Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 February 2004

5:00 pm

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 14, European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003 — Second Stage (resumed) and No. 14a, statements on the Third Interim Report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, to be taken on the adjournment of Private Members' Business. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted on the conclusion of No. 14a. The proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 7.30 p.m. Private Members' business, which shall be No. 32, motion re care of the elderly, shall be taken at 7.30 p.m. and shall adjourn at 9 p.m. The proceedings on No. 14a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes, and the statement of the Minister for Education and Science and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case. Members may share time. Immediately following the statements, the Minister for Education and Science shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are four proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No. On No. 14——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will deal with No. 14 next.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No. 14 has a bearing on the late sitting.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Perhaps when we come to——

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If the Chair gives way, the next matter is also affected by this.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the Deputy opposing the late sitting?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am, on the basis of what I have to say about No. 14. Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party and every other party in Opposition——

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Sinn Féin.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Including Sinn Féin. I thank the Deputy — I could not remember his name for a moment.

All Opposition parties have made a case on the use of the guillotine on legislation. This arose specifically with the Immigration Bill, which was struck down in part because there was insufficient debate in the Oireachtas. I feel very strongly that a drift in politics in recent years has removed it from the people and we are to blame for that in the way business is done here. I strongly object to the continual use of the guillotine and the Taoiseach should state that no guillotine should be applied for the duration of this session, with the exception of occasions when the Whips agree that legislation is not controversial and therefore debate should not be open-ended. We would then be in keeping with good governance and good democracy, as legislation would be debated properly by those who wished to raise points.

What is happening here, no more than Ministers being unavailable to answer questions, is bad for the Dáil, for politics and for democracy. I oppose it on that basis.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I agree entirely with what Deputy Kenny has said. Apart from anything else, the issue being pushed into the night is the interim Laffoy report. We will come to that in due course, because this is absolutely disgraceful. After all the controversies and the Taoiseach's concern for people abused in these institutions, he is going to provide 60 minutes.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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It is a lot more than was ever shown on the far side of the House.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Minister had plenty of opportunity to talk about Laffoy's criticism of him and his Department, but he kept his head down until he gave——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte should not be deflected by the Minister from the point he was making on the late sitting.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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——a very mealy-mouthed performance on Sunday.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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In case the Deputy did not hear, I was making the point that much more concern was shown for victims by the Government than was ever shown on the Opposition benches.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Minister, allow Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption, please.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Put him out of the House. He should be put outside.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte without interruption, please.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Put him out.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte, please.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If he was on this side of the House, he would be put out.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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This is the beginning——

Deputies:

Give him a few bob for the High Court.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do not want any beef baron's money like yours anyway.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ring, allow Deputy Rabbitte without interruption, please.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What about the beef baron who is shouting over at me?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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This is the beginning of the second formal week of the Dáil's resumption, if one discounts the phoney week when the Government Whip had the Opposition in here talking to itself. Although it is only the beginning of the second week, the guillotine is already being used. It is proposed to guillotine Second Stage of the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill. We had 25 minutes of discussion on Thursday and it is intended to terminate discussion at 7.30 p.m..

I cannot conceive of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, for example, being on this side of the House and tolerating this denigration of Parliament. Yet, having tried to rush through all Stages of a Bill last week in one day, with no time provided between the end of Second Stage and Committee Stage, and not even being present for it, he will have his way tomorrow when he intends putting the Bill through with no provision for amendment——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That can be discussed in the morning.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It will be too late. That is the point. When are we going to seriously——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It does not arise on the late sitting today.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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When are we going to deal seriously with the question of reforming how we organise our business in this House? It is a disgraceful denigration and debasing of Parliament that the Government Whip already liberally uses the guillotine at the beginning of the second formal week of this term in the second year of the Government's life.

A case has already been struck down in the High Court because of the manner in which we scrutinise legislation in the House. For that reason and no other, I oppose the late sitting. It is especially reprehensible that the Government, under the cloak of darkness, is trying to conceal the debate on the Laffoy commission in 60 minutes at that hour of night.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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The basic reason for opposing the late sitting is that the guillotine being used implies that the sitting is not late enough. As has already been stated, the report of the Laffoy commission needs more debating time. The gravity of the issue and the cost implications also warrant far more than an hour.

