Order of Business.

Thursday, 26 November 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 157 No. 8

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Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Today's Order of Business will be items Nos. 1 and 2. Item 1, Report and Final Stages will be taken today; item 2, Statements on Overseas Development will be taken for 90 minutes with the contributions of spokespersons not exceeding ten minutes and all other Senators will have five minutes. Senators may also share time.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle The Cathaoirleach did us proud this morning.

Senators: Hear, hear.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle Will the Leader of the House ensure the Minister for Public Enterprise and Transport, Deputy O'Rourke, comes back to this House to explain her Department's interference in the allegedly independent rail safety report and apologises to the two civil servants she named in this Chamber in this connection and to Senator O'Dowd for impugning his integrity in the exercise of his duty in exposing the Minister's misleading description of this most important report?

Failing the Minister's agreement to come before this House — I believe she will — I would like assurance that this matter will be taken up by our Committee on Procedure and Privileges to deal in particular with the naming of the two civil servants involved, an unacceptable precedent.

Will the Leader provide for the laying of the original consultants' draft report on rail safety before both Houses?

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole The Leader gave me a commitment last week that we would have a debate on literacy within the following ten days. Senator Burke called for a debate on primary education and its relationship with literacy. Can the Leader give me an assurance we will have that debate soon?

We are all aware of the somewhat horrific and harrowing cases of child sexual abuse reported in the newspapers. The issue has been raised in this House on many occasions. I have been raising the issue of mandatory reporting for the past two years and we still do not know the direction the Government is taking, although various views have been put forward. It is important that we [574] know the Government's thinking in this regard to allow our thinking to influence the direction the Government takes. We need to know where we stand on mandatory reporting.

A number of technical committees have been established by the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Fahey. We should have a progress report on them.

I intend moving amendments to the Order of Business until we have a debate on the River Shannon. I received a commitment from the Leader that the interim report would be discussed in this House. This issue will not go away and I would like to have it dealt with as soon as possible.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello A Chathaoirligh, I too congratulate you on the quality of your response the British Prime Minister's address. Seeing John Hume in the gallery, I thought it would be appropriate to invite our Nobel laureate into the House. The President of the EU Commission——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and it is not customary to raise the issue of who might be invited to the House.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Given that we invited President Santer to speak about Europe, who better to invite to speak about Northern Ireland and the British-Irish Agreement than John Hume ?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I am sure we will have an opportunity to place that matter before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello On item 31 in the names of Senators Norris and Ryan, I welcome the decision of the Law Lords to permit the extradition of General Pinochet. The Labour Party welcomes that the Lords have decided that General Pinochet should not have immunity from extradition on charges concerning terrorism, genocide and murder. I hope this matter will be resolved. Human Rights Day is on 10 December and it will resound around the world that human rights can be enforced at the highest level.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill A Chathaoirligh, I thank you for doing this House proud in the other House this morning. I agree with Senator O'Toole's call for a debate on the River Shannon. On a number of occasions this session I have asked for a debate on water quality, including inland waterways. We have not had that debate.

We should also debate the problem of litter. I see no Government initiatives on this issue. If they exist they are not having an impact and this issue seems to have slipped from the agenda. That is a pity. Will the Leader arrange for debates on water quality and litter with a view to the introduction of stronger initiatives on both issues in the new year?

[575]Mr. Ryan: Now that we are having statements, not a debate, on overseas development aid, it seems churlish to express regret that it is so late. The Leader declined the challenge of having his colleagues defend the Government on this issue. That is a pity. However, with regret and annoyance, I again move: “That item 16, motion 30 be taken at the commencement of business today.”

Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú I am sure many people were alarmed at the recent report on food preparation and the dangers of cross-contamination. It might be timely for the Leader to invite the appropriate Minister into the House to discuss this matter. This issue is serious, not only for those directly involved, but for the welfare of the wider community. We are all aware of the serious outbreak of diseases which have occurred as a result of food contamination. There are spin-off dangers such as absenteeism from work, our tourism image and so on. I would welcome such a debate, particularly in the context of education.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris A Chathaoirligh, I join other Senators in congratulating you on your performance this morning. I had the additional advantage of watching the event on television and it came across extraordinarily well. You did this House proud by your dignified and well-delivered comments.

