Friday, 19 July 2013
Membership of Committees: Motion
That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders—
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames be discharged from the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs and Senator Catherine Noone be appointed in substitution for her;
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames be discharged from the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection and that Senator Imelda Henry be appointed in substitution for her;
Senator Paul Bradford be discharged from the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and that Senator Tony Mulcahy be appointed in substitution for him;
Senator Catherine Noone be discharged from the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and that Senator Pat O’Neill be appointed in substitution for her;
Senator Paul Bradford be discharged from the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges and that Senator Deirdre Clune be appointed in substitution for him; and
Senator James Heffernan be discharged from the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs and that Senator John Kelly be appointed in substitution for him.
It was brought to my attention that I have been nominated to the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. Whereas I am honoured at being nominated for membership of the joint committee, I was not aware of the circumstances as to how the vacancy arose. On that basis I am not prepared to take up that position.
I request a direction from the Chair on motion No. 1. On the basis of Senator Kelly's contribution in which he stated he was now unwilling to take up his nomination to replace Senator James Heffernan on the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, how can we pass it when it refers to Senator Kelly in the body of that motion? Would it not be better for the Leader to withdraw it until a replacement is found?
I respect the rulings of the Chair, but it would be outside of Standing Orders on the basis of passing a motion. When a Member does not want to go on the committee, it does not make sense. The Member has made a statement. Can we withdraw motion No. 1 and return to it on Monday?
From time to time it falls to the Chair to make Cathaoirleach's rulings in circumstances where there is an absence of clarity in the Standing Orders. I think there is a potential legal difficulty here perhaps of constitutional significance. I was certainly unaware when I raised the concerns this morning that the proposals being made were not based on consultation with all of the people involved. The Cathaoirleach would be within his rights, given the dubium that has arisen, to make a temporary Chairman's ruling that this motion not be taken, notwithstanding that things have got to the point they have come to this morning. It would be more seemly to do that.
I pointed out at the beginning that it seems extraordinary and ultra vires to nominate somebody without his or her consent, bypassing the committee, and the Cathaoirleach said this sets aside Standing Orders. This is nothing short of tyranny. I think this is the shape of things to come under this Government if we abolish Seanad Éireann. It is unparalleled. I am here more than a quarter of a century and I have never witnessed anything like it in my entire life.
Can I ask the Chair to hear independently a point of order? I will be very brief. I have one sentence. If the Chair stopped interrupting it would be so helpful to us to get through the business of the House, if the Chair does not mind me saying so. My point of order is because the motion is now nullified by the withdrawal of one of the individuals mentioned in the motion, I am proposing an amendment that it be referred to the appropriate committee for consideration. That is an amendment to the motion - that it be referred.
Be it a point of order or an observation, I want to put on the record of the House that it is historically unprecedented, not just in this House but perhaps in the entire Oireachtas, that we apparently are set to vote onto a committee a person who does not wish to be a part of that committee. I ask that in a moment of reflection and calmness, we do what is the only right thing to do and withdraw the motion and reflect and make a decision on Monday. If this House has any respect not just for its traditions but for its possible future, it must reflect and withdraw this motion and consider it on Monday.
I have never come across this situation. I appreciate the dilemma the Cathaoirleach is facing but if we are being requested to pass a motion which is worded in the manner in which it is worded, and now that those words are inaccurate and no longer relevant, surely we cannot as a House pass this motion. We are legally constrained.
It would seem to me that the Cathaoirleach has been placed in a difficult and unprecedented position. Is it within his remit to adjourn the House for 15 minutes to give us an opportunity to take advice on this matter? The Whips might want to have a discussion on it as well. I do not think it will help if we just go forward with this. An adjournment of 15 minutes might help everyone.
I have a brief point of order. I am usually brief anyway. I have been in this House for approximately 14 years. This is the first time I have stood up to raise a point of order. I am deeply concerned that what has been proposed is an abuse. I want to get the advice of the Leader and the Cathaoirleach. This Standing Order is usually used in emergency situations, such as severe economic difficulties or war. Is it being used now to usurp existing committees which are being passed over? I ask for time to be provided for calm reflection. I have been told to consult senior counsel with a view to taking this matter a step further.
It is a point of order. I want to back the Leas-Chathaoirleach up. As Leader of the Opposition, I am formally asking the Cathaoirleach to consider adjourning the House. We are going to seek legal advice on this immediately. I ask that the House be adjourned until 2 p.m. to facilitate that. The Cathaoirleach has heard from Members. I am asking formally that the House be adjourned. I am putting it on the record of the House that we are going to seek legal advice on this matter.
I was saying to the Cathaoirleach that this motion purports to suspend Standing Orders. As we are in a kind of vacuum with no rules and regulations, the Cathaoirleach cannot rely on Standing Orders to rule out an amendment. I would have thought we can table an amendment because Standing Orders have been lifted.
A Chathaoirligh, the Fianna Fáil Party in this House will withdraw from this House and from all the proceedings of this House today because of the outrageous lack of democracy that has been shown here this morning. My party is leaving this House now and will take no further part in the proceedings of this House. It is a disgrace.
- Ivana Bacik
- Terry Brennan
- Colm Burke
- Deirdre Clune
- Eamonn Coghlan
- Paul Coghlan
- Martin Conway
- Maurice Cummins
- Jim D'Arcy
- Michael D'Arcy
- Aideen Hayden
- Imelda Henry
- Lorraine Higgins
- Caít Keane
- Marie Maloney
- Mary Moran
- Tony Mulcahy
- Michael Mullins
- Catherine Noone
- Susan O'Keeffe
- Pat O'Neill
- Tom Shehan