Ceisteanna — Questions.

Commissions of Inquiry.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

1 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach when he expects to receive the report of Mr. Justice Barron dealing with the Dundalk and Belturbet bombings and the murder of a person (details supplied); the procedure that will be used to deal with the report which is submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5710/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

2 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach when he expects to receive a further report from the Barron commission of inquiry in respect of the Dundalk and Belturbet bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6574/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

3 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach when he expects to receive a further report from Justice Barron in respect of the Dundalk and Belturbet bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7573/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

4 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he has received the reports of Justice Barron on the bombings of Dublin in December 1972 and January 1973, the Belturbet bombing of 1972, the bomb at Dublin Airport in 1975, the Dundalk bombing of 1975, the Castleblayney bombing of 1976 and the murder of Seamus Ludlow in 1976. [7947/04]

Joe Higgins

Question:

5 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach when he expects to receive a further report on the Dundalk and Belturbet bombings from the Barron commission of inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9104/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

6 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the Government’s views on the recommendations of the sub-committee of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Women’s Rights on the Barron report; the action the Government intends to take to ensure that the recommendations are implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10774/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

7 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the action he proposes to take on foot of the report of the sub-committee on the Barron report of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11373/04]

Tony Gregory

Question:

8 Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach his response to the report of the sub-committee of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the Barron report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12823/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, together.

I understand Mr. Justice Barron will report next, at the beginning of June, on the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, together with the Clones, Belturbet and Pettigo bombings of 28 December 1972 and four other bombing incidents that took place before May 1974, as well as the murder of Brid Carr in November 1971 and the murders of Oliver Boyce and Brid Porter.

Following that report, he will report on the case of Seamus Ludlow. He will then report on other cases including the Dundalk bombing of 1975 and in the context of that report, he will report on a number of other bombings that took place after May 1974 including the Castleblaney bombing. I also understand Mr. Justice Barron has concluded his work on substantial portions of these reports but some contacts are still outstanding.

It would be the intention that the report, would be considered by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights and they would be published. I would like to thank the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for its report and its comprehensive consideration of the Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. The sub-committee dealing with the report had a very difficult task and the members of the sub-committee carried out their work diligently and with great sensitivity. This was very important work dealing with the events that caused the highest number of fatalities on a single day during the conflict in Northern Ireland and left so many people suffering and traumatised.

The committee presented its report to the Oireachtas and before coming to any decision on the recommendations contained in the committee's report, the Government would wish to consider the views of the Oireachtas on the report's recommendations.

In an earlier reply the Taoiseach indicated the second Barron report would be available early in 2004. As I am competing with some noise here, I did not quite hear if the Taoiseach gave a date for this. How does the Taoiseach propose handling the second Barron report? Does he intend it to be addressed in the same fashion as the report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings?

The reply states that work is well advanced on the second report and some contacts remain to be made. While I do not have a date, I assume it is not too far in the future. I understand he has most of the drafting done and he just has some outstanding contacts to make. That will cover a number of the cases. It will cover the two bombings in Dublin 1972 and 1973. It will also cover the Clones, Belturbet and Pettigo bombings in 1972. It will also cover the other bombing incidents that took place before May 1974, the murder of Brid Carr in November 1971 as well as the murders of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter. That is the report which is nearly ready.

He has a separate report on the Seamus Ludlow case. The Deputy will recall that the House later asked that this case be investigated. There has been a considerable delay about that matter because the family was not satisfied initially. That report will be prepared. In the context of that report, he will also cover the post-May 1974 issues, which would include the Dundalk bombing of 1975 and a number of other bombings that took place after the 1974 bombings, including the Castleblaney bombing. That is some considerable time away. I presume we are talking about later in the year if not the end of the year before we get that report.

We will deal with them in the same way. We will give them to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

What is the Taoiseach's response to the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on the first Barron report? I ask in particular about the recommendation that a figure like Judge Cory would carry out an initial inquiry. Has the Taoiseach raised this matter with the British authorities? Did he raise it with the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, over the past weekend? If he did, how does he assess the response of the British authorities given the pivotal role they would have to play in implementing the recommendations of the sub-committee on the Barron report?

