material. For those reasons, I would be very grateful if the Leader would accede to my request on this matter.

I ask the Leader of the House to pass on to his colleague, the Minister for Communications, as a matter of urgency my concern at what can only be described as a mean approach to discount on stamps for Christmas cards. This is a time when people send glad tidings, and An Post should adopt a more generous approach to facilitate people, particularly those who are less well off.

Since there seems to be such a dearth of legislation, when the discussion on the role of the Seanad concludes would the Leader of the House consider taking motions for reform of the Seanad? It would make the Leader's life a lot easier if this House functioned the way it was supposed to. I was distressed to see that yesterday the Leader was accused of being held in contempt by the Government — I think that remark came from our bench. Senators speak of their frustrations and say the Seanad is being marginalised. One spoke about Mickey Mouse legislation. It has reached a terrible stage. I believe that it would make the Leader's life a lot easier——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question, Senator.

Will the Leader accept my suggestion instead of fobbing it off to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges? If that happens it will be light years before it is back here again.

Whatever we might think about our glorious and esteemed Leader, Senator Fallon, the last thing we would do would be to hold him in contempt. He has done the best job he can.

Last week I raised on the Order of Business the question of the Broadcasting Bill, as did many of my colleagues, and in the critical situation that was then facing us with the demise of Century Radio. According to this morning's newspapers, there has been a welcome rescheduling attempt and initiative by the banks and various financial institutions to ensure that there is an alternative broadcasting medium. Considering what happened in Century Radio and in the context of the Minister's proposals to bring forward broadcasting legislation in both Houses of the Oireachtas, will the Leader request the Minister for Communications to consider bringing that legislation into this House? It is vital that we have an alternative national news service and the fact that Century Radio have gone under and are now——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator, please ask a question.

Now that Century Radio are at the whim of the financial institutions——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Century Radio is not a matter for the House; it is a matter for the IRTC.

——I ask the Leader to ensure that there will not be a repeat of what happened last week.

Or what happened last year.

I hope we will have a viable alternative national news service. When I say that I am not, in any way, reflecting on the activities of RTE who have one of the most excellent news services in the world.

I tender my apologies to Senator Hederman. When I referred yesterday in the House to Mickey Mouse legislation I should, have respected the gender quota. There were actually two pieces of legislation — Mickey and Minnie Mouse legislation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not consider that appropriate to the Order of Business. Would the Senator put a question to the Leader of the House?

I support the call by my colleague, Senator Upton, for a debate on the disposal of waste and toxic materials. We need a national plan for waste management. This is necessary as the tipheads, certainly in Dublin, are running out of space. We do not have any means of proper incineration nor do we have any means of dealing with toxic waste. This is a very serious matter. We cannot pass it on to other countries. I ask the Leader to make time available for a debate on the matter.

I do not think we will have any substantial legislation this term, but could we have a programme of work organised for the coming term so that we will have a substantial body of legislation to deal with?

I support Senator Manning and ask the Leader of the House when he will have a debate on the banking system in view of the fact that the Ombudsman's annual report on the credit institutions, published today, outlines that 76 per cent of complaints from the general public dealt with banks and the banking system. Since the Leader, on 30 October and 6 November, committed himself to such a debate within three to four weeks, will we have this debate next week?

I support the call for a debate on the North of Ireland. It seems extraordinary, and I have said this on a number of occasions, that we are prevented from discussing this issue because of an apparent concern about the sensitivities in that part of the island. Sensitivities do not appear to be that delicate; they are still murdering people. We are abrogating our responsibility by not discussing the issue.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his position with regard to the question of a debate on the Middle East? I ask that in the light of his apparent willingness to consider a debate on the North of Ireland which resulted from the fact that this House repeatedly requested one and there was growing support for it. There is growing support for a debate on the Middle East. Will the Leader give time for this debate, particularly when we had the spectacle yesterday of a Minister gloating about concluding beef deals with a plenipotentiary called the Minister for Development and Jihad? I do not think he is to be complimented on that. He was a representative from——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question, please, Senator.

