Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966: Allocation of Time.

Tuesday, 7 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 62 Next Page Last Page

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Carty): Information on Michael Carty Zoom on Michael Carty I move:

That in the case of the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966, the proceedings on the five stages there-of and on the Money Resolution in Committee on Finance and on Report in connection therewith, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 7th June, 1966, by putting from the Chair forthwith the Questions necessary to bring them to a conclusion: Provided that after the said hour on the said day

(i) a Question shall not be put on any amendment (save an amendment set down by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such amendment shall be in the form, That the amendment be made), nor on any motion other than a motion necessary to bring the proceedings forthwith to a conclusion and then only when moved by a member of the Government and

[47] (ii) the Question to be put to bring the proceedings in Committee on the Bill to a conclusion shall be, That Sections (or Sections, as amended, if amendments have been made) stand part of and that the Title be the Title of the Bill.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I want to register a strong protest against the terms of this motion. This is not the first time the present Government attempted to introduce — regrettably but unsuccessfully — what is in fact a guillotine motion. The purpose of this motion is to have passed through all its Stages the Bill called the Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966. It is now 4 o'clock and Dáil Éireann is expected to discuss the Second Stage, the Committee Stage, the Report Stage and the Final Stage of this Bill, a Bill which has very wide implications, in a matter of 6½ hours. The Taoiseach particularly must understand that the contents of this Bill were only made known to me, and I believe to Deputy Cosgrave of Fine Gael, yesterday afternoon. As a matter of fact, it has not been in my possession 24 hours yet. I do not think this is quite good enough. If I had not been in Dublin yesterday, it is debatable if I would have received this Bill before late last night or some time this morning. But I happened to hear the news on Radio Éireann to the effect that the Government intended to introduce the legislation to which I refer. Immediately I decided to come to Dublin.

Deputy Cosgrave and I, being Leaders of Parties, are in the position that we were acquainted late yesterday afternoon with the contents of this Bill; but I do not think the Government can afford to ignore every single one of the 144 Deputies of Dáil Éireann. Many of them travelled 200 miles or over this morning. While the contents of the Bill were in my possession, I do not think it is seriously proposed that my Party—let the Fine Gael Party speak for themselves—particularly with our special interest in trade union legislation, could be expected to examine the Bill in all its details or to [48] try to foresee its implications within such a short period.

This is an absolute guillotine and curtailment of debate. As far as our Party are concerned, no matter what the decision on this motion is, we propose to discuss it as far as ever we can. I do not think the Taoiseach is doing justice, not alone to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party but in particular to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party who are members of trade unions. Maybe they welcome this sort of guillotine in that, as members of trade unions, they will be pleased not to have the opportunity of discussing a Bill which in effect is an incursion on the rights of the trade union movement and of individual workers. As it is, only a few speakers can participate. This was our experience in September, 1961, when there was an attempt, which subsequently proved abortive, to introduce legislation somewhat similar to this.

This is an important and unprecedented measure as far as freedom of action by the individual and by the trade union movement is concerned. It may be quite a popular thing for the Taoiseach to do in present circumstances. Apart from the circumstances, which again are debatable, I do not think he should avail of this occasion to use the big stick to frighten and disrupt the trade union movement. This motion does not provide any worthwhile time for amendments. If I or members of my Party put down amendments on Committee Stage and Report Stage, according to this motion if they are not reached by 10.30 p.m. they will not be taken. On the other hand, if the Minister for Industry and Commerce or any members of the Government decide they will put down amendments, their amendments will be decided. That applies only to members of the Government. Therefore, no matter what amendments are promoted from this side of the House, from people who have been all their lives in the trade union movement, they cannot be decided on because the Fianna Fáil Government want to curtail this debate to 6½ hours. We therefore propose to oppose this motion and to vote against it. We are not [49] going to be stampeded by agreeing to this closure motion into a commitment which may have serious repercussions not alone on the trade union movement but on the whole economy of the country. The Taoiseach and the Government ought to give further thought to this legislation so that that sort of damage may not be done.

