Order of Business.

Wednesday, 11 February 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 154 No. 3

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Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy The Order of Business is items 1 and 8, motion 13. Item 8, motion 13, will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the proceedings on item 1, if not previously concluded, will resume at 8 p.m.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning Zoom on Maurice Manning I move amendment No. 1:

“That item 8, motion No. 15, be the first item on today's Order of Business.”

Last April, a promise was made to people with an interest in this Bill that it would be the first item restored to the Order Paper on the resumption of the new Seanad and that it would be restored at Report Stage. It is now February and the Bill has not yet been restored. If my amendment is accepted, it does not mean that time will be taken up today. The item will simply be restored to the Order Paper as was promised by the parties opposite and by the parties on this side of the House. It would be an act of faith to the people involved that the commitments we gave them were being honoured.

On the Order of Business last Thursday, in response to Senator O'Meara, the Leader implied he would take Second Stage or allow her Private Members' Bill on to the Order Paper. He indicated clearly that legislation was a matter for Government and that he had no intention of having a series of Private Members' motions taken during the life of this Seanad. Will he clarify that? He knows well that during the last Seanad, five Private Members' Bills were taken, all from the opposite side of the House with one exception, two in the name of Senator Daly, one in the name of Senator O'Kennedy, another in the name of Senator Roche, and Senator Henry and Senator Honan also moved Private Members' Bills. All were given a Second Reading. I want the Leader to clarify at an early stage in the life of this House that the practice of allowing Opposition Members introduce Private Members' Bills and have a Second Reading at least will not be discontinued.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I second the amendment to the Order of Business. On the last sitting day prior to [183] the election last year, I received a commitment from the then Leader of the Government and the then leader of the main Opposition party that the question of the adoption of children from Paraguay and other South American countries would be resolved. We were waiting for legal advice being sought by the Attorney General. I understand it is not appropriate to enter into discussion on that. However, I ask the Leader of the House to accept item 8, motion 15, as part of the Order of Business today. It may be dealt with without debate because it simply proposes that the Bill be restored to the Order Paper and that the legal advice received by the Attorney General be placed in the Oireachtas Library so that we can see what it means. Such advice is already available from other lawyers and this would add to it. Many families are upset and feel insecure. The children are growing older and it is clear that this issue must be sorted out. Everybody in the House shares this view. The Leader should be brave and he could start by cracking the whip and having the issue resolved. He is only being asked put the matter on the Order Paper.

I wish to raise the sitting arrangements for the House. People have certain expectations regarding sitting days, whether they be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The Leader should consider discussing some cyclical arrangement with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges so that people can plan in advance and work out the days on which particular issues are to be discussed. At present the House is too much at the mercy of Departments which request business to be done by a particular time or day, leaving us to jump to attention. It is time the Leader took control by outlining the days on which we will sit and ensuring ample prior notice is given.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I wish to be associated with the remarks of the previous two speakers and say that the Labour Party will support the amendment which calls for item 8, motion 15, to be taken first.

A related issue concerns the Refugee Act, 1996. Many asylum seekers are waiting for implementation of this legislation and many parents are awaiting developments on the adoption legislation. When will the Refugee Act, 1996, be implemented? Everything is in limbo, with 4,000 people waiting for their cases to be heard. It seems that a number of cases already heard are being presented in the context of deportation. Will the Leader say whether the Minister intends introducing new legislation, whether existing legislation will be implemented and what will happen to those whose requests for asylum have been refused and who are on hold for, apparently, deportation?

Has the Leader acted on the numerous requests from this side for a visit to St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, during February? Perhaps he has up to date information on this matter.

