Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 8 Nov 2006

Vol. 185 No. 2

Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 2 — Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2006, Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 5 p.m.; and No. 25, motion 9, from the Fine Gael group, on telecommunication structures, to be taken from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.

One of the key terms of reference for the Morris tribunal that was established by both Houses of the Oireachtas was to report urgently on matters contained in the terms of reference. Over four months ago the Morris tribunal produced a report and I have repeatedly asked both the Leader and the Acting Leader on the Order of Business when the Government intends to have a debate on the clear conclusions and recommendations set out by Mr. Justice Morris following the publication of his report of four months ago. It is unacceptable that the Oireachtas asks a member of the Judiciary to do a piece of work and we put it in abeyance for four or five months. This House has a responsibility to debate this issue.

I endorse the recommendations published yesterday by the Garda inspectorate and by Senator Maurice Hayes's implementation committee concerning civilianisation of the force and ensuring a more efficient promotions structure in the Garda Síochána. If we take these matters seriously, as we must, we have to debate the Morris tribunal and its report and put in place a system which will ensure the mistakes made in Donegal are not repeated in other parts of the country. I again ask the Acting Leader when the House will debate this matter.

On a similar issue to the urgent matter raised by Senator Brian Hayes I would like to draw the attention of the House to No. 23 on the Order Paper. It has been on the Order Paper for approximately 18 months even though it was introduced as a matter of urgency. We were told it followed from a need to deal with this matter with great dispatch and we established a joint sub-committee.

I wish to refer to the process without getting into the details of the case it deals with. When we set up the sub-committee we were told it was a matter of urgency and I said that the sub-committee would be left to carry the can. The members of the sub-committee are hard-working and have given much time to it. No doubt there are difficult circumstances but I am not interested in that. I want to know where we stand with it. What was the rush about and what has happened in the meantime? Can we get a formal report from the sub-committee on what is happening?

The sub-committee will be blamed for the fact that we did not have legislation in place, as we were told six years ago, to deal with this type of issue. We had possible legislation before us but we did not deal with it. How long will this go on? What will happen if it is not dealt with before the election? This is purely a process issue. One can hardly establish another committee after the election. It raises issues of double jeopardy. Justice delayed is justice denied.

We had better face up to this issue. We have got it completely wrong. Some other method should be found to deal with it as it is going nowhere.

I suggest we have a debate on Iraq, with particular reference to the sentence just passed on the former president, Saddam Hussein.

Hear, hear.

While there is no doubt in any of our minds he deserves punishment greater than anyone can inflict, we need to ask ourselves whether the carrying out of the execution would prevent or contribute to more deaths or whether what for him would be un mauvais quart d’heure — as the French call it — which in certain people’s eyes would give him the crown of martyrdom, is really in the international interest. There is both a matter of principle here, since all of us on this Continent are against the death penalty, and a pragmatic question as to whether it would serve any useful purpose. It is to be recommended that there should be an international place of detention for persons such as Saddam Hussein, while I accept it might be too great a burden for the Iraqi regime to carry. Nonetheless, while there is still adequate time, European countries, including Ireland, should debate and perhaps give advice based on history as to whether the richly deserved retribution is the intelligent or moral thing to do.

I do not wish to elaborate on what Senator O'Toole said, except to ask him to be patient. As a member of the sub-committee, along with two other Members of the House, we have put a good deal of effort into this in the past two years and we hope to conclude our business. That is all I shall say in this regard. We have never mentioned outside what was discussed in the sub-committee and it puts us in an invidious position when a Member of this House raises the issue.

As someone who comes from Limerick I am ashamed of what is happening in that area. It is sad and regrettable. I recognise that certain work is being done as regards trying to improve the situation in Moyross. However, what is now evolving in Limerick is a shocking commentary, where a 15 year old shot a boy aged five who comes from another estate in the city, in the South Hill area, which has had its share of problems. A young person of 15 carried an automatic gun with cartridges on a crowded bus going into the city last Sunday and was subsequently arrested. The sequence to this is that the godfathers of crime in the Limerick area are now using minors to carry out shooting offences within our community and that is a shocking indictment.

I compliment the gardaí on the work they are trying to do and I congratulate Mr. John Fitzgerald, the former Dublin City Manager, who comes from Limerick, and who recently has been appointed to investigate the problem. I want maximum resources put in place in Limerick to stifle what is happening, which is doing a great deal of harm to the community and frightening a great many good meaning people in the estates affected. We have to remove from circulation the people responsible and the sooner we do so the better.

