Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Bill 2008: Committee and Remaining Stages


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 20 to 23, to delete subsection (2).

This amendment proposes to put a specific date on the Bill as there is a wide measure of ministerial discretion as to its commencement. I accept the good intentions of the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Power. The Government has supported the Bill and I do not propose to waste time on this or any other amendment. I will not speak at great length on this because I have read the Minister's reply. He and his staff know I worked very closely with Deputy Michael D. Higgins in the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and I discussed the amendments with him. I am, therefore, aware of the situation. I pay tribute to him and his adviser, Mr. Humphries, for framing these amendments. I feel very strongly about them. Deputy Higgins and me are at one on this but regarding this amendment I anticipate the Minister of State's reply and I do not propose to call a vote on it.

I accept the points made by Senator Norris. The amendment is not contentious but a point of principle needs to be made that the effect of the proposed amendment is for the Bill to come into operation immediately upon enactment. However, it has long been the legislative convention for a Bill to be commenced by means of a ministerial order. This practice has arisen for important practical reasons, such as the need to make necessary administrative and other arrangements before an Act can be properly implemented. As a matter of policy, good practice and on the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel, not just in the case of this Bill but in regard to any item of legislation, Acts should be commenced by way of ministerial order in whole or, in many instances, in part.

Regarding this Bill, the Defence Forces training and operational manuals will have to be adapted to take account of the State's new obligations under the convention on cluster munitions. Even though the convention has been agreed in Ireland and is expected to be ratified shortly it does not have practical effect and force. Article 17 of the convention provides that it will enter into force only six months after the 30th instrument of ratification has been deposited. If we were to make the Bill effective immediately we, as a country, would be in breach of it immediately. It is important we do things in concert and ensure we are in full compliance with our obligations under the convention when the Act takes effect in Ireland. That is a practical example of the need to commence the Act by ministerial order rather than on the date the legislation is passed or signed into law by the President.

As Senator Norris knows, it is the Government's intention to introduce and make the Bill effective as soon as is practically possible. It is the Minister's intention to commence most parts of the Bill immediately, particularly Parts 1, 3, 4 and 5. It is also intended to commence Part 2 on cluster munitions as soon as possible. The Government intends to ratify the convention immediately after it has been signed on behalf of Ireland in Oslo on 3 December. We will be one of the first countries in the world to ratify it which is a clear demonstration of our commitment to early entry to bring the convention into force.

The convention itself, and our obligations under it, will crystallise only when the 30th instrument of ratification is deposited. That is why we need to have a coincidence between the commencement order under the Bill and the formal coming into force internationally of the convention.

I welcome the Minister of State's response. I would like to tease it out more regarding the date. The signing in Oslo is on 3 December. That is very soon and we will not have the Bill in force by then. Could the Minister of State provide a timescale? He has given the reasons for a possible delay, that we need to bring all our practices into alignment with the provisions of the Bill so we are not caught on a technicality. If we are among the first to sign it, it would give us a certain kudos. Will the Minister of State give us some idea of how long this process may take? The 3 December date is next week. A degree of urgency may be removed.

It would be good to have a headline and I have known that to happen with other Bills. We have early signature motions. Perhaps it will be done by 3 December and that may be our good news for Christmas. If not, will it take three months or six months? Is this a result of advice from the legal people of the Army?

We would all be delighted if it could be in force by 3 December, but that date is merely the opening date for countries who are signatories to the convention to ratify it. There is a distinction between signing it and ratifying it. Ratification can take place only when a country has the authority under its own constitutional and governance systems to effect ratification.

Ratification will commence on 3 December and Ireland will be one of the very first countries to ratify.

Other countries, such as Austria, are in a position to do it immediately.

That is correct. We must go through our legislative provisions. There is a further distinction between ratification and the convention coming into practical force and effect itself. The provisions of the convention are clear on this, namely, that it will take place six months from the date upon which the 30th country has ratified the treaty. There are more than 30 countries party to the convention, but the number of 30 countries has been chosen as the number sufficient by way of ratification to give practical force and effect in the international community.

Senator Norris asked if I could give an estimate as to when that will happen. If 30 countries ratified the agreementen bloc on 3 December the convention would come into practical force and effect internationally on 3 May 2009. How long is a piece of string? I cannot anticipate when the 30th country will ratify the treaty. The coming into force and effect of the convention will happen six months after that date. It behoves all those who are signatories to the convention to encourage all countries to ratify it as soon as possible.

Ireland, as the chair of the negotiations which led to the convention, has a special obligation to ensure we are advocates for other countries to ratify the convention as soon as possible. The final part of Senator Norris's question, if I understood him correctly, relates to whether, when it comes into full force, it will coincide with our commencement order to make our legislation effective. The intention is it will. It is intended that when all countries ratify it and it becomes effective internationally, we will be in a position to commence the Act immediately, if not beforehand. This depends on us ensuring the Army's and the Defence Forces' operational and training manuals are fully in compliance with the convention so that when it comes into effect, we are fully compliant. I am sure Senator Norris, as one of the major driving forces behind the convention, will agree with this.

Is the amendment being pressed?

No, even though I was beginning to get a little confused by the Minister of State's reply, because I was thinking of the passage into force of our legislation rather than the commencement of the full convention. However, the Minister of State has reassured me that we stand in a good position to be able to be there when the convention comes into force and that is the crucial point. I understand there may be areas that need to be tidied up on the advice of the Army. I hope the Minister will issue an order immediately when these requirements are satisfied and tidied up. I see no problem with regard to us having the legislation enforced domestically in advance of the full convention coming into effect. I am happy with and accept the Minister of State's response.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2, 5, and 9 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, subsection (1), to delete lines 30 to 33.

This is a matter of excluding "anti-handling device". This is a rather Jesuitical thing to do and may expose innocent people, civilians and army personnel who should not be killed in these circumstances to the operations of an anti-personnel device. I believe these anti-handling devices can in themselves be dangerous weapons and can affect civilians.

Take, for example, where one of these devices is left lying in a field and a child comes across it. I have known this to happen. I remember a particularly sad case in Palestine where a family known to Ezra and me was affected. The family had been rendered unemployed by the policy of absorbing agricultural land, destroying olive groves and building roads through them by the occupying power and had been reduced to living on the clippings of tin.