In the context of the local elections will the Leader contact the Minister for the Environment [184] and Local Government and invite him to come into the House? When meeting with the General Council of County Councils on 4 December 1997 the Minister stated that he intended postponing local elections. He cannot do this unilaterally: a motion must be put before the House. What is happening in relation to this? Will he put an order before the Oireachtas? The Minister indicated on that occasion that he was going to establish a committee or commission under the 1991 local government legislation. Does this require legislation? What will be its terms of reference? Will it seek public submissions? Senators who are democratically elected by the universal franchise of elected councillors——

Mr. Connor: Information on John Connor Zoom on John Connor And Members of the Dáil and Seanad.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello ——have considerable interest in the committee proposed by the Minister. The Minister indicated that he intended the committee to be broad ranging and to look, not only at population movements over the past number of years but also the delivery of area based services. Perhaps the Leader will invite the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to come before the House so that we can hear his views and have a debate on the reform of local government and the new boundary commission.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis With regard to motion 15, all parties in the House are anxious that this matter be dealt with. It is true that before the last Seanad rose it was agreed — or at least it was suggested — by all parties that it would. Following remarks made on the Order of Business last week, I checked the current position of the legislation and was told it is at an advanced stage of preparation. There were certain difficulties with regard to adoptions in Paraguay but I am confident the Bill will be brought before the House quite soon. That is not to say that I would support the motion if it were put to a division. However, much progress has been made in terms of bringing the Bill before the House and Members should take that into account.

Mr. Connor: Information on John Connor Zoom on John Connor I wish to raise an issue which was raised in the House last week and on other occasions — rail safety. Can the Leader organise a debate on the matter as soon as possible? Last Friday Iarnród Éireann announced that it had received the report on the serious rail accident at Knockcroghery. The announcement was made in a two page press release which said little about the nature of the accident itself. However, the general manager of Iarnród Éireann said he had forwarded a comprehensive report on the accident to the Minister for Public Enterprise. Will the Leader ask the Minister to publish that report as soon as possible? I am of the view that if the report is objective and is the result of a thorough examination of the problem, it might contain information which the Minister and Iarnród [185] Éireann might not like the public to have. It should be published as soon as possible.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan Zoom on Paddy McGowan Can the Leader organise a debate on the current problems in Northern Ireland which are causing serious concern for all the people on this island? It must be recognised that people in the Republic share this island and the problems and difficulties that arise. It is time this House had an opportunity to clarify its stance.

Members of the House and the Garda Síochána have been accused by many sectors of being complacent about the killings and other paramilitary activities in Northern Ireland. That is unacceptable and we should have an opportunity to state our disapproval of what is happening. The Republic has never had a Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Government which were more clear about Northern Ireland, carried less baggage in that regard and were more prepared to reach an understanding with the people of Northern Ireland. That should be spelt out in this House. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

In addition, the Leader promised that the House would have the chance to debate the serious problem of telephone masts. Can that debate be held next week?

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I wish to add my name to motion 13, which was put down by the Independent Members. The omission of my name is probably the result of confusion for which I might have been responsible. However, I strongly support the motion.

Does the Leader intend to hold a debate on the dangerous situation in Iraq? It could be held in the context of an item on the Order Paper regarding the Amsterdam Treaty. News has emerged in recent days that certain German chemical companies have supplied Iraq with materials for the manufacture of chemical weapons and anthrax bombs. It is a matter of public concern if Ireland is being led into alliances with these unwholesome groups. The Minister should make a statement about the facts in this regard. Who are these people and should they not be brought to justice for crimes against humanity? It appears that some elements are returning to their nasty old ways.

Is it proposed to have a debate on genetically engineered materials? Ten more trials are planned at present. In April last year I spoke in the Seanad about Monsanto, which has been convicted of scientific fraud. Ten more trials are due to take place without the openness about which this House was given assurances as late as April of last year.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly Senator Norris' name will be added to motion 13.

Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil deamhéin sa Teach seo don Ghaeilge, ár dteanga [186] náisiúnta. Aréir d'fhógraigh Glór na nGael buaiteoirí na bliana seo. Ba bhreá liom go gcuirfeadh an Teach seo comhghairdeas chuig na buateoirí, go mór mór chuig Aonach na Mumhan i gCondae Thiobraid Árann a bhuaigh an chéad duais. Is cúis dóchais dúinn go léir go bhfuil na bailte chomh gníomhach sin ar fud na tíre ag saothrú ar son na Gaeilge agus an chúltúir Ghaelaigh i gcoitinne.

