Order of Business.

Thursday, 2 July 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 156 No. 9

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Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Today's Order of Business is items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Item 1, motion re the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997, to be taken without debate; item 2, Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Bill, 1998 [Seanad Bill amended by Dáil] Report and Final Stages; item 3, Investor Compensation Bill, 1998, [Seanad Bill amended by Dáil] Report and Final Stages; item 4, Economic and Monetary Union Bill, 1997, Second Stage, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes; item 5, motion discharging order for Committee Stage of the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill, 1997, to be taken without debate and the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill, 1997, Committee and Remaining Stages; item 6, Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1998, all Stages, with contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes and item 7, motion re amendment of the terms of reference of the Flood Tribunal, to be taken at the conclusion of item 6. Contributions of spokespersons are not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators are not to exceed ten minutes. Senators may share time.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning Zoom on Maurice Manning The Order of Business is agreed. Again a huge amount of legislation has been ordered for the last week of the session. This happens every year and should be avoided. In addition, it is not appreciated that the amendments for the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Bill were published this morning and we are to discuss it immediately after the Order of Business.

The words “sick” and “sinful” were used this morning by a Presbyterian minister to describe the burning of Catholic churches in Northern Ireland last night. Even by the depraved standards of Northern Ireland in the last 30 years, [626] when places of worship are desecrated a line has been crossed, and this strikes deep into the core of civilised society. Every Member will want to condemn this and to send our sympathy to those whose churches have been destroyed so wantonly. I hope that what is clearly intended as a provocation will not be responded to and that restraint will be exercised, though that will be difficult.

On a more positive note, all Members will want to send best wishes to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister elected by the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday. They have a huge task ahead of them but they showed a spirit of determination and unity yesterday and all Members will wish them success. Most Senators know Mr. Seamus Mallon, who was once a Senator. He is a great friend of virtually every Member of the Oireachtas and is deservedly admired for his stamina, courage, stubbornness, common sense and integrity over the last 25 years. We all wish him and David Trimble every success in the days ahead.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I support Senator Manning's comments on the burning of churches. It behoves all Members to say that a liberal pluralist society must be one in which all views and opinions are tolerated. That must be true of large and small groups, and it is an extraordinary indictment of our society that people will burn each other's places of worship, whatever they are. We have had recent debates on refugees and ethnicity and this is equally important. It must hit at the heart of a community when its place of worship is attacked in this way.

I compliment The Examiner on its handling of an issue in today's edition in comparison with the other broadsheets' handling of the same issue yesterday. The Irish Times and the Irish Independent disgracefully published a list of pensions yesterday and added pensions of widows and orphans of Members of the Oireachtas, including those of two former Cathaoirligh. This is utterly unfair. It is an invasion of privacy and confidentiality and reopens old wounds and sorrows. It is nobody's business what people are entitled to under a duly recognised system. It is fair that people in the public eye, retired or otherwise, have their pensions published, but it is unfair and wrong to publish the incomes of children, widows and widowers. I compliment The Cork Examiner——

Mr. R. Kiely: Information on Rory Kiely Zoom on Rory Kiely It is now The Examiner.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I apologise. I compliment The Examiner for leaving out the families of public representatives.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly Senator O'Toole has made his point.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole I ask you, Sir, to raise this issue with the appropriate authorities.

[627]Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I wish to be associated with the remarks initially made by Senator Manning and supported by Senator O'Toole concerning the burning of the Catholic churches last night. Regardless of denomination it is an abominable act of sectarianism and bigotry to burn a place of worship. Such acts play into the hands of men of violence who wish to disrupt as far as possible the democratic process which thankfully was embarked upon in Northern Ireland with the election of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister yesterday. I wish the Assembly well. It is a supreme irony that this weekend there will be a march to another church which will be the prologue for a confrontation between the two communities in Northern Ireland.

Our party is not happy with the Order of Business as outlined. We have had item 1 on the Order Paper for a number of months. We were informed by the Acting Leader that the motion would be debated at the appropriate time. We are now told the matter will be taken without debate. Will the Leader consider providing time to debate the motion?

The Investor Compensation Bill, which did not appear on the original Order Paper provided to us, has been placed on the Order of Business. It is regrettable that so much legislation has to be crammed into the business of the House towards the end of session.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis It is essential that the House is unanimous in its condemnation of the burning of the nine Catholic churches last night in Northern Ireland. As Senator Manning stated, it is accepted practice throughout the world that churches are places of sanctuary and refuge and are excluded from conflict. This principle has operated for centuries. It is extraordinary that a very small group of evil people can decide this universal principle does not apply to this Christian island. It is important to note that despite the evil intention some good has come from the appalling events. One sympathises with the clergy, congregations and the wider community, but this morning there was a very manifest demonstration of Christian solidarity in the face of the atrocities, something which is welcome and encouraging. One of the parish priests interviewed on radio this morning asked the very good question about how one could enter the mind of those who perpetrated these acts. It is very difficult to conceive the intention of the perpetrators and why they carry out such acts.