One day, one of them picked up a metal object — they had been making money by collecting and selling scrap metal — and, unfortunately, either shook it or gave it a kick. There were four young men there at the time. One of them, an eleven year old, had his stomach blown out and died instantly. The 17 year old boy holding the object lost both his hands. He was taken for treatment and was in a state of shock.

This was a disaster for the family. In that society young men were expected to get married at a young age and start a family, but this boy could not because he was now soiled goods and no woman would take him. He was not able to get a job. We tried to get prosthetic limbs for him and to arrange for him to get special education. However, he got a sudden asthma attack about six weeks later and died. I believe his death was the result of delayed shock because he had not realised the seriousness of what had happened when he lost his hands. Sometimes when something like this occurs, the person is incapable of dealing with it and the imagination closes down. I cannot imagine the asthma attack was provoked by anything else.

It is this sort of accident I want to ensure we avoid and if we can provide for that in the legislation, we should do so. Therefore, I do not accept that anti-personnel devices should be excluded from the Bill.

I empathise with Senator Norris on the issue. However, on reading the section I wonder what are the alternatives or options if we decide against having anti-handling devices.

Getting rid of all devices for clarity.

Before dealing with the specific amendment I would like to make a general point with regard to the definitions aspect of the proposed legislation. Section 2 provides for the interpretation of key terms as defined in the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and other relevant terms. Many of the terms defined for the purposes of the Bill are agreed terms under both of those conventions. Their negotiation — the exact definitions of what constitutes cluster munitions in this case and anti-personnel mines in the case of the 1997 convention — was difficult and painstaking.

The exact reproduction of these terms in the domestic laws of the states that are parties to the convention is necessary in order to ensure that the obligations imposed by them are observed in a consistent manner. This is particularly true with regard to the definition section, particularly for the definitions of cluster munitions, an explosive bomblet, and anti-personnel mines. If different states or parties to the convention were to define these key definitions, which were the subject of intense negotiations, in their domestic laws and legislation in different ways, co-operation between the parties to the convention would become very complex and would, inevitably, frustrate the coherent implementation of the convention. This general point is irrespective of the merits or demerits of the definitions as they ultimately appear in the convention and now before us in the legislation.

The practical effect of amendments Nos. 2 and 5 would be to blur the distinction between anti-personnel mines on one hand and anti-tank mines equipped with anti-handling devices on the other. The first is prohibited by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, of which the Senator will be aware, while the second is not. These amendments would have the effect of introducing an undesirable level of uncertainty concerning anti-tank mines equipped with anti-handling devices.

Senators will appreciate that the purpose of the Bill is to implement both conventions. Article 2 of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention specifically provides that mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle, as opposed to a person, and that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered in themselves anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped.

The provision that Senator Norris wishes to delete is reproduced in section 2(2) of the Bill. By applying different standards in our laws to those being adopted by other states that are party to the convention, we would risk severely complicating the international co-operation on the implementation of the convention. The proposed amendments would, effectively, prevent our Defence Forces from participating in peacekeeping and other similar missions with almost any other country, whether it is party to the convention, because we would be implementing a different standard of prohibition than they would.

That prohibition relates not just to the use of anti-personnel mines as defined, but to assisting any other country that might use them. If the definition differs from that agreed at the convention, other countries may use something that would be prohibited under Irish law, were I to accept the amendment, but permitted by the convention. As the overarching intention of the convention is to provide consistency of application in the field, I cannot accept the Senator's amendment.

While I am grateful to the Minister of State for his clear explanation, it has convinced me to maintain my position in this matter. The Minister of State has repeated the argument made in the Dáil by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, that this would have the effect of introducing an undesirable level of uncertainty. I believe it would have the effect of introducing a desirable level of uncertainty and inquiry.

While I am not going to win, I wish to put on record exactly what is happening. The Bill states that Ireland is against anti-personnel mines, unless they are stuck onto an anti-tank mine.

I do not accept that if one attaches these lousy devices to an equally lousy device, they suddenly become unlousy, so to speak. Anti-personnel mines are intended to prevent people from defusing the mines. I am more or less, albeit not entirely or exclusively, a pacifist, and if either I or someone close to me was subjected to brutalisation, I would rapidly shed my pacifist extremist leanings. However, defusing mines is a highly worthy objective and I wonder how many people are killed while legitimately defusing them. My first point is these devices are known to be nasty, evil and to have a completely negative impact. However, it is not a good moral argument to suggest that when attached to something equally nasty, they suddenly become cleansed and immune, especially as someone might wish to render ineffective the anti-tank mine.

I will move on to the argument that this could cause a problem in respect of the legislation's passage by other countries because of the difficult diplomatic negotiations. I again put on record my admiration for our diplomats who negotiated this convention. Although it was complex, took a long time and so on, both Deputy Michael D. Higgins and I always held the view that one could initiate legislation and pass it domestically in anticipation of the signature of an international convention. Such legislation could act as a model or standard and our diplomats then could negotiate from that high position. This has been done before.

I am aware this is difficult and a certain amount of wrangling took place in the Lower House between Deputy Higgins and the Minister about the relative parishes of diplomacy and politics. It became quite confusing because at one point, the Minister appeared to argue there was no difference and they were part of the same circuit, while at other times he appeared to suggest they differed radically. My point is that my political position, which is distinct from the highly professional work done by our diplomats, is that it would have been worthwhile had Ireland passed a law that did all these things. I believe most Irish people would agree with banning anti-personnel mines completely.

My second point in this regard is that I do not accept that variations in Irish law from the universal model will call into question the ratification of the treaty because at least two countries have passed different legislation domestically. I accept it may cause some diplomatic difficulties and that this is a risk. However, I do not accept the rest. Perhaps this highlights the distinction between the respective roles of politicians and diplomats. While questions might be raised about my role, effectiveness or relevance as a politician, no one would select me as a diplomat anywhere. It is a question of horses for courses and I understand there is a difference between politics and diplomacy. On those occasions when I am asked to go abroad by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, I believe the principal reason to be that I am completely undiplomatic. I can say the kind of things I did to Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, thereby allowing the Minister to apologise diplomatically behind my back and to claim that Norris does not represent the Government. However, the Government was bloody glad I said what I did and the same was true in respect of Velayati and Rasfanjani.

