Order of Business.

Before announcing the Order of Business I am sure all Senators will join with me in welcoming the publication today of A New Framework for Agreement. We all hope it will prove to be just that, and will be seen as something which does not threaten and can be a framework within which all parties can seek to work out our problems. On foot of the publication of this document I propose that we have a lengthy debate on its contents. We can do so tomorrow or next Wednesday; my preference would be for next Wednesday so that we can reflect on the document but I will be guided by the views of other groups.

Today's Order of Business is Item 1 until 6 p.m. and Item 8, motion No. 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Item 8, motion No. 7, has been put down in the spirit of requests made by many Opposition Senators, including Senator Quinn and Senator Mooney, that this House be the first to have a discussion on votes for emigrants. It is not the final word on the subject; this motion is on the Order of Business to elicit the views of Members of the House. If there are any constructive proposals they will be taken on board.

I do not wish to indicate that any Senator is speaking too much but I find some Senators have gone overboard. I ask Senators to refrain from making speeches on the Order of Business. I do not mind short explanatory statements but let us not have long speeches.

With regard to Item 8, motion No. 7, Fianna Fáil strongly suggests that the issue be dealt with by an Oireachtas joint committee. We believe that is the way forward. We hope that will be agreed by this evening.

I also welcome the publication of A New Framework for Agreement which is up for discussion and hopefully for agreement. We, on this side, discussed the matter this morning and we would welcome a debate on this next Wednesday. We would suggest, Sir, that we sit extra hours on Wednesday next to ensure that every Senator who wishes to contribute to the debate on this most important document would have the opportunity.

Will the Leader give Government time to debate Item 4 on today's Order Paper? He made time available last week — and again tomorrow — to discuss the flooding disaster. Today's weather makes my point even stronger and we will be asking that he include it in his Order of Business for next week.

The Independent group have also considered A New Framework for Agreement and when it should be debated. We share the view that it is better to deal with this after reflection. There will be activities over the weekend, and responses over the next few days. A considered response next week is acceptable to us.

May I put forward two points which were raised and which we would ask be considered: first, that the debate be taken by the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste; that is important and would be in line with procedure here in dealing with such debates. Second — and this is important in the context of what the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have said publicly about the need for an understanding, as far as that is possible, on the document — that next week time would be provided for questions and answers as happened on a number of occasions in this House when dealing with major debates on education. It is not an aggressive question time we seek but questions for clarification. That would make the debate much easier. This is a very complicated document, there are layers within layers, and it would be useful if points could be clarified during the debate.

On this historic day I take this opportunity, on behalf of my party, to welcome the document. A New Framework for Agreement and to congratulate all who have put so much work into it over the years. You could forgive me for picking out the Tánaiste in particular in so far as he has been extremely active throughout the whole process, and I am delighted to be here on the day this historic document is published.

One of the points the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach made this morning was that all discussion should be constructive. There has always been constructive debate on Northern Ireland in this House and I support the view that next Wednesday would be appropriate for this discussion because it needs a great deal of reflection.

I too welcome the document, A New Framework for Agreement. We should acknowledge the work that has been done by members from all parties, in this country, in Britain and in the North. We regard this as an important milestone. I would agree with the Leader's suggestion that we wait until next week to debate the matter fully — and I would stress debate it fully because I believe adequate consideration should be given to it before we speak. As is frequently pointed out, we have a good history in this House of debating these matters in a dispassionate and balanced way.

The other matter I would like to see debated in the near future — it was raised last week and I raise it again this week — is the future of the Defence Forces. Now that we have the expert advisory group report, and it has very profound and deep implications for the future of the Defence Forces. I think Government time should be allocated to debate this important matter.

Last week time was made available for statements on the incidents which took place at Lansdowne Road at the Ireland/England soccer match. It is a matter of regret that there was not a Minister, or at least a junior Minister, attending in the House for those statements. Could we ensure, through the Leader or the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, that when matters of that gravity are being discussed in the House, there is somebody from the Government here to listen to us?

I attended the launching yesterday of the Operational Programme for Fisheries, 1994-99. I was disappointed with the programme and the amount of money being put aside for fishing. I ask the Leader of the House if a debate on that programme could be proposed as soon as possible?