This Bill interferes with the right of trade unions and the rights of their individual members. This motion interferes with the rights of Deputies. I have heard Deputy Dillon on many occasions talking about the rights of every Deputy as an elected representative to be given time in this House to express his opinions as long and as fully as he wishes. If this motion is passed by this House, there will be a curtailment to the extent that maybe only five, six or ten people can participate. For that reason, we oppose this motion.

The Taoiseach may feel there was urgency in this. On the introduction of legislation to do certain other good things, we protested there was urgency. For example, we advocated in respect of Budget proposals for an increase in social welfare benefits that these be given quickly, but we were told it was not possible because the legislation had to be passed, as the machinery has to be exploited to the full. The result is we do not get that sort of legislation until months after the Budget proposals. In this case there seems to be no difficulty in legislating against the trade union movement and against the individual. There seems to be no difficulty whatsoever in having the parliamentary draftsman frame this sort of Bill within a matter of, if not hours, days. Because, as I say, it will stifle debate, because we have not had sufficient opportunity to consider the Bill and to consult with our trade union colleagues, we propose to vote against this motion.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I do not think it is good enough that Deputy Carty, Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, should stand up here and say “I move” and immediately everybody should take it for granted that the democratic process is going to stand still and that we are going to [50] reverse the procedure which has been evolved here over the past 40 years. This is a complete denial of the rights and privileges of ordinary Deputies, and I am certain there must be somebody from among the ranks of the Government Party who feels respect for Parliament and respect for the Dáil, and who feels that, having been sent here, he has a responsibility to the voters in the constituency who elected him to look after their interests.

If he is to be enabled to do that, the first requirement is that he should be made aware in the fullest possible sense of what he is going to talk about or what he is going to vote upon. However, it is very evident here that the Government decided, without consultation with anybody outside the Cabinet, that they were going to put down this motion and steamroll it through the House and have everything their own way. It is not going to be so. We intend to give the Government as much opposition on this as we possibly can.

As to the content of this piece of legislation, we can suspect its general terms from having read the papers, but we know very little of the details because we have not been individually informed of what the Government intend to do. Apart from that, I am concerned to discuss what Deputy Dillon so many times has valiantly guarded and fought for, that is, the rights and privileges of Deputies to be fully informed as to what is about to take place. I have not seen this Bill and, apart from the Leaders of the main Opposition Parties, Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Corish, I am just as wise as any other ordinary Deputy as to what it says in detail. It may very well be there are people outside this House who know more about it than I do. In fact, I am sure there are people outside this House who know far more about the contents of this Bill than the elected representatives of the people. We, therefore, think that this incursion, as it has been described by Deputy Corish, upon the rights of Deputies must be brought to a halt at the first available opportunity.

[51] In the normal course of events, the purpose of a motion of this kind would be to enable the eventual circulation of a Bill which we must consider at the same time and it would not meet with any opposition from us. However, this is a guillotine or closure motion. As Deputy Corish has said, there might be time in the next six and a half hours for six to ten speakers out of a House of over 140 to give their views on what is being done here today or what the Government propose to do. I would not think we would have time for anything like that number of speakers. The progress here is nothing if not pedestrian, and I am quite certain speakers from the Government side will be introduced to drag out the agonised moments for their own purpose and that the amount of time given to Opposition speakers will be so manipulated that few voices will be heard.

We contend the Government have an obligation to the elected Members of Dáil Éireann to provide them with the Bill which they have in mind so that they can study it, get time off to examine it and to look into its implications. From what we hear and from the summaries I have read in the papers, its implications can be very serious so far as the trade union movement is concerned. Rumour has it that it will take from workers a right they have always had, that there is a danger of making it impossible for workers to pursue their disputes in the manner in which they have done since 1913. I know the reference to 1913 hurts some of them here but it is something which we hold dear. The workers of this city, of this county, of this country, have not built up an organisation such as exists today, a model in many ways for the trade union movements of the world, to have it brought to nought by some mountebank politicians.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The Deputy should confine himself to the motion.

Deputies: With great effect.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I hope the Deputy is open to take advice.