In the first instance, the Government has not considered the report formally. We have stated we will await the Oireachtas debate on this issue. It must be debated in both the Dáil and Seanad. In the report of the sub-committee, the work of which I commended, it is stated that once the committees of investigation legislation is passed through the Houses, the sub-committee will be in a position to consider the aspects of the matter covered within our jurisdiction. Those are the issues involving the Garda and the so-called missing files. I have no difficulty with that. Equally, the sub-committee stated that as part of the investigation process, if the House so decides, a judge could examine these aspects again. That is a matter which the Government will discuss.

It will be necessary to have further discussions about those aspects of the matter which involve Northern Ireland and an inquiry and investigation there. The merits of that will be considered. While the idea is that an examination like that carried out by Mr. Justice Cory should take place, its feasibility will have to be considered. I raised the matter initially with the Northern Ireland authorities through Secretary of State, Paul Murphy. He has already written to say the authorities have no further files, reports or data and cannot bring anything more to the table on this issue. We have a formal letter stating that is the position.

I raised this with Prime Minister Blair on Sunday in the context that after the debate in the House and the Government's consideration, we will return to the matter. I informed the Prime Minister of the recommendation of the committee that these matters should be investigated in the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland or, presumably, both. I have not been informed of an official British Government position, but I have made it clear to the Prime Minister that we will come back to the matter.

Following the publication of the last report, Mr. Justice Barron's attendance at the sub-committee appears to have been helpful in the search for the truth behind the atrocities. Can the Taoiseach confirm or does he have any information to the effect that Mr. Justice Barron will make himself available to the sub-committee in respect of any forthcoming report on these matters? It transpired that a number of key personnel were not contacted or interviewed by the commission in the context of the preparation of Mr. Justice Barron's report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Can we assume that will not happen again in respect of any future report by Mr. Justice Barron?

Whether Mr. Justice Barron will make himself available is a matter for his consideration. As Deputy Kenny said, he has been quite helpful in coming forward to the sub-committee, answering questions and elaborating as much as he possibly can. I am sure he will do that again. Everyone who looks at these issues will say there are other matters which should be examined. If this moves to another stage, that point can be made again. Mr. Justice Barron's view was that he covered all the people who were brought to his attention and the issues he thought were relevant. If a report like Mr. Justice Cory's is to be produced, those will merit further examination.

The Taoiseach referred earlier to the issue of missing files from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Is he aware of the concerns of the Justice for the Forgotten group which has questioned the efficacy of multiple inquiries on selected aspects of the bombings? There has been talk of holding what appear to be compartmentalised inquiries. Is the Taoiseach of the view that there must be a single effective, efficient inquiry in which all matters can be brought together and dealt with as they interact?

In February this year, which is some time back, I put a question to the Taoiseach about the remembrance fund established in February 2003. At that time the Taoiseach mentioned there was €9 million available and it appeared there would be early disbursement of that money. Given that at that time the Taoiseach stated work was almost finished and it was expected the commission would shortly be in a position to invite applications, can he indicate what progress has been made since February?

I do not have an up-to-date position on that matter but I can get one for the Deputy. As I understand from replies to cases I referred to the commission, work is ongoing. I will obtain a note for the Deputy in that regard.

On the other issue raised by the Deputy, it will be a matter for the House following debate and the Government's consideration in terms of the way forward. It is the sub-committee which divides the issues and it compartmentalised them into internal issues and stated the committee of investigation should examine the Garda investigation and the issue of missing documentation. The sub-committee feels such matters come within our jurisdiction and should be handled by us. That appears a sensible suggestion if, ultimately, it is agreed. The sub-committee also stated it considers a public inquiry in Northern Ireland and/or Great Britain is required and represents the best opportunity of success. It then states as reasons for that recommendation, that any information, witnesses or issues would have arisen in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. I am merely stating the distinction drawn by the sub-committee. Obviously if a Cory-type investigation picks up on such matters, it will use Mr. Justice Barron's report as its basis. I believe the difficulties will arise in a Northern Ireland context but the best way to handle it will be a matter for future consideration.

