Order of Business.

Wednesday, 30 January 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 1

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[52]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 21, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval of the terms ofcertain acts of the 1994 Congress of Universal Postal Union; No. 46, statements on European Council, Laeken; No. 1 – Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Bill, 2001 [Seanad] – Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 21 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings on No. 46 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 70 minutes and the statements shall be confined to the following Members who shall be called upon in the following sequence and the following arrangements shall apply – the statements by the Taoiseach and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party shall not exceed 20 minutes in each case and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply, which shall not exceed 10 minutes. Private Members' Business shall be No. 115, motion re crime, and shall also take place tomorrow directly after the Order of Business and shall be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; Question Time tomorrow shall be taken from 3.30 p.m. until 4.45 p.m. and, in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. and the order shall not resume thereafter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with No. 21 without debate agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 46 agreed to?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  No. The Taoiseach said the Laeken summit is to be discussed by a number of parties which does not include the Green Party. He has already ruled out of order a number of questions dealing with the same issue on the basis that there will be statements. I ask you, a Leas-Cheann Chomhairle, to let this matter be dealt with on the Order of Business. Given the amount of muzzling taking place, this House looks more like a coursing meeting than a parliament. I wish to ensure that the Green Party, which has a distinctive view on this matter, is allowed the opportunity to express it.

I understand the Labour Party is prepared to facilitate the sharing of time but it should be noted that this arrangement was only made following a complaint rather than as a matter of course.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the Deputy opposing the Order of Business?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I am. I want the Taoiseach to outline why he ruled my parliamentary question out of order but will not give me an opportunity to make a statement.

Question, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 46 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

[53]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal regarding the taking of Question Time tomorrow agreed? Agreed. We now move to Leaders' questions.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Deputy Lawlor's antics at the tribunal are bringing the House into disrepute. His antics are a source of embarrassment to every Deputy in this House across the parties. I ask the Taoiseach, as Leader of the House, to table a motion of censure on Deputy Lawlor so that Members can express a unanimous view condemning his behaviour.

It is time the Taoiseach acceded to Justice Flood's request to appoint judges to his tribunal, which he made last June. It looks as if he is deliberately delaying the work of the Flood tribunal because there is something he knows about that he is afraid will come out in public before the general election. I ask the Taoiseach to move immediately to make the appointments that have been sought for so long. There is no reason for further delay. He has delayed too long already.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Earlier the High Court ruled against Deputy Lawlor's appeal in regard to his recent attempt not to co-operate with the tribunal and he has indicated that he will appeal the High Court decision to the Supreme Court, further frustrating and delaying the work of the tribunal. When the tribunal was established by the House – not by the Government as is frequently claimed outside – Deputy Lawlor did not oppose it and the Taoiseach called on all Members to co-operate fully with the tribunal. It is manifestly clear that Deputy Lawlor is in breach of his call. If his resignation from Fianna Fáil was not, as it appeared from statements last night, a resignation of convenience, I ask the Taoiseach to join Deputies Noonan, Sargent and myself in tabling a motion of censure on Deputy Lawlor for his failure to co-operate without preconditions with the Flood tribunal.

I reiterate the comments I made outside the House last year and subsequently. Why is the Government consistently refusing to appoint, as only it can, the extra members whom Justice Flood sought in the middle of June last year? He requested the House before it rose on 6 July to appoint extra members who are required to enable him to do his work. One is forced to the conclusion that the Fianna Fáil Party in general and the Taoiseach in particular are fearful of what might emerge at the tribunal.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy should stop

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  A delay of more than six months is inexplicable.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have not changed my view in relation to the first matter from what I said here more than 12 months ago. I co-signed a resolution then. If the Whips agree to table another one [54] now, I will certainly co-sign it again. When the motion was debated I stated:

The High Court judgment, however, clearly amounts to a challenge and an opportunity to Deputy Lawlor to avail of its terms to put right the wrong that was done. It is fair to say, as the Government's motion suggests, that the challenge to Deputy Lawlor contained in the High Court judgment about him is one to which he must rise and if he does not intend to comply with the letter of the law and the spirit of the Constitution as laid down in the judgment, he would demonstrate such defiance of constitutional values as would justify the other Members of the House publicly and solemnly expressing the opinion that his role as a public representative was not tenable.

Ultimately, a motion, such as the one proposed by the Government this evening, serves only as an expression of opinion and carries only such moral weight as the public attribute to it. In terms of fitness for office and sanctions for office holders, the people make the decision both at the beginning and in the final appeal.