In regard to the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill, the possibility arises that insufficient time may be available for this party and other smaller parties to make contributions. I ask that the objections be noted and the sitting extended.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I join with other Opposition colleagues in opposing the first proposition regarding the late sitting, primarily for the reason, as already articulated, that the statements on the Laffoy report will be taken after media deadlines. That is the reality. The Government does not want the attention of the media or to allow it the opportunity to report what will be said on this important issue.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Longford-Roscommon, Fine Gael)
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It is only a coincidence.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Confining it to that end of the evening is disrespectful to all that is involved in the issue to be addressed. It should have been given and can still be given, with the co-operation and agreement of the Taoiseach, prime time attention so that it can be properly aired before the public.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Government tries its best to avoid guillotining legislation, but at times Bills become urgent for different reasons. At present, there are a few Bills which have deadlines for being moved forward procedurally.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Longford-Roscommon, Fine Gael)
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If they were published in time, there would be sufficient time for debate.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is not always possible to have them ready in advance; one must wait for certain developments. Some of the issues arise from court decisions and new legislation must be introduced.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We can put it down to Government ineptitude in the first place.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, Deputy Ó Caoláin spoke on behalf of the Sinn Féin party.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill, which is before the House, arises from the report of the independent Laffan commission. Everybody knows the result of the commission report. As far as I can recall, we have never amended a commission report. We can discuss it if we wish, but it will not change it.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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We can stay at home and the Taoiseach can rubber-stamp it.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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This work was given to the independent commission precisely because of the view that politicians should not do it. We can discuss it. We can say Clare should be in Leinster and discuss it all night but Clare——

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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You just moved it into Connacht.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The commission's report has decided that Clare is in Connacht. We can discuss it and it should be an interesting discussion, but when the Bill is passed Clare will still be where it is.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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There is certainly no challenging that.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption, please.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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If Deputy Rabbitte or anybody else wants another hour to discuss the commission report, we should be honest about it. We may say with great solemnity that this denigrates Parliament, but Parliament gave the power to the independent commission to decide on this issue, which it has done. I do not know why we discuss it because, whether it is an hour later or earlier, it is agreed.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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On that basis we do not need to attend, and it is not just the commission report——

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The commission has reported. The matter is at an end.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is over. What is Deputy Kenny asking? Does he seek another hour on the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill before we move on to No. 14a?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I was not asking anything. I am opposed to the Taoiseach bringing in the guillotine for every Bill.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are dealing with the proposal for a late sitting. We are dealing with No. 1.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I suggest that the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill be removed from today's Order Paper and that we discuss the Laffoy commission report now and through the evening for as long as Members wish to speak on it.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There is a deadline on the completion of the Bill.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What is the deadline?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The European election. The deadline is some day in February.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is not necessary today.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is not necessary today, but we have it ordered for today. If Deputies want more time to discuss something that is a fait accompli, how much more time is required?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We should scrap the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill from today's Order Paper.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We cannot.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We should discuss the report of the Laffoy commission now and——

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We have to vote on the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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——right through until 12 midnight and tomorrow, if necessary. It is a priority and it is important that Members can do so. We can deal with the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill another day. When is the deadline?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It must be passed by both Houses before the end of the month.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform rammed the Immigration Bill through the Seanad last week and intends doing the same here tomorrow.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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The Opposition wants unlimited blather.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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How we have changed.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to be reasonable and sensible. As I understand, Deputy Kenny has asked that we take No. 14a for the time I set out. We will take No. 14 after that. We will deal with both of them tonight but take No. 14a first. I am not agreeing to an open-ended debate. I am offering to take No. 14a now, in the time I have set down, and take No. 14 at the end of that. If the House wants longer to discuss No. 14, it can do this.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is all right as long as it is not concluded this evening.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy referring toNo. 14?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Deputy agree to conclude No. 14 quickly?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The late Jim Tunney used to say, "What is closing time?"