I request the Leader of the House to raise with the Minister for Health the possibility of introducing the White Paper on mental health as soon as possible. The Green Paper on mental health was published in June 1992 and a large number of submissions were received. Three years is long enough period to have it debated. I would like to see the White Paper brought forward and debated in both Houses as soon as possible.

I thank the Leader of the House for his quick response to the motion on emigrant voting. However, that does not indicate my full support for the Government's proposals. I am also pleased that he is prepared to consider the proposal from this side of the House on the possibility of discussing it further at joint committee level. As I pointed out at the time — many others, including Senator Manning, would share this view — there are extremely complex areas that have to be discussed and decided upon before any decision is taken on the admission of extra Senators.

I also have a question in the context of comments the Leader made last week and again following a request as to when the Joint Committee on Broadcasting will meet. I do not wish to press the Leader on this point but it is an important committee. I am aware that changes are taking place in all House committees due to the transition in recent months but I would be grateful if he could expedite this matter and have the committee formed and meet as quickly as possible.

Can the Leader give any indication when the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will be publishing his Green Paper on broadcasting? There was a substantive story on the front page of the Irish Independent last Monday about possible proposals that will be contained in that paper. It would not be in the best interests of the future of broadcasting and to the stability of our national broadcasting network if selective leaks appear in the media in advance of the publication of this important Green Paper. I ask the Leader, with all the respect that I can command, to convey to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the need for the publication of this paper as quickly as possible.

You have made four points, Senator.

They are important points.

I accept that but there are others who wish to speak.

Both sides now.

They are legitimate questions to the Leader.

On your initiative, a Chathaoirligh, and that of your colleagues on the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, you circulated a document on the mode of behaviour in this House. While I do not want to appear stuffy, adhering to those rules of procedure can only enhance the status of this House.

I thank the Leader for affording time so quickly for the discussion of the document A New Framework for Agreement. He is wise to postpone discussing it until next Wednesday when we all will have had time to think about and digest it. It will allow me the time to go home to Enniskillen and talk to both of my friends — I would like to think that I still have two — to assess their reactions.

The word "debate" has been used in connection with this matter. Does this imply a division, a vote or does it constitute statements on A New Framework for Agreement?

I join with the Leader of the House, yourself and the Members in welcoming A New Framework for Agreement. I live eight miles from the Border and have some experience of the horror and terrible destruction of the last 25 years. In the Border counties, we have been quietly celebrating since last August. We now hope that today's historic development will move matters forward. We are obviously hoping for great economic development in the Border corridor and the northern six counties to help us over the next period. I look forward to next week's discussion.

I support the call for bringing forward the White Paper on mental health. It is appropriate that this long overdue White Paper be published now. The psychiatric services are being administered under legislation approximately 50 years old.

Would the Leader of the House be prepared to ask the Minister for Health to come to the House and make a statement on the inquest that took place in London on Kelly Fitzgerald or hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death because a number of questions remain unanswered? Those questions need to be answered so the public can be assured that such cases will not happen again.

I thank you, Sir, and your office for the circular on decorum which we all received. I shall certainly attempt to abide by it. I hope it will also extend to all areas of the House, including Ministers——

I thought the Senator drafted it.

——who are frequently extremely distracting when one is trying to address them. I seriously think this might be effectively drawn to their attention.

I ask the Leader of the House whether there is any machinery for communicating with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, who addressed this House and allowed a certain number of questions from the floor of this House on both the national and international dimensions of her Government policy. I ask in particular about the operation of the blasphemy laws and she gave a very placatory answer. I ask the Leader of the House whether there is a mechanism for transmitting to the Pakistani Government, in the light of that apparently misleading answer, our grave concern at the case of a now 14 year old boy and his uncle; the boy was arrested three years ago and I understand may be sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy which consisted of distributing Christian literature. We are entitled, as a House, to be concerned about this.

I ask also if time would be given — I am sure all sides of the House are concerned and we have raised this matter in the past — to debate the question of East Timor. There are two Items on the Order Paper — Item 2 and Item 5. I ask particularly about this today because last week a young human rights activist was arrested in East Timor by the Indonesian authorities for making statements on human rights as reported in The Irish Times. Simultaneously a case is going on in Strasbourg——

You are going on at length.

——where the criminal operations of the Australian regime are being exposed in a forum of international law.

There is a third matter in which I wish to implicate you, sir. You very kindly sent me the text of a resolution of the Portuguese Parliament which forms the basis of the resolution — this has just been passed by the Portuguese Parliament — and it would be appropriate for us to have a debate on this issue.