——one of the most corrupt, anti-democratic and repressive regimes on this planet. Have they learned nothing from their experiences in Iraq?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is not relevant.

I support the call made by Senator Neville and others for a debate on the banking system. In common with some other Members, I received a rather substantial public relations document from the banking institutions. Obviously, these institutions are concerned about the demands for a debate in the House. Senator O'Keeffe started the ball rolling. On at least two occasions the Leader promised a debate on the banking system. If possible, we should be given a definite indication today when that debate is likely to take place.

Does the Leader intend responding to the request I made yesterday regarding who precisely represents the public interest at the beef tribunal.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There was a ruling on that yesterday.

I am entitled to a response. For a number of weeks the public interest was like an unwanted orphan no one was prepared to adopt.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is a matter for the tribunal.

Would the Leader agree that the performance of his colleague, Senator Mooney, would make a cat laugh, to borrow my late esteemed colleague's phrase? Could I remind the Leader that since Senator Mooney voted for the guillotine on the Broadcasting Act last year, and voted for it, his hand-wringing in this House this morning is unacceptable.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are not talking about the Broadcasting Act now. I ask the Senator to put a question to the Leader of the House.

He should declare his vested interest in a certain radio station.

Did Senator Doyle ask a question?

I did. I asked if the Leader would agree with me that it would make a cat laugh.

I agree with Senator Norris in his call for a debate on the Middle East for a number of reasons, but especially because of the serious reports from Kuwait about the way people are being treated. Considering everything that went on, all the hullabaloo, the civil rights, etc. that were discussed before the conference, I believe it is only right that the West should make sure that people are properly looked after and their civil rights are respected. I would like — and here I totally disagree with the Senator — to congratulate the Government on their beef deal with Iran.

I miss Senator Ross from the back benches. He was my great friend. He said many a time that if the Leader were here until Christmas he could not give all the debates that were requested.

He is still on the back benches.

Senator Manning had better watch out. I think he is moving forward. Senator Manning asked about legislation between now and Christmas. We only have about three weeks left, 19 December is the day we have in mind to adjourn for the recess. As I understand it, we should have the Patents Bill, the Milk (Regulations) Supply Bill and the Criminal Damages Bill. In regard to new legislation which Senator Manning referred to, I am confident that in the next two or three weeks an important local Government Bill will be initiated in this House. I noted what he said regarding the Family Planning Bill; I will make inquiries with the Minister. He asked about the Maastricht Summit. I said yesterday that because of the importance of the summit we plan next week to have a two day debate starting at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday and resuming on Thursday from 10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reference was made to Senator O'Keeffe's crusade and I will continue to see if I can arrange a debate on the subject in which he is interested. I am anxious that we have such a debate and I indicated some weeks ago accordingly. Some difficulties were encountered along the way but, as far as I am concerned, I will continue to explore——

Were you got at?

I am never got at.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Fallon, without interruption, please.

Senator Howard referred to the banking system and also to the Goodman affair which I do not intend to comment on. Senators Eoin Ryan and Norris asked for a debate on the Middle East and that I will consider. Senator Neville who asked for a debate on the banking system. Senators Costello and Upton asked for a debate on the transport of toxic waste materials. I had not planned for that at the moment but I will consider it. Senator Mooney referred to the Broadcasting Bill and that is something I will explore.

I noted what Senator Cosgrave said regarding An Post. In so far as Senator Hederman is concerned, I always look forward to an easy life. My theory in life is that I prefer nourishment to punishment, but it does not worry me. I will continue to do my job as best I can and will continue to seek legislation for this House. That remains my commitment.

The B & I Bill was referred to by Senator Manning. My understanding is that the 1991 Bill will be introduced in early December. The sale of B & I, as I understand it, will not be completed until the necessary legislation has been enacted. It will be taken fairly quickly because it is important that this matter be approved before the Christmas recess.

Order of Business agreed to.