Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 14 Nov 1996

Vol. 149 No. 7

Order of Business.

Today's Order of Business is item 1, Second Stage of the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996, which will be completed today. The question of a sos will be decided between the Whips. If the debate is likely to be concluded close to lunchtime there will not be a sos.

The Order of Business is satisfactory. I was confused by the Leader's answer yesterday regarding sitting times during the week of the bail referendum. Will he give Senators an update on the matter? As Christmas approaches, a plan should be drawn up regarding what debates will take place before then. In particular, Fianna Fáil wants debates on local government, the fishing industry and safety at sea. Will he draw up a list of dates for these debates?

Has the Leader an update on the status of the debate on the Seanad? This was discussed on yesterday's Order of Business but, perhaps, the Leader has news for us today regarding what shape it will take or whether it should be delayed. As I said yesterday, a letter suggesting a delay until before Christmas or early in the new year should be sent to Deputy O'Keeffe.

The Order of Business is agreed. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice what is the status of the Refugee Act, 1996, which was passed here months ago? There has been a considerable amount of confusion regarding refugees over the past few months.

Will the Leader request the Minister for Defence to address the House in connection with the growing unrest in the Army? The headlines in yesterday's newspapers were alarming —"Conference told Defence Force officers have lost confidence in officials" and "Army declares war on accountants". There is nothing about unopened letters. I appeal to the Minister to explain what is happening in the Army because we do not want a situation similar to that in the Garda Síochána, which has been divided on many issues for a number of years.

Will the Leader ask the Minister concerned to consider the implications of what appears to be a contest as to which party will best handle law and order in this jurisdiction? I was dismayed when I came across the Border to see a huge poster claiming that one political party can lock up more criminals than another. All one has to do is look at Great Britain to find out what happens when law and order becomes a political football. The first casualty is the central core of democracy which is people are innocent until proven guilty. This has been abused to some extent.

I am concerned about the Refugee Bill, 1996 and I have asked the Leader about it on one or two occasions. I am sure he has made his best endeavours, but he will recall that when the Bill was debated, it was stressed that it was urgent and would be in force quickly. It is unacceptable that a proper explanation for the non implementation of this Bill has not been forthcoming to this House. I want clarification on that matter.

My second and principal point relates to the debate on the bail referendum. This is an important amendment to the Constitution but, while this House will debate it over two days next week, it is letting itself down to a certain extent because this is the biggest constitutional change for a long time, as Senator McAughtry said, and it has huge implications. If we debate this issue only days before the referendum, the effect of our debate on public opinion will be lost and dissipated. We need a substantial wide ranging debate and, seeing that some Labour Party Senators have decided to vote against the referendum——

We are not discussing the matter now.

——I want a statement from the Labour Party Senators whether they are supporting the referendum.

That is not relevant to today's Order of Business.

They forgot to put the Senator on the posters too.

On what basis does the Senator say that?

The Minister for Justice came into this House on behalf of the Government and asked us to support the bail referendum.

I understand that the Senator is seeking a debate on the issue.

I am seeking the full support of the Labour Party for the bail referendum.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

I regard this as a matter of great seriousness.

I have ruled you out of order. The political views of any party are not a matter for the Order of Business.

The Senator must be annoyed he is not on the poster.

If this referendum is lost——

The Senator will resume his seat.

——the Labour Party will have to explain——

Senator Mulcahy, I have ruled you out of order.

——why it has refused to come solidly behind an essential part——

That is not a matter for the Order of Business and I ask you to resume your seat. I have ruled you out of order, Senator.

I specifically asked the Minister for Justice if the Labour Party was supporting the bail referendum.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business and I have ruled it out of order.

Of course it is a matter for the Order of Business.

Absolutely not. The views of any political party are not a matter for the Order of Business.

I am sorry, a Chathaoirligh, but I feel I was misled. I was informed——

Senator Mulcahy, I am now asking you to resume your seat and respect the ruling of the Chair.

Will the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs come into this House to explain the Labour Party policy on the bail referendum?

On a point of order——

Senator Mulcahy, I have asked you to resume your seat.

——five times you have asked the Senator to resume his seat.

This is very important.

Resume your seat, Senator Mulcahy.

For you, I will.

On a point of information, the Senator has made an unsubstantiated allegation about Members of this House and I want that clarified.

I have ruled him out of order.

Now that a board is being set up to look after the courts system, I want to know whether the Minister considers this board should take over the running of courthouses from local authorities. The cost of courthouses are a big expense on local authorities for which they receive no remuneration. Many of them are grand old buildings on which a great deal of money must be spent to keep them in a reasonable state of repair.

We are not discussing the matter now.

Will the Minister tell the House whether this new board will take over responsibility for courthouses?

Will the Minister for Justice intervene in the case of the island woman who is in prison? It would appear that beating up a detective, taking his gun and smashing his nose is a lesser offence now than having a rooster at home.

That is not a matter for today's Order of Business.

