Dáil Éireann - Volume 417 - 10 March, 1992

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Dublin Tribune Interview.

7. Mr. Enright asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to a media report (details supplied) in which he indicated that United States flights to and from Dublin will have to be given the goahead by the Government; if he was accurately reported on this occasion; if his attention has also been drawn to an interview given by the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications on 28 February 1992 when she stated that the Taoiseach was speaking in a personal capacity, when he said that the Shannon stopover should go; if he will confirm whether he was speaking in a personal capacity, or speaking on behalf of the Government on this occasion, and if he was speaking in a personal capacity if he will outline the precedent for such personal statements.

8. Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will clarify reported statements made by him concerning the elimination of the Shannon stopover; if he will confirm that in making those statements he was expressing only his personal opinion, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

9. Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will clarify a commitment made by him in a recent interview that there will [16] be no more major road developments in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

10. Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will clarify the commitment made by him in a recent interview that a national sports centre will be built in Dublin, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

11. Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will clarify the commitment made by him in a recent interview to provide extra resources for community-based crime fighting schemes, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

12. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the steps he intends taking to, (a) establish a national sports stadium in Dublin as referred to by him in his interview with a newspaper (details supplied) on 27 February 1992 and (b) provide an integrated use by all sports at this stadium.

13. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach if he will clarify the additional resources he proposes to make available to the Garda as stated in his interview with a newspaper (details supplied) on 27 February 1992 in the fight against crime.

14. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the steps he proposes to take to ensure that in accordance with his interview with a newspaper (details supplied) on 27 February 1992, Ireland is not overflown by tourists and approval by Government will be given to direct US flights taking place to and from Dublin.

15. Mr. Yates asked the Taoiseach if his comments in a recent newspaper interview (details supplied) concerning the Shannon stopover reflected Government policy or his own personal views.

16. Mrs. Taylor-Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the considerations which in his view might link the development of tourism with the change in policy on transatlantic flights, [17] and if he will elaborate on his interview published in a newspaper (details supplied) on 27 February 1992 relating to this issue.

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 16, inclusive, together.

The matters referred to in the questions were ones which arose during a wide-ranging interview on the future direction of the development of Dublin. The views expressed were indicative of the major development issues which will arise in the greater Dublin area over the coming years. I think it is useful that I should outline these development issues as a stimulus to debate and discussion.

The issues referred to in the interview, and raised in these questions, will in due course be fully considered and decided on by the Government in accordance with normal formal procedures for Government decisions which will take all considerations into account.

Mr. J. Bruton: Stimulus for discussion — that is a new phrase.

Mr. Enright: The Taoiseach is to be congratulated on the brevity——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Farrelly: Was that “Diggy's” advice?

Mr. Enright: The Taoiseach's reply to this House is certainly far shorter than his responses to the Dublin Tribune. Was the Taoiseach quoted correctly by the Dublin Tribune as stating that US flights to and from Dublin will have to be given the go ahead by the Government? If so, was the Taoiseach speaking in a personal capacity or in an official capacity? In issuing future statements will the Taoiseach please let the general public know if they are personal statements or official statements? If the Taoiseach was speaking in a personal capacity, as stated by the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, will the Taoiseach cite the authority which enables the Taoiseach to do that?

[18] The Taoiseach: It would be helpful if the Deputy would quote what I said. I have the article in front of me and I do not see what the Deputy referred to.

Mrs. Owen: It is in the right hand column of the page.

The Taoiseach: I have the article. The Deputy seems to be confused about making a comment on a personal view.

Mr. Quinn: The Taoiseach was only looking into his heart.

The Taoiseach: That was indicative of another personal view. All that is wrong is that the Deputy is slightly confused. I have the article and I do not see the reference the Deputy is talking about.

Mr. Dukes: Is that official?

The Taoiseach: As the journalist who wrote the interview said, the comments were indicative. In the past, in major interviews, the Taoiseach of the day often indicated a possible future development, strategies and plans so as — and Deputy Bruton agrees with me — to stimulate debate.

(Interruptions).

Mr. J. Bruton: I do not agree with the Taoiseach.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Order. A number of Deputies have tabled questions on the subject. I will be calling them in the order in which their questions appear on the Order Paper. I am calling Deputy Spring.

