Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 22b, motion re Referral to Joint Committee of Customs and Excise (Mutual Assistance) Act, 2001 (Commencement) Order, 2002; No. 22c, motion re Co-operation with Tribunal – Deputy Liam Lawlor; No. 4, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, 2001 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 5, Disability Bill – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 22b shall be decided without debate and the proceedings of No. 22c shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 50 minutes and the following arrangement shall apply: (i) the speeches shall be confined to the following Members, who may share time: the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the leaders of the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Green Party and they shall be called upon in that order; (ii) speeches may not exceed ten minutes in each case.

There are two proposals to be put to the House. The first is the proposal to deal with No. 22b.

Will the Taoiseach indicate if the Order of Business still stands as scheduled in view of the fact that Deputy Lawlor's legal team is in the High Court seeking an injunction against the debate proceeding? As I came into the House I was told – I am not sure if it is true but perhaps the Taoiseach will confirm it – that the court has issued an order to release Deputy Lawlor to attend the House.

Can we deal with the first proposal? The second proposal deals with the motion.

If the Order of Business cannot proceed on the basis that we cannot have the debate immediately afterwards we need to know now. If the Order of Business in its entirety has to be redrafted I am in order to raise this matter on the first item.

It is hypothetical at this stage.

If it is hypothetical we will agree the first proposal without debate.

The first proposal is agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 22c, motion re Co-operation with Tribunal – Deputy Liam Lawlor, agreed?

No, sir. In the absence of clarification, it is a fact that Deputy Lawlor and his lawyers are in the High Court this morning doing what I predicted would happen on Tuesday if we proceeded with a debate in the absence of the Deputy. There is a story now that the court has decided he should attend the debate and he is being released. Will the Taoiseach indicate if that is the case and, if so, are we in a position from a time point of view to take the motion immediately after the Order of Business in circumstances where I presume if the Deputy is to attend the House some time will have to be made to arrange to bring him here?

The only factual information I have is that I was informed shortly after 9.30 a.m. that the legal representatives of Deputy Lawlor were due to go into the High Court at 10.30 a.m. to seek his release. There is a rumour that has not been confirmed to me that the High Court has in the past four or five minutes made that decision but I cannot confirm that.

Could the House be adjourned until the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in a position to attend?

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not in the High Court. I am in the hands of the legal officer who advises the House. The House may wish to adjourn for ten to 15 minutes to ascertain if the rumour is correct, or to ascertain if it is correct to hold a debate while the case is ongoing. I checked with the Chief Whip and the legal advice to the House is that it is in order for a debate to proceed even if a case is ongoing because the House can deal with its business in any event. However, if the High Court has released Deputy Lawlor I assume it would be a courtesy to a Member of the House to wait until the Member attends. That is a matter for the House.

I wish to confirm the Taoiseach's remarks. It is my understanding that the House is master of its own destiny in relation to its procedures and that if the court in its wisdom decides to release Deputy Lawlor on a temporary basis so that he can attend the debate then no doubt this side of the House will accommodate him. However, he could have avoided all of this had he in the first instance complied with the requirements of the court and the tribunal which he had a part in establishing. We should proceed. If Deputy Lawlor arrives here by white Hiace van or any other mode of transport then, he can, no doubt, be accommodated. The real solution to this problem is for him to obey the rule of law and to get on with the business of co-operation with the tribunal.


Hear, hear.

This is great stuff. If the High Court has decided to release Deputy Liam Lawlor this morning it would have had to do so for a legal or constitutional reason. That reason must be founded on considerations of natural justice. It would be imprudent to go ahead until we know what happened in the High Court this morning. Was the Government represented in court this morning by an officer of the Attorney General's office or somebody briefed by the Attorney General or was the House represented?

(Mayo): The Attorney General was canvassing.

The court of public opinion will give the Attorney General the same answer as the High Court has given him this morning on his legal advice. Was the House represented? The Taoiseach said he was relying on the advice of the legal officer of the House. Was the House represented this morning in court?

The legal officer to the House is not answerable to me but the legal advice of the officer of the House for the past three days and his office has looked at this quite seriously – it is also the Attorney General's view but the Attorney General is not a legal adviser to the House – is that the House can order its business. If the House wishes to discuss any matter the House can discuss that matter. This is not a court, this is not a jury. This is the assembly of the people and if we wish to debate something we debate it.

Natural justice.

We have no sanction.

