Dáil Éireann - Volume 352 - 10 October, 1984

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Commemoration Day.

1. Mr. Haughey asked the Taoiseach whether the Government have decided to institute a Day of National Commemoration; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: As the Deputy will be aware, following an approach by the Government Chief Whip last April, his party's agreement to participate in an informal all-party committee, to try to reach an agreement on this matter, was conveyed to the Government Chief Whip some weeks ago. Arrangements to set up the committee are in hands.

Mr. Haughey: The Taoiseach will be aware that it is now practically a year since he first suggested that the matter might be raised in a couple of months. Is he aware that the delay has prejudiced the matter very considerably? I would ask him now to ensure that the question of an all-party committee be proceeded with expeditiously. He will also be aware that the Government Chief Whip in a letter to our Chief Whip mentioned that [1840] the Taoiseach was anxious that this matter be resolved as soon as possible in order to avoid a repetition of last year's difficulties. I would ask the Taoiseach to ensure that, pending the setting up of the committee and any action by it, nothing would be done which would, in the words of his own Chief Whip, lead to a repetition of last year's difficulties.

The Taoiseach: I have no desire to start this session on a contentious note but I am taken aback by the approach adopted by the Leader of the Opposition. When this matter came up before, I suggested that perhaps some months should be left for the matter to die down and that we could then discuss it. Accordingly on 26 April last the Government Chief Whip approached the Opposition Chief Whip. We waited and waited and finally, as no reply came, a letter was written by the Government Chief Whip on 14 August reminding him of this and asking if there was any possibility of a reply. We finally got a reply on 6 September to our approach of 26 April. I do not think the Government can be accused of being dilatory in the matter. I regret that this delay has occurred. It is most unfortunate but I certainly will not take responsibility for it. The facts are as I have stated and the dates are there.

Mr. Haughey: In my view it is on the Government's side that the delay occurred. However, I am prepared to exculpate the Taoiseach and his Chief Whip for the delay on condition that they get on with the matter immediately.

Mr. B. Ahern: I can hardly pronounce “exculpate”. I want to make it absolutely clear that while we had talks on a number of occasions and there was a commitment——

An Ceann Comhairle: Has the Deputy a question?

Mr. B. Ahern: He certainly has. Would the Taoiseach confirm that the first written notification to the Fianna Fáil Party [1841] was on 14 August and that the reply was within three weeks of that date?

The Taoiseach: Yes, I can confirm that in an act of some desperation the Government Chief Whip finally wrote on 14 August seeking a reply to the original raising of the issue on 26 April with the then Chief Whip on the Opposition side.

Mr. B. Ahern: I do not want to start with an argument. The Government Chief Whip's Office rang at the end of July and when they found out that they never wrote they said sorry and said they would then write.

An Ceann Comhairle: We will not have a debate on this.

Mr. N. Treacy: Can the Taoiseach tell us exactly when the committee will be set up and how many members there will be?

The Taoiseach: That is a matter for discussion between the Whips. I am sure they will deal with the matter expeditiously, that being the wish of both myself and the Leader of the Opposition.