We must be mindful that, however strong our view is, we are part of a constitutional order and are ourselves bound by constitutional rules and values.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  May we have an interpreter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I reiterate precisely what I said a year ago and I have no problem co-signing a motion. A committee of the House is examining the legalities of censure rules for Members and that is also an important matter that should be kept in mind.

On the second issue, I totally reject the inference in the comments of both party leaders. Justice Flood advised the Clerk of the Dáil on 13 June last of his intention to submit his final report to the Oireachtas in respect of certain matters – the payment of money to Raphael Burke and James Gogarty; the decisions taken by Raphael Burke in connection with Century Communications Limited; and the payments made to Raphael Burke by or on behalf of Thomas Brennan, Joseph McGowan and the companies with which they were associated. Justice Flood further indicated that he could not commence the taking of further evidence until he first rendered these reports to the Oireachtas. The reports were originally to be submitted by the end of September last. It is understood by the Office of the Attorney General that they are expected in March.

When the Dáil resolution to amend the terms of reference of the tribunal was debated on 5 July 2001 the Minister for Defence, who was standing in for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, stated: “In order to avoid any confusion between the work of the Sole Member and that of the three member tribunal, the instrument setting up the three member tribunal will be [55] made when the Sole Member has submitted his reports.” The House passed the resolution on that basis.

The Attorney General is actively pursuing the process of identifying candidates to become additional members of the Flood tribunal.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  He is too busy double jobbing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  He has supplied me with details on where he is with that, but it would be wrong of me to provide such details to the House. It would be totally unfair if I was to utter the names submitted to the Attorney General by Fine Gael or the Labour Party or names whom he had sounded out, which for one reason or other were not acceptable.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It has nothing to do with Fine Gael.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Long before there is pressure on the House to supply names to Justice Flood so that he can undertake a second module, we will have done so. As soon as we have names that are acceptable to Justice Flood and which have been checked with the Opposition we will certainly appoint those people. It is not easy to get such people. I assure Deputy Quinn in the nicest way, as I have always said to him, I am not afraid of anything.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Will the Taoiseach table a motion of censure on Deputy Lawlor and present it to the other party leaders for signature so that the House can express its opinion unanimously or otherwise regarding his behaviour in not co-operating with the tribunal? I point out to the Taoiseach again that when Justice Flood sought additional members in June, he wanted them by July and he wanted “extras”, as he put it, before his report was finished. It is the responsibility of the Government to appoint and assign judges and that has nothing to do with the Opposition parties.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have no difficulty with the first matter. The Whips may discuss that. Deputy Noonan is incorrect on the second matter. When Justice Flood has finished with his first module and has reported, he wants to continue with the second module. Neither the Government nor the House has delayed him or in any way created an inconvenience for him. Long before he is in a position to take on the second module, the Government will, in consultation with the Opposition, appoint people. The Deputy can take it that what I am saying is factual. We have in no way created a difficulty for Justice Flood.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Last year the House under duress debated a Bill to amend the Constitution to restrict the rights of women in this country as [56] adjudicated by the Supreme Court in the X case. The Bill to roll back that judgment was guillotined on the directions of the Fianna Fáil Party on 20 November last. I presume that was with the support of the Progressive Democrats. Committee Stage was guillotined on 29 November and the Report and Final Stages were pushed through, against the wishes of the Opposition, on 5 December.

Since then we have had no indication from the Government when this abortion referendum will take place. The Tánaiste and recently returned Attorney General appear to think they can find some consensus on this issue where none existed before. We are given to understand that the date of this abortion referendum is linked to other matters for bargaining in some type of horse trading in the Cabinet. Will the Taoiseach tell the House when the abortion referendum will take place?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I understand that at today's Cabinet meeting it was decided not to nominate a date for the referendum until the High Court proceedings are completed on Friday. Is this a firm commitment by the Government to fix the date on Friday evening or will it resile once more if, as is the intention, the applicants appeal to the Supreme Court?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Pending the outcome of the High Court case on this issue on which judgment is due to be given on Friday, a date for holding the referendum will be announced.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Is that regardless of an appeal?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Do I take it the Taoiseach intends to add insult to injury by holding polling day on 8 March, which is international women's day?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Gay Mitchell on the Order of Business.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That was a question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No date will be agreed until the judgment is given because that would be in contempt of court. I am sure Deputy Quinn is as pleased as I am that the medical protections which women are entitled to in this country will be enshrined in the first legislation to deal with this issue since the 1850s.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  On a point of order—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  No, this is Leaders' Questions. The Deputy is not the leader of her party. I call Deputy Gay Mitchell.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  There is a point of order to be made.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are no points of order on Leaders' Questions. The pro[57] cedure was carried out according to Standing Orders. I call Deputy Gay Mitchell.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  In recent days an 18 year old woman died on the streets of Dublin in circumstances being investigated by the Eastern Regional Health Authority. Will the Taoiseach bring forward the health and Social Care Professionals Regulatory Bill given that, in my experience last week, I never—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I would prefer if the Deputy did not discuss the matter. It is out of order and it is on the Adjournment. In fairness to the Deputies who raised the matter on the Adjournment—