[52]Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan We are giving the advice on this occasion.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne What I am saying is that we are very concerned—and we would be false to the people who founded this Party if we were other than concerned—at what the Government propose to do here today. It is because of that concern and because also of the primary matter which we are discussing, the disregard and contempt shown by the Government for the ordinary Members of this House, that we are offering the hardest opposition we can to every step they propose to take. It is to be thought that the Government might have taken something of a lesson from the events of the past week, the lesson being that they cannot go on forever flouting the wishes of the people to their own benefit, that they cannot go on forever living in a little world of their own, detached from the people, that they cannot ride rough-shod over the people, looking after their own friends and forgetting about everybody else.

This should have been evident to the Government from the events of the past week but I know there are some upon whom the facts of political life never impinge. There are some who see things only through the rose-tinted spectacles of their own Party and cannot see any other view. The people have shown otherwise; they have shown that there are more sides to the picture than one and that there are more things in the political spectrum than just the one evergreen view. This demonstration on the part of the people will, I think, extend and go further and when the time comes, they will make it even more effective in another way.

But here is another example of how the Government can attempt to destroy completely the rights of the ordinary citizen as represented by the ordinary Deputy. This is a piece of dictatorship, this closure motion which we have here today, which leads on to belief in the omnipotence of the Party in power, which leads on to their self-delusion that they, and only they, know what is good for the people, which leads on eventually to their downfall. [53] We are not standing for it. We are standing first, at this moment of time, on this day, on the principle that every Member of this House should be fully informed as to what is proposed to be done by any Bill upon which he is being asked to vote. He should have time enough to consider what is contained in the Bill and there should be no guillotine on that consideration.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass In regard to Deputy Dunne's——

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Before the Taoiseach concludes——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I am not concluding.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave That is what I wanted to find out.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I was intervening to remove certain misapprehensions in regard to Deputy Dunne's complaint that the Parliamentary Secretary moved the motion without a statement. May I say that I had no intimation in advance that the motion was likely to be opposed?

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan Oh, no?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I do not think Deputies should be either naïve or legalistic about this. Every Deputy in the House is, I think, aware that the country yesterday was faced with a situation of critical significance, a situation which involved the livelihood of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Irish workers, as well as widespread public inconvenience. We may be faced with that situation again. It is certainly a situation in which the public expect the Dáil to take action and to take action having regard to the rights of workers to livelihoods and even perhaps the right to life itself. If the Dáil does not agree to dispose of this Bill today so that the Seanad can deal with it tomorrow, then of course we are into a situation where if the worst happens the enactment of legislation necessary to deal with it will not become possible until next week.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Minister for Transport and Power could have acted.

(Interruptions.)

[54]The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We are entitled to hope that arising out of discussions that are in progress the situation may change and that the necessity to put the proposed legislation into operation will not present itself.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne Are you backing down?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass If this does not happen, there is an obligation on the Dáil to look at the situation and to consider the Government's proposal to deal with it. It is not the kind of legislation we like.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Then, adjourn it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass There is an obligation on the Dáil to deal with the situation. We cannot allow circumstances to arise in which all the consequences of a complete stoppage of electricity supplies can be inflicted without dealing with the situation. That is what we are trying to do.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan Put the blame where the blame belongs.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen There he is: he stands accused. Get him out.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The discussion should relate to the particular business before the House and the method of pointing to a particular Minister across the floor of the House should not be indulged in by any Deputy.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave I think the Dáil is entitled to express very strong criticism of the manner in which this matter has been handled by the Government. The Taoiseach implied in his remarks a few moments ago that the House and the country were aware of the situation. Of course they are and the only people who appear to be unaware of the gravity of it are the Government. This motion which amounts to a strict limitation on time for discussion is not the first motion of this sort to be introduced here. We have a precedent within the memory of virtually every Deputy in the House and certainly within the memory of every Minister. That precedent is less than five years old. On [55] that occasion the motion was introduced after a special meeting of the Dáil had been summoned. It was moved by the Taoiseach who, in the course of his remarks in response to some queries, said that the motion would not be introduced unless the situation was of the utmost gravity. The motion today is introduced almost inaudibly by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach who advances no reason or cause why it should be considered. It is implied of course in the newspaper reports and in the general consternation that exists throughout the country that not merely are the lives of people in danger and threatened but also that the employment of 180,000 workers is in jeopardy. That is common knowledge. This has not been brought forward to the Dáil by the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Transport and Power.

