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Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 3

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Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I do not think I interrupted the Deputy, but maybe I did. If so, I apologise. The Deputy did not say that there should be a Whip on everything.

Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney Conscience.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin A Whip on conscience? I have to determine if child benefit is a conscience issue or only a sectionally related issue of conscience. We are in a very difficult area if we are going to say to people that they should determine what is a matter of conscience, and that takes it outside the norms of politics. We all have consciences. I did not get the opportunity to speak in the debate but I find it jarring when people say they are going to vote with their conscience, as if not everybody in this House has a conscience or reflects and makes determinations in light of their experiences, beliefs and ultimately their consciences.

Deputy Donnelly talked about the Executive's control over the Oireachtas. The most vigorous debate happens within parliamentary parties and that determines what happens here. The rows, clamour and strenuous debate that happen within the Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil parties determines that discourse. I understand that a lot of this is alien to Independents who can determine their views-----

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The Minister should attend a Technical Group meeting.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I find the notion that they are Independents in a group to be perverse. I do not expect a Technical Group to have a consensus because they are all, by definition, independent.

Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney Independent of what?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Independent of each other, I think, which is fine.

We need to ensure that we have effectiveness in parliamentary decision-making. By definition, politics is the art of compromise and we compromise on many matters.

I do not accept Deputy Pringle's commentary about show trials. If we look at every issue that has been inquired into in this House - in so far as we could do so before the Abbeylara judgment - it was done objectively, with restraint and within confines. That applied even to very political issues like the fall of the 1994 Government. I was a witness at that, with some insight into what happened. It was chaired very fairly and impartially by a Fianna Fáil Deputy.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Very well.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin No conclusions were reached.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming It was done without this legislation.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Absolutely, but this legislation has flowed from events since then, when we had an instruction to shape what should happen.

  There is a slightly precious view that somehow the Opposition is pure and less base or politic than the Government side. By that definition, therefore, the minority should be able to overturn the view of the majority. That is something I just do not accept.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly No doubt we will continue to debate this matter. However, it is a bit like coming to a meeting of the flat earth society. One comes in here and everybody says, "No, it has to be done this way, it couldn't possibly happen any other way". When one says that it happens successfully in this "impossible" way in other parliaments, we are told: "No, it couldn't possibly work. There'd be chaos. All the debate has to happen within the parties and away from the public."

Heaven forbid that in our national parliament Deputies in the same party would be allowed to disagree with each other. The reality is that the current rules, which give an Irish Cabinet more control over Parliament than in any other developed country, suit whoever comes into power. The Minister spent a long time in opposition and railed against a lot of these things. The programme for Government aimed to get rid of the guillotine system, but once in power the Government chose to keep it. In fact, it is being used three times today because it is useful. They use it on all the sensitive Bills because it is useful. When a Government gets into power, Ministers consider that this level of control is pretty useful. They quite like it and want to keep it.

On national radio recently, the Government Chief Whip described the Government's efforts at political reform as deplorable. The result is that nobody trusts us. The Irish people trust us less than virtually anyone else in the developed world trusts their politicians. That is because they know, when they are listening to Government Deputies, or Opposition Deputies in parties, that they are not necessarily hearing what those people believe. On radio and television, and in here, I have debated issues with good Government backbenchers. I have listened to them discuss points, although before the debate they have told me they do not agree with them. Yet they have to toe the line and say that I am completely wrong. That is the way it is. They know they are not representing their own views. The people are not stupid and they know it as well.

The Minister's argument is that the Government will do the right thing if there is an overwhelming demand from the people, but what happens if there is not an overwhelming demand? What happens if it is a really important issue that we in the House know should be investigated, but the public do not really care about it because it is boring and technical? The Government will not investigate these things.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We will have this debate again. Grandstanding happens. We had a debate which took up time this morning on guillotining this Bill, although we had open-ended discussion on Second and Committee Stages without a guillotine. There is no new substance in this.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming There are new amendments.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin No new issues that we have not already skirted around. That is part of the political process and I perfectly understand that. In essence, Deputy Donnelly is saying that if there is no public clamour for it and if there is no majority for it in the Dáil, it should happen anyway because he knows, or a minority knows, or some people who are clearly superior to the mass-----

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Or you know, Minister.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin -----determine that this is important. They think they have the right to play a golden card that overturns the majority in Parliament. I do not accept that, however.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Does the Deputy wish to reply?

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I think not.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell They are all talked out. Does the Deputy wish to press the amendment?

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I do.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Amendment No. 6 has already been discussed with amendment No. 5.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I move amendment No. 6:

  Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

  Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Amendment No. 7 has already been discussed with amendment No. 5.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I move amendment No. 7:

  Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

  Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell Amendment No. 8 has already been discussed with amendment No. 5.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I move amendment No. 8:


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