The Senator may remember that one Minister for Foreign Affairs came from this House.

Does the Minister of State refer to James Dooge?

Whether that will be repeated in the Senator's case——

I hope the newspapers get hold of this.

Hope springs eternal.

This may get something going. That is the only job for which I would ache. The foreign affairs office is the only thing that would induce me to join a political party. It is the most wonderful area of political work.

Our door is always open.

I would not get the job. In any case, these nasty devices should be banned. They do not become less nasty because they are applied to other nasty devices. Furthermore, while passing a better or more humane law in Ireland might cause some complications, I do not believe that, legally, it would necessarily invalidate our ratification of the treaty.

I accept where the Senator is coming from in respect of his well-known views on pacifism and morality. It is hard to argue against the points he made. He stated these devices are lousy, nasty and evil and all weapons that have the capability of killing or maiming people are lousy and nasty. However, one must remember that this Bill deals with the specific subject of cluster munitions, which typically are weapons dropped from the sky and do indiscriminate damage, usually to civilians. One must focus on what is being dealt with in the Bill under discussion. Were one to carry the logic of the Senator's argument to its ultimate conclusion, this Bill should outlaw nuclear and chemical bombs. While I agree with and share the Senator's pacifist views on both those issues, the question is, first, whether it is relevant to the matter under discussion and, second, whether it might frustrate the implementation of what has been a unique diplomatic agreement between nations. I believe it would do so for a number of reasons.

First, the Senator made the point that his amendment would introduce a desirable level of uncertainty. I consider this to be highly undesirable because universal application is the purpose of such conventions. The Senator is a champion of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was applied inconsistently, some countries would have completely different interpretations of what constitute the right to life or the right not to be tortured. There must be a consistency of definition about all international conventions and the word, "convention" is used because it is a matter of agreement between the parties. While the Senator makes the point he does not accept it will cause problems with the ratification of the treaty, it will. We did not follow the path taken by countries such as Belgium and Austria, which legislated in advance of the conference, because there was no agreed definition. As was their right, they adopted unilateral positions. Were we to do so, we would have pre-empted the outcome of the convention. Like Austria and Belgium, we might also have found ourselves unable to ratify the treaty because of its inconsistency with domestic law.

Senator Norris does not accept that the provision will cause problems with ratification, but it has already caused problems in two countries. They cannot ratify the treaty, but the main difficulty lies in the problems caused to their operation of the convention on the ground.

I will come to that.

If we introduce an obligation on citizens and Defence Forces working abroad, no matter how noble or worthy that obligation is, they would be placed in an invidious position if it differs from the obligations of other countries, albeit obligations to which we agreed at the convention. Under the Senator's amendment, citizens could be committing criminal acts by virtue of taking part in international operations. Operationally rather than diplomatically, to which the Senator referred, the amendment would cause difficulties.

I thank the Minister of State. I am glad and unsurprised that we are in sympathy about the horrors of war and its associated revolting machinery. I will not labour the point, but I imagine that Belgium and Austria will be accommodated. The Minister of State's diplomatic advisers might be able to say "Yes" or "No". I will watch this space because I would hazard a small bet that Belgium and Austria will be in the lists, however it will be done. This is a side matter.

Regarding the question of principle, I see no difficulty in an individual country exceeding the parameters of an international convention. The difficulty lies in not meeting them. There is no difficulty of principle or law in a domestic jurisdiction having a higher standard.

I will not force the matter of interoperability, since it will be considered in the next series of amendments. Like the majority of those who lobbied in this regard, I have strong feelings about the issue. For the most part, governments were not lobbying. We were unusual in that we put the full force of our diplomatic strength behind the treaty and Ministers were committed to it, which I salute. In many instances, NGOs and people inspired by the anti-landmine campaign of Diana, the late Princess of Wales, were against the idea of interoperability. While I will address the point in the following amendments, they believed that we should not co-operate with and abet people who continue to use the weapons that we are trying to outlaw. I welcome the Bill, but it is only a partial cluster bomb ban.

I accept the Minister of State's good intentions and his practical view of the situation. Unless provoked, I do not propose to spend much time on this amendment. I would prefer to move ahead with my colleagues and the Minister of State.

I empathise with much of Senator Norris's statements. The Austrian and Belgian situations are interesting. Were we to adopt a similar resolution, would we delay our ratification of the convention? Neither Senator Norris nor anyone else would want or suggest that, since it makes sense that people apply the same standards in legislation. I would welcome the Minister of State's comments in this regard.

To answer Senator Norris's direct question and while he and I disagree, it is my understanding that Austria and Belgium will be unable to ratify the treaty next week because their legislation is inconsistent with it and must be amended.

It will be interesting to see what emerges.

This is the advice available to me and I give it to the Senator in good faith.

I thank the Minister of State.

The Senator and I have different approaches. He is adopting a principled stand to the issue and, in principle, it is difficult to argue against the adoption of the highest standards in the world, but it is very difficult to argue for it when, a few short months ago at an international diplomatic conference held in this city, we agreed to adopt a consistent approach with dozens of other countries. While we would love to have all lethal weapons completely banned in principle, we are trying to implement an agreed convention.

On Senator Cummins's points, we would not be able to sign the treaty next week were the amendment accepted because the legislation would need to revert to the Dáil before returning to this Chamber.

I can set the Minister of State's mind at rest — the Government still has a majority in this House.

Just about. Without discussing interoperability, the real issue is the operation of the convention on the ground. Were we to accept the amendments, that operation would be difficult at best, impossible at worst, and would prevent Ireland from participating in operations.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, subsection (1), to delete lines 21 to 33.