It is suggested here that because of the gravity of the situation the timetable should be abridged. If the situation is as serious as we believe it is, we have no objection on this side of the House to curtailing the normal time of debate but what we suggest is that the House might adjourn and allow Deputies—these other Deputies who have not been given a copy of this measure—time to read it. Deputies are entitled to get time to read it. It is quite wrong to suggest that in the case of a Bill of this sort, dealing with a matter which abridges and seriously restricts the rights of workers to organise and affects the principles under which trade unions operate, full opportunity should not be given to Deputies to read the measure. Subject to that limitation, if it is contended—and the only suggestion here is by implication from a remark of the Taoiseach that the situation is serious——

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Deputy suggested we should adjourn to consider the Bill.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave No, to allow us to read the Bill.

(Interruptions.)

[56]A Deputy: To sit all night if you wish.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan We have not even seen the Bill.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave That is what I say. Adjourn to allow Deputies time to read the Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I am quite willing to do that. I do not think it necessary to adjourn. The House could proceed with other business.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Yes. Some Ministers do not have too much to do; they could do something else. That would be all right. I quite agree to it but if, in a major crisis of this sort, a lead is not given by the Government, how do the Government expect the country to follow? No indication was given in any speech made here today that this is a serious situation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Minister was going to deal with that on the Bill.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan We have not heard the Bill.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave The House has not yet even given leave to introduce the Bill.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass If the Deputy does not know——

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave I know it, but the Government do not appear to know it. This has continued for five years. There has been chaos in industrial relations in the ESB for five years and nothing has been done about it. It is not merely the concern of one Minister but of two and the situation has continued without any effort by the Government to remedy it. It is brought into the House at 4 o'clock and there is no more suggestion as to the gravity of the situation than a casual moving of the motion by the Parliamentary Secretary. I suggest that we adjourn or go on to some other business and, in an hour's time, when Deputies have read the Bill, we can consider it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee Is Deputy Cosgrave making the proposition that the Bill be [57] circulated and given a First Reading and that in the meantime the debate on this motion should be adjourned?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee I know there are members of the Labour Party who have no regard for the law or Standing Orders of this House. There is no machinery whereby the context of a Bill can be circulated to the Dáil until the Bill has received a First Reading.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee I would suggest that Deputy Cosgrave's proposition should be that the Bill be given a First Reading and that the debate on the motion be adjourned for a half an hour or an hour.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass No. The proposition is that a motion fixing a time for the conclusion of the debate be passed first and then that the Bill be given a First Reading. I am agreeable that after the Bill has been circulated, time should be given to consider it and that the Final Stage be taken by the House not before, say, 11.30 p.m.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave I suggest that the Bill be introduced and that the House adjourn or go on to other business while Deputies study it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass It cannot be introduced until it is given a First Reading.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Suppose leave is given to introduce it, we could then be given time to study it.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully I want to say on my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party that we will not agree to any trickery of any kind.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins The guillotine motion is now before the House and it is impossible to consider it without the Bill first being introduced. On the last occasion there was a special summoning of the Dáil and the reason for that summoning was given.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We are not going to be a party to any agreement whereby [58] the discussion on the Bill will be curtailed to x, y or z hours.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass When this Motion has been discussed, I am prepared to substitute some other business for an hour, so that Deputies may study the Bill.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey What we are discussing at the moment is motion No. 6 which purports to limit the time of the passage of this Bill through the Dáil. We are against that. As an individual member of this House, I am entitled to know what legislation I am being expected to enact. I do not know what that legislation is as yet. I have not yet got a copy of the Bill. I am entitled to get a copy, to study it and to make up my mind on it. From the newspaper reports and from the rumours we have heard, it does appear to us that this is a vital piece of legislation. It is not good enough in my case, as an individual Deputy, that in an hour's or two hours' time, I am to get a copy of the Bill and then be expected to come in here and discuss it in all its stages and then, in approximately four or five hours, be asked to pass this vital measure.