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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It has to be taken to committee.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I understand that and while we will not hold it up unduly, people have a right to speak on it.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Longford-Roscommon, Fine Gael)
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It is not going to committee tonight.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Whips' meeting is the place to organise business. The Taoiseach is now offering to extend the time spent debating the report of the Laffoy Commission to about an hour and three quarters, at best, by the time the Order of Business has concluded. This is not adequate to discuss a report of this significance. The Minister for Education and Science can smile all he likes, but he is the one who made the mess of it.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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We put it in place.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Minister forced the collapse of the commission.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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I hope the Labour spokesman will be better informed than in the past.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister should allow Deputy Rabbitte to continue without interruption.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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There is unprecedented criticism of a Department and the Minister is just laughing at it. It is unbelievable.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Minister should read the comments Ms Justice Laffoy made about the Minister and his predecessor. The Taoiseach came to the House and shed crocodile tears about the unfortunate people who were abused and the Minister responsible thinks it is a laughing matter. The Taoiseach has accused me of jumping off the religious. I am not sure what it means but it sounds naughty.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy knows what I mean.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Whatever it means, it is not true.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are moving away from the proposal before the House.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is a cheap shot. The Taoiseach went and fixed the deal with Deputy Woods. He was up a pole erecting posters. It is a disgrace for the taxpayer.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We apologised to the victims and set up the commission——

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Those on the Government benches can laugh all they like. They have got smug and comfortable.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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——and the Deputy has been upset ever since.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I wonder what kind of noise the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, would have kicked up if she were sitting on the Opposition benches. She is now so soporific that she would agree to anything.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Rabbitte is moving away from the issue before the House. I propose to put the question on the late sitting.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What the Taoiseach is proposing is not acceptable.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I wish to raise a point of order. It is relevant and is not "unlimited blather" as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform claimed.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If Deputies would obey the Chair they would speak to the proposal before the House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Whips' meeting was held on Wednesday and the report was not published until after that.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise. We have already debated this and the Deputy spoke on behalf of his party. Is the proposal for the late sitting agreed?

Question, "That the proposal for the late sitting be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The second proposal relates to No. 14, conclusion of Second Stage of the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003. Is this agreed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Am I to understand from the Taoiseach that this will not conclude this evening?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am only trying to be helpful. I will leave it as it is if it is helpful. I suggested that we should take No. 14a for the time period I have set out and that we should take No. 14 at the conclusion of that. If extra time is required on No. 14, over the time I have set out, we can go on a bit later.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Private Members' Business will interrupt it.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose that we take No. 14a over the 80 minutes set out and then proceed with No. 14. I want to conclude No. 14 tonight. If this does not suit the House we can revert to the previous proposal.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Does the Taoiseach accept that "going on a bit later" does not involve a guillotine?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will accept this if the Deputy agrees with me on how long the Opposition needs to discuss this.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Will we put it straight across the House?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We will agree with what the Deputy wants. It will be an hour later.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will agree to going on a bit later if the Taoiseach tells me this will not be guillotined.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We agree that it should go on a bit later.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I oppose this. The idea that the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003 is to be taken in the absence of substantive legislation on the proposal to apply universally electronic voting is simply not acceptable. The two are absolutely related. This is the first time the electorate throughout the jurisdiction will have the opportunity to participate in an election under an imposed electronic system. The electronic system has no checking procedure or accountability in the form of votes cast. There are no paper records and there is no opportunity for proper scrutiny. The matter should have been substantively addressed by the House rather than being introduced as a ministerial order. We should have had the opportunity to discuss it and tease out all the elements involved.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Perhaps the Deputy will make his contribution on the Bill when it comes before the House.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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This is a serious and important issue that has identified itself as a cause of concern arising from previous experiences in the past two elections. It is not acceptable that we proceed in this vacuum. Accordingly, I object to the proposal on No. 14.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach clarify whether he is providing for extra time on the debate on the report of the Laffoy commission? It seems he is proposing to swap around the arrangement.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Precisely.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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In that case, this is not good enough for the Labour Party. This is an unprecedented criticism of a Department that has still refused to give the necessary resources to inquire into child abuse. In the context of this unprecedented episode in Irish history, it is farcical for the Taoiseach to say that the Government is great for giving the apology.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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This might be more appropriately dealt with under motion No. 4.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We are to be given one hour to debate it, with 15 minutes for parties and 20 minutes for questions.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are dealing with proposal No. 2.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Taoiseach has made an alternative proposal to swap them. However, he is not giving extra time to discuss the report of the child abuse commission. It is entirely inadequate for dealing with such a serious issue, as is the response of the Minister for Education and Science who seems to be laughing at the request for more debating time on such a serious issue.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order, I am not laughing about the victims of abuse and the Labour Party is telling lies in the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has accused the Opposition of telling lies.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Did the Ceann Comhairle not hear the word "lie"?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Did the Minister use the word "lie"? You should withdraw the word.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should withdraw that word.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Meath, Fianna Fail)
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I used the word "lies" so I will use "untruths" instead.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Has the Minister withdrawn the word?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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He has withdrawn it unequivocally.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Is the Taoiseach giving additional time after Private Members' Business to discuss the report of the Laffoy commission?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am giving it to discuss the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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In effect, we are getting no extra time to discuss the report of the Laffoy commission.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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What is the Government afraid of?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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We cannot dispose of it in one 20-minute and four 15-minute speeches. This is an outrageous proposition and the Government knows it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is to be only one speaker from each party.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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The House has decided to sit not later than 9.30 p.m. How is the Taoiseach in a position to give extra time on any item?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will have to revisit this. The Taoiseach's proposal is that we take No. 11a after the Order of Business.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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On a point of order, time should be allowed to debate this. The report of the Laffoy commission is——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order and the Deputy should resume her seat. I am putting the proposal.