Let us not get into the area of natural justice because I do not think what has been said around this House on it would stand up. If Deputy Lawlor has been released by the High Court then I have no difficulty. If that is the case we will know fairly soon. We can deal with the Order of Business, matters arising, Leader's questions and other issues.

It is the Taoiseach's call. He is the Leader of the House.

We should wait until the matter is clarified.

(Dublin West): From Mountjoy—

We should proceed to Leader's questions until that is clarified.

The Government has lost a few overboard already.

I will take Leader's questions. I call Deputy Noonan.

Has the Taoiseach any more information this morning that he could impart to the House on the difficulties experienced by AIB in Baltimore? I understand there is a mechanism in the United States where banks which are deposit holders for the Federal Reserve are indemnified against fraud if a person is subsequently convicted for fraud. Will he confirm if this is the case and that the AIB subsidiary in Baltimore would be a beneficiary of this arrangement with the Federal Reserve or if it is outside of that arrangement? Will he also inform the House if he and the Tánaiste have yet evaluated the possible damage to our inward investment programme from the United States arising from this. In circumstances where there are only two major banks here and if there is any doubt over the efficacy of the biggest bank in the country, obviously there are considerations which affect inward investment particularly by American companies who will be familiar with what has happened because of the huge publicity given to this event in the United States.

The House will be aware that I have a family connection with the bank in question. Has the Taoiseach consulted the Minister for Finance on this matter? Has the Minister for Finance had any contact with the Governor of the Central Bank, which is the regulatory authority for the parent bank AIB Dublin? Subject to whatever discussions the Taoiseach may have with the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank, it would be appropriate and proper that at some stage today when more information is available, the Minister for Finance would come into the House and make a statement outlining the position and the implications for the parent bank here in Ireland in relation to its standing and the position of any shareholders and, more importantly, any depositors or creditors of the bank.

Following on what I said yesterday and the discussions here yesterday, developments overnight have been monitored closely by the Department of Finance but they have not changed the basic information which was available to us yesterday. The Department of Finance has been in touch with the Central Bank on this matter and, as confirmed yesterday, the Minister has had a meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank. It is clear that AIB bank, the US banking regulators who have the immediate responsibility for supervision of the US subsidiary concerned, and the Central Bank which regulates on a consolidated basis will all wish to investigate what happened in a detailed way. That is currently happening, no doubt, with a view to seeing what lessons have to be learned from this extraordinary and worrying situation.

The Minister for Finance has also asked the Central Bank to report to him in the light of the outcome of its investigation. The Central Bank has already sent senior Central Bank officials to the United States to see whether any changes in the legislative or administrative provisions governing bank supervision might be required. To reply to Deputy Noonan, the investigation would be under the regulatory system of the American authorities and that is what would govern the investigations. They will co-operate fully with and keep the Central Bank informed.

I remind the House we are not aware of any long-term threat to the bank concerned. I raised the issue yesterday about its liquidity. We have been advised that AIB's capital position is strong and is comfortably within the established limits. There is no threat to account holders or to the solvency of the bank. I am aware that a team of experts from the Federal Reserve has been sent in to investigate this issue at senior level because of the enormity of it. AIB senior officials from here along with the Central Bank officials are also there. There has been agreement that they will all consult each other. At each stage of the investigation from the American officials from the Federal Reserve, from the Central Bank and from AIB they will keep us informed. The appropriate bodies are fully investigating the matters. There is no other information. On the issue of whether there is more involved, I have no further data on that.

Will the Taoiseach establish and inform the House if AIB's subsidiary in Baltimore was carrying indemnity against fraud sub ject to a successful conviction being achieved and that this indemnity was in place by the Federal Reserve? Will he further establish and inform the House, if this is not so, were they carrying any insurance against fraud? We are in circumstances where there are 31,000 employees at AIB, there are 98,000 shareholders and a myriad of customers. The shares being actively traded in the market is relevant information whether they were carrying an indemnity against fraud. There is an obligation on the Central Bank though the Minister for Finance to put that information in the public domain if it has such information and if not to deny it.

I do not have that information but the House would want it to make its position clear on that matter. I would have a view on what I imagine are the rules but I do not know and I do not want to speculate on its position. I will make the view of the House known to the Central Bank and ask that it clear up that matter since it has been raised.