I suggest to the Taoiseach that he is doing a great disservice to this Parliament and to this House, the standards of which we are all anxious to maintain at a high level, if he expects that legislation of this nature can be rushed through it without allowing each and every one of the over 140 Deputies to speak on all stages of it. If he intends to do that, he is doing a great disservice to the House.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We would be doing a greater disservice if we allowed legalistic arguments to stop us from dealing with a critical situation.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey We would be doing a great disservice to the House and to democracy if we agreed that such a vital piece of legislation should be brought in here at 4.40 p.m. and that before 10.30 p.m. we should pass it. The suggestion has been made that we are dealing only with 100 men.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass 200,000.

[59]Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey I am given to understand from the newspaper reports that the Bill covers, not alone these men, but every employee of the ESB. Next week we will have one for CIE, Bord na Móna, Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, Irish Shipping and Aer Lingus. I do not want to make any political capital out of this and I hope the Taoiseach will take our arguments in the way we are putting them to him, but this is an important matter from our point of view and from the point of view of democracy, and I think he should have second thoughts about it.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Reference has been made here to my concern for the working of Parliament. I think the time has come for every one of us here to ask ourselves the question: “Are we going to demonstrate to our people that Parliament in this country is capable of acting?” We can conduct all kinds of acrimonious disputes across this House and the net result of it will be that our own people will say that Parliament has ceased to function for the purpose of maintaining the society in which we live.

I do not want in these circumstances to introduce a note of acrimony but I think it is a desperate error of judgment on the part of the Leader of the House—because, remember, the Taoiseach was not only elected by this House to be the Head of the Government; he was elected to be Leader of the House—not to have realised the significance of the motion he has set before us and not to have recognised his obligation of explaining deliberately to the House the reason why he asked Deputies to waive their inalienable right and responsibility to give individual consideration to a grave legislative matter.

I believe that the Taoiseach should have risen here today and told the House of any serious peril such as they have been led to believe might arise, such as we were called upon to prepare ourselves for yesterday but are reassured this morning is now more remote. I do not know. It is a grotesque situation that a person of my experience in this House should find himself in a position at this hour [60] to get up and say: “I do not know”. The Taoiseach ought to be in a position to say: “If you were listening to what I have told the House now, you ought to know”. He has not told us anything.

I am not getting to my feet to belittle the Taoiseach. I am merely directing his attention to the fact that he has greatly increased the difficulty —and I am sure Deputy Cosgrave will agree with me, and probably Deputy Corish—of correctly evaluating the situation. For all of us who love Parliament and individual liberty, he has made it ten times more difficult to handle this situation with prudence and with the resolution that the country expects Parliament to show in the presence of any situation which could be properly described-properly described—as a national emergency.

It is nonsense to say that Parliament is paralysed in the presence of a national emergency. There is no more effective instrument to deal with a real national emergency than a representative Parliament because, if we all speak here today with a united voice, we speak for all the people and it would be a thousand times better, whatever the situation is, if we could find a basis of agreement on all sides to deal with this specific emergency. I think that has been made extremely difficult by the approach of the Taoiseach in this situation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I think, in fairness, I should tell the Deputy that each of the Opposition Parties was informed yesterday of the intention to ask the Dáil to dispose of this business today and I was not informed of any objection to that course.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon None of us will get any further by losing his temper. I am trying to use language and to avoid language. I beg that all sides will refrain from acrimonious language because, honestly, the country is watching us.

