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Order of Business.

Thursday, 28 March 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 463 No. 5

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton It is proposed to take No. 7 — motion re. International Natural Rubber Agreement, 1995, No. 14 — statements on the White Paper on Foreign Policy and No. 15 — Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 1995 — Second Stage (resumed).

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: No. 7 shall be decided without debate; and the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 14: (1) the opening statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats party shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (2) the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case; (3) Members may share time; and (4) a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply not exceeding 15 minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Is the proposal that No. 7 be decided without debate agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 14, Statements on the [1264] White Paper on Foreign Policy, agreed? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I asked the Taoiseach twice yesterday if he would report on his conversations with the authorities in Cairo and the developments in regard to the shipments of Irish beef. I am sure the Department of Foreign Affairs has made available to him cuttings from newspapers in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and other countries which focus on Irish beef. Will the Taoiseach avail of the opportunity either now or later in the day to set the record straight on what the Irish authorities are doing in regard to this very serious matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy This has been the subject of much debate in the House over the past week. It is not relevant to the Order of Business. Deputies cannot continually raise matters of this kind which are not strictly relevant. I would be anxious to facilitate Members in dealing with the matter formally and in accordance with the procedures of the House.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I beg your indulgence for a few moments, a Cheann Comhairle, given that we do not have many billion pound industries and developments seldom move ahead at the rate this one is moving. Everyone is worried about the way in which the Irish case is being misconstrued by others.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am aware of all that.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I would like to give the Taoiseach an opportunity to update the House on what happened yesterday and the action being taken by the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am also aware of the extent to which the matter has been adverted to in the House.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I had a very positive conversation with President Mubarak [1265] yesterday. I cannot at this stage indicate the definitive outcome of it but I expect to see some outcome shortly. Over the past two days we have been intensively engaged in discussions with the Iranian authorities about the situation there. The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and its chief veterinary officer will travel to Egypt today to back up what I said in general terms to President Mubarak with detailed technical information which clearly indicates the very good health status of Irish beef. On the question of the United Arab Emirates, our Ambassador in Riyadh who is accredited to the Emirates is extremely active in this area and is giving reassurances throughout the Gulf about the quality of Irish beef. This matter is being intensively pursued in every way possible by the appropriate Irish authorities and if we are advised that further interventions by me or Ministers are necessary they will be made promptly.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern May I——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy We cannot debate the matter now. I have given the Deputy some latitude on the matter this morning.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to consult directly with the Northern Ireland authorities to avoid some of the over the top reports on early morning programmes on Radio Ulster and other stations?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I will convey Deputy's Ahern's advice to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry who is dealing with the issue on a number of fronts. If he has not already done so, he will certainly pursue that line of inquiry. It is important for people to retain a sense of proportion about the matter, given that Irish precautions have been extremely good historically. They have been substantially increased since 1990 in terms of the controls and Irish beef [1266] has a very good quality record. While being justly determined to get all the relevant information about the source of any product they consume — I would urge them to be anything less than vigilant in this area — it is important for people to retain a sense of proportion about this matter having regard to consumer safety and that we are talking about an industry whose stock is valued at approximately £5 billion and which makes an enormous contribution to employment in urban and rural areas. We must retain a sense of proportion and be active, as the entire Government is, in pursuing this matter. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing, exceptionally I hope, the leader of the Opposition to raise this matter this morning as it has enabled me to give these reassurances.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to allow me raise a serious matter in regard to the compensation tribunal. It is important for the Minister for Health to make a statement in the House today as the allegations made in court are serious and were not denied by the State. It means that the women affected can claim aggravated or exemplary damages which they are precluded from claiming under the Government's tribunal. For that and other reasons——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I have ruled strictly on that matter and I am concerned that the Deputy should raise it again.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan (Limerick East): Did the Deputy read the report?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney I read the report but was this information concealed?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan (Limerick East): The Deputy should read it again.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney I also know what was said in court yesterday and that the State did not deny the allegations.

[1267]Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan (Limerick East): The Deputy should read the report again.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney The Minister should make a statement in the House today about this very serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The matter is seized by the courts and we should allow them to deliberate.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney It is not a trial by jury so, therefore, no jury can be influenced by this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy It is a preliminary hearing.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney The Minister should make a statement instead of interrupting. A full statement by him would be appropriate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy That is a matter for the Minister in due course.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney We are talking about more than 1,000 women and the least they deserve is a statement in the House.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill Are these women not as important as cattle?

