When will equal status legislation come before the Dáil, given recent detentions?
Returns to Writs: Constituencies of Donegal North-East and Dublin West. - Order of Business (Resumed).
Late this year, possibly December.
The debate on the White Paper on Foreign Affairs was adjourned in mid-sentence. Will it resume soon?
Yes, but I am not sure when. I will arrange for the Government Whip to contact the Deputy and give him the relevant information.
Is the Taoiseach giving an undertaking to the House that this legislation will be dealt with during his administration?
We certainly intend to deal with it during our administration.
Is that an undertaking to the House?
In so far as I control that matter, yes.
In view of the publication of the White Paper on Foreign Affairs and our present position within the EU Troika, will the Taoiseach allow time in the House for a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the Lebanon and the position of our troops there arising from the recent bombings there?
This is a separate matter.
It was on the Order of Business. I am only asking for Government time for statements on this serious matter and on restoring peace in that area.
Strictly speaking, it is not relevant to the Order of Business.
It may not be, Sir, but the Taoiseach may, with your gracious permission, agree to give some time for a debate on this important issue.
The safety of Irish troops serving under the UN in south Lebanon is a matter of paramount concern to the Government. From the outset, we have been in close contact with the commander of the troops in question, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Lucey, who is in constant contact with the defence forces headquarters and the Minister. There have been consultations today at my request with the Israeli Ambassador to convey our concern about the shelling of south Lebanon, the risk it poses to Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations and the importance of resolving difficulties of this nature by diplomatic means. I am in constant contact with this matter, as is the Tánaiste and the Minister for Defence and the Marine. As and when necessary, I will report to the House on any matters that arise.
The question of having a special debate on the subject can be considered but I assure the House that the concern expressed by Deputy Burke is shared by the Government.
I thank the Taoiseach for that important clarification. From a national point of view, we are concerned about the safety of our troops in south Lebanon and we want to see peace in that area. I welcome the fact that the Government has called in the Israeli Ambassador to discuss the situation with him. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs should take every action possible at EU and UN levels to ensure the shelling is discontinued and the peace process is re-established in the Middle East at the earliest possible date.
The Taoiseach knows there are no four wheeled jaguars in north Clondalkin but we discovered a four legged one recently. Would he agree that the parameters of the Control and Regulation of Horses Bill, 1996 should be expanded to cover wild animals? There is an urgent need to do something about it.
Is this a question regarding promised legislation?
Legislation on wild animals is urgently needed.
Can the Taoiseach indicate whether the Minister of State at the Department of Health intends to ask for time in the House to make a personal statement on information given to the House prior to the Easter Recess, which in light of further events may have been misleading?
The Deputy will have to raise that in another way.
Has the Taoiseach any knowledge of it?
The Taoiseach's comments following questions I asked about proposed legislation on education, indicated that a number of Bills, particularly the universities Bill, would be published before the summer recess. However, it now appears from the list sent to us by the Government Chief Whip that an education Bill will not be published prior to that date. It is now more than a year since the publication of the White Paper on education and it appears the momentum for change and reform in the education world forecast by the White Paper has stopped. Can the Taoiseach indicate the difficulties with the education legislation proposals?
We aim to introduce the universities Bill in July. It has not been included in the list because it is not absolutely certain despite our best endeavours, that it will be ready by then. The heads of the Bill were approved by the Cabinet on 13 February. At this point, it is simply a question of drafting the legislation in its proper form. There has been a recent improvement in the availability of drafting resources in the draftsman's office. However, many technical and difficult legal questions remain to be dealt with in the drafting. I hope they will be dealt with by July but if not, we will introduce the legislation in the second half of the year.
There was a commitment to publish the education Bill in July prior to the conclusion of this session. Are there some unforeseen difficulties there?
It may be less likely that this date will be achieved in the case of the education Bill. The heads of that Bill were only approved recently. We are endeavouring to have it ready in July but I expect it is more likely that it will be published in October.
What is the progress with the credit union Bill and when is it likely to be published?
In the autumn.
This may seem a trivial matter, but it is important to me and many others. We have received from the Taoiseach's office a Government Information Services press release and the Government's legislative programme. However, the harp emblem, of which we should be, and are, proud, has been removed from the head of the notepaper and replaced by an emblem detailing Government buildings. Will the Taoiseach reconsider reverting to the harp emblem, and remove the present one?
A new logo.
Will the Taoiseach assist the farming community by making animal disease free cards available to herd owners? He is well aware of the difficulties faced by Irish farmers and the unrest in the agricultural industry. The provision of such cards would help alleviate those difficulties as farmers could more readily dispose of their cattle.