Two days ago I raised with the Taoiseach the situation which my colleague, Deputy Shortall, had raised with the Minister for Education and Science. I will remind him of the content of the matter. On 4 and 12 December, Deputy Shortall on behalf of the Labour Party asked the Minister for Education and Science if he would publish the list of 850 schools whose applications for capital grants in relation to various types of improvement and extension and development were with the educational unit in Tullamore. She asked that the list be published in order that all the parents, pupils and teachers concerned would be informed of their respective school's position on the waiting list for the substantial amount of moneys voted by the House. The Minister undertook to publish it. As it was not published before Christmas, on 31 January the Deputy renewed her request, but I understand the Minister again failed to publish it.

The Minister answers many questions in his unique style which, to those of us familiar with him, means clarity compounded with opacity in an extraordinary manner. Deputies, parents and teachers do not know where the applications made by their schools stand on the list. During visits to numerous schools I have been constantly told that the school concerned wants to know its position on the list.

I will repeat the question for the benefit of the Taoiseach. Will he direct the Minister for Education and Science to publish the list, which is in his possession, in the archives and on the desks of civil servants in Tullamore, in order that each of the 850 schools can ascertain its position with regard to its application for funding?

There are 850 schools involved. The processing of these projects has been stopped on the direction of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, despite the capital allocation for schools and school buildings contained in the Estimates for 2002. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the money is being hoarded until the election is called to facilitate a series of election announcements about the repair and building of schools?

We do not need to do that.


The largest ever programme to improve school buildings is under way. There has been a fourfold increase in the capital funding for schools.

The Taoiseach should answer the question for once.


Order, please allow the Taoiseach to reply.

Hundreds of projects are under way. I will raise Deputy Quinn's point with the Minister and ask him to make available the information in his possession.

We are not disputing the amount of money being voted by the House, which is not drawn from Fianna Fáil funds, but paid for by taxpayers. We simply ask that citizens are informed of where their school stands on the list. I suggest that someone in the Taoiseach's media monitoring unit examine the matters raised on the Adjournment and inform the Taoiseach of their content if his backbenchers have not already done so. The dominant issue is frequently schools.

Today's newspapers contain an example of the problem. A new building for a primary school in Aghinagh outside Macroom, County Cork was sanctioned in 1998 by the former Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin. An article in theIrish Independent, under the byline of Olivia Kelleher, states:

The 26 pupils are taught in two classrooms which are separated only by a partition. School Principal, Diarmuid Ó Céileachair, has to lay traps for vermin every winter and spends the summer holidays carrying out repairs to the building . . . Planning permission was granted for the school last March and a site was purchased.

I remind the Deputy that quotations are not in order during leaders' questions.

I am referring to notes. The chairperson of the parents' association said the project has stalled in recent months, which is precisely the point I make. Every one of the 850 projects has been stalled notwithstanding the amount of money voted by the House for the capital programme. Will the Taoiseach direct the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, and the Secretary General of his Department to publish the list in full in order that all Members are informed of the position? This would also ensure Members on the Fianna Fáil backbenches would no longer have to raise schools issues on the Adjournment.

As I understand it, the enormous capital injection received by the Minister for Education and Science—

He needs some sort of injection.

He is working to the best of his ability to process the hundreds of schools building projects in the programme. He has an obligation to reply to questions to the best of his ability. I am sure he will fulfil it.

The question has not been answered.


We will now take other relevant questions on the Order of Business.

I understand it has been confirmed that Deputy Lawlor, the prisoner, has been released by the High Court.

We can revert to this once we dispose of relevant questions on the Order of Business.

The relevant question relates to No. 22c. We have made arrangements for a 50 minute debate in which only the five party leaders may participate. If the High Court releases Deputy Lawlor to attend the debate, it follows that he has a right to contribute. The order just passed does not appear to make such provision.

We have not passed it.

The proposal has not been passed.

It is a bad day for the Government.

Had the Deputy been listening, he would have heard me make the point that we should take relevant questions on the Order of Business after which we will revert to the proposal on which we have yet to take a decision.

I appreciate that the Ceann Comhairle likes to proceed in an orderly fashion.

However, I am simply pointing out the inanity of confirming an order which can no longer work.

The proposal will come before the House in a couple of minutes once we have disposed of relevant questions on the Order of Business.

In its present form, the proposal will be no longer applicable when it comes before us.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to express his view on it.

I am doing my best to allow Deputy Lawlor time to arrive and make a grand entrance to the applause of his colleagues on the Fianna Fáil benches.