Photo of Olwyn EnrightOlwyn Enright (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I wish to raise a point of order. Why does the Government think the report of the Laffoy commission is of less importance than the report of Mr. Justice Flood? We had more time to debate it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order.

Question put: "That No. 14a be taken after the Order of Business and that the arrangements outlined in the Order of Business will apply."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 80 (Bertie Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Liam Aylward, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Pat Gallagher, Jim Glennon, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Charlie McCreevy, Jim McDaid, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Dick Roche, Eoin Ryan, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Joe Walsh, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods, G V Wright)

Against the motion: 59 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, James Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Eamon Gilmore, John Gormley, Marian Harkin, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Dinny McGinley, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call the Taoiseach to speak on the timing of the proposal for dealing with the conclusion of the Second Stage of the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 14 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 11.30 p.m.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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No. I indicate again that I object to taking the Bill in this format, to the total exclusion of any attempt by the House to address the proposal to apply universally electronic voting in the June local and European elections.

Question, "That the proposal regarding No. 14 be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I wish to raise a matter on the Order of Business arising from the double vote on the expulsion of a Deputy, which occurred earlier. My point refers to the way in which we do business in the House. On 21 January the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the provisional crime statistics for 2003. He attributed the 2% fall in crime statistics to the enactment of two Acts — the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act. The Fine Gael spokesman on justice, Deputy Deasy, asked two questions last week.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am sorry to intervene, Deputy Kenny. I will hear one Member from each of the parties on this issue.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Deasy sought the statistics that backed up the Minister's public comments. On 28 January, in a written reply, the Minister informed Deputy Deasy that the Garda Síochána had no statistics on the number of prosecutions secured under the Intoxicating Liquor Act. In a priority question last week, Deputy Deasy asked about the number of orders made under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act. However, that question was disallowed by you, Sir, on the basis that the Minister had no responsibility to the House. That is what is fundamentally wrong with the way we do business here.

The late Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton stated clearly that if questions had been answered properly in the Dáil, there might not have been a need for as many tribunals as we have seen in recent years. The issue raised by Deputy Rabbitte earlier concerning effective Dáil reform is fundamental to the way we do our business and to the way people perceive politicians going about their work in the public interest.