I second Senator Ryan's amendment to the Order of Business but I will not go into the reasons, which we will have an opportunity to debate. As regards the debate last night and the suggestion that Deputy O'Rourke should come into the House — I do not think people got that excited about the fact that a civil servant was named. They waited a long time until I pointed out this matter to the House. I subsequently discussed this issue and my understanding is that the Minister is not subject to the discipline of the House as she is not a Member. The matter could be drawn to her attention but she could not be disciplined.

I thank Senator Costello for reminding me that we have a motion on the Order Paper concerning General Pinochet. Everyone welcomes the Law Lords' wonderful decision on his extradition. I also note that Margaret Thatcher is one of his greatest allies on compassionate grounds. I look forward to the day when she is the subject of a similar extradition order for the war crimes she perpetrated during the Falklands War.

Mr. O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I support Senator Doyle's request to the Leader to ask Deputy O'Rourke to come into the House to explain the report on rail safety which she claimed was independent. She must explain whether it was or was not independent. Yesterday's debate brought some important issues to the fore which should be debated again. The draft report, the final report and the executive summary of the report should be placed before the House.

[576]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn I join Senators Doyle and O'Dowd in requesting that Deputy O'Rourke comes back into the House. She made a charge against a colleague in this House and owes Senator O'Dowd an apology or, at least, a retraction. I do not agree with Senator Norris. We may not have disciplinary powers but, as a matter of courtesy, the Minister should come back to the House and apologise to Senator O'Dowd. In addition, we must establish whether the rail safety report is or is not independent. From information and documentation available, it is evident that the report is anything but independent and that substantial changes have been made.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly This report was discussed in detail last night.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Not in detail.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly The other points have been made so I would prefer if the Senator did not go into this matter in further detail.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn I would appreciate if the Minster came back into the House at the earliest opportunity. Serious matters arose as a result of the two-hour debate. There is a need for a longer debate and I hope the Leader will respond positively to our request.

Mr. Chambers: Information on Frank Chambers Zoom on Frank Chambers A Chathaoirligh, I join other Senators is congratulating you on your speech to the British Prime Minister. I also congratulate the Ceann Comhairle for his excellent, timely, worthwhile and momentous speech. I express the House's sympathy to the two families who lost spouses or sons in Pollatomish, north Mayo. A second body was found this afternoon. Because of recent accidents in public utilities such as harbours, I am calling for the relevant Ministers to examine these utilities. A national examination must take place within county councils to examine ports and harbours from a public safety point of view.

Ms O'Meara: Information on Kathleen O'Meara Zoom on Kathleen O'Meara A Chathaoirligh, I also congratulate you and the Ceann Comhairle on the manner in which you captured the mood of this morning's occasion and did the House proud.

There is widespread support for a debate on water quality and, in that regard, concern about the Shannon. I ask again about the progress of the Shannon River Council Bill and if it will be necessary for Members on this side of the House to bring forward that Bill in our own names.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole Hear, hear.

Ms O'Meara: Information on Kathleen O'Meara Zoom on Kathleen O'Meara I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on child care. There is an increasing demand for child care because of the increased participation of women in the workforce and a corresponding shortage of good quality child care. A working group is meeting under Partnership 2000 to consider this matter and the views of [577] this House should be heard and transmitted to that working group.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I join my colleagues in congratulating you, Sir, on your fine words of appreciation of the address of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the close of the joint sitting of the Houses this morning. I also offer my congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle. I could not help noticing how well many of our colleagues occupied their seats in that Chamber.

I join Senator Costello in his suggestion that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges consider inviting Mr. John Hume to address this House.