I support Senator Mansergh as regards the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. It is regrettable this is the level of justice people believe ought to be meted out. The last time the death penalty was used in Ireland was in 1954. It is not that long ago and people remember it. The House should pass a motion, hold a debate and condemn outright this sentence. There is no doubt the man created appalling atrocities, but there is no justification for seeing him hanged in front of the world. This will do nothing for the cause of justice or to stop the war on terror.

I am very happy to agree strongly with my colleague, Senator Mansergh, who called for a debate on Iraq, particularly in the light of the death sentence passed on Saddam Hussein. I have a long record over 20 years, as the Cathaoirleach knows, of opposing Saddam Hussein on human rights issues. However, it is not a coincidence that the announcement of the death sentence came just in the final moments of the American elections. President Bush has a habit, as he had even as Governor of Texas, of creating a few executions pour encourager les voters. I expect my honourable colleagues in Fianna Fáil will agree, although they have not said so, that it is a vitiation of the whole legal process. The court was established by an edict from Mr. Paul Bremner and the rules of evidence were interfered with. There was supposed to be an international conference to redress this, but it was scrapped. The government ministers prejudiced the trial by pronouncing him guilty and saying they were going to kill him before it started. One judge had to withdraw because of American pressure. Three of his attorneys were murdered. A trial judge was removed last week because they thought he was too sympathetic. It is a dreadful abandonment of all the principles of a fair trial, even for monsters. Senator Mansergh’s suggestion of some type of internment camp for these monsters is very important. It is also significant, in my opinion, that the Americans again resisted any attempt to bring it under the auspices of the International Court of Justice. Of course they did because the final point I want to make——

All of these matters will be points to be made by the Senator in the debate.

I am using these points as an argument to support Senator Mansergh's call for a debate. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are guilty of precisely the same crimes of which they are accusing Saddam Hussein, the use of chemical weapons, the mass murder of 650,000 civilians, the use of torture and all of these things. Please let us have a debate on this matter.

I want to raise a final matter, namely, that there should be a debate on the GAA. As a taxpayer——

No, we cannot have that.

It is a wonderful institution, but as a taxpayer, I strongly object to my money being used to fund the type of disgraceful exhibition of——

It is close to the Senator's heart.

It is a disgrace. The Senator should grow up. We are living in the American empire, after all.

The Senator is being irrelevant.

As a taxpayer, I do not want my money used to fund a disgraceful exhibition, performed in front of 20,000 children.

Order, please, order. The Senator is being irrelevant.

The GAA regards the taxpayer as a rich tax cow and we are entitled to decent standards.

The Senator is out of order.

That is the situation and the Cathaoirleach knows it. It is just because his voters are involved——

It is a long way from Baghdad to Croke Park, and he started so well.

I support Senator Mansergh. I also ask the Leader to convey the thanks of the House, since the European Union and Ireland, by extension, issued a very strong condemnation of the death penalty sentence. Tensions are running very high in Iraq, as I am sure Members are aware. Essentially, the Shia community is delighted at the sentence and it has had the opposite impact on the Sunnai community. In the context of a debate on Iraq, it should be noted that the country is running into civil war. There is currently a television strand running on Channel 4, which I commend to Members. It shows in great detail the breakdown of communities in Iraq. Undoubtedly, there is now a substantial amount of evidence in support of allegations that members of the Iraqi Administration are fomenting sectarian civil war within the various communities. We have gone beyond the point when the so-called coalition of the willing is there for the purpose of bringing peace and prosperity. There is a real need for Parliaments such as this and others within the European Union to examine, in so far as we can with the help of our relevant Minister, what is going on in Iraq and how we can get ourselves out of this morass.

Finally, I welcome the fact that in recent days the House of Commons has finally pardoned the Shot at Dawn volunteers. I believe this to be a landmark decision. I ask the Acting Leader to convey the thanks of all to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and his Department, who in a sense 18 months ago acted as a catalyst towards seeing this day arrive, when they released the report which was forensically detailed, and to Mr. Peter Mulvaney, the Shot at Dawn co-ordinator——

And Mr. Des Browne.