We are getting into the real meat of the Bill, namely, the definition of cluster munitions. The House will be told that there can be no variations on the treaty and so on. As I stated, the Bill is welcome, but it bans only some cluster munitions. I do not accept that anything under ten explosive submunitions is not a "cluster". Using this definition, the Bill exempts such devices. Section 2(1)(c) states that a cluster munition does not include:

A munition that, in order to avoid indiscriminate area effects and the risks posed by unexploded submunitions, has all of the following characteristics:

(i) each munition contains fewer than 10 explosive submunitions;

(ii) each explosive submunition weighs more than 4 kilograms;

(iii) each explosive submunition is designed to detect and engage a single target object;

(iv) each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic self-destruction mechanism;

(v) each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic self-deactivating feature;

Munitions of this nature do not avoid indiscriminate area effects, they merely reduce them. I am aware that some of these bombs contain an extremely high number of particle bomblets and that the area they can cover can be extremely wide. I forget the exact size of that area that can be affected by an exploding cluster munition but it may be equivalent to two or more football fields or may even be as large as one square mile. The area affected will be limited by the provision to which I refer. However, the dangers involved will not be removed completely.

The idea that fewer than ten explosives do not constitute a cluster is incorrect. Let us separate the words "cluster" and "munition". What does the term "cluster" mean? It means a group of items, usually related, gathered closely together. One example would be a bunch of bananas. It is frequently the case that there are fewer than ten bananas in a bunch. However, they would still constitute a cluster. One could also have a cluster of roses which might contain four, five or six but certainly, even on a floribunda, fewer than ten stems. In the context of language, this is still a cluster. I welcome the fact that the size of a cluster is being reduced. However, we are not avoiding some of the issues relating to something being identified as a cluster.

With regard to subparagraph (ii), 4 kilograms represents a hell of an amount of material. Anyone like me who does a modest amount of cooking will inform the Minister of State of that. A 4-kilogram explosive can do a huge amount of damage. If one were faced with nine such explosives, one would be in trouble. We are not talking about flour, pepper and salt, we are discussing explosives that have a fairly high-yield potential.

Section 2(1) also refers to each explosive submunition being designed to detect and engage a single target object. Such submunitions may be designed in this way but that does not mean they will be successful in seeking out single targets. We know that to be the case. We listened to those morons, Bush and Rumsfeld, referring to smart bombs during the initial assault on Iraq. Certain television pictures appeared to show that these devices were successful in seeking out their targets. In reality, however, they landed and exploded all over the place. Those who make these munitions have not designed one which can avoid causing damage to humans.

It is stated in the Bill that each explosive submunition will be equipped with an electronic self-deactivating feature. That is fine but, despite previous assurances to the contrary, we know that such features do not actually work.

This section of the Bill appears to be defective. I know the Minister of State will agree with me in respect of this matter and will state that he would love to oblige me but cannot do so. Despite all the work invested in the conference at Croke Park and this legislation, we are discussing what amounts to only a partial ban on cluster munitions. In addition, the definition is incorrect, defies language and represents a scientific position which is unlikely to be attained.

These munitions remain bloody dangerous, nasty things. Children will continue to pick them up, which is one of the really evil aspects relating to them. Many of the submunitions contained in so-called cluster munitions can appear similar to mini-Coke cans or sweet tins. The specific intention behind them is to create terror. Thank God those in the United States appear to be returning to their senses. However, I laugh when I hear the phrase "war on terror", particularly when one considers that the Americans were manufacturing and dropping weapons of this nature, which have no proven military application.

If one is concerned with that which is principally military in its application, then there is no place for these munitions, even at this level. What we are actually saying is that anti-personnel mines are really nasty but that landmines are not so nasty. In my opinion, the latter are a great deal more nasty. We are also stating that we oppose cluster bombs but that we will allow the use of small devices. I am against the whole damn lot of them.

If I was on the other side of the House——

The Senator should come over.

——I would agree with everything Senator Norris stated. When I read the Bill, I was struck by the fact that there is a play on words in the definition of what constitutes a cluster bomb. Regardless of how one considers it, a bomb is still a bomb.

From where did the Department obtain the information that allowed it to draft this section? Senator Norris referred to cooking and stated that 4 kilograms represents quite an amount of material. I agree with him in that regard. A person standing anywhere in the vicinity of a 4-kilogram explosive device when it went off could be maimed for life by even the smallest particle of shrapnel. I await the Minister of State's reply in respect of this matter.

How were the stipulations that a munition should contain fewer than ten explosive submunitions and that each such submunition should weigh more than 4 kilograms arrived at? It is obvious that much negotiation took place but regardless of whether it is large or small, a bomb is still a bomb. I look forward to the Minister of State's explanation in this regard.

I again make the point that if one is coming from the perspective that all weapons are immoral and should be banned or outlawed, not just here but in every other country, it would be impossible to argue with one's logic. Senator Norris encapsulated the matter when he stated that this is a partial rather than a full ban. What all three Senators asked was why we should not simply impose a complete ban on all bombs of any description being used by any army in any location.

Or even on all cluster bombs. We are exempting such bombs.

That is why it comes down to defining what does or does not constitute a cluster bomb.

I thank Senator Norris for tabling the amendment. However, I must state that the definition of what constitutes a cluster munition was one of the most difficult issues to be resolved during the negotiations that took place in Croke Park. The guiding principle behind those negotiations was to reach agreement on a prohibition on all cluster munitions that harm people and to outlaw all such munitions that have been used in the field or in theatres of war in the past. During the negotiations it was agreed that certain types of submunition-based systems would not be prohibited.

Some of the partner countries with which we work have these weapons. That is the reality within which we must operate. These weapons include systems that disperse items such as flares, chaff and smoke. It was also agreed at the negotiations that any systems which meet all of the criteria set down in the definition section — the provision Senator Norris now wishes to delete — would not be prohibited. All delegations accepted that the cumulative effect of these various criteria is to significantly reduce the humanitarian hazard that might result from the use of a weapon that meets such criteria. The definition of a cluster munition as set out in the Bill is a precise reproduction of the definition agreed in those negotiations.

On the points made in regard to amendment No. 2 to section 2, the definition is a comprehensive one that meets the objectives of prohibiting all cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The convention prohibits all types of cluster munitions ever used in armed conflict. Furthermore, following proposals made by the Irish delegation in Croke Park, the convention also prohibits explosive bomblets specifically designed to be dispersed or released from dispensers affixed to aircraft. This is an extremely important provision which closes potential loopholes created by new technologies. Senator Norris spoke of smart or dumb bombs and made his argument from the perspective that there is no such thing as a smart or dumb bomb and that all bombs should be illegal and unlawful anywhere in the world. However, the convention will be effective and consistent in the manner in which it deals with the type of indiscriminate humanitarian effects caused by cluster bombs in many countries in recent decades.