I dislike intensely the situation that arises here continually whereby Ministers are absent or refuse to answer questions and the House is told that certain questions are not the responsibility of Ministers.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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We have not refused to answer questions.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform knew he would be in London last week so he should have made an order for a change in the questions rota, instead of sending in the Ministers of State, Deputies O'Dea and Brian Lenihan. With respect to them, they are not senior Ministers.

Paul McGrath (Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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They may be soon.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is not good enough for this House of Parliament. It denigrates our democracy and the way people view politics. It does not do any good for the effective running of the House. It was on that basis that I raised my objections to the way in which Deputy Deasy was expelled from the House when seeking legitimate answers to legitimate questions. It is your responsibility, Sir, to see that the rights of every Member are upheld here. After all, the Government has said on more than one occasion that it has nothing to hide or be ashamed of. If that is the case, questions should be answered by Ministers with responsibility for Government policy in respect of their own Departments and agencies.

6:00 pm

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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In recent times the House has attracted increasingly denigratory coverage. One of the main reasons for this is, undoubtedly, the manner in which we organise our affairs, which is dictated by the Government. Most of the parties in Opposition have prepared extensive proposals for Dáil reform. My party submitted an 80-page document on Dáil reform to the Government Chief Whip. Notwithstanding that, however, we are proceeding as before.

There is a time-honoured convention in the House that if a Minister cannot take his or her rota of questions, he or she will seek to change it. After only two weeks of this session, we have facilitated that twice already. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform did not do that in the particular instance that Deputy Kenny raised in respect of Deputy Deasy.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Yes, I did. I sought to change the rota but it was impossible to do so.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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The Minister sought too late to change it. It was his problem, on his side of the House, that he could not change it.

Paul McGrath (Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Was the Minister's phone not working?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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What the Minister did was delay the disastrous 2002 figures and issue them simultaneously with the 2003 figures which showed an improvement on a disastrous picture. That is what he did.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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That is not true.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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He manipulated the presentation and——

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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That is rubbish. It is another lie.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word "lie".

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I withdraw it.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is disappointing that the Minister, who was most active when on this side of the House for fair parliamentary conduct, has become the greatest abuser of it in office. Now, as we have 15 presidents of Europe, the Government has grown more remote from the people and Parliament and become more smug——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point. Let us have a brief comment please.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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——and disinterested in the image of this House outside. We have made our proposals to the Government Chief Whip. While these Ministers have outriders across the cities of Europe, they should think about the damage they are doing to the practice of democracy at home.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I remind the Ceann Comhairle that there is a further body of Dáil reform proposals from the Green Party. The constructive proposals of all the parties should be taken on board. The Government needs to sit down and work out the changes. One of the major flaws, which this incident demonstrates, is the freedom given to Ministers not just to roam geographically but to roam in their answers. They deliberately evade giving the salient information requested. In so doing we are provided with a flawed parliamentary procedure. They do not answer the questions they are asked. This is particularly galling for the Green Party which may ask priority questions only on every third day. This type of incident means we lose the opportunity to ask our priority question, which we did with an ordinary question that should have been answered also. We are not talking about victimless crimes here. The impact on parliamentary life is not just about credibility, it is also about effectiveness. We are not able to put the questions when the business of the Dáil is interrupted by this type of disruption.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I make a little correction of Deputy Rabbitte's earlier remark when he mentioned 15 presidents of the EU. He forgot to include the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, who last week declared himself the overall president. He is busy writing to us all.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to be brief.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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From watching proceedings this afternoon, nothing is more evident than the need for Dáil reform. This type of proceeding has been replicated time and again. No real substantive business has been addressed for a considerable period. We are toing and froing in this constant drama, which amounts to nothing at the end of the day.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Just a brief comment would be appropriate.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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If the Deputy could be less long-winded it would help.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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There is no substance to it. We need to see Dáil reform brought forward urgently, and we will all participate in that. That is what needs to be done and I hope the Taoiseach will facilitate it at the earliest opportunity.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will comment on just two points. The Minister, Deputy McDowell, made it clear that he sought to change his rota last week but it was not possible to do so.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Why was it not possible?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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He did not do other than report the figures as they should have been reported. It was done properly and correctly. He did not seek to give misleading information. The Minister had to attend an important meeting which made it impossible for him to be here.