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Is it out of order to raise the issue of the death of an 18 year old woman on the streets of Dublin city?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Yes, it has already been raised on the Adjournment.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Can I not ask for legislation to be brought forward so we may discuss this matter?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  We have an unprecedented homeless and housing problem in Dublin city.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  We want some order on the Order of Business.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I have never come across anything like this since 1979.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputies O'Sullivan and Neville have raised the matter on the Adjournment and they are the Members who will discuss it in the House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  A young woman died on the streets of Dublin city.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Leas-Cheann Comhairle cuts across Members who wish to raise this issue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy wish to leave the House?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  This is a legitimate issue to raise in the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  If the Deputy does not resume his seat immediately, he must leave the House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  When Members try to raise legitimate issues, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle cuts across them.

[58]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Mitchell will leave the House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I will leave the House. I would rather leave the House than stay and be restricted in what issues I can raise.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As I have told the Deputy, the matter has been raised by two Members and they will have the opportunity to debate it. I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Can I—

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  A young woman died on the streets of Dublin city. It is deplorable we do not have an opportunity to raise this issue. I asked about the health and Social Care Professionals Regulatory Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Mitchell has been asked to leave the House and, if he does not, he will have to be named.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I will leave the House in protest. What is happening is outrageous.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I would be obliged if the Deputy left the House. I call Deputy Howlin.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Can I ask the Taoiseach—

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is protecting the Taoiseach. I will leave the House in protest.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I do not mind what way the Deputy leaves as long as he leaves.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I am entitled to ask a question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Mitchell should leave the House or he will be named.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  It is making a farce of the House that I cannot raise a legitimate issue.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On the recently published schedule of promised legislation, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has promised an amending intoxicating liquor Bill to implement the report of the review group. The Minister might not recall it. It is on schedule C circulated to all Members today. When will that legislation be before the House? Members might want to broaden its scope.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The legislation is in response to the recommendations of the Commission on Liquor Licensing concerning the off-licence sector. I do not have a date. If the Deputy wants to make a submission, he will probably have sufficient time to do so.

[59]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Deputy Neville.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I give way to Deputy Currie.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  I note the Ombudsman for Children Bill is on the legislative programme, as it was last year. The Taoiseach promised me at least six times in the previous session that it would be introduced before Christmas.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call the Taoiseach.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  When will we see it? Why is it delayed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  It has been in existence for five years since I introduced it as Minister of State with responsibility for children. Will it be worthwhile seeing it when we get it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is correct to say it was to be taken by Christmas. It is due this session and it will be before the House shortly.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Why is it delayed? It has had a gestation period of five years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Taoiseach has answered the Deputy's question.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I wish to raise a matter on promised legislation. Before I do that, I gave the Ceann Comhairle notice of my intention to clarify remarks I made during what might be termed the Gildea affair.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I will call the Deputy on that at the end of the Order of Business.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I do not want to make a song and dance about it. My remarks were apparently capable of reflecting on the parliamentary reporters. I wish to make clear that no such reflection was intended. I understand there are technical problems with the recording of perfectly audible interventions in the Chamber and that matter is being attended to.

Does the Government intend for the Competition Bill to be enacted in its lifetime?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Yes, is the answer to that.

Mr. U. Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Will the Taoiseach undertake to have the text of the Disabilities Bill provided in both Braille and audio format in order that those who have an interest in it can access it and assess its merits or otherwise?

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  Can we have an explanatory memorandum for the Bill as well? I fully support [60] what Deputy Burke said. It is outrageous people with disabilities cannot read Bills designed directly for them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It is hoped the legislation will be ready in about three weeks' time. I am not too sure about the practicalities of the other matter.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The Bill is published.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will raise the issue to see if it is possible. I do not know the technical details.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Tá ceist agam faoi reachtaíocht atá geallta arís agus arís eile, sé sin, Bille na Gaeilge, a thabharfadh an ceart do muintir na Gaeltachta agus lucht na Gaeilge gnó a dhéanamh leis an Stáit trí mheán na Gaeilge. Mar a dúirt mé, tá sé geallta ag an Taoiseach agus ag Airí Stáit, na Teachtaí Ó Cuív agus Ó Cochláin. Sa liosta tá sé scríobhtha go mbeidh sé i gcló i lár na bliana seo. Cathain a mbeidh an reachtaíocht seo ós comhair an Teach agus cathain a mbeidh sé críochnaithe?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Bille na Gaeilge is due in the next few months. I am not sure if it will be drafted during the life of this Dáil although the Minister is anxious that this will happen. The Bill is a complex one which involves a number of constitutional issues. It is still intended that the Bill will be enacted before the summer.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Taoiseach has told the House not only that the legislation would be passed but that it would be in force in the lifetime of this Government. This is a scandalous betrayal of the people who support the Irish language and want to use it.

