Order of Business (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 228 No. 9

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames] This House and the public deserve to know the truth. It would be wise if the Minister for Finance were to address these serious allegations this week.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Hear, hear.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I agree that we need to be very careful in what we say about NAMA. Senator Darragh O'Brien has done the State some service.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway When things go wrong and are not done the way they should be done, the people deserve to know. Senator O'Brien has fulfilled his responsibilities as a Member of this House.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We do not know if it is new information.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Of course he would pass information on to the Garda. He would always do what is right.

Senator Denis O'Donovan: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Maith an fear.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I thank him in that regard.

  In the week that is in it, I support Senator Kelly's call for a debate on poverty. In each of the past two years, I have spoken in the run-up to Christmas about a homeless gentleman I used to see on the steps opposite the front gate of Leinster House. I have not seen him there so far this year. I shudder to think where that poor man might be at this time. Homelessness is a big problem. Representatives of many charities have spoken about the challenges facing homeless people and highlighted the increase in the number of homeless people in Dublin. Regardless of the state of our economy, we have a responsibility to ensure we eliminate homelessness. As a country, we have the ability to do so. There should be no need for people to beg on the streets of Dublin or any other city or town in Ireland. I do not know how we will go about the elimination of homelessness, but there should be a discussion on it. This House should be challenging the Government, and Senators as citizens, to come up with better ways of doing business and better ways of eliminating homelessness. All of this feeds into the completely new approach to charity that is needed in this country. I believe donating to charity should be seen in the same way as paying tax. When we pay tax, we expect full accountability. When people donate to a charity box, they should also expect full accountability. At the end of the day, it is the citizen's money. Next year will pose challenges for this House. We should embrace those challenges on behalf of the Irish people and come up with solutions. If that involves organising public consultation processes, as have already successfully been done on other issues, we can do a good year's work in 2014.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I join my colleagues in commending the leader of our group, Senator Darragh O'Brien, on highlighting the concerns that have been raised with him privately regarding the way NAMA conducts its business. While I appreciate Senator Coghlan's comment that these are mere allegations, it is unfortunate-----

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I remind the Senator that some people, including some politicians, have agendas.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator has spoken already.

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White Zoom on Mary M. White The less he says, the better.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson While I appreciate Senator Coghlan's concerns, I emphasise that every Member of this House who comes into possession of information of major significance to this State has an obligation to put it on the record of the House and hand it on to the appropriate authorities.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is a sine qua non.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I do not think anybody should be condemned for doing that.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am condemning nobody. Senator O'Brien knows I have great respect for him.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke It is not like Senator Coghlan to be interrupting.

Senator Denis O'Donovan: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Santa might not come to him.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Can we have Senator Wilson without interruption?

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I ask the Acting Leader to ensure that when we come back in the new year, we will not be bullied by the Government into ramming through legislation in the manner that has been happening this week. I know I am pushing an open door with this request. It should be one of the main resolutions of Members on all sides of the House. The guillotining of legislation in the last week before the Christmas and summer breaks has been going on since I became a Member of this House. It was an even greater feature of the approach to legislating of the Government I represented in this House. It is unfortunate. There is a clear mandate from the people of Ireland for the existence of this House. If we are to exist in a meaningful way, we should be prepared to tell the Government when we are not finished with legislation that we want to take the time to debate it properly and amend it if necessary. It is not good enough that the deadline for submitting amendments should pass before the Second Stage debate starts, but that is what we have seen again this week. The Government wants us to get our amendments in before the deadline, even though it has no intention of looking at them, because it sees us as a rubber stamp. It is not fair on the Leader, the Cathaoirleach, the staff or, in particular, the Members of this House. It should stop. We should make a resolution to that effect when we come back.

Senator Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy I remind Members that the NAMA legislation was designed not to be open or transparent. People should remember that. The Minister for Finance does not work for the Garda Síochána or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The exclusive role of certain bodies that are in place is to deal with any wrongdoing that might occur.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is a question of the separation of powers.

Senator Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy This week marked the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration. I was in the car the other night listening to the presentation from Iveagh House. I have to say it was one of the better moments in public broadcasting. I listened to the former Prime Minister, John Major. Now that our nation and the United Kingdom are just about at the position of having normal relations for once and for all, I suggest it would be appropriate for this House to invite the former Prime Minister, John Major, to address Senators at the earliest possible opportunity in recognition of his role in the Downing Street Declaration.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I ask the Senator to bring his suggestion to the Leader of the House so that it may be considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien It is an excellent suggestion.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator could write to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges separately.

Senator Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy Actually, I do not think I need to write to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke You do. There is a procedure to be followed in these circumstances. The Senator needs to write to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Senator Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy I am putting it on the record of the House that I think 2014 will present a perfect opportunity for the former British Prime Minister, John Major, to address this Chamber on his role and the role of others in this regard.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The request has to come to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Senator Darragh O'Brien spoke about the further allegations that have been made regarding NAMA. I join others who have commended the Senator on raising this issue. This is an illustration of the importance of the Seanad as an appropriate forum for highlighting issues. Clearly, these are serious matters that fall within the remit of the Garda. Like others, I am glad to hear that Senator O'Brien will be lodging the documents he spoke about with the Garda this afternoon. That is indeed the appropriate course. The Senator also asked for the Order of Business to be amended to bring the Minister for Finance to the Chamber today. I cannot accede to that request because the Minister, Deputy Noonan, is in Brussels at an ECOFIN meeting.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Brian Hayes, could come to the Chamber instead.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik In any event, I am not sure it would be appropriate for the Minister to debate the matter with us. Senator Mullins, who was one of the many Senators to speak on this issue, sensibly suggested it would be more appropriate for the board of NAMA to be brought before the Committee of Public Accounts or the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform to be interrogated and to answer questions. That appears more appropriate to me. The Government has said that it takes the allegations and accusations about NAMA very seriously. As others have said, anyone who has evidence of impropriety is legally obliged under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 to bring that to the immediate attention of the Garda Síochána. I was glad to hear Senator Darragh O'Brien saying that the Garda Commissioner has had the information in question since early December and that he will be supplying the extra information today. Of course it is important to point out that neither the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister for Finance, any Minister of State nor the Government itself may be involved in carrying out criminal investigations.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I understand that.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Such investigations are solely matters for the Garda Síochána. Any person who has information that might be useful should make it available to the Garda. People have been critical of the NAMA legislation. I think that is fair. There are specific offences under the NAMA Act in relation to the inappropriate disclosure of confidential information.


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