I welcome the decision to transfer a number of prisoners from the United Kingdom on foot of legislation which this House passed some time ago and compliment all those who have been involved in those negotiations, especially Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív and some Members of the Labour Party who have been involved in the campaign.

Do not forget me. I am here too.

There are also a number of other prisoners awaiting transfer. Will the Leader take up this matter with the Minister for Justice and inquire how she might expedite the transfer of further prisoners, especially two prisoners from County Clare who are awaiting transfer?

The second issue I want to raise refers to the confirmation yesterday that APC does not now propose to create 300 jobs in Gillogue and Clonlara, County Clare.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business. There are other ways of raising that issue.

On a number of occasions I raised the possibility with the Leader of getting the Minister for Enterprise and Employment to come here to explain how a number of announcements have been made regarding the establishment of new industry and thousands of jobs but they have not materialised. This very serious issue has been raised by the unions also.

I am sure there are other ways of raising that issue. It is not a matter for the Order of Business.

It is especially serious for the people of Limerick city, Clonlara, County Clare, and east County Clare and I am disappointed that Deputy Kemmy, who has been so vocal in the past about employment in the mid-west region, has not said anything about the loss of jobs at Verbatim.

The Senator can raise that matter in other ways. It does not arise on today's Order of Business.

It is disgraceful carry on.

I welcome the transfer yesterday of the three prisoners from Great Britain to Ireland. Five prisoners have now been transferred since the legislation was enacted one year ago and I think it would be appropriate to ask the Minister to come here to discuss the conditions in which Irish prisoners are being held in British jails, and how last year's legislation is working.

In view of the fact that Cork beef is now banned from the Russian market, I wonder if that attitude has permeated to the Departments because the Minister for Enterprise and Employment is afraid to travel to Cork. Is he afraid to contract BSE because there have been no announcements of jobs in Cork for quite some time?

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

I want to point out that Cork is safe and it would openly welcome even an announcement if it materialised in the short-term.

The 750 jobs at Dell in Limerick are welcome.

In reply to Senator Fitzgerald, the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I agree that I probably confused myself yesterday on arrangements for the week of the referendum. Obviously, the House will not sit on the day of the referendum as Members must be in their constituencies; I am sure all Members will want to vote.

On the question of dates for promised debates, the debate on the White Paper on science and technology will be on 12 December, the debate on the currency is confirmed for 4 December and I would hope to have a date for the debate on the financing of local government today. The Minister is out of the country at present which is why I did not have that date yesterday. Those dates are pretty definite and I will talk to Senator Fitzgerald about the debates on safety at sea and fishing.

Senator Fitzgerald also raised the question of our submission to the review group on the Constitution with reference to the Seanad. Broad agreement has been reached with the group leaders in this House that we will have a series of Wednesday morning debates, which will probably begin next Wednesday week, on the future and role of the Seanad. Each group would be advised to see how best it might contribute to that debate.

I have spoken to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, the Chairman of the committee, and he welcomes this. To a certain extent, this debate will be part of our contribution to the work. Not everybody wants to write a letter but Members can put their contributions on the record and these will become part of the discussion. Deputy O'Keeffe will either attend these debates or have a member of the secretariat attend them so that the views of all Members will be taken into account by the committee. I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that we should not rush this matter. We will take enough time so that everybody who wants to have a say can contribute in a considered and measured way. I thank my colleagues in other parties for their co-operation on this matter.

Senator Henry raised the question of the Refugee Act and Senator Mulcahy raised the question of the Refugee Bill; it is the Refugee Act. Approximately five orders, a number of which have been signed, are required to bring the legislation into effect and it is hoped that most of them will be implemented by the end of the current year. The specific information requested by the Senator is not available but——

I hope the orders were not lost within the Department.

They were not, the officials of the Department are dealing admirably with this matter. I undertake to provide more specific information on the dates on which the other orders will come into effect.

Senator Byrne raised the issue of the Army and the Defence Forces. He gave me prior notice of his intention to raise this matter and I contacted the Minister for Defence who gave a commitment to come to the House to debate it before the end of the session.

The essence of Senator McAughtry's contribution made sense, but it does not require comment. That is more than I can say about Senator Mulcahy's contribution. It is not my intention to make time available for a debate on bail before the Referendum because that issue has already been fully discussed. Members who feel strongly about this matter — that includes everyone on this side of the House — should take the debate to their local radio stations, newspapers and parishes.

Hear, hear.

The Leader promised to make time available for a debate on the bail laws.

I agree with Senator Farrell and I hope the legislation includes provision that local court houses will not be a charge on local authorities. Senator Daly raised the issue of the transfer of prisoners. I pay tribute to Senators Neville and Maloney and Fianna Fáil Members who have consistently pursued this issue. I hope it marks the beginning of a trend and it will do good if it can be implemented more effectively than in the past.

The issue of specific employment matters is more appropriate to an Adjournment Debate. As promised, however, I will make time available for a debate on employment policy.

Order of Business agreed to.