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Yesterday on the Order of Business the Taoiseach told the Leader of Fianna Fáil that the Government was proceeding with the legislation to sell one third of Telecom Éireann. Has the Taoiseach reflected on that decision and is he really proposing to introduce some time this year legislation which would allow one third of this company to be sold for a derisory sum in a panic sale after bungled negotiations?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Is legislation promised in this area?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton When this matter was raised yesterday the Deputy, his party's [1268] spokesperson on this subject, was not present in the House.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The Taoiseach has also been absent at times.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton He ought to have been present, given that his party decided to raise the matter. I wonder why the leader of his party raised the matter in his absence.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The Taoiseach is absent more often than I am.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton Given that he was absent it is not surprising that he has got a garbled account of what I said yesterday and has misquoted me quite seriously.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I have what the Taoiseach said word for word.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I said that legislation——

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan My account is not garbled, it is word for word.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Please, Deputy Brennan.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I said that legislation to give effect to the strategic alliance would be prepared and ready for the end of the year.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is not a strategic alliance, it is a panic sale.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I referred to the strategic alliance——

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is no such thing.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton ——and did not make any other references.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The sale is taking place for ideological reasons, it is a panic sale for a derisory sum.

[1269]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton Deputy Brennan's attempts to distort what I said does no service to his party or the interests of the taxpayer or the workers in Telecom Éireann.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is being sold for half the price mentioned by the Minister 12 months ago.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Please, Deputy Brennan.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is being sold for half the price.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Order, I cannot have two Members standing at the same time. Deputy Brennan, resume your seat.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton Given that Deputy Brennan and his party——

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Only one of the initial ten bidders is left.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton ——were unable to make any decisions on this matter during their lengthy period in office, a sustained period of silence from them on this and many other topics would be appropriate.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is a disgraceful way to sell a State asset. It is a public scandal to sell this share in Telecom Éireann for £200 million less than what was asked for last year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy It is particularly disorderly for two Members to be engaged in a shouting match of this kind.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan This is an absolute scandal.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy When will the Finance Bill be published, in view of the fact that this is 28 March, the date set aside by the Minister for Finance for a private briefing for people prepared to pay the Labour Party £100 in the Sylvan Suite [1270] in Jury's Hotel at 1 o'clock, people who will be disappointed by its cancellation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton It will be published this afternoon, and I am sure the Deputy will find in it much of interest to him. This legislation will bring considerable benefits to people throughout the country, including those on our offshore islands.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern The letter that went out was correct in one respect — that the Bill is to be published today. Does the Government intend to introduce legislation arising out of the decision in Strasbourg yesterday in relation to journalists and the protection of their sources? Will the Government take into account the implications of that judgment in the context of the Freedom of Information Bill? Further, on the compellability of witnesses Bill which is also before the House, will the Taoiseach indicate whether his Government will accept the amendment I have tabled?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I expect the freedom of information Bill will be available in the second half of the year.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern What about the other questions?

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin In light of a report published yesterday which indicated serious stress levels among young people, particularly young girls, in the context of the State examination system, the leaving certificate in particular, does the Government intend to bring forward proposals to change the points system?

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputy Martin——

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This is a very serious issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I will not continue to address Deputy Martin, and I [1271] will not permit him to ignore me in this fashion.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is a very serious issue for many young people and I raised it a number of times in the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The Deputy should resume his seat.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I only asked about proposals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy What the Deputy raised is essentially a question. The Deputy should table a question.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I did, and I did not get a response from the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy That is not my fault.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister said she would make no changes, but there is a need for some changes.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan There is no point in tabling questions because they are always transferred.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk Can we anticipate legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the recently published report on the insurance industry?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I will inquire into that matter and communicate with the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am proceeding shortly to the business as ordered. I will hear the two Deputies offering.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern On legislation by the Minister for Justice, is the Taoiseach aware that half a dozen female gardaí have been moved to Garda Headquarters to fill administrative positions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I thought the Deputy had something relevant to raise.

[1272]Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern Zoom on Noel Ahern Is this a proper use of resources?

Mr. Flood: Information on Chris Flood Zoom on Chris Flood In light of yesterday's announcement by the Government of recommendations in the report of the task force on travellers, will it be necessary to introduce legislation to give effect to them?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Has legislation been promised in this area?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I have no indication that legislation will be required, but if it transpires in the implementation of the decisions of the Government that legislation is necessary it will be introduced.

Deputy Kenneally rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I made a statement to the House and I am sticking by it.


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