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Last week a member of the Chinese community living in Ireland was murdered on the streets of Dublin. Will we see the introduction of a strong campaign to tackle racism, led by the Taoiseach?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Does the Deputy have a question on promised legislation?

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Does the Taoiseach intend to review the incitement to hatred legislation?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Is such legislation promised?

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Such legislation was promised.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy, I suggest you table a parliamentary question.

Ms Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  The Taoiseach promised a review of the incitement to hatred legislation. I want to know if it is going to happen this session.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  Does the Taoiseach condone what Deputy Noel O'Flynn said in Cork which would incite racism?

[61]Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Taoiseach is Tadhg an dá thaobh.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  He must reckon there are votes in it.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  Deputy O'Flynn is fuelling the fires of racism.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Finucane should allow the Taoiseach to reply. He must find an appropriate way of raising this issue. It cannot be raised on the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think a Bill has been drafted but the campaign which Deputy Fitzgerald calls for was launched by the Tánaiste and I some months ago.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Item no. 10 in section A on the pink sheet suggests that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, after five years in office, has finally noticed the substantial escalation in street violence and racist attacks on individuals. When will the criminal justice (enforcement of public order) Bill be published and will the Taoiseach confirm to the House that it is nothing more than a cheap election stunt for a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has ignored the problem of street violence for five years—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy has asked his question in accordance with the Order of Business. We will hear the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Bill is due this session.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  On a number of occasions in the last session, the Taoiseach told the House that the heads of the housing (private rented sector) Bill would be approved by Government before Christmas with a view to its being published early in the new year. The Government has returned after a long Christmas period without Dáil scrutiny and the Bill does not appear on the list of Bills to be published before Easter or on the list for which texts are being drafted. It is in the same place it was in 18 months ago when the Commission on the Private Rented Sector reported. What, if anything, is happening to the Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Department is endeavouring to complete the work on this Bill and to have it published. I cannot say precisely when it will be published.

Ms Clune: Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Last week the Environmental Protection Agency produced a water quality report which showed that one in three kilometres of our rivers and 38% of ground water are polluted. When will the water services Bill which will impose some control on our deteriorating water quality be published?

[62]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The water services Bill which has 180 heads is due in the next few months. The Bill will consolidate and update water services legislation and will build on the success of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and his colleagues who have overseen the first improvement in water quality in more than 30 years.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  When we received the legislative programme for this session, I searched eagerly for the greater Dublin area (land use and transportation) Bill and found it buried in the category: Bills in respect of which the heads have not yet been approved by Government. The Taoiseach and members of his party have dined out for the past three years on the promise of this Bill for Dublin. Does he now intend to go out of office without doing anything about this Bill? Nothing has been done, the Government shows no sense of urgency and its legislative programme is a big fat zero.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The proposals for that Bill were launched for consultation last year. The heads of the Bill are expected in the next few months.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Legislation on Stadium Ireland was promised for early 2002 and now appears on the list for mid-summer.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Tánaiste is blushing. Look at the Tánaiste.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Does this mean the Bill will not be published in the lifetime of this Government?

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  It has to go through the Scottish Assembly first.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is a cracker.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not think Deputy Belton is correct but the Bill is being drafted.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Drafted or shafted?

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  In the aftermath of the Jamie Sinnott case, the Minister for Education and Science informed the House that he had a blank cheque to deal with such matters and, in fairness, some progress was made. Funding was given to a school for autistic children in Kilbarrack in the Minister's constituency and similar progress was made in Deputy McCreevy's constituency.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Funding was provided to 80 schools.

Mr. Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Why is the Minister pursuing autistic children through the courts in Galway to deny them access to education when he has a blank cheque? Why is the Minister seeking to deny access to the courts to parents who have been [63] denied the right to education for their autistic children? This is a disgrace.

Ms O. Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  In the legislative programme, section H refers to Dáil business for the autumn session. Is this not a little presumptuous, even for Fianna Fáil?


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