The effect of the amendment tabled by Senator Norris would be to broaden the definition to include munitions that are not regarded as cluster munitionsper se for the purposes of the convention and which are not prohibited by it. I stated in regard to the proposed amendments concerning the definition of anti-personnel mines, which is a separate but related issue, that if we apply different standards in our own laws to those being adopted by other States that are party to the convention, regardless of how desirable or noble they are, we will risk severely complicating international co-operation in the implementation of the convention, in particular in the context of international peacekeeping roles in which Ireland has played a major role for many years. In a worst case scenario, it would make impossible our role in this regard. The convention sets out the standards which were agreed by all states involved in the negotiations. Again, if each state — this principle must be reiterated on every amendment — adopted different standards in their domestic laws, there would be in place a multiplicity of standards worldwide that would effectively render null and void all the good work done at the convention.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I salute the Irish delegation involved in the negotiations at Croke Park in securing acceptance of the additional provision in regard to what may be dropped from aircraft. I recall the event; it was a good day.

Perhaps, the Minister of State will give us some further information — I completely understand if he does not have this information to hand — in regard to what precisely is meant by chaff? I have no difficulty whatever with chaff which is dropped in aluminium flakes to deflect radar detection.

That is what it is.

The use of fleshettes, tiny particles dropped from aircraft, by the Israelis and others had a damaging effect on people. The Minister of State is saying chaff is made up only of material to prevent radar detection.

That is fine. I accept the Minister's word and I feel reassured on that point.

In regard to the use of the phrase "unacceptable level of harm", I do not believe there is any level of harm or damage that is acceptable. I welcome the fact that the level of acceptability is dropping. I recall a Tory Minister who when dealing with Northern Ireland got into terrible trouble for saying that we had achieved an acceptable level of violence. The people revolted saying there is no acceptable level of violence. There may be a level of violence with which we must put up, but it is not acceptable. I do not believe there is any level of mutilation of human beings that is acceptable. We must be careful about the language we use. There must be another formula that does not indicate this type of mutilation is acceptable, because it is not. It is completely unacceptable. I know the Minister of State and his officials will agree with me in that regard.

A problem I have with theology is that certain elements of it have colonised and redefined language in a manner which divorces it from common usage, which is dangerous. This is one of the reasons the Church is losing ground. I do not believe we should do this in politics if at all possible, in particular when dealing with this type of material. There is no acceptable level of injury or damage. As Gertrude Stein said, a rose is a rose is a rose. A cluster is a cluster is a cluster. As the Minister said, what is provided for in the Bill is a partial ban on cluster munitions. We continue to permit——

I am sorry to interrupt Senator Norris, but I was stating that he made the point that it was a partial ban.

I beg the Minister's pardon; I do not wish to put words in his mouth.

I said that I had to respectfully disagree with it.

The Bill provides for a ban on a significant number of munitions that could be legitimately described as cluster munitions but it continues to permit the use of some that are capable of being legitimately described as cluster munitions. A bunch of nine is a cluster.

I thank the Minister for his explanation. It is obvious the definition came about as a result of painstaking negotiations. Fine Gael would prefer a ban on all cluster munitions. However, to seek to change matters at this stage would result in our applying different standards to other countries thus delaying ratification of the convention. For these reasons, we will go along with the Minister's explanation. I am not entirely happy to do so but, given that it has taken a long time to come up with this definition, I reluctantly agree to it.

I agree with everything Senator Norris said. He used the phrase "acceptable level of violence". I agree there is no such thing as an acceptable level of violence.

I can see from where the Minister of State is coming on this in that different countries cannot have different standards in their definitions and that we must go with global thinking on this. However, it is sloppy language, which we must accept if we are to make progress in regard to the abolition of cluster bombs. This section is weak. While I have no wish to hold up what is being done here today, that is my view. If this means we move a step further in obtaining a ban on cluster munitions, I will go along with it. Perhaps we should keep the matter on the agenda for future reference.

I will not pretend that the definition of what constitutes a cluster munition as a weapon was an easy part of the negotiations; it was not. It was the most intractable part of the negotiations. Ultimately, in seeking to outlaw cluster munitions one must work with some form of words which include and exclude certain items. If one accepts that the convention does not seek to outlaw all weapons, one must then find a way of defining what is excluded. If Senators believe that is an unsatisfactory definition, I invite them to suggest another methodology to outlaw the use of these horrible weapons with which we all disagree.

That is the first point. There must be some methodology to agree a definition. The exclusionary method is the method agreed having taken the advice of some world-renowned experts in these areas. It comes down to very technical issues such as the weight of bombs, the area across which they disperse, the height from which they are dropped etc. It is necessary to have a starting point. The starting point was to identify what is excluded. The very detailed definition of what is excluded means everything else is included in the ban of cluster munitions.

I would respectfully disagree with Members. It is a complete ban of every cluster munition that has ever been made. That is not to say some advanced technical weapons are not banned. However, it makes the point that every cluster munition that has ever been used is banned. To that extent it is not a partial ban. I again make the point that all definitions pose difficulties. We are dealing with imprecise language here. We are dealing with issues of life and death, emotions and principles, which is the point of view from which Senator Norris is coming. We need to work with people who have been championing this cause for many years. One of those groups is the Cluster Munition Coalition, which has been working in this area for many years. It is the main umbrella group for all the NGOs involved in the area and is the body that has worked closely with the Government since the inception of the Oslo process in February 2007. That group has stated it is comfortable with the definition. It stated:

The definition makes certain clarifications for weapons that have submunitions but are not considered cluster munitions, such as weapons with submunitions designed for smoke, flare, and electronic counter-measures. Also falling outside the definition are weapons that have submunitions but that do not cause the indiscriminate area effects or UXO [unexploded ordnance] risks of cluster munitions. Such munitions must meet each of a series of five minimum technical characteristics set out in the treaty.