——and of course my friend and colleague, Senator Brian Hayes. It is a landmark judgment that people thought would never happen after such a long time. It must bring great comfort to the surviving families.

I echo Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on the interim report of the Morris tribunal. It has been published for quite a long time and we are in danger of receiving the next interim report from Mr. Justice Morris before having discussed the current report. That is not good practice. The important subject matter is worthy of debate in this House.

Regarding the matter raised by Senator O'Toole and responded to——

The House will not dwell on it. We will wait for the report.

I assure the Cathaoirleach I was not about to dwell on it. Perhaps such matters could also be covered by an interim report. I am prepared to be patient.

The Privacy Bill was mentioned in the Dáil yesterday. The Minister indicated that further consultation was proposed, as confirmed by the Leader a few weeks ago. Does this indicate a greater priority being accorded to it? What has cropped up in the meantime?

It would be appropriate if we had a debate about tribunals, their progress so far and their usefulness in the future. In many cases they have served their purpose, allowing us to change rules and to ensure that what happened in the past does not happen again. In some cases, they have no relevance in our society other than to make millionaires out of junior barristers and easy copy for lazy journalists.

I call for a debate following recent commentary in the media from certain quarters about drink driving. I completely disassociate my party from a comment by certain political interests.

A member of Senator MacSharry's party supported him.

We need a debate on the matter because there are serious issues in rural Ireland that we must take on board. It is not well known that people are at risk the next morning. We must raise awareness in this area.

I am not a frequent contributor to debates on Iraq. However, it is a no-brainer to seek to kill someone in pursuit of justice anywhere in the world, especially in Iraq.

I support calls by Senator Brian Hayes for a debate in respect of the two reports published yesterday, those of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Garda Síochána advisory group. The former refers to the need for civilian support staff to release gardaí for operational duties. It considers the potential risk of disproportionate emphasis placed on headquarters and specialised units to the detriment of uniformed police operation. It calls for greater and more effective uniformed police visibility and notes that uniformed police are the lifeblood of the organisation. It also calls for an immediate acknowledgement of uniformed police field operations.

I interpret that as referring to the need to return to gardaí on the beat working in communities. The Garda Síochána has been heading in the opposite direction in recent years. The number of community gardaí in the areas around where I live, Lucan and Clondalkin, has been slashed. In Clondalkin it dropped from 16 to nine last year. One can see the effects of this. Crime and anti-social behaviour are out of hand in these communities and I seek a reversal of the trend, now that it has been backed up by these two reports. The Labour Party calls for community garda to be a promotional rank. Ms Kathleen O'Toole's report shows that gardaí see specialised units as a promotion route rather than ordinary policing duties. We must change that.

I support calls for a debate on the Middle East. Today, 18 people were killed in Beit Hanoun. For those of us who strongly support Israel and her right to thrive and survive, it is sad to see the response to a single rocket attack kill 18 people.

Hear, hear.

There is no difference between Palestinian children's shoes in the rubble and Jewish children's shoes in the rubble. Both incidents are sickening and the public is outraged.

As a pro-life supporter I am opposed to the death sentence. Not only does it not serve the purpose intended, it is counter-productive. It is the soft, weak option. One may be executed within months instead of spending a lifetime in prison. This month, the International Criminal Court Bill was passed by this House. Its purpose was that any person who commits genocide must answer to a court, sooner or later. I would prefer to see Saddam Hussein locked up in The Hague for the extent of his life, answering the questions for the thousands he has murdered.

In the debate on the Middle East we should discuss the prospect, which we hope to see soon, of the US troops returning to base and a thriving democracy taking root in Iraq. It is sad to note, as Senator Mooney stated, that some are trying to entice the Iraqis to engage in sectarianism. Europe has seen such carnage. In the past 60 years we have lived under the Pax Americana. No matter what we say about the US, it came to the aid of Europe twice. I look forward to the day when Iraq lives under that peace.

I oppose the Order of Business for the reason I outlined last week. The Child Care (Amendment) Bill will have amendments made to it in the Dáil, arising from the Ferns Report, after it passes this House. These are most serious and deserve the scrutiny of both Houses, not the scrutiny of one House and the rubber-stamping of the second House. This is not the way to conduct business and it is crazy to pass a Bill that we already know is incomplete and will be changed in the Dáil.