I would like the House to convey through Minister Ó Cuív our best wishes to Nenagh, County Tipperary, on winning the premier prize in the Glór na nGael competitions and to compliment all who participated. We are committed to the Irish language here and it is a source of great encouragement to realise people throughout the country are so active in the promotion of our native language.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I support Senator Connor's call for a debate on rail safety. The Minister for Public Enterprise is commissioning a report which will take more than two years to complete. In view of what Senator Connor said about Knockcroghery, I support his call for the issue to be examined in the House as soon as possible.

I call for a debate on the State agencies, the ICC, ACC and the TSB. There is much speculation that some of those institutions which have served the State so well are going to be sold. We should debate this issue at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell Zoom on Willie Farrell I support Senator McGowan's call for a debate on mobile telephone masts. We may not get very far with it as the World Health Organisation has pointed out on many occasions that they are not a health hazard. Let us debate the matter anyway.

I also support his call for a debate on Northern Ireland. I appeal to the media to be more positive than they are at present. They have adopted a very negative attitude to debates in the North, pitting Gerry Adams against the Unionists and forcing them into corners. This is not helpful to attempts to resolve a difficult situation. The media should be more positive in their approach.

I also call for a debate on child care. Senator Quill pointed out very ably the problem of child homelessness in a debate here last week. One of the Sunday newspapers published survey results showing teenagers as young as 13 years of age are involved in drug and alcohol abuse and in teenage sex. As they are children until they are 18 years of age, there is clearly a serious violation of the law taking place. It is time we had a debate on how the law can be amended or what measures can be taken to prevent those young people falling into such a desperate trap from which they may never escape. It is time to take a serious look at the present teenage problems.

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh I support the crime prevention policy articulated earlier this week by our party spokesperson, Deputy Jim Higgins. I appeal to [187] the Leader to impress upon the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the need to provide for more community training workshops. The wonderful work being done by the workshops is not generally recognised. The last Minister toured some of these facilities and saw the great work being done in places such as Canal House in Ballinasloe and the Tuam community training centre. If more money was provided for this area there would be less need for prisons. I appeal to the Leader to press the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to examine the work being done by the community training workshops and to provide more money for them. This would be a meaningful attempt to prevent crime at an early stage.

Mrs. Ridge: Information on Therese Ridge Zoom on Therese Ridge I appreciate the fact that you could not allow my Adjournment motion. I shall resubmit it at a later date. I draw the House's attention to an instance of child abuse which I witnessed. I saw a refugee woman with a very young baby running across the intersection at Newland's Cross while selling The Big Issues to motorists. About 56,000 cars per day use that road. It is surely within the capability of the Minister to prevent a situation such as that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly This matter is very important and I will give consideration to allowing a debate on it. I would, however, prefer if you did not anticipate that debate.

Mrs. Ridge: Information on Therese Ridge Zoom on Therese Ridge In view of your undoubted fairness and generosity I accept your ruling.

Mr. Bonner: Information on Enda Bonner Zoom on Enda Bonner Aontaím leis an tSeanadóir Ó Murchú agus comhghairdeas aige ghabháil á leis na bailtí agus leis na ceantair a bhuaigh duaiseanna inné i gcomórtas Ghlór na nGael. Go háirithe, ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis na bailtí i dTuaisceart Éireann a bhuaigh duaiseanna. Tháinig ceathrar den seisear buaiteoirí i gCúige Uladh as Tuaisceart Éireann. I support Senator Ó Murchú in congratulating the towns which won prizes in the Glór na nGael competition and I particularly congratulate the Northern Ireland towns.

I am concerned at the rising spiral of house prices. It has been reported that house prices have increased by between 5 and 10 per cent since Christmas. The Minister has begun to tackle this question by setting up a working group but there is another dimension to the problem.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly We cannot debate this matter now. I suggest that you ask the Leader to arrange a debate on this matter at some future date. I will allow you to do that but we cannot debate the matter now.

Mr. Bonner: Information on Enda Bonner Zoom on Enda Bonner I will conlude by referring to interest rates for local authority loans. These rates stand at 12.5 per cent compared with the normal mortgage rate of 7 per cent. Something [188] must be done for local authority mortgage holders.