Finally, I welcome the decision to have a debate next week on the framework document which we all welcome.

I did not circulate any Minister of the previous Government and I have no intention of circulating any Minister of this Government.

I ask the Leader to consider the results of the national youth survey which showed an appalling lack of knowledge among young people of what we, as politicians, are all about. If the survey results are true throughout the country, it shows that one in ten young people know their local TD. I wonder how many of them know us? On that basis this issue would warrant urgent debate in this House. This has serious repercussions for the future of politics and I ask the Leader to give time for a debate so that we might come up with some solutions to address that problem.

Last week several Members asked for a debate on banking, an issue which affects everybody, whether they like it or not, and it is time we addressed it in this House.

Can the Leader do anything about the large pothole, which is flooded, at the main gate to this House?

It is definitely not on the Order of Business.

It was so bad this morning that a newly wed duck and drake could have had their honeymoon in it.

Full marks.

Senator Finneran was going to raise that.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, today is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning. This is a most historic day. Many people deserve our congratulations, not least Seán Lemass who took the first journey to Stormont in the modern era. I am proud of the role my party leader has played in this process, beginning in the early 1980s with Dr. FitzGerald and continuing with Deputy Albert Reynolds, who will be remembered with particular honour for the role he played in this process. The Leader has responded very rapidly to the request for a debate. It is well to remember all those who created the conditions whereby Irish men and women of whatever ethos and background can today look forward and hope for an island of Ireland in which we can all live peacefully and happily. As an aside to Senator Gordon Wilson, not alone has he two friends but he has friends the length and breadth of this country and will have for a long time to come.

I also welcome the framework document and congratulate the people involved. I intended to mention the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, but Senator Magner stole my thunder and he named others who deserve to be mentioned. Deputy Reynolds deserves mention for the part he played initially.

I ask the Leader to afford time for a debate on the livestock export trade because it is under threat. I read in the newspaper today that the EU Ministers' discussion yesterday was deadlocked. It is very important that this trade continues; it is worth £3 million to this country and employs about 800 people. I appeal to the Leader to give time — Government time rather than Private Members' time if possible — to debate this item.

In years to come our grandchildren may look back on 22 February 1994 and say that on this day Ireland changed. I hope we will all be proud of this day. I also welcome the framework document. It is likely that this will entail a referendum on Articles of the Constitution.

Is it possible to find time for a discussion on the revision of the bail laws? I understand the situation is horrific — I will not go into details now — regarding the inability of keeping somebody in jail when there is a danger that person will commit another crime. Since the Supreme Court said in 1966 that there are only very limited conditions under which somebody may be refused bail, it may be necessary to have a referendum on this. If we are going to have a number of referenda, it may be time to debate the revision of the bail laws now rather than later so that all these referenda can be held on the same day.

I support the call by Senator Maloney and Senator Finneran for the publication of a White Paper on mental health. I understand that a major international congress on mental health is to take place in Dublin next August and it would be fitting if the White Paper was published and discussed before then. Having Acts pertaining to mental health which were enacted in 1945 does not look very good for us as the host country. I urge the Leader to ask the Minister for Health to publish the White Paper as soon as possible.

I would ask the Leader to give Government time to debate an amendment to the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, which I have circulated on behalf of my colleagues. As the Leader will be aware, there is a crisis and an urgency to deal with this legislation. I urge him to indicate what Government time he will give to this as a matter of priority.

I join with Senator Dardis in seeking an early debate on the Defence Forces to alleviate the serious concern of members and their families. Ample time should be given for such a debate as soon as possible.

I join with other speakers in saying that today is an historic day and I am pleased that we will have an opportunity to discuss the important framework document. Given that there is such cooperation in this House on all sides I welcome the fact that the Leader has decided to organise a discussion on this document at the earliest opportunity. Next week is the right time so that everybody will have had an opportunity to analyse it and think it over before making statements.

Senator David Norris mentioned two important matters concerning Pakistan and East Timor, and I wish to add a third, the problem in Chechnya. We have read about the loss of lives there and I hope the Leader, in conjunction with other interested parties, will organise another full debate on human rights.

I also hope the Leader can let us know when we will have amending legislation to the Road Traffic Act, 1993, and I would be obliged if he could let us have some news on that before the tourist season. This is a matter which has been mentioned in this House on a regular basis since we resumed.