A serious matter arose and has been mentioned by Senators Doyle, Taylor-Quinn and O'Dowd regarding the rail safety report.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly This matter has been raised and has been adequately discussed. I am sure the Leader will respond.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am not dwelling on that matter but I wish to raise a related matter. This House debates many reports which are taken to be objective and independent. It appears from last evening's occurence that they are not. How widespread is this practice? If the highest ethical standards are to obtain we have a right to know.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald Since you allowed four or five Members of the Opposition to speak on this matter I hope you will allow me also, Sir. I will be as brief as the others. Last night an allegation was made that discrepancies had occurred between a draft and final report which was referred to as independent. The Minister responded to that allegation by saying an investigation should take place. The Minister will be happy to come to the House at any time to stand over the report. A call was made last evening to the Member concerned to set out his position but he merely reinforced an unfounded allegation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I must stop you Senator. I understand that all these points were raised last night in the debate.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald I am the only Member offering on this side. Five have spoken on the Opposition side.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Asking a specific question.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald The text of items and sections of paragraphs from both the draft and final reports were quoted in the House last evening. They contained no evidence of significant deviation from the draft report in the final version. The Minister will be happy to come to the House when the matter has been clarified and the allegations made by Senator O'Dowd thoroughly examined. The allegations were made by Senator O'Dowd and not by the Minister. The record will clearly show that.

[578]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I will allow no further discussion on this matter.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke May I be associated with the expressions of congratulations to you, Sir. Like other Senators, you looked very much at ease in the other House.

I support Senator O'Toole's call for a debate on primary education. The Leader has promised to allow a debate on this matter and I hope time will be made available for it soon.

I support Senator Doyle's call for the Minister for Public Enterprise to come to the House to clarify——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly There will be no further debate on that matter. Five Opposition speakers have spoken and Senator Fitzgerald has spoken on the Government side. It is not relevant to today's Order of Business.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke What I have to say is relevant to today's Order of Business.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly The motion was put to the House last night.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Doyle referred to the rail safety report.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly That was part of last night's debate.

Mr. Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I merely wish to clarify the fact that the report was on rail safety. I second the proposal that both reports be laid before the House so that we can make up our minds whether the final version differs significantly from the previous draft. I believe it does. The Minister made a deliberate attempt last night to down play a damning report. There is an onus on her to come to the House to clarify her position particularly with regard to the allegation she made about Senator O'Dowd.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I was going to ask that the draft versions of the Atkins report and the Steer Davies Gleave report be made available to the House but as I am not allowed, I will not do so.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Henry may make that request. The Minister gave an undertaking to the House that she would do that.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I am sure she will. I congratulate Fine Gael on having an all female Front Bench today.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Why does the Senator not join them?

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman Zoom on Mary Jackman I thank Senator Henry for her congratulations. We were greatly encouraged by the Prime Minister's reference to women's involvement in politics.

[579]Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole The Prime Minister referred to women succeeding him. He did not indicate an intention to resign.

Mrs. Jackman: Information on Mary Jackman Zoom on Mary Jackman I join Senator O'Meara in calling for a debate on child care. We must respond to the large number of women who took part in the demonstration organised by the National Women's Council of Ireland on 14 November requesting a Government response to the call for child care provision. We might look to Greece, a poorer country than Ireland, where child care is prioritised and an excellent system is in place. It is important that we debate this issue very soon.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis I do not wish to contest your ruling, Sir, and I do not wish to become involved in controversy. In view of the fact that I occupied the Chair last night for the debate in question, may I be allowed to speak? I cannot adjudicate the merits of the cases put by the Minister and Senator O'Dowd. As to whether the Minister should have been admonished for naming an official who was in the House, it is correct to say that it is not the practice in this House to refer to officials by name. That was done. It is also correct that the Minister is not a Member of this House and is, therefore, not subject to the disciplines of the House. It was Senator Norris and not anyone else who pointed out that fact. No one else did until he did so. At that point the Minister withdrew the reference and spoke from that point about the official sitting behind her, without naming him. I resent an imputation of improper action by the Chair. The Chair did not act improperly.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle The Minister impugned Senator O'Dowd's character.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Senator Dardis's excellent chairing is on the record.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole Zoom on Joe John O'Toole May I raise a point of order? It has been suggested that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should invite Mr. John Hume, who is a constituent of the Members who occupy these benches. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges cannot deal with invitations the question of which has been raised in the House because if an invitation which is suggested in the House is not given by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, it can appear that the committee has refused to issue the invitation. It must be understood that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges is precluded from dealing with any such request. A precedent has been established and it must stand. I would support the proposal to invite Mr. John Hume to come here. As a member of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges the House should recognise that we have been through this process with Mother Teresa and many other dignitaries on numerous occasions. There is a clear precedent and that is the way it should be.