I may not have picked up clearly on the Taoiseach's first response to the questions tabled. Will he confirm in terms of Mr. Justice Barron's ongoing investigations, that the matters relating to the 1972-1973 Dublin bombings in which George Bradshaw, Thomas Duffy and Thomas Douglas were killed; the Belturbet bombing in 1972 which killed two teenagers, Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley; the bombing at Dublin Airport in 1975 in which John Hayes died; the Dundalk bombing in 1975 in which Hugh Watters and Jack Rooney died and the Castleblayney bombing of 1976 which took the life of Patrick Mone and the murder of Seamus Ludlow are being addressed? Did the Taoiseach indicate that some would be investigated later? Will we again see a staggered return from Mr. Justice Barron?

Recalling that Mr. Justice Barron included in an attachment to his first report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings a report on the murder of John Francis Green, is further action being considered on that report? We have received and have proceeded to address Mr. Justice Barron's report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings but what of the report on John Francis Green? What, in the Taoiseach's view, is the current position of that report? Will further attention be drawn to it? What of Mr. Justice Barron's report on each of the other cases instanced? Where, in the Taoiseach's view, will all that lead?

The sub-committee on the Barron inquiry called upon the Government to establish an investigation into the key missing departmental and Garda documents regarding the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Has that investigation been established? If not, when will it be established and what form will it take? Will its establishment require legislation or a motion before this House?

The Deputy raised three issues. I outlined, in reply to Deputy Rabbitte, the position regarding the first report. It must first be debated in the Dáil and Seanad and then by the Government in terms of recommendations and processes for moving on. That includes the full substance of the first report.

His second report deals with events which occurred before 17 May 1974. It covers the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the Clones, Belturbet and Pettigo bombings of 28 December 1972, four other bombing incidents which took place before May 1974 and the murders of Bríd Carr in November 1971 and of Oliver Boyce and Bríd Porter. They are all dealt with in one report. The drafting of that report is well advanced. Some contacts are continuing in which Mr. Justice Barron is involved and to which I am not privy. He will report on that.

Mr. Justice Barron will then report on the case of Séamus Ludlow. He will report on the Dundalk bombings of 1975 and will look at a number of other bombings which took place after May 1974, including the Castleblayney bombing. Mr. Justice Barron was asked to do these reports at a much later date. I do not know when this third report will be made but I presume it will be a considerable time from now.

What about the investigation into the missing file?

That recommendation was made after the debate in this House and it goes back to Government. If that recommendation is adopted, the report recommends that the matter be taken up by a committee of investigation. We must await the examination of the report in the House and by the Government.

When will that happen?

I hope it will happen shortly.

Has the Taoiseach had contact with the Justice for the Forgotten group, representing the relatives, since the publication of the majority report of the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? I am sure the Taoiseach has studied the sub-committee's report. Is he committed to holding a further inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? Did the Taoiseach receive a response from the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, when he mentioned the issue to him last weekend?

Does the Taoiseach agree with the statement issued by the Justice for the Forgotten group following the publication of the sub-committee report, that the next inquiry — and the group is convinced that their must be a further inquiry — must be effectively constituted to bring finality to this issue? Does he agree with the Justice for the Forgotten group that a firm timetable for action is required and that the Government should immediately engage with the families in agreeing the structure and elements of a properly constituted international human rights inquiry to bring finality to this issue?

Yes, is the answer to Deputy Gregory's first question. I keep in regular touch with individuals from the Justice for the Forgotten group. I also have formal meetings with the group.

Like Deputy Gregory and all Members of the House, I would like to see a full and complete end of this matter. We have agreed a process for that. The report must be debated in the Dáil and Seanad and then considered by the Government. We must then decide how to move forward, based on the recommendations of the report. I do not have difficulty with any of the recommendations but we must go through the formal process.

We have received a conclusive reply from the Secretary of State that the British Government has no further information or data. I raised the matter again with the Prime Minister on Sunday last. We must await the ultimate response of the British Government to the recommendations of the report. The members of the British Government are aware of the report and I have highlighted it to them.

In the future we will face the difficulty of how best to reach finality in this matter. We must go through the process outlined in the report and see how best to do that. I am committed to doing that in so far as I can.

Given the stated commitment by the Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, to fight against terrorism in Madrid and elsewhere, did he not jump at the opportunity to assure the Taoiseach that he would co-operate fully with an inquiry into terrorism on his doorstep?