I think Deputy MacEntee was mistaken in saying that the procedural problem was insurmountable. I think the text of the Bill could be made available to all Deputies through the machinery of a White Paper. If you want to get over the technical business [61] that you cannot print a Bill until the House has authorised its printing, you can issue a White Paper. I do not doubt the document is in print. Let it be circulated to Deputies, not as a Bill but as a White Paper. Then we can consider this motion in the light of the contents of the White Paper and if our Labour colleagues here feel, having read the White Paper, that they could not in conscience vote for the motion, then they will vote against it. Do not let us lose our heads. I want to be able to say down the country, whether I agree with the members of the Labour Party or not, that they acted coldly, deliberately and did not lose their heads. I want to be able to say to the whole country: “Whatever we did, we did it coldly and deliberately, in the belief that we were doing what was in the best interests of the country”.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne You are an honest man.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon I am asking—and I am sure this will meet with the approval of the Leader of my Party—that the text of the document should be made available to all of us as a White Paper. I am asking that such adjournment as the Leader of the Fine Gael Party has suggested should then be made so that we may all study the White Paper and I am asking then that we should return to the consideration of this motion. I do most earnestly implore, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that when we return to the consideration of this motion, the Taoiseach would accept responsibility as Leader of the House for telling the House why he asks Deputies to abrogate the most sacred right they have, that is, to speak their minds in a free Parliament, not as delegates of any special interests but as responsible men and women elected by our people (1) to see that the fundamental rights of the people are defended and (2) to demonstrate before the world that Parliament works in Ireland.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen The rights and wrongs of this measure do not enter my mind at the moment. What I am anxious to ascertain is: does this House believe in democracy? Following on what Deputy Dillon has said, it is only right and proper that every member of this [62] House must be made familiar with what is being put before the House. It is quite obvious that that has not happened up to the moment. One must question the motives of the person or persons trying to perpetrate what is sought to be perpetrated at the moment on this House. In that regard, I am entitled to ascertain why the introduction of this measure should be made by somebody who has not any particular responsibility for this situation we are presented with. I do believe the Minister for Transport and Power should face up to his responsibilities and put the measure he intends to introduce before this House and put it properly and make argument for it. As we operate in a democratic State, we should be afforded an opportunity of deciding upon whatever he says in that connection.

I agree with Deputy Dillon when he advocates that we should be given an opportunity of discussing what exactly is being put before us because few, if any, of us, other than the Leaders of our respective Parties, know what this is all about. The Leader of the Fine Gael Party may know. The Government may know. The Leader of the Labour Party undoubtedly knows— he got short notice of it. The fact remains that there are a number of persons elected to this House, and irrespective of any Party affiliation, it is right and proper for every member of this House to be afforded the opportunity of considering such a serious measure. It is not good enough for the Taoiseach or anybody else—or indeed the Parliamentary Secretary—to stand up and leisurely move something. Indeed, a case has not been made for what has been forced upon us and therefore, as I say, it is only proper that every Member should have an opportunity of considering what is placed before us. That is what is expected of us by the people who elected us.

It is very wrong of Deputy MacEntee who comes now and again to the forefront, and when it is convenient remains in the background, to start to tell us how we should conduct our affairs. We are a democratic and, unfortunately, only a Twenty-Six [63] County state, and we purport to be democrats and that being so, it is obvious that we should afford the opportunity to every Member to consider whatever is being thrust upon us. If there is any value in the motion that is to be put before the House, then argument must be advanced for it. It is only right to ask the man who is charged with responsibility for running the ESB about this, the man who is the cause of all the trouble, the Minister for Transport and Power, who has remained silent and will continue to remain silent for many reasons, and particularly because of his inactivity in this whole matter.

Irrespective of politics, we are entitled to have the opportunity of considering any measure which comes into this House, otherwise we can be described outside as a State which filibusters matters through the particular House of Parliament. I do not hold with that. It could be said that this has to be taken as an emergency measure but surely this emergency has been in train for a number of weeks? The Minister for Transport and Power should have been well aware of this but he was not. Apparently the Taoiseach became aware of it and that being so, he had the opportunity, as indeed had the whole Cabinet, to set out their ideas in regard to legislation before this.

This is a matter which does not affect only people employed in the ESB; it also affects countless numbers of workers in different types of employment who will be looking on, as indeed will countless numbers of employers. Bad example could be given by the manner in which this matter is being presented to the House.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman Might I make just two or three short observations? The Taoiseach said that he had been given advice that this was the right way to do this, but the advice was cockeyed and was based on what happened at a special session of the Dáil in 1961 when I happened to be the Opposition Whip. The proper course, under Standing Orders — and we do this [64] regularly—is to move a motion before 8.30 on an ordinary sitting day.

A mistake has been made and I do not want to score any political point but let us try to do the thing properly. Let the Taoiseach move that further consideration be adjourned until 5.30. Let the Minister for Industry and Commerce introduce his Bill immediately afterwards and then let the Dáil adjourn until 5.30 so that each Deputy can read the Bill and see what the Dáil is being asked to do and let everybody know where he is.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Authority to circulate the Bill comes after the introduction of it.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman That is what I just said.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I would like you, Sir, to give a ruling. The advice given to the Government by the Ceann Comhairle's Office was that the motion for the curtailment of time had to come before the First Reading. I have no objection to taking it in a different order, the First Reading first and the motion afterwards, if this is in order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The position is that the Government can introduce the Bill before the motion is taken.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass In that case, I am quite willing to introduce the Bill now and adjourn the motion.

