I am somewhat depressed that the House today is discussing the sole item of statements on pensions. I do not believe that is as urgent as the issue of Aer Lingus. The Seanad is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant if it refuses to discuss issues of this sort. Senator O’Toole and I would certainly disagree with this but it is important that legitimate views on Aer Lingus are considered.
Last week I called for a debate on An Post which is also facing a crisis. The prospect of debating that issue has been buried because, apparently, it is too sensitive for us to discuss. It seems Aer Lingus cannot be discussed in this House because we might say things that would jeopardise the Government’s or somebody else’s agenda. It is important for the House that issues of this sort should be discussed, even if there are differences between the Progressive Democrats or Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I would hate to think we are being refused a debate on this issue because there are differences between the Government parties.
The second reason it is important is that the Taoiseach has been speaking on this issue in the Dáil. Yesterday he attacked individuals for apparently trying to enrich themselves – trying to make a few bob in my language. These people were not there to defend themselves while the Taoiseach was voicing the views of people outside the House, specifically the trade unions. He is entitled to do that I suppose, but I am not sure he is entitled to the defence of Members of this House who were not included in the debate.
Let us have a relevant debate with the Taoiseach, who is now the mouthpiece for the unions in Aer Lingus, and allow him to defend his position. That is what we are here for and let us have legitimate views from all sides – the Progressive Democrats, the Fianna Fáil Party, the Labour Party, the Fine Gael Party and the Independents. If we refuse debates on issues of this kind we might as well pack up.
That is what the House is about and nearly all of us are in agreement on that, even if we are not in agreement about the underlining issues. I plead with the Acting Leader to give the House a debate on a relevant issue, not on an issue like pensions, which will not affect a great number of us for at least ten years.