Mr. T. Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes Will the Leader bring to the notice of the Minister the decision taken by the board of the ESB last evening which will have devastating consequences for a small company, John Francis Spaight and Company, which is located a few miles outside Tipperary town? The company employs 21 people and is the main supplier of creosoted poles to the ESB. At last night's board meeting the ESB decided to source them from another company outside the State. This is a cause of great concern in my constituency of Tipperary South. Will the Leader ask the Minister if she is aware of this decision and can she take urgent action in the matter? During the storms at Christmas when poles were knocked down and broken, these people worked on Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day and every other day they were required to. They supplied a top quality service and are now concerned about the decision made by the board of the ESB last night. The matter needs to be resolved urgently.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher I raised this question last week. Why does item 7 remain in its current form on the Order Paper? The Leader said he would come back to us on the revised wording for the proposed schedule in the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty. Does he have a further report on this? Why does the item remain as worded if the Government said it would change it? Does he share my concern that the delay in deciding on the referendum wording is not a great start to a campaign many of us hope will be successful? In the light of the Government's delay in finalising the wording, will he confirm that it will not proceed with the referendum in May, as originally intended?

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald Will the Leader convey to the Minister for Public Enterprise the concerns raised about the Luas project? Will he obtain an update for Members of the House and the people of Dublin who are increasingly concerned about the traffic gridlock, which is deteriorating instead of improving?

Will the Leader raise with the Minister of Justice the issue of young males in Dublin who verbally abuse motorists, especially female ones, if they do not fork out money for having their windscreens cleaned? The problem is increasing and needs to be addressed.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will the Leader ask the Minister for Public Enterprise to intercede in an appropriate manner to ensure a speedy resolution of the difficulties at Deelis power station in Caherciveen? I am concerned for the Iveragh turf suppliers because the business is worth £1.4 million annually to the local economy. All of last year's turf is stacked on the roadside and along the [189] river. It cannot be taken away because of the ongoing dispute.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly This matter would be more appropriately raised on the Adjournment where the Senator would have an opportunity to expand on his concerns.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I appreciate that and I do not need to expand further. That is the matter in a nutshell and I await the reply of the Leader.

Is the Leader satisfied that the Minister for Finance and the Government are doing enough on the matter of duty free sales, which is important because of the implications for jobs? It is a matter which is close to the Leader's heart and I leave it with him.

Ms O'Meara: Information on Kathleen O'Meara Zoom on Kathleen O'Meara Will the Leader convey the congratulations of the House to the people of Nenagh on winning Glór na nGael? As the only public representative in this House from Nenagh I extend my congratulations. Will the Leader convey our best wishes to the senior Minister?

The Shannon River Council Bill, which was introduced in the last Seanad, has probably lapsed. Are there any plans to reintroduce it?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senator Manning raised the status of the Adoption (No. 2) Bill. The Government approved the restoration of the Bill to the Seanad Order Paper on 28 January on the basis that the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Fahey, would consider the outstanding issues outlined in the memorandum to Government with a view to addressing these difficulties and reporting back to the Cabinet. The issues referred to relate to ordinary adoptions effected in Paraguay. The Department is currently pursuing these issues to enable the Minister of State to report back to the Government prior to the moving of the motion to restore the Bill to the Order Paper.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning Zoom on Maurice Manning Do I understand that the Government agrees with us?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Yes. Fianna Fáil has always been in agreement on what action to take and, in fairness, all parties agree. I have no difficulty restoring the Bill to the Order Paper. My previous statement reflects the contents of the official reply I received from the Department at 2.15 p.m. today.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole Is the Bill being restored to the Order Paper?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senators O'Toole, Dardis and Manning raised the issue of proposed legislation. On the Order of Business last week I did not object when Senator O'Meara announced her intention to publish a Bill. That was the second Bill to be proposed by the Labour Party. I agree with Senator Manning that five Bills were introduced by Fianna Fáil during its two and a half [190] years in Opposition and that during the past two weeks, two Bills have been introduced by the Opposition. I have no difficulty with this if it enhances legislation and improves society in general, provided that each Bill is treated on its merits.