Is Deputy Lawlor on temporary release?


Deputy Shatter has a point of order to raise.

On Tuesday the leader of the Fine Gael Party raised concerns about this matter and the possibility that Deputy Lawlor's presence was required for such a debate. It has now been established by the courts—

Please deal with the matter to hand.

You must let me conclude my point.

The Deputy is obviously out of order.

It is a point of order.

As I understand it, the courts have determined that Deputy Lawlor, for whom I have no respect because of his conduct, is entitled to be present, listen to and participate in the debate. In those circumstances, it would be a farce for the House to proceed on foot of an order which is now inoperable.

That question has yet to be decided. The point I have been making is that we have not reached the question. The House can take a decision when we do.

I presume the Taoiseach will propose an amendment to the order.

The Deputy is out of order. Please allow the Taoiseach to speak.

I will conclude with one sentence. It is possible, in the context of the nature of any contribution Deputy Lawlor makes to the debate, that the—

The Deputy continues to be out of order.


The Government should go to the country and be done with it.

I get the strange feeling that there is no real issue on the Order of Business this morning, other than the one dealt with, because nobody is raising anything.

What a ridiculous comment to make in the light of what is going on.

It appears that Members are raising spurious points of order. Fifteen minutes ago I proposed that we dispose of leaders' questions and the remainder of the Order of Business. We now know that Deputy Liam Lawlor has been released from prison by the High Court and will be present for the debate. I do not know when he will arrive. I presume he will not drive here himself because he is still under the—

Perhaps the Attorney General, who wrongly advised the Government, will give him a lift and explain the reason he got it so wrong on Tuesday.

Aer Rianta will bring him in.

Order, please allow the Taoiseach to continue.


I cannot work out whether Deputy Shatter does or does not want him here. He appears to be agitated. If we concluded the Order of Business, we could then adjourn for a quarter of an hour and set a new order. The courts have made the decision that Deputy Lawlor should be present for the debate and since the debate is about him, he should have the opportunity to speak.

He has a duty to speak.

It would take the Whips approximately one minute to agree to add another name to the order.

Will the Taoiseach sack the Attorney General?

If Deputy Lawlor is to get an opportunity to contribute to the debate in the House, Members should have an opportunity to respond.

Is this a judge and jury situation?


Why does the Taoiseach not expel him from the party?

Why does the Deputy's party not expel Deputy Michael Lowry?

I ask all Deputies to have regard to the seriousness of what we are discussing. The motion before us which we are about to discuss is unprecedented.

It is not before us at the moment.

The motion we are about to discuss when we dispose of the Order of Business proper is a serious one. It is not one for hilarity. We are talking about a colleague who, unfortunately for all of us, has brought the House and the process of democracy into disrepute. If natural justice is to prevail, based on what the courts have now decided, an accommodation should be made to allow him to speak at some stage in the debate which should proceed and conclude on the basis of the motion unanimously signed by all the party leaders. If the Taoiseach is in a position to indicate that he is prepared to amend the order agreed in principle at the commencement of business today, my party will be open to any suggestion he makes, but we should proceed with our business constructively and positively.

We will return to the matter I raised which the Taoiseach refused to answer, namely, the commitment given by the Minister for Education and Science to publish the list. I know it is not an item of great attention for the media or the House, but for all the children whose educational prospects are directly affected by the failure of the Minister to meet his own commitment—

We cannot go into that matter again.

I am merely giving notice on the Order of Business that we will return to it repeatedly until the Minister delivers on the commitment made manifest by the publication of the list.

A Cheann Comhairle—

May we take relevant questions? A number of Deputies are offering on the Order of Business. We will then proceed by way of a brief suspension of the sitting. I will take relevant questions on the Order of Business.

A Cheann Comhairle, the Taoiseach has now made a proposal on which the Fine Gael position is that we want an orderly debate in the House in accordance with procedure.

We will come to that.

This is an important issue, a Cheann Comhairle. Do not cut me off.

It is, that is the reason I want to deal with it properly. It is so important it should be dealt with properly. The Deputy is again out of order.

This is unprecedented.

I asked for relevant questions on the Order of Business, but the Deputy insists on going against the Chair. That is not the way to carry out business.