As stated, the response from the Secretary of State, Mr. Paul Murphy, is that Mr. Justice Barron has been given all the information the British Government has. I do not think the British Government has considered yet the recommendation in the report by Mr. Justice Barron. A good reason for that is that the Government has not yet done that. However, the British Government is aware of it and knows the contents of the report.

We are now within a fortnight of the 30th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on 17 May 1974. While the focus on Mr. Justice Barron's inquiry is correct, I want to revisit my earlier question on a further report presented by Mr. Justice Barron on the murder of Mr. John Francis Green and the expected reports on the pre-1974 incidents which the Taoiseach outlined and the later attention to all those from the Dublin Airport bombing of 1975 up to the murder of Mr. Séamus Ludlow in 1976. What will be done in regard to each of these incidents? Let us hope that the report on the murder of Mr. John Francis Green has not been parked. What does the Taoiseach envisage will be done on each of the reports that Mr. Justice Barron is addressing and will address in the future? Will specific steps be taken arising from these reports as they all reflect an important aspect of the story of collusion in the events of this jurisdiction during the 30 year period we have lived through?

I answered that question when I stated the report will be debated by both Houses of the Oireachtas before it goes to Government. That process is set out in the findings of the committee. The other reports should be processed in the same way. Ultimately, we will have to consider how best to bring the matter to finality, as Deputy Gregory stated. In my view this is as good as any other way, because no alternative is laid down. That covers the issues in our jurisdiction, however, I do not know at this stage if there will be a public tribunal of inquiry in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. That will have to be processed with the authorities.

The Mr. John Francis Green case was not referred to the committee.

Is that issue dealt with in a separate part of the report?

It is a separate report, but is an attachment to the first report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

I will bring attention to that, if it is not part of the process. My understanding is that the full report will be debated in this House and in the Seanad and will then be considered by Government. I assume all of it, including that part, will be discussed.

On all the cases.

That is as I understand it.

The Taoiseach stated that the holding of an inquiry either in Northern Ireland or Britain would not be without problems. Does he agree there is a need to press further for the holding of a full public inquiry in this jurisdiction? Does he not accept the view of the relatives that it would be extremely onerous on them to have an inquiry held across the water and to expect people to go back and forward? Will he use the provisions of strand 3 of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure it is held in this jurisdiction and that it is fully open to both Governments to have an input into it? Will he use his persuasive powers to ensure the British co-operate with a full public inquiry in this jurisdiction?

Before the Taoiseach replies, I will take a final supplementary question from Deputy Rabbitte.

Will the Taoiseach comment specifically on the recommendation in respect of the possible reference of a case to the European Court of Human Rights? Has the Government given separate consideration to the initiation of such a case? How does he propose to proceed in the House in respect of the sub-committee's report? Does he intend to proceed by way of resolution from Government to set out the parameters of the debate on the report?

On the debate in the House, it is a matter on which we must agree. There needs to be a debate which presumably will be based on the committee's report either to support or amend its recommendations. There was an agreement that the matter would be debated prior to bringing it to Government for final consideration and action on it. This should take place as early as possible. We will try to finalise in the House the committees of investigation legislation. It is recommended that the report should be put before that committee.

On Deputy Sargent's question, the sub-committee drew the distinction in this regard. I am not drawing a distinction. The sub-committee's view is that because the likely witnesses who might be able to assist in respect of any evidence that might or might not exist are based in Northern Ireland and the UK, the inquiry will not get anywhere if it is held in this jurisdiction. It has no problem dealing with Garda matters and so on in this jurisdiction. Based on legal advice, the committee believes that if the inquiry is held down here, co-operation will not be forthcoming in so far as these people are still alive and known. The committee spelt this out clearly. This is the point we must pursue with the British Government.

The other reports must be dealt with in the same way, particularly in regard to 17 May. On reading Mr. Justice Barron's report, it is obvious that all the involvement and activities relate to Northern Ireland.

Freedom of Information.