I congratulate David Trimble on his appointment as First Minister and Seamus Mallon on his appointment as Deputy First Minister in the Assembly. Both will bring to their office the qualities required and will help unify the people of Northern Ireland. I am sure the Cathaoirleach supports me in sending congratulations to Lord Alderdice on his appointment. I am sure when the time comes he will be elected to the Chair of the Assembly. Those of us who met him on a regular basis in Dublin Castle at the Forum for [628] Peace and Reconciliation, and others, recognise the qualities he brings to the office and I am sure he will have a very positive effect on the Assembly. I ask all these people to use their good offices to do everything possible to defuse the situation in Portadown and Drumcree in the context of the Orange parade to Drumcree church.

The hope of Members is that both Mr. Trimble and Mr. Mallon, at a date of their choosing, will address the House.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan Zoom on Mick Lanigan Yesterday the House debated the Murphy report. I did not realise it could have an impact in the context of discussions in the House on many issues through the years being ignored. I had two phone calls as a result of yesterday's debate from people who must be closely associated with the Houses of the Oireachtas as the debate was not broadly publicised. The debate gave one of the people courage to confront what had happened many years ago. I suggest to the Leader that we should address people's concerns as a result of the Murphy report and what has happened in sporting bodies and in society. Doing so on a regular basis would reduce talk about reforming the House. I was very upset by both phone calls. I ask the Leader to facilitate more frequent debate on matters of concern to people. Doing so will ensure a continuing and enhanced role for the House.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I join with others in condemning the outrages against Roman Catholic places of worship in Northern Ireland last night. I am particularly glad nobody was seriously injured or killed as a result. I am more appalled by the loss of human life as, however dreadful the outrages were, churches can be rebuilt. Human life cannot be restored and the taking of life is worse than the ghastly and offensive acts of last night. I listened with disdain to the rank hypocrisy of Ian Paisley's condemnation of what happened. That man, more than any other, has fuelled the fires of sectarianism and until he eats his words of antagonism towards the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, nobody will take his condemnation seriously. He gave people a motivation for carrying out such acts.

I am a member of the Church of Ireland and think it is time it told the Orange Order that until it disinfects itself of the sectarian elements of its procedure, ritual and handbooks and its nasty sectarian anti-papal language it is not entitled to use church property. It is time the Church of Ireland had the guts to stand up and say this, even if it loses some members.

I join with colleagues in sending best wishes to the Assembly. It is very heartening that it has started work in such a positive manner. Many in the South have said for some time that we require more than politicians to demonstrate responsibility. However, it is very difficult for people to display responsibility if they have no authority. They now have authority and giving it to them [629] has brought out the latent qualities of responsibility.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for taking the matter I raised on the Adjournment yesterday. I thank my colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan, for successfully drawing attention to the debate during one of his sporadic appearances in Leinster House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly The matter is not relevant to today's Order of Business.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is relevant as I wish to recommend that the Senator read the debate to see that I demonstrated quite categorically that Mr. Mugabe is a dictator.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly We cannot reopen the matter on today's Order of Business.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I deprecate the fact that reference was made to Mr. Netanyahu. Frequently when I raise the issue I am asked about Israel. There is a nasty underlying tone of anti-Semitism about this.

Perhaps if not tomorrow than early in the next session we can have a debate on Tibet, an issue which is on the Order Paper. Presumably, the House knows there has been a series of bombs in Lhasa, which is a worrying development, and a number of Tibetan monks have been murdered by the Chinese occupying authorities in Tibet.