Before calling the Leader I wish to add my voice in support of the framework document which has an obvious potential for greatness. I congratulate all concerned in bringing it to this stage.

I thank Senators for their agreement on the arrangements for next Wednesday's debate. It is wise to have a period of reflection before we discuss the document, as well as taking into account some of the issues which will be raised over the coming days. Next Wednesday an effort will be made to ensure that all Senators who wish to participate will be given a chance to do so.

Item 4 concerns Senator Daly's Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Bill and I compliment him on producing it. When I was on the far side of the House I always said that a Private Member's Bill should, at least, be given the courtesy of a Second Reading and I have not changed my view. I am therefore suggesting — and perhaps the Whips can discuss this — that the Bill begin in Fianna Fáil Private Members' time next Wednesday evening and on Thursday I will make Government time available for the continuation of Second Stage. If that is acceptable I will go ahead along those lines. As regards the point raised by Senator O'Toole, I will try to ensure that the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste will be present; I am sure one or other of them would wish to be here. I will raise the point of taking questions and I am sure they would agree with that, but if we have a long day and everybody wants to get in, there may be a conflict. However, I will put the question anyway.

Senator Dardis raised the point about the absence of the Minister during statements last week.


He has gone to meet the Minister.

When I began to reply I was not aware of the situation, though it is interesting. We have had statements in this House before, taken at short notice, where the ability of the House to react quickly to a crisis may well conflict with the ability of a Minister to be present. I thought there was a general view that we should go ahead and have statements whether a Minister was present. I did not put pressure on either Minister to attend last week but I reported back what was said and what was reported in the newspapers. Senator Magner's statement formed part of The Irish Times editorial the next day, so the debate was noted. There will occasionally be a conflict between our ability to react quickly by having statements and the ability of the Minister to be present. That perhaps explains the situation.

Senator Fitzgerald mentioned fisheries. There will be a debate in this House on this matter on Thursday, 9 March, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, will take the debate and he has indicated that he will be happy to answer questions at the end of that session.

I will pass on the case for the publication of a White Paper on mental health which Senators Maloney, Finneran and Honan made. I did not follow up the point on the broadcasting committee last week but I will try to do so today. I will also pass on the question of the Green Paper and the leaks to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I am glad Senator Mooney noted the request from Committee on Procedure and Privileges for a greater sense of decorum in the House.

Despite being shouted down by my colleagues.

This includes the decorum of Ministers and I will pass this on if I get the opportunity. Senator Finneran raised the question of the inquest. I am not sure if it would be appropriate for the House to have a debate on an inquest and a specific case. However, I agree that very serious issues need to be raised and I will take advice as to the most appropriate way to do so. I have great reservations about the House discussing the details of a particular case.

Senator Norris raised an interesting question on the mechanisms open to this House whereby we can convey our abhorrence of what is happening in places such as Pakistan. Last week I conveyed to the Department of Foreign Affairs the points raised by Senator Lanigan on the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. We do not really have a mechanism in our Standing Orders, of which I am aware, whereby we can act in a fairly speedy and emphatic way to make our concerns known.

I suggest a fax machine.

I thank the Senator. I will listen to his suggestions when we have our debate shortly on the reform of our procedures which is overdue, and I hope to put it in place fairly soon. We are also long overdue an omnibus debate on foreign affairs to include areas such as East Timor, Chechnya, Pakistan and others.

Senator Gallagher raised the point — I am not sure it was relevant to the Order of Business — on the national youth survey. I am not sure how Senators fared but people knew very little about MEPs and they cannot say they have not been getting publicity of late. I am not sure publicity is the answer.

Banking is on the agenda and we will try to find time for that fairly soon. Senator Farrell's pothole is something I cannot sort out today. Senator Kiely raised the question of the livestock export trade. It is becoming increasingly topical and I will see if we can arrange a discussion on it.

Senator Quinn mentioned the bail laws. There are a huge number of very important topics coming up and the bail laws is one which has been around for a very long time and is a cause of concern to all parties. Perhaps it is suitable for the Independents' Private Members' Business or we could arrange another discussion.

On the Defence Forces, I am asking the Minister to come in at the earliest opportunity. He was here last week on an Adjournment debate and addressed some of the issues raised by Senator Lanigan. However, I have asked him to come in as soon as possible to discuss these issues.

Order of Business agreed to.