The Taoiseach has made a proposal about altering the Order of Business and I am in order to speak to it. The Fine Gael position is that we want an orderly debate to take place in the House in accordance with procedure, Standing Orders, the law of the land and the Constitution. We have sought a debate in order that the House can unanimously pass a motion condemning Deputy Liam Lawlor and calling on him to resign as a Deputy, but when this was first mentioned he went on the airwaves and said he would make allegations against Deputies in the House. The Taoiseach's proposal is not sufficient to amend the order to allow five leaders, and Deputy Lawlor, to speak if in the course of his speech he makes allegations against Deputies in the House—

Which he has said he will do.

—which he said he will do, regardless of their party. Those Deputies have the right to state their case if allegations are being made. Rather than shutting down debate, a Cheann Comhairle, you should protect the interests of Members which is your primary responsibility.

The Chair is not shutting down debate. I resent that remark. The Chair is seeking an orderly debate, not a disorderly one. It has been grossly disorderly so far. I have appealed many times for Deputies to proceed with relevant questions and then deal with the matter, but the Deputy persists in disobeying the Chair.

You are supposed to protect the interests of Members.

There is a group of people gathered outside Leinster House today, many of whom have travelled from various parts of the country, and I suspect they will receive much less attention than Deputy Liam Lawlor. They are there because they want the Disability Bill, which is on today's Order Paper, withdrawn in order that a stronger Bill can be introduced. I again ask the Taoiseach to withdraw the Disability Bill from the Order Paper.

On section 47 of the Disability Bill, I understand there have been some meetings with the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace. Will the Taoiseach confirm that the Minister of State is open to amending this section because of the serious deprivation of rights inherent in it for those with a disability?

The Bill is before the House. Discussions continue in the normal way with various groups both inside and outside the House. That is happening in this case, too.

The Minister for Health and Children has promised to bring forward legislation to extend the terms of reference of the Egan commission on hepatitis C to cover HIV sufferers. Will the Taoiseach confirm that that legislation is imminent and will be dealt with in the current session?

Yes, the Bill will be taken this session.

On what is a fairly topical issue this morning, the High Court has determined that our insanity laws are frozen in 1843. There has been a promise of reform in relation to these matters for some considerable time. When will amending legislation be brought before the House?

The Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill to amend the criminal law relating to insanity is due to be published this year.

(Dublin West): Will the Taoiseach clarify the situation on the ground rents Bill because the Government has been speaking with different voices. In the legislative programme the Government has published for this session publication of the ground rent Bill to abolish ground rents is expected in mid-2002. Mid-2002 is the end of June. The Government, I hope, will be gone at that stage and it will not have brought forward the legislation to abolish this relic of landlordism and imposition on ordinary householders throughout the country which causes grave disquiet. The Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, in answer to a direct question from me on 13 December when taking the Order of Business on behalf of the Taoiseach, told me that the Bill would come before the Dáil early in 2002. The Taoiseach clarified for me at Question Time before Christmas that there were no constitutional issues outstanding. Therefore, that was not a problem. When will the Bill come before the Dáil and will the Government honour the promises it has made that it will abolish this relic of landlordism?

It will be a matter for discussion when the Bill is before the House.

(Dublin West): What is the hold-up?

The ground rent Bill is due some time this year.

(Dublin West): A Cheann Comhairle, I am totally within my rights—

We cannot debate the matter now.

Turn down the volume.

What is the Deputy's question?

(Dublin West): Was the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, incorrect when she said the Bill would be brought before the House early in 2002?

It was based on the information to hand at the time.

(Dublin West): It was obvious that the Bill would not be published during the lifetime of this Dáil.

There will be no ground rent for County Meath.

There have been constitutional difficulties in trying to bring forward the Bill, but efforts are continuing. The latest date for its publication is the middle of the year.

For various reasons, many Deputies are focused on the prison service and prison reform. Let me ask about the International Criminal Court, about which the public was consulted in June 2001. We were told at the time that we needed urgently to give effect to the Rome Statute as part of the fight against international terrorism. May I ask the Taoiseach the reason this matter seems to lack total priority and it is impossible to indicate when the Bill will be published? Has there been a change in the priority being given to the fight against international terrorism?

Legislation to give effect to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court is being drafted, but I do not have a date for when it will be brought forward.

Therefore, it is not a priority.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has promised legislation on the law in relation to criminal insanity on five occasions. Will the Taoiseach indicate if it is poss ible that a Bill on the subject will be published before the general election?

That is the question I asked.

I have just answered it.