Mr. D. Kiely: Information on Daniel Kiely Zoom on Daniel Kiely Will the Leader contact Aer Lingus immediately to ask it to include in its in-flight magazine helpline telephone numbers of the various organisations in America for people in trouble? I raise this matter as a result of a tragic incident in New York last weekend when a young Irishman found himself in difficulty with nobody to help. There are many excellent organisations in America which provide help.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I join with Members in condemning the appalling actions of those involved in fire-bombing churches in the North. I wish to raise a matter I mentioned two days ago when I joined with Senator Kiely in calling for a debate on rail track investment proposals. I am concerned about this matter having read what was said on behalf of the Minister for Public Enterprise in the other House last night about the Killarney-Tralee line. Despite all the safety reports and the concerns about the poor state of the line, it is obvious the Government is operating a two tier system with Kerry on the hind tit.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Peter Callanan Zoom on Peter Callanan I join with Members who have expressed sympathy for communities which have suffered as a result of the burning of houses of worship in the North last night. It is sad that people are so sick in the mind that they would engage in the destruction of houses of worship. On Tuesday evening during statements on Northern Ireland I said the RUC would have an opportunity to demonstrate even-handedness and I [630] hope it does so on this occasion. I congratulate the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland who were appointed yesterday. I also expect them to demonstrate even-handedness. Because he is the First Minister, David Trimble must represent all the people and he will have ample opportunity over the next few days to demonstrate that he is fit to be First Minister.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I condemn the organised arson which caused the destruction and desecration of churches in Northern Ireland last night. In view of the fact that most people there describe themselves as Christian, one presumes these were denominational attacks and not attacks on people of another religion. I suggest that if they learned more of the liturgy of the different denominations, they might find they have a little more in common and would desist from these appalling attacks. As a member of the Church of Ireland, I share Senator Norris's horror at seeing Drumcree act as a battleground again for the most blatant of sectarian services which could be held in Northern Ireland. I hope something will be done by the Church of Ireland so that the Orange Order will desist from using those premises for such a purpose.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell Zoom on Willie Farrell I would like to be associated with the good wishes to the new Assembly in Northern Ireland. I also wish the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland every success in the difficult task they face leading up to Drumcree. I appeal to all sides to see sense, to resolve the difficulty peacefully and not to bring more violence to the province.

The burning of churches in Northern Ireland is a sad occurence. As someone who has read lessons in the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church over the years and who listens to the Protestant and Catholic services on radio almost every Sunday, I do not believe the people who carried out this sacrilege are members of any church; they are sick people. Using the words of the gospel, I say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. They have committed a terrible sin.

Will the Leader organise a debate in the next session on the road safety report which we recently received? It makes interesting reading. As I said previously, since most accidents happen at night there should be more road patrols at night. It is time the Minister introduced 70 mile per hour speed limit on national primary routes and a 50 miles per hour one on secondary routes. Driving at 60 miles per hour on narrow secondary roads where many of these accidents occur is lunacy.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly We cannot debate the matter now.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell Zoom on Willie Farrell I appeal to the Leader to organise a debate on road safety later in the year. [631]

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh When will the Education (No. 2) Bill, 1997, come to the House? I understand the Bill resurfaced in the Dáil this week and I am sure those involved in the education process would like this legislation to be implemented before the new school term. Will the Leader indicate when this Bill is likely to come to the Seanad?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney I endorse the comments made on all sides in welcoming the new Assembly which heralded a new dawn on the island. It reminded me of Churchill's comment after the First World War that while everything changes, nothing changes. It is right the House condemns unreservedly what happened in Northern Ireland last night; Senator Farrell referred to this as sacrilege. The ongoing situation at Harryville seems to have passed from the public consciousness.

In the spirit of this new era, will the Leader ask the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, if he intends to initiate discussions with the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Football Association on the possibility of Ireland fielding a representational soccer team at international level? This question surfaced on and off in recent decades but was not considered because of the considerable political difficulties and the historical baggage associated with both associations. It was the southern rather than the northern association which broke away.

In the light of this new era which has dawned and with a representational Assembly in the North, the Leader might request the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation to come to the House in the next session to make a statement on the matter or to provide some insight. After all, he has been the catalyst in many other areas of sport and is involved in trying to provide more facilities. The various sporting bodies look to the Minister for funding and initiatives. The time is right for a debate on whether we should have an all-Ireland football team representing us internationally.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I join with colleagues in wishing the Assembly the best of luck and, in particular, Mr. Trimble and Mr. Mallon. Mr. Mallon played in the Oireachtas captain's prize golf outing at Luttrellstown on Monday in a most relaxed mood. In fact, he played with one of our colleagues, Senator Caffrey. He brought in a good score and was fourth in the competition.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly It was not as good as your score.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Will the Leader ask the Minister for Public Enterprise to publish the report on railways commissioned by her? I was disappointed at the way the Athlone-Westport-Ballina line was treated in the allocation of the £114 million of Structural Funds.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning Zoom on Maurice Manning The west is forgotten.

[632]Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The consultants' report is on the Minister's desk.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy What report?