Senator O'Toole raised the matter of sitting arrangements. I would like to hear the views of the Leaders of the groups in this regard at our meeting following the Order of Business because a large amount of legislation is due to come before the House. On the last occasion I stated that 25 Bills were published during the previous session. A total of 15 Bills have been promised by the Government before Easter. During the lifetime of the previous Seanad, six Bills were initiated in the Seanad. The current Seanad is different from its predecessor because much new legislation is being initiated, which is a welcome development. I ask the support of the Leaders to enable me to have as much legislation as possible initiated and debated in the Seanad. I know I can rely on Senator Manning in this regard because he has been most helpful.

Senator Costello inquired about St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane. I wrote to the hospital authorities seeking a tour of the institution by a Seanad group. It is for each individual Senator if he or she wishes to visit the hospital. When the hospital replies to my request, I will communicate further with the Senator and the House.

Senator Costello also raised the Minister for the Environment and Local Government's proposal to redraw local electoral boundaries. The Minister will be before the House in the coming weeks and the matter can be put to him then. I may also inquire what are his thoughts on the proposal from the Department.

Senators Connor and Burke requested a debate on rail safety. Last week I promised the House that such a debate would take place at the earliest opportunity. However, I must wait for the Minister to make time available to come before the House to deal with this worthy proposal.

Senator McGowan and others requested a debate on Northern Ireland. I understand the Minister is not available next week. As soon as he is available I will arrange a debate on the matter. Senators McGowan and Farrell requested a debate on telephone masts. I will make time available for such a debate at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Norris called for a debate on Iraq. Perhaps, we could debate foreign affairs in general and various topics could be discussed when the Minister for Foreign Affairs attends. He is extremely busy, but as soon as I can find a date in his diary I will come back to the Senator. He also raised his serious concerns about genetic engineering. I will try to acquire information on it and will revisit the matter with him privately.

I join with Senators Ó Murchú, Bonner and O'Meara in congratulating all the Glór na nGael winners, particularly Nenagh. The House is pleased to be associated with their remarks.

[191] Senator Burke called for a debate on the ICC, the TSB and the ACC and I will consult the Minister for Finance on this. However, the Appropriation Bill will be discussed in the House on Friday and Members who have raised matters of grave concern on the Order of Business could avail of that opportunity to debate them.

Senator Farrell raised his concern about the abuse of alcohol and teenage drinking and I will try to have a debate on this issue at the earliest opportunity. Senator McDonagh called for more funds from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for workshops. The Appropriation Bill is an ideal opportunity for the Senator to take this issue up with the Minister.

Senator Bonner called for a debate on house prices with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. I support this and at the earliest possible opportunity I will seek a debate. Senator Tom Hayes may discuss the matter he raised on Friday.

[192] On last week's Order of Business Senator Gallagher also raised item 7 on the Order Paper. The position is that the Taoiseach has been consulting leaders of other parties and he has imparted his legal advice to them as well. Perhaps, the Senator will consult with his party leader in this regard.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher Zoom on Pat Gallagher We know what we want.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senator Fitzgerald raised the question of Luas. We had a debate on it in the final days of the last Seanad, but I have no objection to holding another one.

Senator Coughlan raised the matter of the power station in Cahirciveen, County Kerry, built in the early 1950s and with which I am familiar. He may take the matter up on Friday's debate on the Appropriation Bill and I am only too pleased to be able to facilitate the Senator. With regard to his concerns on duty free sales I hope to have a debate on the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 27.

Coghlan, Paul.
Connor, John.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Costello, Joe.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe.
Gallagher, Pat.
Hayes, Tom.
Manning, Maurice.
McDonagh, Jarlath.
Norris, David.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Meara, Kathleen.
O'Toole, Joe.
Quinn, Feargal.
Ridge, Thére se.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Níl

Bonner, Enda.
Callanan, Peter.
Cassidy, Donie.
Chambers, Frank.
Cox, Margaret.
Dardis, John.
Farrell, Willie.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Gibbons, Jim.
Keogh, Helen.
Kett, Tony.
Kiely, Rory.
Lanigan, Mick.
Leonard, Ann.
Lydon, Don.
McGowan, Patrick.
Mooney, Paschal.
Moylan, Pat.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Ormonde, Ann.
Quill, Mairín.
Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Burke and Ridge; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to.


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