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Order of Business.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton It is proposed to take No. 7, motion concerning Private Members' Business; No. 8, motion concerning ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 17, Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Bill. 1996, Order for Report and, subject to the Order being made, Report and Final Stages; and No. 2, Health (Amendment) Bill, 1996, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 7 and 8 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' Business shall be No. 35, Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Landmines Bill, 1996.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Is it agreed [2] that Nos. 7 and 8 shall be decided without debate? Agreed.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern Against the background of ongoing industrial unrest in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and given the Minister's statement that there will be utter havoc in the Department, does the Government have any plans to introduce emergency legislation to ensure the administration of the animal disease eradication programmes and the maintenance of the disease free status of the national herd and to allow farmers to continue trading? As I am sure the Taoiseach is aware, this has become a major problem for farmers and everyone involved in agri-business.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I am not certain that [3] legislation as such is at issue; the provision of resources and people willing and able to implement existing legislation is the question that needs to be dealt with. This will be among the matters to be discussed at the meeting this afternoon with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The Government is conscious of the provisions of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work relating to industrial peace during the currency of the programme which, with the partnership approach generally, has brought significant benefits to everybody. Everybody employed has benefited from the partnership approach, but it is important that this is based on commitments, on the Government's part, to meet certain pay obligations and, on the part of other parties, to ensure industrial peace and abstinence from industrial action during the term of the programme.

These matters will be the subject of discussion between Government and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this afternoon and are of relevance to all involved in social partnership. Clearly, the immediate economic concerns in the agriculture sector are of particular importance bearing in mind the importance of revenue from the food sector to meet Government commitments.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney In view of the public's interest in the matter, does the Government intend to bring forward legislation to allow the licensing of a casino?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton Legislation is not promised and I am not in a position to give any further information on the matter at this point.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Further to the Taoiseach's reply to the Leader of the Opposition about the serious problem in the agriculture sector, will he indicate whether a meeting will take place today under the aegis of the CRC? In view of the urgent need to resolve this problem, does he accept that a CRC meeting [4] should be held at which not only Congress interests but also those of farm organisations and employers would be heard by the Government?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I will not allow any tendency towards debate or questioning at this stage. It is not Question Time.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen In view of the Taoiseach's statement about the importance of social partnership and given that the Minister recognises that havoc has descended on his Department, will the Taoiseach call a CRC meeting this evening?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The Deputy will have to raise that matter at another time. It is not in order now.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Is there any other interest who would be regarded——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputy Cowen may not ignore the Chair. There are other ways and means of raising that matter.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Will the Taoiseach reply to my question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy No, not now.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Is the Taoiseach interested in social partnership? There should be a CRC meeting this afternoon.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney Given what the Taoiseach said in reply to my question about the licensing of a casino, can I take it he has not ruled out the possibility of bringing forward legislation on that matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I said legislation is not promised on that matter and there is not a proposal to introduce legislation. The Deputy should not seek to add or subtract in respect of what I said.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern Will the Taoiseach give [5] a commitment that the NESF report on long-term unemployment will be debated in the House? Will he give a commitment that the resources necessary to deal with long-term unemployment, which were spoken about last year, will be provided? There is provision for only a small amount in this year's Estimates.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy There is provision for raising matters appertaining to legislation but not the nature of or the submission of reports.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern There is a major report on long-term unemployment.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke Zoom on Ray Burke Last Tuesday week I raised with the Taoiseach, in the context of promised legislation, the question of decommissioning, and in reply he referred to the need for the legislation to include provision for forensic testing. I am sure he has had the opportunity to reconsider that reply since given that forensic testing would be totally contrary to the Mitchell Commission recommendations. Will the Taoiseach guarantee that there will not be provision in the legislation for forensic tests on decommissioned weapons?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I did not say what the Deputy suggested; I said in regard to the question of forensic testing, whether or not it would occur, there are rights of defendants as well as rights of possible prosecutees to be considered. I said given that constitutional rights are in question, any legislation would have to be consistent with the Constitution. It was simply a reference to explain the complexity of the matter. I did not give an indication of the content of the legislation and regret the Deputy, in his attempt to summarise what I said last week for the benefit of people who do not remember it, has, perhaps, inadvertently, misrepresented it.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Will the Taoiseach agree it should have been left unsaid?