That is its articulation of why it is happy — to the extent that one can ever be happy — that this meets its minimum standards. Maximum standards are completely different. The reality is that in war and in conflict, some weapons are used one way or another. This convention seeks to outlaw a particular type of weapon, cluster munitions. We need to have a definition of what constitutes and what does not constitute a cluster munition. The best way to do that is to exclude different types of weapons. For better or worse that is a definition that met with broad agreement. It required long and difficult negotiations informed by the best international technical military advice available. It found agreement by very many countries.

I accept the good intentions and practice of the Ministers involved and their advisers. The view of the House clearly is that these are unacceptable weapons. Most people, including those on the Government side, would accept that although they have been defined as being beyond the scope of cluster munitions, to any ordinary person they clearly are cluster munitions and they have at least some of the abhorrent effects specific to cluster munitions. I do not accept that if my amendment were accepted all weapons would be gone. I would be delighted if that were the case to be quite honest but it is impractical. The convention deals specifically with cluster weapons and we are narrowing down the restrictions on cluster weapons. I can feel that the Minister of State does not like these things as they are.

They are still cluster bombs. Let us suppose there was a smart element technologically in it and one of the nine actually struck home and hit the target. If it were aimed at a specific target only one would be necessary. Nine would not be needed. Let us suppose one of the nine hits a bridge or a tank and does its job, what happens to the other eight? This is the very problem of cluster bombs and is why people like myself and those on the Government side are so against them. There is a reduplication of effect after the initial target may have been hit. It can also happen that a child may pick them up. I really insist on the point that these are still cluster munitions.

In terms of the language, there is no question or doubt. I did not bother to go out and look it up in my definition. I gave the Minister of State a definition. As I used to be a teacher of English at third level, I have a fair idea what words mean — that used to be my job. I can assure the Minister of State that if he gets the Oxford English Dictionary, Chambers Encyclopaedia or any such reference books, he will find a definition of cluster that will include these. I can assure him they will be cluster munitions.

I will not press this matter to a vote, but I will probably press the last one to a vote. To show good will and to encourage the efforts of the Minister of State I will not push him on this matter. However, I would like him to indicate that the efforts are not finished and that this battle has not been finally won. I accept we have had a splendid success on which I congratulate people. Let us push on and let us not leave it here. Let us drag the other bleeders with us. I noted that Deputy Higgins quoted Talleyrand on this. Again it is the difference between politics and diplomacy. I feel we could have set a higher target. In the previous convention to ban landmines, former President Clinton's crowd got in and lobbied very hard for a weakening of the definitions. However, we stood up against them and we prevailed.

I would hope that in the light of the work that has been done, we can get a commitment to continue to pursue the matter to a point where this kind of munition is outlawed and where the use of anti-personnel mines attached to anti-tank mines is also outlawed. It is the same principle. I do not like the idea of what these courageous people must do. We saw it frequently in the North and all over the world including in Iraq. I do not agree with the invasion of Iraq. The people who try to neutralise bombs are extraordinarily courageous. I would not do it. I would run like hell in the opposite direction if I thought there was the smallest possibility of being hit by any of these things. I cannot comprehend the courage of people who professionally will attempt to disarm these unpleasant objects. I have no time for the argument that claims an anti-personnel device is acceptable if it is attached to an anti-tank bomb. It is all part of the same thing.

I will not push a vote on this matter. However, I would like the Minister of State to give a commitment to pursue this in the direction that the majority of Irish people would like it to go. I believe pretty much everybody in the House would support the Minister of State in doing so.

I support the sentiments expressed by Senator Norris in this regard. It would be our hope that this is just a starting block and that we would continue to lobby as Senator Norris has outlined. I am sure the Minister of State in his reply will indicate that the Government will continue to press ahead with a view to gaining further ground in the future. This is a very important starting block for us. I agree with Senator Norris that we should not just leave it at that. It should be the start of something new in the future as regards definitions.

I do not believe anyone would disagree with Senator Norris's command of the English language, which is widely respected throughout the House. Major difficulties arose in terms of definition and the use of language in this regard and while it offends someone who comes from a universally pacifist role, the methodology used must, by definition, offend someone who holds the view that no munitions or weapons are acceptable under any circumstances. However, I accept the Senator's point of view. We can agree——

It is not only the view held by someone from that position. One can come from a less extreme position and still find this unacceptable. Senators Cummins and Ormonde have indicated their difficulties and I do not believe either of them are absolutist in a pacifist sense and neither am I.

I agree with that, but in terms of all international treaties and conventions, we must bring countries with us, so to speak. Ideally, the standard would be to ban various weapons, but it comes back to the matter of what does or does not constitute a cluster munition.

I accept and agree with all Members that this is a starting point and that at all international fora we will encourage all members who are not signatories to this agreement to sign, adopt and implement the convention. Ireland, as a country which chaired the negotiations, will be a strong advocate for that. I assure Members that at international fora the definition will be something that will be only accepted as a starting point. If it can be improved on in years to come, that is something to which we would aspire.

A point was made about what would be acceptable or unacceptable levels of violence. I accept that on any terms of principle or morality, there can be no such thing as an acceptable level of violence. Throughout the Troubles when I was a young student I argued passionately that there could not be at a political level any political theology that accepted any acceptable level of violence in Northern Ireland. The ultimate negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and the implementation of it have vindicated the political position that this was not acceptable.

The term here is not meant in respect of indiscriminate attacks. What the country sought to do in the negotiations was to ban cluster munitions whose use could be directed at specific military objectives in accordance with the general rules of humanitarian law. That is what we are trying to do in the Bill.

I accept the points made by all Members. They will be used to inform our position on the ratification of the convention and our advocacy role in ensuring all countries ratify it quickly to allow it come into operation, and to ensure countries that are not signatories become signatories in future. Ireland has a possibility of playing a lead role in this area.

Is the amendment being pressed?

No. I welcome the Minister of State's response. I feel very strongly about this issue and my colleagues on all sides of the House, including on the Government side, also feel strongly about it, but I am not sure that a vote at this point would be helpful. The Minister of State has interpreted correctly the feeling of all Members on this, namely, that we want to encourage these efforts and reach an even better standard. We wish him well in those attempts.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 7 is related to amendment No. 4 and amendments Nos. 4 and 7 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 36, after "Schedule 1” to insert the following:

", but Article 21(3) of the said Convention may not be relied on by the State".