Today's address by the European Commission ambassador to the US, Mr. John Bruton, was excellent. Are there any plans to invite the current President of the United States to address both Houses?

The Senator must be joking.

I know Senator Norris would have plenty of questions for him.

Plenty of questions, such as why he has not been impeached.

He received 58 million votes in the last election, the highest vote any US president ever received.

Is Senator Browne sure of that?

He is democratically elected and it is protocol that US presidents are invited. Can the Acting Leader find out what is the situation? We could consider this issue.

I would welcome it and would support Senator Browne.

It would be a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

There will be a referendum on the rights of children. Could we also have a referendum on the right of every citizen to proper health care? This matter has been raised many times and it seems crazy that it is not the case at present. We should enshrine it in the Constitution that every citizen in the State is entitled to proper health care.

This morning I listened to Today FM, a station that has played a constructive role in communicating the message on road safety. I was disappointed at the language and name-calling used by the presenter of the show. Everyone is entitled to different views. It does not give one the right to describe people in disparaging terms because one disagrees with them. It is better to stick to the arguments and expressing one's views. The presenter in question did no service——

We have no control over the language——

In a democracy people should not be afraid of free speech. One's opinion is one's own business and one should deal with the issues raised but not start name-calling, as happened this morning.

I agree with Senator Browne's point on the Child Care (Amendment) Bill. He is right to oppose the Order of Business. The Bill will be significantly amended in the other House and it is not right that we are expected to rubber stamp it here today without fully discussing amendments to be made later.

I am concerned about the plight of middle-aged and elderly men in the countryside who often find themselves with significant housing problems and live in prefabricated buildings. I have been presented with a number of cases in Kilkenny recently and know of cases in other counties in which these people are given lowest priority in the local authority housing strategy. Many live in deplorable conditions. It is unacceptable that this continues to be the case. Will the Acting Leader invite the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, with responsibility for housing, to the House to explain what action the Government and local authorities intend to take to ensure that these people are better looked after?

I support the call made by Senator MacSharry for a review, update and progress report on each of the tribunals. I agree too with his comments on the overrun on costs, which is a scandal. There have been previous requests for this in the House. I am bemused by the reluctance to have a debate and seek such progress reports. Does the Acting Leader have any information in that regard? This House was involved in establishing these tribunals. No one is asking for them to be closed down but they should be conducted and issue reports in as efficient a manner as possible. Since the inception of these tribunals legislation has been enacted to facilitate that.

I also support Senator Tuffy's remarks on promotions for those who participate in community policing. It is essential if people are to commit fully to this work that there be a career path for them to follow.

An independent report was issued on Monday in Belfast and yesterday in Dublin, by an international panel from the Notre Dame law school in Indiana, on collusion by British forces in various murders in Northern Ireland and this jurisdiction during the Troubles. This should be debated here because collusion continues by virtue of the failure of the British authorities and Government, and the Northern Ireland Office, to co-operate with any of the investigations into these matters.

That includes the Irish Government.

The collusion continues and this House should debate all these issues. The independent report would be a very good foundation for doing so.

Will the Acting Leader ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food to come to the House for a debate on agricultural matters, particularly the many recent grant-aid announcements she has made? There are difficulties in regard to planning permission for on-farm development and it is important that the Members of the Seanad have an opportunity to express their views on this to the Minister.

The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism should meet with the two bodies responsible for what happened in Croke Park last Sunday.

We have no control over that.

It was taxpayers' money.

It should not be ignored. It is an issue of public concern.

The Minister has given substantial grant-aid to certain organisations and he should seek to speak to them at least.

Senator Brian Hayes, and Senators Coghlan, MacSharry, Tuffy and Jim Walsh referred to tribunals and the Garda Síochána. Senator Brian Hayes mentioned the interim report of the Morris tribunal. It is not usual to discuss interim reports but I am amenable to the suggestion and shall pursue the matter with a view to having it discussed, if that is possible.

The recommendations apply outside the terms of the report with regard to the Garda Síochána. Senators Brian Hayes and Tuffy raised this matter in regard to the reports of the Garda inspectorate and the advisory group, and the question of civilianisation of the Garda. Those matters merit discussion here. We all, including the Minister, agree that there should be more gardaí on the beat and they should be more visible. That is one of the reasons behind the civilianisation proposal. There is also the related matter of promotion within the force.