[6]Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes Most of what the Deputy says should be left unsaid.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The matter should not lead to argument or debate now.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke Zoom on Ray Burke The question of what the Taoiseach said is important.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy If there is a dispute about that, there are ways of dealing with it.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke Zoom on Ray Burke I have a copy of the report which refers to carrying out forensic tests on weapons in the defence——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy This is quite out of order.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke Zoom on Ray Burke There has not been forensic evidence in the defence under law and I defy the Taoiseach to prove that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputy Burke should please desist.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke Zoom on Ray Burke In the context of the legislation the Taoiseach should have regard only to the Mitchell report.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy Will the Taoiseach explain the reason for the delay in bringing forward the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, which was long promised? Will he accept that in view of yesterday's decision at the Council of Energy Ministers' meeting this Bill is of extreme urgency? Will the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications make a statement to the House——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy There cannot be elaboration of this matter now. Let us hear about the measure.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton The legislation will be introduced in the first half of next year.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera What is the status of the Freedom of Information Bill? Does the Taoiseach intend to issue an apology, as requested by the National Union [7] of Journalists, to a journalist whom he threatened and insulted during the course of an interview last Thursday night? Surely that is not the conduct expected from a Taoiseach who promised accountability, transparency and openness?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy That is irrelevant now. I am calling another Deputy.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera This is not the first time the Taoiseach insulted a journalist and he should at least have the courtesy to apologise to the journalist concerned.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin In the context of the forthcoming Education Bill will the Taoiseach take urgent steps to ensure transparency in the Department of Education in terms of its deliberations in the preparation of that Bill? A private seminar was held on 13 March in the Department and we only learned about it today.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputy Martin may not embark upon a speech now.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I protest at the way Members of the House are treated in terms of the formulation of education policy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy There are many ways of putting matters on the record of this House and the Deputy should choose an appropriate time for that.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin As an Opposition party, we would like to contribute to that debate. Why is there secrecy in the Department of Education?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputy Martin may not continue in defiance of the Chair.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin All the deliberations were held in secret and we heard about them through leaks.

[8]Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy Zoom on Charlie McCreevy Given that the recently published NESF report on long-term unemployment is somewhat critical of policies to date, does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation to effect the proposals on long-term unemployment put forward last January by me and my colleague, Deputy O'Rourke, which would go some way towards tackling that problem?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Is legislation promised in that regard?

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy Zoom on Charlie McCreevy Legislation is necessary.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods Zoom on Michael J. Woods In view of the finding of the Scott report that in the United Kingdom and Ireland everything is secret unless it is revealed by public administration, will the Taoiseach say what is the status of the Freedom of Information Bill? It was put before a committee of the House but seems to have vanished since then. When will the Bill be brought before the House?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton In the autumn of this year.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern Everything will be done in the autumn.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue Zoom on John O'Donoghue Will the Government of openness, accountability and transparency publish the 1995 report of the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am not aware of legislation in that regard.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt Zoom on Tom Kitt The Taoiseach did not respond to the questions by our party leader and Deputy McCreevy. Will he allow a debate on the long-term unemployment initiative put forward by the National Economic and Social Forum?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy A question should be tabled on that matter.

[9]Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt Zoom on Tom Kitt We are trying to be cooperative and helpful.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Information on Ned O'Keeffe Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe Will the Taoiseach's new speech writer, Eoghan Harris, who claims to be independent, be a candidate for the east Belfast Unionist Party, together with Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien on the other side of the divide?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy Deputies should not refer to personalities outside the House.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe May I ask the Taoiseach if it is the Government's intention to introduce an amendment to the Nursing Homes Act?

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Deputy got his answer to that question yesterday.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe It is in relation to promised legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I thought the Deputy had something relevant to raise. I am calling Deputy Mary Wallace to move for leave to introduce a Bill.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe It relates to the demand for nursing home subvention, given that the Minister has adequate amounts of money for health boards and that the chief executive officers have to act.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy I am standing, Deputy O'Keeffe. You should resume your seat.


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