This is a critical amendment. I can anticipate the answers I will get, which would not be difficult since I read the debate and also heard the Minister of State speak on Second Stage. It is abhorrent that, having condemned cluster munitions and having put on the record the appalling consequences of them, we would still support and give succour to those who continue to use these barbarous weapons. We will be tainted and implicated in it if we permit our Defence Forces to participate in military operations of this kind. It is not acceptable.

Notice should be clearly served to those other groups. That would be a good way of encouraging them to come in under the umbrella of the convention, namely, if we said we would not co-operate with them if they use these weapons. That is a position I hold very firmly.

As the Senator will be aware, this amendment was also considered in detail in conjunction with amendment No. 7, which is closely related. The cumulative effect of this amendment and amendment No. 7 is, effectively, to prevent the participation of Irish Defence Forces in peacekeeping operations with countries that may not be parties to the convention on cluster munitions. These amendments will affect the provisions of the Bill concerning interoperability, which is dealt with in Article 21 of the convention and in section 7 of the Bill.

As was pointed out in the Dáil during the course of the Second Stage debate, Article 21 was an even more difficult issue to resolve than the definition section of the Bill in terms of the negotiations that took place in Croke Park, and agreement on it was reached literally only at the last minute of those negotiations. Given the importance which all Members of the Chamber have attached over the years to Ireland's continued involvement in international peacekeeping operations, it would be useful at this stage if I were to go into some detail, with the indulgence of the House, on Article 21 of the convention on cluster munitions and on the provisions of section 7 of the Bill which will implement it.

Provision is made in Article 21 of the convention for state parties to engage in military co-operation and operations with states that are not party to the convention and that might engage in activities which are prohibited to a state party. This provision takes account of the fact that, at least initially, not all states will be party to the convention. Some of these may continue to retain cluster munitions. This was a particular concern for members of NATO because the United States had been quite clear in its opposition to the Oslo process. Members will be aware of that opposition over the years.

When considering Article 21, it is important to note that each state party has a clear international obligation to encourage states that are not party to the convention to become parties to it, and where it engages in military co-operation or operations with these states, to notify them of its own obligations under the convention, promote the norms established by the convention and make its best efforts to discourage them from using cluster munitions.

Article 21.4 specifically does not authorise a state party to develop, produce or otherwise acquire cluster munitions, to itself stockpile or transfer cluster munitions, to itself use cluster munitions, or to expressly request the use of cluster munitions in cases where the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control.

We believe that the convention's prohibition on cluster munitions will in time become established as a new norm of international humanitarian law in the same way as Ireland's position on other areas of international human rights and international human law, on which we took a lead role over many years, has become the norm in recent years. One could cite many instances in that regard. We believe this will happen when states begin to feel obliged to behave in accordance with it regardless of whether they are parties to it. It has happened already very successfully in the case of the anti-personnel mine ban convention, even though a number of states that observe its norms are not party to it. We intend to work internationally with our partners to ensure the convention on cluster munitions will have a similar effect.

Article 21 of the convention is implemented by section 7 of the Bill. Subsection (4) of that section provides for particular circumstances that may arise in the participation of members of the Defence Forces in peacekeeping missions with states that are not parties to the convention. As I said on Second Stage and today, we expect the likelihood of our participation in such a mission to be very low.

Section 7(4) provides that, on such a mission, a member of the Permanent Defence Force shall not be guilty of the offence of assisting, inducing or encouraging the commission of any of the offences created by section 6(1), that is, to use, develop, acquire, produce, retain or transfer to any person a cluster munition or an explosive bomblet. However, if he or she does any of those things himself or herself, that is, uses, develops, produces etc., he or she would be guilty of an offence.

Subsection 7(4) is intended to address exceptional and very unlikely circumstances, such as where an Irish contingent of a UN-mandated peacekeeping force finds itself under attack and needs to call in fire support, either from the air or from land-based artillery to relieve it. It may happen that fire support is provided by the forces of another state in the mission that is not a party to the convention and it is conceivable that it would be delivered without the knowledge of the Irish contingent in the form of cluster munitions. The Bill provides that in such a scenario no member of the Defence Forces could be prosecuted for inducing or encouraging the use of cluster munitions contrary to section 6(2). I am sure Members will agree that is something that in conscience the Oireachtas could not but insert in legislation to bring the convention into effect. Everything possible will be done to avoid such a scenario occurring.

Our preference in considering future contributions to peacekeeping missions would naturally be to join states that are parties to the convention and in those circumstances the question of interoperability with states not party to it would not arise. However, were we to find ourselves as members of a peacekeeping mission that included the armed forces of a state that is not party to the convention, every effort would be made in the elaboration of codes of conduct, rules of engagement, caveats and similar agreements prepared for the mission to ensure that there is no prospect of cluster munitions playing any role.

It is highly unlikely therefore that section 7(4) will ever apply but I think all Members of the House will agree on the importance of ensuring that no member of the Defence Forces should ever face prosecution for simply carrying out his or her duty as a member of a peacekeeping mission.

Amendment No. 7 specifically raises the issue of Defence Forces training. Section 7(l)(a) permits acquisition, possession, use, retention or transfer of a cluster munition or explosive bomblet by the Defence Forces, where authorised by the Minister for Defence under section 7(2), for the purposes of developing or training in techniques for the detection, clearance and destruction of cluster munitions or explosive bomblets, or for the development of counter-measures against them. I am sure Senators will agree that this sort of training is essential for members of the Defence Forces participating in peacekeeping missions, such as the recent mission in south Lebanon where upwards of 1 million unexploded cluster munitions had to be cleared before people were able to return to their homes and farms. Members will recall that the Irish Defence Forces played an honourable role in that area.

Section 7(3) makes it clear that the numbers of cluster munitions that can be acquired and used for those purposes are no more than is absolutely necessary, as required by Article 3, paragraph 6 of the convention. For the reasons set out, it is not possible to accept the amendment.

Ideally, I agree with Senator Norris but we are not living in an ideal world in this regard. In the light of our international peacekeeping operations it would be impossible to implement the amendment for the reasons outlined by the Minister of State. I would not like the Defence Forces to participate in the activation of cluster munitions but I understand where we are coming from in that regard. This is the beginning of a long campaign to try to bring all countries together. We are starting from a good position and I will go along with the Minister on this one.