Senator Jim Walsh spoke about legislation and the tribunals. We all become impatient about the length of time it takes for tribunals to report and legislation was introduced to expedite that in a couple of cases but we must recall that the Oireachtas set up the tribunals and they must be given time. People who appear before them sometimes go to the courts to vindicate their rights and that must be allowed too.

Senators O'Toole, Finucane and Coghlan raised No. 23, regarding the so-called Curtin committee. I and Senator Finucane are precluded from speaking about it——

What is the Senator refuting?

I am not refuting anything.

I apologise, I misheard the Senator.

Senator O'Toole is a little deaf.

I am precluded from saying anything on that matter and therefore do not wish to comment, beyond saying that there has been recourse to the courts while the committee has been sitting which has inevitably led to delays.

Senators Mansergh, Cox, Norris, Mooney, MacSharry and Hanafin referred to Iraq in one way or another. Senator Mansergh particularly referred to the death sentence passed on Saddam Hussein. When the EU ambassador to the US, Mr. Bruton, addressed us this morning he left us in no doubt on the European Union's view of the death penalty. Members on all sides of the House share Mr. Bruton's view that the death penalty is not an appropriate punishment. He put it well when he said that there is a degree of Old Testament retribution in some of the sentences, the death penalty and others, in the United States, which is not desirable. We oppose capital punishment. However horrendous the crime and however dramatic should be the penalty for them, the death penalty never was and never will be an answer. It does not prevent further deaths.

Senator Hanafin raised the related matter of Israel and Palestine which Mr. Bruton said this morning is a key issue in global politics. It would be appropriate for the House to find time to discuss the matter of Iraq and the wider question of peace in the Middle East. The ambassador emphasised the primacy of the two state solution, the preferred one of the European Union and the United States.

I sympathise with Senator Finucane on the recent events in Limerick. It is appalling that a child of that age was shot in broad daylight by another child. One must condemn an incident of such a nature in the strongest possible terms. I know the Garda has had improved success in rooting out serious crime in Limerick. We wish it well in the continued fight. Although Senator Finucane called for increased resources, the Minister is committed to providing the necessary resources to deal with this matter.

Senator Norris and Senator Moylan raised last Sunday's events in Croke Park. The GAA is perfectly competent to deal with these matters in its own way. The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, however, does have a role and he may attend the House to debate the wider issues involved.

I congratulate Senator Mooney on the success of the Shot at Dawn campaign. I also congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the members of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body who played a significant role as well. It puts the earlier remarks about Saddam Hussein into a particular context, especially when one considers the trivial matters for which those soldiers were executed.

With regard to Senator Coghlan's request on the Privacy Bill, the Minister is prepared to debate it in the House in advance of it being taken by the House.

Senator MacSharry raised the issue of drinking and driving. When the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, last attended the House, the morning after factor was mentioned. If one is drunk at 10 o'clock at night, one is drunk at 10 o'clock the following morning and is not capable of driving a car. The Minister agreed with this. It raises serious issues for rural areas but it must be accepted that one cannot drink and drive. That should be the end of it.

Senator Browne and Senator John Paul Phelan raised concerns over the Child Care (Amendment) Bill. The Leader has no control over what amendments are brought before the House. If there are difficulties, they should be raised with the relevant Minister. Under Standing Orders, Bills and amendments must be debated in both Houses before a Bill can be passed.

An invitation to the US President, Mr. Bush, to address both Houses is matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I note Senator Browne's points on the rights of children under the Constitution and health care. With regard to name-calling and radio programmes, I hope Senator Browne will take that as guidance for his conduct in the House. I hope there will be no name-calling in the House, especially when we do not want it to happen on radio.

Then it would be very dull indeed.

Senator John Paul Phelan raised the matter of single men living in prefab houses. All of us have encountered this difficult situation. This group of people are at the bottom of the pile when local authorities allocate housing. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Minister responsible.

Senator Jim Walsh called for a debate on the Notre Dame law school report on collusion by British forces in several murders in Northern Ireland. It could be part of a wider debate on Northern Ireland. Senator Moylan is correct that it is some time since the Minister for Agriculture and Food attended the House. Many issues in agriculture have arisen in recent months and it would be useful for the House to debate them.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 18.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hayes, Maurice.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Browne and Cummins.
Question declared carried.
Order of Business agreed to.