[580]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I thank Senator O'Toole for making that point of order.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis I distinctly heard Senator Doyle say that I protected the Minister. I ask her to withdraw that remark.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle I withdraw that if the Senator understands that I said that Senator Dardis did not protect my colleague. I did not say anything about the Minister. The Senator misheard me but I was probably still out of order.

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis Zoom on John Dardis I also ask that Senator Doyle's remark be withdrawn as well.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle I accept that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly It is not in order Senator Doyle to reflect upon the Chair.

Mrs. A. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle Zoom on Avril Doyle I accept that and I withdraw my comments because I was not here. It was a repartee that was out of order to what Senator Dardis said. I still insist that my colleague, Senator O'Dowd, was impugned and he deserves to have the matter rectified.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly I thank Senator Doyle for withdrawing her remark.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy I join with other speakers in congratulating the Cathaoirleach on his address to the joint sitting of the Houses and also to the Ceann Chomhairle. You are a credit to both Houses and a credit to our country. The eyes of the world were on both Chambers this morning. I know that very many past Members of both Houses going back several generations would like to have lived to see a British Prime Minister address both Houses. Thank God we were all here to witness it.

Senators Doyle, Norris, O'Dowd, Taylor-Quinn, O'Toole, Quill, Liam Fitzgerald, Burke and Dardis expressed views regarding the rail safety report which I will pass on. I know the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, as Senator Fitzgerald pointed out, will have no problem returning to this House because she is very concerned about the contents of that report. There is no person more capable in either House of dealing with it efficiently or effectively.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn Look at the front of The Examiner.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senators O'Toole, Burke and Quill asked for a debate on adult literacy and primary education. I am pleased to inform the House that a debate on this issue will take place on Thursday, 3 December. I am also pleased to inform the House that the Shannon River Council Bill will be dealt with on the afternoon of Wednesday, 2 December.

[581] In relation to mandatory reporting these points can be expressed in the debate on the legislation we will discuss today.

Senator Ó Murchú asked for a debate on food safety. I will facilitate such a debate.

Senator Ryan pointed out that we have allowed statements on ODA to be taken this afternoon. I fail to understand why all the points cannot be made this afternoon when the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, will be present. I cannot understand why a Senator of high standing, such as Senator Ryan, would insist on time wasting on the Order of Business.

[582]Mr. Ryan: I know the Leader does not understand my motives.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy Senators O'Meara and Jackman requested a debate on child care. I agree to allocate time for this debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly Senator Ryan has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: “That item 16, motion 30, be inserted in substitution for item 2”. Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Ryan: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 23.

Coghlan, Paul.
Costello, Joe.
Doyle, Avril.
Gallagher, Pat.
Hayes, Tom.
Henry, Mary.
Jackman, Mary.
O'Dowd, Fergus.
O'Meara, Kathleen.
O'Toole, Joe.
Quinn, Feargal.
Ridge, Thére se.
Ryan, Brendan.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Níl

Bonner, Enda.
Cassidy, Donie.
Chambers, Frank.
Cregan, John.
Dardis, John.
Farrell, Willie.
Finneran, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Fitzgerald, Tom.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Gibbons, Jim.
Hayes, Maurice.
Keogh, Helen.
Lanigan, Mick.
Leonard, Ann.
Lydon, Don.
Moylan, Pat.
O'Brien, Francis.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Ormonde, Ann.
Quill, Máirín.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Ryan and Norris; Níl, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh.

Amendment declared lost.

Question: “That the Order of Business be agreed to,” put and declared carried.


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