Mr. O'Leary: I do not think that the Taoiseach could have had expressions of support or opposition in regard to this Bill since he issued it only yesterday.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I did not say anything about opposition or support. I said there was no intimation of any opposition to the motion.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan Our Party is not led that way.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins Can we proceed to the introduction of the Bill?

[65]Mr. O'Leary: We want to say that there can be no question of a gentleman's agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil because we consider the issues involved too important to be decided on in a haphazard or peremptory fashion. We are aware that our stand on this matter is not a popular one. If anybody could claim political capital, it is those who take an opposite view to ours. It is not so much the 100 fitters and their rights which are in issue but the whole trade union movement which has been brought into the dock and in five hours this Parliament is to judge that movement and in five hours is to decide to alter the trade union law which has been formed over 50 years. We say as the representatives, to some degree, of that movement that we do not intend to stand idly aside and see those rights whittled away.

In recent months, in the middle of this industrial strife, there has grown up the idea that by bringing in the judicial concept and by compulsion, these issues can be solved. Everybody in this Party, and I am sure in other Parties—many of the members are employers—knows that this is not so, that the issues that have been in dispute in recent months have their origin in economic problems and that introducing a conception of this sort into industrial relations will not bring any easy solution. I do not see how this Parliament can presume to be resolute in a crisis if the impression is that this matter can be debated satisfactorily in four hours. Not alone are the rights of Deputies infringed by this panic measure and, in dealing with a crisis in this fashion, the Government cannot be absolved from an accusation of panic, but the Government have, in my opinion, introduced this measure without adequate forethought and that is scarcely the way in which to deal with the very serious situation confronting us.

I understand that this problem is one that has not arisen over a very short period of time. I understand somewhat similar legislation was, brought before this House in 1961. I understand that, following on that, a court of inquiry was set up and that court of inquiry in its report suggested [66] that the negotiating machinery of the ESB should be drastically altered and that the manual workers and clerical workers tribunals should be terminated and one tribunal set up. I understand that has not been done. I ask the Minister for Transport and Power why it has not been done and why, since panic is now the attitude of his Government, he, as the responsible Minister, did nothing in the months leading up to this crisis. This claim was first introduced in November, 1964.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The Deputy is, I think, getting away from the motion.

Mr. O'Leary: I am referring to some of the problems.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin The Deputy may not discuss the whole problem on this motion, which deals with the curtailment of time.

Mr. O'Leary: Problems arise when Deputies are asked to legislate on a mystery motion.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I am anxious to solve the mystery if the Deputy will allow me.

Mr. O'Leary: The Taoiseach cannot be absolved of suspicion that not alone is he here to introduce mystery but also to terminate discussion as quickly as possible.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass My proposition is that we introduce the Bill, give it its First Reading, and then adjourn debate on this motion.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey For how long?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass An hour.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We should, I think, get this clear. I do not care what the mechanics are about adjournment and so on, but, as far as my Party are concerned, we will not agree to a curtailment of debate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Deputy must take the responsibility for that. We must take our responsibility, too, and our responsibility is to protect the country against a loss of electric power.

(Interruptions.)

[67]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Let the Taoiseach take his responsibility and vote accordingly, with Fine Gael. We will vote our way.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I have been advised that the Ceann Comhairle's Office ruled that the motion for the curtailment of time had to come before the First Reading. I now understand that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle says that is not correct or the ruling has been changed. The First Reading can, it seems, be taken before the motion for the curtailment of time. I suggest we take the First Reading now. That will enable the Bill to be circulated. We can then adjourn the motion for the curtailment of time for an hour. That will enable Deputies to study the Bill. I do not know if this can be done simply by an alteration in the Order of Business.

Debate adjourned.


Last Updated: 24/02/2015 10:44:38 First Page Previous Page Page of 62 Next Page Last Page