Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 02 July, 1999

Order of Business.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. c6 – motion re Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs; No. d6 – motion re Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights; No. a1 – Electricity Regulation Bill, 1998, amendment from the Seanad; No. c33 – Qualifications (Education and Training) Bill, 1999 [Seanad], Order for Report and Report and Final Stages and No. b6 – motion re Adjournment for the summer recess.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. c6 and d6 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on a1, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 a.m.; the Report and Final Stages of c33 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 1.45 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Education and Science; the proceedings on b6, if not previously concluded shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.30 p.m. and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.

Mr. Dukes: Has the Minister forgotten No. 2, the Intoxicating Liquor Bill?

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: It has been quietly shelved.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. c6 and d6 agreed to?

Mr. Quinn: On European affairs, I have repeatedly asked on the Order of Business when the Government will indicate the nominee for the position of European Commissioner. I am disappointed that this has not occurred. This is not due to a prurient interest in who will get the glittering prize. It is far more fundamental. Under the Amsterdam Treaty, the new Commission must be ratified by the European Parliament. President Prodi—

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss this matter now.

Mr. Quinn: I know but this is the last day of session. I understand the difficulties with regard to where the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are at [1024] present but a Commissioner with the full assent and support of this House would be in a politically stronger position in the autumn when the Commission is to be ratified by the European Parliament.

This Government appears not to understand the changes taking place after the Amsterdam Treaty—

An Ceann Comhairle: This proposal relates to changing the terms of reference of the committee. It has nothing to do with the Commissioner.

Mr. Quinn: It is about European affairs.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not. It is about changing the terms of reference.

Mr. Quinn: The Government is being discourteous to the House. It fails to recognise the political change that is taking place.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. c6 and d6 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with a1 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. c33 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. b6 agreed to?

Mr. J. Bruton: This is a motion that the Dáil should adjourn until 29 September. I believe legislation will be required to break the deadlock in the current talks in Northern Ireland and to give legislative clarity to commitments to decommission and to the consequences of failure to fulfil such commitments.

As the institutions encompass this jurisdiction as well as the UK, such legislation should be passed here as well as in Westminster. This should be done quickly while the talks are still in progress and certainly before Drumcree. Therefore, the Dáil should not adjourn until 29 September but until next Monday to facilitate the possibility of such legislation being enacted. Obviously, it is a matter of judgment for the Governments as to whether that is necessary. However, the House should not decide to adjourn until the end of September given that there is a strong likelihood it will be necessary.

An Ceann Comhairle: This proposal deals with the arrangements for the debate.

Mr. J. Bruton: I appreciate that. I will table an amendment to the substantive motion—

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will have an opportunity to do that.

Mr. J. Bruton: —and I simply wish to make this known to the Government as a courtesy so it can be considered. The Government is working under great pressure in this matter and my proposal is made solely to be helpful. I hope it will be successful in that regard.

[1025] An Ceann Comhairle: There is time for debate on these issues later today. What is before the House is the proposal for the arrangements.

Mr. Quinn: The arrangement, if the House agrees to this order, would require the House to go into recess until 29 September.

An Ceann Comhairle: It does not. That is for decision later today.

Mr. Quinn: In reality that is what the House is now deciding.

An Ceann Comhairle: The decision on whether the House adjourns will be made at 4.30 p.m.

Mr. Quinn: I am aware of that but at that point there will be no possibility of making an alternative decision.

This House will not be crowded between now and 29 September. The Government might take time to consider two possibilities that may emerge. The first is, as we heard from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and from the Taoiseach, that there might be a necessity to enact legislative measures. These would have the support of all sides of the House and this party will be available to facilitate the Government as early as is deemed necessary.

I am not attempting to be political in raising the second matter. In view of the difficulties surrounding the liquor licensing legislation, the Government should consider a one day sitting late in July to facilitate the work of the committees—

An Ceann Comhairle: That has nothing to do with the proposal before the House.

Mr. Quinn: It deals with the Adjournment for the summer recess.

An Ceann Comhairle: It deals with the arrangements for the Adjournment.

Mr. Quinn: I am suggesting that the Government might reconsider.

Mr. Dukes: That is the work of ages.

Mr. Sargent: On behalf of the Green Party, I want to express our opposition to No. b6. It is not appropriate for us to debate the Adjournment of the Dáil when there are other matters which ought to be discussed. Effectively, it is a waste of time discussing the Adjournment of the Dáil. We should decide to return next week to deal with matters relating to Northern Ireland, the fact that Ireland is in court over wildlife legislation and the Údarás na Gaeltachta legislation which yesterday we asked to be taken next week.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): Will the Government bring to the Adjournment debate—

[1026] An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy cannot discuss that. Later in the day the Deputy will have an opportunity to do so.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): The Dáil is faced with a very serious situation in that a tribunal it established to examine payments to politicians—

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss that. The Deputy should resume his seat. The Deputy knows the matter he is referring to is not in order at this stage. We will deal with the proposal before the House.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): Before we reach that, let us hear from the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. b6 agreed to?