Mr. Spring: If I had been aware that the Taoiseach was not prepared to answer any questions on this indicative interview, I would not have tabled any questions. May I take it from what the Taoiseach said that he has not thought out his position as Taoiseach in relation [19] to the issues in question? I am glad the Taoiseach had the interview. The Taoiseach went into some detail in regard to the Shannon stopover and a commitment that a national sports centre would be built in Dublin, while his junior Minister responsible for sport was saying there would not be a national sports centre built in this country. Perhaps the Taoiseach should be more careful in future when giving interviews. If he is not prepared to discuss issues or answer questions on them in the Dáil I suggest the Taoiseach make it very clear in the course of interviews, that they are private interviews not interviews in his capacity as Taoiseach, and that he is just giving his opinion. Getting the Government Press Secretary to follow those interviews by saying that the Taoiseach was merely speculating on eventualities is something we could do without. It does not do the Taoiseach any good.

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.

The Taoiseach: I have no difficulty in answering specific questions Deputies put down.

Mr. Quinn: They are all there. The Taoiseach has just run away from them.

The Taoiseach: Please, do not get excited.

Mr. Farrelly: The Taoiseach will be given a place on the rugby team next Saturday, he kicks to touch so often.

The Taoiseach: They would not give the Deputy a place, as bad as they are; I know they would not.

Mr. J. Bruton: That is on the record. That is another political comment, another slur on the aspirations of the Irish rugby team.

The Taoiseach: It is not in the least. They have not been performing too well, have they?

[20] (Interruptions).

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach might put his tongue at the top of his mouth, it would be less trouble.

An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Taoiseach.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): Did the Taoiseach go to the mainland to see the rugby team?

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: I will deal with the questions in order.

Mr. Spring: The Shannon stopover?

The Taoiseach: With regard to the Shannon stopover, I made it abundantly clear that when Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn concluded her consultations and discussions, she would bring her proposals to Cabinet and a decision would be taken. The Deputies should have read the article properly. Indications are not decisions or policy directions. Indications are one thing and personal views are another. In relation to a national sports stadium——

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: If Deputies do not want to listen, I am sorry.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): We are not listening because it is rubbish.

The Taoiseach: The provision of a national sports centre in this city will have my support when new proposals are put. The proposals the Deputies are referring to were not found to be viable, and I am not sure there was much agreement on the location of the proposed sports centre.

Mr. Quinn: The Government authorised a CPO. Does the Taoiseach not realise that?

[21] The Taoiseach: I am in Government now. I am giving the Deputy my views in response to what he asked me.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Quinn: The Taoiseach authorised a CPO.

The Taoiseach: If the Deputy does not want to listen, he should not complain when he is not getting replies.

Mr. Farrelly: The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Taoiseach: We have a new Ceann Comhairle now.

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, please let us hear the replies.

The Taoiseach: I fully support the concept of a national sports stadium. It will have my support as long as I am in Government.

Mr. Quinn: We will have one?

The Taoiseach: I hope so.

A Deputy: I thought the Taoiseach had been in Government for years.

An Ceann Comhairle: If these interruptions continue I will move to another question. This is not good enough. Questions have been asked and we should listen with courtesy to the replies, otherwise I am going on to the next question.

Mr. G. Mitchell: The Taoiseach should be briefed on his replies.

The Taoiseach: As recently as the weekend people were looking at a different location and trying to put a proposition for a sports centre together involving private sector moneys and possible allocations from the lottery. I hope they succeed. I was involved in discussions with the various sporting bodies and I am aware that the FAI do not have a home and that they could do with a [22] stadium in Dublin. I am also aware of the reconstruction that has to take place at the IRFU grounds in Lansdowne Road, that the seating capacity will be severely curtailed when their plans are carried through, and we are all only too well aware of the national debate in relation to Croke Park. Bearing all that in mind, I believe Dublin should have a national stadium. If that project does not go through it will not be because I did not support it.

In regard to public transport and congestion in Dublin I am familiar with the proposition because as a former Minister responsible for transport I started to do something about it. When the major road works are completed there is a contribution to be made by public transport in this city towards relieving congestion and from an environmental point of view. Those are the sort of indications and thinking out loud that I was doing in that article. I am happy to discuss my views at any given time in this House.