We have had many debates and suggestions in this House on the matter of Dáil reform. Some years ago when Deputy Brennan presented a document on Dáil reform, I agreed reform on one item. I agreed to bring in a new procedure, Leaders' Questions. I agreed that on the understanding that other reforms would follow, but they have never followed. On an honourable basis I moved a significant reform in the House but I have received nothing in return yet.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach skived off on Thursdays.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I still await meaningful discussion. The Government, through the Government Whip, would be glad to involve itself in real reform.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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With regard to the matter raised by Deputy Kenny on the question by Deputy Deasy being turned down by the Office of the Ceann Comhairle, it related to an issue that was the responsibility of the Courts Service. I remind the House that the Houses of the Oireachtas enacted the Courts Service Bill, which made the administration of the Courts Service independent of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. As chairperson, the Chair is obliged to deal with the Standing Order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It had better be a point of order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On that issue——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order. The Chair indicated that one Member from each party would be heard.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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May I make a comment?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, Deputy. The Deputy wrote to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the matter will be dealt with there tomorrow. That is the appropriate place to deal with it. The Chair will move now to the next business.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Chair will have to deal with it now. The point raised by Deputy Kenny——

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, in the absence of reform——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Sorry, Deputy, that is not a point of order. If the Deputy wishes to come to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle we will deal with the issue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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This is an issue the Chair could deal with now.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is being disorderly. The Chair has ruled on the matter.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am not being disorderly. I wish to make a point.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair has ruled on the matter. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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May I make a comment arising from the Chair's statement?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, the Deputy cannot make any comment.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What avenue is open to the Opposition to respond to the statement——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which the Deputy has used very appropriately.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Chair should not rule me out of order.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I allowed the party leader to make his comment. I ask Deputies to resume their seats when the Chair is on its feet. The Chair intends to move to the next business at 6.10 p.m. Eighty minutes were allocated to No. 14a, and any time we use beyond 6.10 p.m. will come out of that allocated time. I request the co-operation of Deputies in order that we may move on to that issue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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May I make my point now?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, the Deputy may make it tomorrow.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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May I make mine?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, the Deputy's leader is on his feet.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I ask the Ceann Comhairle to hear the point being made by Deputy English. He is the youngest Member of the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Unfortunately, if it is out of order the Chair cannot facilitate him.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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How does the Chair know it is out of order before he has heard it?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is the Chair's responsibility to protect his rights. He is inquiring about his rights.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is not the way to do it. Deputies have rightfully complained about the length of time the business goes on.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I ask the Ceann Comhairle to hear his point.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the question?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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I take it the Ceann Comhairle's judgment on a Standing Order is implemented here. If the Ceann Comhairle thought last week, as we believe he did, that Deputy Deasy was asking a fair question, what could he have done about it? Could he have made the Minister of State answer the question properly?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I suggest the Deputy should read last week's Official Report. We were not dealing with the right of Members to ask questions but a point of gross disorder by the Deputy in question.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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The point of order is——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. If the Deputy wishes to come to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle the matter will be explained to him.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, I want to make one point and I will leave it to the Ceann Comhairle to judge it. The Chair has set before the House a point on the relevance of a question and the Minister's obligation to be accountable to the House. Over the last years, I have submitted a number of questions. In recent times, it has become increasingly obvious that a number of them were being refused by different Ministers.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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When the Deputy receives the figures tomorrow, he will see he is incorrect.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Ministers refer to the Ceann Comhairle's office as unwilling to allow the questions. It appears that the only time Ministers are anxious to respond to anything is when they are called to Áras an Uachtaráin to receive their seals of office.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point. He will have an opportunity tomorrow to discuss the matter at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath, Fine Gael)
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It is a fair question.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In a democracy, Ministers have an obligation to answer questions in Parliament at all times.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask you to resume your seat, Deputy Durkan. In a democracy, Members obey the Chair.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In a democracy the Chair must protect the Opposition. I call on the Ceann Comhairle to protect the Opposition now.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Some democracy.