Mr. J. Bruton: I think the Minister would like to respond.

An Ceann Comhairle: If the Minister wishes to respond briefly, I will then put the question.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I thank the party leaders for their thoughtful observations on the matter, which are appreciated.

Mr. Dukes: Will the Minister accept them?

Mr. J. Bruton: There are some people laughing behind the Minister.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Anyone who wishes to laugh has every right to do so. The Taoiseach wishes me to say that it is hoped he may get back to the House today, although he may not. It is not a firm commitment and depends on the course of today's business in Northern Ireland. I am sure everyone in the House will join with us in wishing and hoping the day's business there will go well. I appreciate the thoughtful way in which the matters were put and I can certainly give a commitment on behalf of the Government that if it is necessary to recall the Dáil to discuss legislation that will be done.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. b6 agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Bruton: What are the Government's plans in regard to the Intoxicating Liquor Bill?

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Intoxicating Liquor Bill is currently before the Dáil.

Mr. T. Kitt: Drinks on the house.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is it moving forwards or backwards?

Mr. Dukes: It is going down the drain.

[1027] Mr. Quinn: The matter I now wish to raise is not currently before the Dáil but before the Minister who has responsibility to answer on behalf of the Government. I invite the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, to announce it this week while the Dáil is still in session, not next week when we are no longer here. She has a proposal for an increase in CIE bus fares on her desk and she is attempting to evade making a decision on it until the Dáil goes into recess. The Minister should announce the proposal today in the House so that we can debate it. What is the Minister frightened of? If she is going to do it, why does she not do so this week while she is accountable? She should not run away. Will the Minister make the announcement today before the Dáil goes into recess?

Mrs. O'Rourke: I do not run away from anything, and the Deputy well knows that. Matters have to be brought to Cabinet where they are discussed and decisions are taken. I do not intend to go outside that way of doing things.

Mr. Quinn: Did the Minister discuss in Cabinet the abandonment of the licensing legislation? She did not. The Minister is running away from this matter. She knows exactly what the proposal is, yet she will not tell the travelling public that fares will be increased.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): What proposals does the Government have so that the controversial sale of Glen Ding to Cement Roadstone Holdings can be investigated, as promised by the Minister for Finance on 11 September 1998? The tribunal is now precluded from doing so by virtue of a conflict of interest of which the Government did not notify the Dáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has put his question and should resume his seat.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): I want a clear answer on this controversial issue and on why the Government fooled everybody.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised legislation.

Mr. Higgins (Dublin West): As the Cathaoirleach of this Assembly, you have a serious responsibility. A tribunal was solemnly established by the Dáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is out of order. We are dealing with the Order of Business. The Deputy should resume his seat. I am calling Deputy Gay Mitchell.

Mr. Gormley: You called me first, a Chathaoirligh.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Gay Mitchell now. Deputy Gormley should resume his seat.

[1028] Mr. Gormley: On a point of order, you called me before Deputy Mitchell.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Mitchell. The Deputy will get his turn if he resumes his seat. If the Deputy is disorderly he will not be called.

Mr. Gormley: That is very bad.

A Deputy: Many are called but few are chosen.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Earlier in the year I introduced a Private Members' Bill on the protection of UN personnel and related persons serving abroad. The Government has promised to introduce a Bill to give effect to this convention. Will the Minister confirm that this Bill will be enacted in the next session? It is a matter of priority and, given that our defence personnel are subject to protection by 22 other states, they should also be subject to protection by the Irish State. Will this Bill now be brought forward?

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Bill will be published this month.

Mr. Gormley: I am amazed that the Opposition leaders have not pressed the fact that Mr. Justice Moriarty was clearly misled by the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not make very serious allegations. We are dealing with the Order of Business and that is not the way in which serious allegations are made. The Deputy should resume his seat and should not pursue that line.

Mr. Gormley: The matter has been reported in The Irish Times today. We want this matter to be investigated, although clearly the Government does not want that. What steps will be taken? Will we revise the tribunal's terms of reference? What will the Government do to investigate the serious matter of Glen Ding?

An Ceann Comhairle: Is there promised legislation?

Mr. Gormley: Will the Minister please answer? I would ask for some support from the Opposition leaders. I am surprised they are not pressing this issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is no promised legislation.

Mr. Roche: On a point of order, I wish to make a suggestion that may be helpful. If the excellent report of the Committee of Public Accounts on this issue were discussed, it would give an opportunity to ventilate the matter in the autumn.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

[1029] Mr. J. Bruton: Deputy Gormley should be careful in impugning the integrity of others. The Attorney General will say that the Green Party was told about it.

Mr. Gormley: Excuse me, what did Deputy Bruton say?

Mr. J. Bruton: When I discussed this matter with him, the Attorney General told me that the Green Party—

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should resume his seat. This is very disorderly.

Mr. Gormley: That is absolute nonsense. It is disgraceful.