Mr. Shatter: In the light of the Taoiseach's reply does he now accept that the interview with the Dublin Tribune was merely a piece of political flim flam and thinking aloud, making it appear as if the Government were giving a commitment to a whole series of projects when no commitments were being given? Clearly the remarks of the Taoiseach stimulated debate. In the context of the debate that was stimulated will the Taoiseach indicate to the House in relation to the Shannon stopover, the nature of the debate that took place between him and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications on the evening the Dublin Tribune was published when he and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications appeared to be standing in the middle of Mount Street, waving arms and yelling at each other, while onlookers looked on somewhat embarrassed? Was this the type of debate the Taoiseach intended to stimulate in dealing with the Shannon stopover?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is leading to argument.

[23] (Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: This is not good enough.

Mr. Shatter: The Taoiseach might explain that row which took place. In the stimulation of debate, what role was played by the Taoiseach's promise to increase resources to fight crime in Dublin at a time when there has been an 8 per cent increase in crime in urban Dublin? Will the Taoiseach specifically indicate if any initial resources have been provided? Was this merely thinking out loud with regard to something that might be done next year or the following year or some time in the future?

An Ceann Comhairle: That is perfectly adequate, Deputy.

The Taoiseach: I am amazed that Deputies seem to forget that their former leader, Deputy FitzGerald announced his crusade on the radio, not in the House, not in a public statement and not even at a meeting of his own party.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Enright: The Taoiseach will be quoting Brian Boru next.

The Taoiseach: I also recall as a young man hearing the late Deputy Sean Lemass talking about the advantages of joining the European Community in 1962 and it was 11 years later before we joined the Community. I saw nothing wrong with such an approach then and I see nothing wrong with my approach now.

Mr. Farrelly: The Taoiseach should tell us about it?

The Taoiseach: This Government will not be found wanting in developing initiatives in relation to improvements that can be carried out in the infrastructure, [24] the environment, community policing or any other issues.

Mr. Shatter: Tell us about it now.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Had the Taoiseach read the Boston report which was prepared for Aer Lingus; the DKM report which was prepared for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Invision report prepared for the Shannon Status Group before he gave his famous interview to the Dublin Tribune? If so, will he agree that the Invision report only addressed the regional problem in the national context and that the Boston report is very narrow in its application, deficient in major areas and deals with scheduled flights only? Will the Taoiseach agree that the DKM report makes a number of unsubstantiated assertions?

An Ceann Comhairle: The questioning is over-long.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: What is the Taoiseach's view of the reports? Did the Taoiseach study this question in depth before he went public on this very serious national issue?

The Taoiseach: This is a question of the Deputy's interpretation of what I said in the newspaper article. The evaluation of all reports relating to the stop-over at Shannon will be taken fully into account by Government when we come to make a decision on it. If the Deputy read the article carefully, she would have noticed that I was referring to developments in aviation policy where we face in the future — perhaps not the distant future — long range engines being in use that could over-fly Ireland, never mind Dublin or anywhere else.

Mr. Currie: Straight to the mainland.

The Taoiseach: I was drawing attention to matters that have to be taken into consideration in this debate.

[25] Mr. Farrelly: Did the Taoiseach read the reports?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: I have just heard the Deputy speak at some length. I now call on Deputy Bruton and I must point out that I want to bring these questions to finality.

Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach agree that these personal musings in public by the Head of Government in advance of the matter coming before the Cabinet undermines collective Cabinet responsibility and set an unhelpful precedent in regard to similar statements by other Ministers thus making Cabinet decision-making that bit more difficult?

The Taoiseach: I am amazed at the Deputy's question, because I thought everybody in this House welcomed openness in Government and the maximum amount of information being made available. However, as soon as we do that, a Deputy complains about that openness in Government.

Mr. Dukes: The Taoiseach did not give any information.

The Taoiseach: There is no question of relinquishing collective Cabinet responsibility in any matter. There is full Cabinet responsibility for every decision taken by Government. I can assure the Deputy he need not worry about discipline in my Cabinet because I am quite capable of looking after problems with discipline, should I have to.

Mr. G. Mitchell: And disciplining yourself?

The Taoiseach: I will continue with the policy of openness, whether Deputies like it or not.

Mr. Quinn: In view of the Taoiseach's very frank response to the supplementary questions will he now instruct the person who wrote the original reply to take note of his commitment to openness in [26] Government? Will the Taoiseach agree that had he answered the questions in the first instance in the manner he was subsequently forced to, he would not have provoked the reaction he got? The Taoiseach, obviously, has not spoken to the person who wrote that answer. There is a wide gap between the original reply and the Taoiseach's response to supplementary questions.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Quinn, and other Deputies, obviously took advantage of the questions I raised in that interview, which did stimulate debate. When I give a long reply, Deputies complain that it takes up too much time, and I thought I would be complimented on the brevity of my reply when I give a short answer. I am open to play in whatever is in the best interests of the House and in providing information to Deputies.