In an ideal world and with all countries singing from the same hymn sheet the amendment would be acceptable. The Minister of State referred to the prospect of Irish troops coming under fire. For example, were Irish troops currently in Chad under attack and in need of help from another country that is not signed up to the convention, nobody here would say that we could choose who we wanted to defend our troops. That is the nub of the matter. As much as I would dislike a country to use cluster munitions, I would not care who helped our troops in a situation like that. For that reason mainly, I will go along with what the Minister stated. I understand the principled stand Senator Norris is taking but in a situation like that I could not go along with it.

The water has been pretty well muddied here. I will not press amendment No. 4 for the reasons that have been accepted by my colleagues, but I will press amendment No. 7. It simply states that the Defence Forces would be prohibited from participating in military operations with people who use cluster munitions, which are abhorrent. That does not preclude a rescue mission. There is a great difference between somebody coming to one's rescue and being involved in a military operation. For God's sake, even I can see that and I am not a military person. That is not an excuse. Senator Cummins, who is a most accommodating, decent and highly intelligent man, swallowed that, but I am sure that on reflection he will not accept it.

All Members of the House are determined to push for an outright ban on cluster munitions. I hope there will be further tidying up exercises because I understand section 30 of the Defence Act 1954 permits the Minister for Defence to lay landmines so there may be a bit of tidying up to do there. I am pressing the amendment because it is not acceptable that we accommodate those people.

I would not have gone near the United States with a 40 ft. barge pole. The regime that, thank God, is in its dying days in Washington is deeply criminal. It flouted every possible international, domestic, federal and human rights law. I would not have touched it and I am damn glad we were not involved in military operations to a greater extent with the United States. Thank God we did not get into Iraq. Can one imagine what that would have been like? I am pressing the amendment.

Many speakers used the expression "an ideal world". One only wishes we lived in one, but we do not. In the situations in which we are involved, especially on peacekeeping missions, that is far removed from the ideal world. We are not dealing with normal situations here but what we are doing by passing the legislation today, by subscribing to the convention and by playing a leadership role in chairing the convention means that we are taking a leadership role throughout the world. We are a small country that has a distinguished record throughout the world. We are recognised throughout the world in this area of foreign policy as having been one of the real leaders for many decades.

This is our niche in which we have taken a leadership role. We chaired the negotiations. Would it not be very unusual if we were to champion the Oslo process and chair the negotiations using all the diplomatic skills for which we are renowned globally to achieve consensus on the narrow issue of cluster munitions and then to adopt a position on foot of which we would not be allowed to have a peacekeeping role in areas in which we have had such a role for many decades? The people would not subscribe to this view.

In in ideal world there would never have been cluster munitions. In the unlikely scenario that Irish troops will be under fire in a real conflict with their backs against the wall, they will not have a chance to choose who will save their lives. If we were not to adopt a leadership role, we would be abdicating our responsibility and giving in. We would be emboldening countries not party to the convention. History and our peacekeeping missions have shown that when we take leadership roles, we bring other countries with us. They ultimately accept what we do as the norm. Many such examples can be cited. If we were to withdraw from the process at this stage having been so intrinsically involved, we would be in very difficult circumstances.

This debate involves a question of principle versus practicality. We are trying to steer a middle course and have played an honourable role. We should not abdicate our responsibility in this regard. That is why I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.
Section 2 agreed to.
Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 8 are cognate and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 6, subsection (3), between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

"(a) is committed by an Irish citizen or gives rise to injury to or death of an Irish citizen,”.

Section 6 creates certain criminal offences in respect of cluster munitions and explosive bomblets in accordance with the obligations the State will assume under the convention. Section 9 creates similar offences regarding anti-personnel mines. Both provisions extend the jurisdiction of the State regarding these offences beyond the territory of the State to acts committed on board Irish-registered ships or aircraft or by members of the Defence Forces. This is in accordance with established principles of international law.

The Senator's proposed amendments would further extend the jurisdiction of the State to cover cases in which the perpetrator of an act is an Irish citizen. My advice is that, as a matter of legal policy, Ireland has only ever extended criminal jurisdiction in such a manner on a very limited basis. This is primarily because of the very large number of Irish citizens around the world, many of whom are dual nationals. Accordingly, the State has been very conservative in exercising jurisdiction on this basis and has only done so where there has been very broad international consensus on the character of the activity concerned, for example, murder, manslaughter and certain sexual offences involving children. In this case it would clearly be very problematic to extend the State's criminal jurisdiction to acts that are lawful if committed in another state and in respect of which the perpetrator of the act is a citizen of that state. For these reasons, I cannot accept the Senator's proposed amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, before section 7, to insert the following new section:

"7.—The Defence Forces are prohibited from participating in military operations where cluster munitions will be used with the exception of training for clearing purposes.".

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 28.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.


  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Carty, John.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and David Norris; Níl, Senators Fiona O’Malley and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Sections 7 and 8 agreed to.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.
Sections 9 and 10 agreed to.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Sections 11 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I appreciate the Seanad taking all Stages of the Bill quickly and efficiently, as this will enable the Government to ratify the convention in Oslo on 3 December when it will be signed on behalf of Ireland by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin. It is the Government's intention to arrange for commencement of Parts 1, 3, 4 and 5 immediately the Bill is signed by the President and to commence Part 2 early in the new year. I thank Senators for their forbearance and co-operation in allowing the Bill to pass into law so quickly.

I compliment the Minister and his officials on introducing the Bill. As I indicated on Second Stage, Deputy Timmins introduced similar legislation in the other House. Most of the Fine Gael Party Bill is included in the legislation before us. The Oslo process has been lengthy and the Government and its officials have done Ireland proud. I extend best wishes to the Minister and his officials who will travel to Oslo next week to ratify and sign the convention.

I thank the Minister of State for his contribution to the Committee Stage debate. In addition to the Minister of State, I have worked with the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, on the legislation. It is great that we have reached this point. I appreciate the Minister of State's words of empathy with the idealism of Senators. I hope the Government will pursue an absolute ban on cluster munitions and wish the Minister well in ratifying the convention in Oslo. Ireland should continue to take a lead to ensure that all countries follow our example.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 December 2008.