Deputy Shatter's question relates to a criminal insanity Bill.

I answered a question on the matter from Deputy Howlin a few minutes ago.

The Taoiseach has answered a question on the matter.

On promised legislation, tá Bille na Gaeilge ar an mhéar fhada arís agus is léir go bhfuil sí marbh don Dáil seo. Throughout its five years in office the Government has been promising to introduce a Bill in relation to equality of the official languages, but we now find that it is not expected that the Bill will be published until mid-2002. In other words, no such legislation will be introduced in this Dáil. Can the Taoiseach explain this disgraceful neglect of the rights of Irish speakers?

The Taoiseach has answered questions on this—

On a second matter, will the Ceann Comhairle or the Taoiseach clarify how the representatives of the Dáil to the EU convention will be selected? When is the deadline for nomination?

The Taoiseach answered that question a few days ago.

Are we going down the road where the majority opposed to the Nice treaty—

It is not a matter for the Order of Business.

It is a very important one nevertheless.

It was raised and answered in the House this week.

I am asking the Taoiseach—

It is not in order at this stage.

—to confirm that the majority of the people will not be represented unless those who presented the "No" case on the Nice treaty are allowed access to the EU convention.

On the same matter—

Which matter? Everything the previous Deputy said was not in order.

I refer to Deputy Ó Caoláin's chéad ábhar, Bille na Gaeilge—

Bille na Gaeilge is in order.

—rud atá luaite agam anseo beagnach gach seachtain.

That is in order.

When I raised this matter with the Taoiseach last week he changed his reply. In the early days of the Government we were promised by the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, almost on a fortnightly basis that Bille na Gaeilge would be brought forward quickly.

Dá mbeadh sé tosaithe ag an am sin, bheadh sé againn cheana féin.

Is cuma liom. Beidh seans ag an Aire Stáit an ceist a fhreagairt agus a rá leis an phobal cén fáth ar gheall sé an rud nuair nach—

The Deputy should ask a ceist.

Leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh leis an ceist. An tseachtain seo caite, dúirt an Taoiseach go bhfuil deacrachtaí bunreachtúil i gceist, that the Bill "involves a number of constitutional issues." Why were constitutional obstacles not raised when the heads of the Bill were agreed? The Taoiseach had previously replied simply by stating that the Bill would be published soon. Deputies were led to believe that we were just waiting for the text, but the Aire Stáit would saysotto voce to the people of his constituency that the Department of Finance was holding up the Bill.

The Deputy should ask his question.

What is the status of the Bill? Has it deteriorated into being the next election promise in the Gaeltachtaí?

The Deputy should not attempt to answer his own question.

It is a scandal.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): It is being ignored like the restoration of the language.

It is a scandal for a party which once claimed to be in favour of restoring the Irish language.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Fianna Fáil still makes that claim.

The Bill is a priority. The Minister of State, Deputy Coughlan, has told me that she—

(Carlow-Kilkenny): After five years.

A priority with constitutional difficulties.

The problem with the Deputy is that he does not want to listen to me.

I listen to the Taoiseach.

Order, please.

The Taoiseach, on the Bill.

The Bill is a priority. The Minister of State, Deputy Coughlan, told me yesterday that she still hopes it will be published this session.

(Mayo): I do not know if the Taoiseach is aware of the multi-million euro financial killing on Spencer Dock made by Treasury Holdings at the expense of CIE, as reported by The Irish Times this week. I understand the forthcoming transport Bill is to increase the borrowing limits for CIE. Would it have been necessary to bring forward that Bill if a more prudent adjudication had been made by the company in relation to the lease of the valuable property? What priority is being given to the Bill?

The heads of the Bill are expected in the first week of March following which the Bill will be drafted.

The electoral Bill, which has been promised by the Government and is on the list to be published this session, will introduce a new method of nominating candidates for elections. Does it have to be enacted before a general election can take place? When will the Bill come before the House?

The Bill must be passed this session. It has almost been finalised and will be published shortly.

When will a Bill be published in relation to the education of children with disabilities? Has the Taoiseach managed to track down the globetrotting Minister for Education and Science?

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Does the Minister have any solution to offer on the supervision and substitution problems that will cripple secondary schools?

The Deputy is out of order.

Secondary schools in Hong Kong are more of a priority.

The Bill to provide educational services for children with special needs will be published this session.

Sitting suspended at 11.20 a.m. and resumed at 11.45 a.m.