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I forget the title but consultants were commissioned by the Minister to compile a report on the railways. Will the Minister publish the report as a matter of priority?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy I will ask the Minister to let me know when the report referred to by Senator Burke will be published. I congratulate him on his sporting achievements earlier this week. He was lying low for a while but we all knew he would take the handbrake off sooner or later.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis Is he something of a bandit?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy I also wish to be associated with the views expressed by Senators Manning, O'Toole, Dardis, Costello, Norris, Coghlan, Callanan, Henry, Farrell, Mooney and Burke in condemning the dreadful events in the North of Ireland last night. These people have stooped to a new low. I agree with all the sentiments that have been expressed here. I hope the strength and resolve of the people of Northern Ireland will once again show that goodwill can overshine the evil of last night. I congratulate Senator Norris on his courage in calling on Ian Paisley to see the light of day once and for all and to lead his people in a positive direction, which he has not been doing over the last number of months, if not years.

I too congratulate David Trimble and Séamus Mallon. David Trimble has shown great courage. He needs all the assistance and help he can get. I agree with the proposal by Senator Dardis to invite both men to address the House at a future date. When I first became a Member of this House I had great pleasure in taking my seat with two great people, the late Paudge Brennan and Séamus Mallon, who was the finest contributor to this House in the 16 years I have been a Senator. He has displayed great courage and he, his wife and family have made enormous sacrifices following the stance they have taken over the last 30 years in the North of Ireland at a cost to their health, careers and financial position. I am delighted he has been justly rewarded. He comes from a great tradition and has enormous ability. He was first heard of on the playing fields of Ireland representing his native county, where he was a star above all sportsmen in his earlier years.

Senator Costello inquired about item 1. This was agreed by the Whips in the Dáil. I also understand it has been agreed by the Whips in the Seanad.

Senator Lanigan expressed great concern regarding the telephone calls he received last night following the debate in the House yesterday on the Murphy interim report. I am pleased some good has arisen from a debate in this House. I [633] have organised as many debates as possible to facilitate Members' requests.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is true.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy It will be my policy to continue this for the next three to three and a half years. Senator Norris asked for a debate on Tibet, which can be organised in the early part of the next session.

Senator Dan Kiely called on Aer Lingus to have its helplines placed in Cara magazine. I will pass on that request. Senators Coghlan and Dan Kiely expressed concern about the Killarney-Tralee rail line. I passed on their requests yesterday to the Minister. It will be looked at the earliest opportunity, subject to the availability of finance.

Senator Farrell requested a debate on road safety. It is timely to hold such a debate. I congratulate the midlands Radio 3 who, in conjunction with Laois, Offaly and Westmeath County Councils, has taken on itself to highlight, free of charge, every hour on the hour the appalling tragedies on our roads. Of the last 17 fatal accidents in the past three weeks, 11 occurred in the midland counties. I hope the national television and radio stations will also show the spirit of Radio 3 and these local authorities and do something about this issue in the national interest. The number of accidents and deaths on the roads over the last number of weeks is horrific. Many of them occur in the late hours of the evening or the early hours of the morning. This will have to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Senator McDonagh asked when the Education Bill will be before the House. Report Stage is to be taken by the Dáil tomorrow. I understand it will not conclude then. It will possibly be the first Bill before this House in the next session.

Senator Mooney congratulated the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation on his various initiatives. I will pass on the Senator's proposals and requests. Perhaps we could hold a debate in the next session.

As this is the second last day of this session and looking back on our 12 months work, the House may be interested to note that 52 Bills were published since the Government took office while six were restored to the Order Paper. Forty of these Bills have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and most of the remainder will be processed this week. The remaining Bills will be taken in the first two weeks of the next session. This is a terrific programme of work.

Mrs. Ridge: Information on Therese Ridge Zoom on Therese Ridge Ten out of ten.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy I thank the Senators, the leaders of the various groups — Senator Manning, the leader of the main Opposition party, Senator O'Toole——

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Not the leader but primus inter pares.

[634]Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy ——Senator Dardis and Senator Costello for their help, and also the Whips, including Senator Norris. I look forward to their continued co-operation. They have played their part in enhancing Seanad Éireann as a place of importance and the way in which we are now perceived following our successful year.

As many Members have to be elsewhere tomorrow, I take this opportunity to thank you, Sir, for guiding the House with a safe pair of hands. You have displayed an understanding for us all under a lot of pressure during the year. I congratulate our Clerk, Deirdre Lane and our Assistant Clerk, Jody Blake, and all the staff of the House, the ushers and everybody who helped us, including the press and our dear friend, Jimmy Walsh, who is always here to record the events of the House.

Order of Business agreed to.

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