Proinsias De Rossa: I was hoping to get some information on the questions that were tabled. Will the Taoiseach indicate with whom the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications is consulting on this question? Given the urgency of resolving this question, will the Taoiseach indicate how soon this process of consultation will be completed and a Cabinet decision announced? On the question of crime, will the Taoiseach, as an indication of his seriousness in this regard, provide adequate resources to the Select Committee on Crime, who are attempting to look at this issue? I understand they are seriously under-resourced.

An Ceann Comhairle: Brevity, please.

Proinsias De Rossa: I am seeking information. Will the Taoiseach agree that it is important to re-establish the Dublin Transport Authority to consider the question of roads versus rail use so that a coherent co-ordinated approach can be developed to transport in our capital city?

The Taoiseach: Those matters merit separate questions. The re-establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority is separate from the question tabled. I have [27] given my views on the contribution I believe public transport can make to the alleviation of congestion, and to the environment and how this affects those who have to travel in the city.

On the range of consultations undertaken by the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, let me say that Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn answered that question in the House last week. She has had extensive negotiations, and has consulted with Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta and the various interest groups. She has made two trips to Shannon, has received submissions from Aer Rianta and has copies of the reports referred to in this House.

Mr. Quinn: What about the Taoiseach's decision?

Mr. Farrelly: The Taoiseach did not read the reports.

The Taoiseach: The provision of resources for the Select Committee on Crime is a matter for a separate question, and if the Deputy tables it, I will answer him.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): When does the Taoiseach expect proposals from the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications on the status of Shannon to come to Cabinet and if he has a timeframe for the decision in mind?

The Taoiseach: I expect this as soon as possible. I spoke to the Minister at the weekend and she told me she was into the final stages of consultation and would then be putting a report before Government. As I cannot give the Deputy a definite date, I will not mislead him.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): Is it a matter of weeks?

The Taoiseach: Yes.

Mr. Spring: In regard to the road planning for Dublin city, may I seek an assurance from the Taoiseach that account will [28] be taken of the report by Professor Simon Perry of Trinity College in which he alleged that the cost of traffic congestion in the city could be anywhere up to £500 million because of pollution, stress, fuel, wear and tear? Immediate action should be taken to relieve the difficulties in the city.

The Taoiseach: I will certainly have that taken into account because it accords with some of the views I expressed in the article.

Mr. Dukes: Will the Taoiseach agree that flying a kite is a very insecure way of trying to get across the Atlantic and, therefore, not to be recommended? Will he agree that the US airlines who have been quoted by Mr. Arthur Wall, chairman of the Fly Dublin Direct Committee, Deputy Ray Burke and the Minister for Education, Deputy S. Brennan among others, were flying kites when they talked about extra services, because not one of them has applied to their own regulatory authority for extra routes or extra destinations in Ireland and until they do so we can only regard them as kite-flying, like the Taoiseach?

The Taoiseach: I do not propose to answer questions for other Deputies. However, in relation to the interview I gave, I can assure the Deputy, and the House, that I was not flying any kites.

An Ceann Comhairle: I now call Deputy Proinsias De Rossa.

Mrs. Owen: A Cheann Comhairle, you indicated you would call me.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am very sorry Deputy but will you be brief please?

Mrs. Owen: If the article in the Dublin Tribune did not cause any problem, perhaps the Taoiseach would explain why this week's edition of that paper carries a clarification/apology regarding some of his comments. Perhaps the Taoiseach would care to comment. If this article is an outline of his concerns for Dublin, why does it not mention the desperate [29] need for public housing in Dublin where over 4,000 families are awaiting housing? Does the Taoiseach not think it worthy of mention?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has strayed quite considerably from the subject matter in question.

Mrs. Owen: Perhaps the Taoiseach would explain why there is an apology in the Dublin Tribune this week.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy will appreciate I had an extremely busy weekend and I did not get around to reading the paper yet.

Mrs. Owen: The Taoiseach put in the clarification.

The Taoiseach: I did not read the paper.