Enda Kenny

Question:

9 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of freedom of information requests received by his Department during February 2004; the way in which this figure compares with the same month in 2003; the fees paid to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7583/04]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

10 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the number of freedom of information requests received by his Department for the first three months of 2004; the number acceded to by his Department; the way these figures compare with the figures in 2003; the fees paid to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8597/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

There were 11 freedom of information requests received in my Department for the first three months of this year as compared with 80 requests received for the same period last year. All requests for the first three months of this year have been acceded to. Eight freedom of information requests were received during February 2004 compared with 29 for the same period last year.

A total of €435 in application fees has been paid to my Department since the introduction of the fee charge in July 2003. All requests received in my Department are processed in accordance with both the 1997 Act and the 2003 Act, and their implementation is kept under constant review.

In the past five months of 2003, there were 21 freedom of information requests received in the Department of the Taoiseach. That compared with 61 requests received from August to December 2002, which represents a net reduction of approximately 66%. The Information Commissioner stated that she has concerns about the decrease in the number of requests and, if the decline continues, it will have serious implications for the Freedom of Information Act.

Given that there was a 66% reduction in requests to his Department, does the Taoiseach feel the expression of concern by the Information Commissioner impacts on his Department? Does he feel the regulations and conditions of change introduced by the Government have strangled the Freedom of Information Act? Does he propose to ease the regulations or restore the flexibility which existed heretofore?

That question is more appropriate to the Minister for Finance.

As the Deputy knows, the numbers were in decline. The areas of the Act with which we thought there might be difficulties, namely, sections 19 and 20, have not presented any. As can be seen from the total figure of €435 which I gave, it cannot have had much effect on the personal applications. As the Deputy knows, there is no cost for cases or appeals in which people seek personal information. Therefore, there is no change. Furthermore, no certificates have been issued under section 19, which we debated in the House, in respect of exempt records of Government meetings. No certificates have been issued under section 20 by my Department and I do not think any have been issued by other Departments. However, that is a matter for the Department of Finance. It is apparent from the figures that the main change is that the Act is being used less as a scoping method.

The Information Commissioner has been highly critical of the 2003 changes. Has the Taoiseach met Ms O'Reilly on this issue and when does he expect her report? I understand she has promised a review of the amended Act in June. Is it now time to re-examine the charges which have been made? One individual spent more than €3,000 trying to extract information which was not for personal gain. Does the Taoiseach not agree that a refund might be in order if — as is the case in this instance — the person in question is found to be operating in the public interest without any agenda, either from a journalistic or any other point of view? It is too much to ask a person to pay €3,000 to get a right to information. Is this not more like a pay-per-view service rather than a right to information service?

This question relates specifically to the Department of the Taoiseach and the Act itself is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance.

That is the point. Any meetings will be between the Information Commissioner and the Department of Finance.

We based the Act on the experience in other countries and when one compares the charges in those other countries against those here, they are still very low. Admittedly, it is a great deal if someone spends €3,000. I do not know the circumstances of that case but even though there is an enormous burden of information, the entire figure in my Department is €400 for almost a year.

Has the Government made any assessment of the impact of the legislative amendments made to the original Act? What is the Taoiseach's impression of commercial enterprises or professionals who were said to be using the Act to assimilate and accumulate information which was commercially advantageous to them in the cheapest possible way? Is that practice continuing or has it fallen off?

The question refers specifically to the Department of the Taoiseach.

I can answer for my own Department because it is easy to do so. The answer is "yes". Companies have stopped using the Act even though the costs are low. Due to the practice being highlighted so much in the debate and in various discussions, it is not being used by commercial interests. Some companies were using it as a service to gather the information but that practice has ceased.

Constitutional Amendments.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

11 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if referenda are being planned for 2004; if so, the nature of those referenda and the timescale involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8593/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

12 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the referenda planned by the Government for the remainder of its term of office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10498/04]

Enda Kenny

Question:

13 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach his plans for constitutional referenda during 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10540/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

14 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the referenda the Government is planning to hold or is considering holding before the end of 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10704/04]

John Bruton

Question:

15 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he has proposals to amend the provisions of the Constitution in respect of the composition and powers of Seanad Éireann. [11624/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

16 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if he has received a copy of the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution dealing with property rights; the action he intends to take as a result of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11742/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 16, inclusive, together.

The constitutional amendment concerning the entitlements to Irish citizenship of children of non-national parents will be held on 11 June 2004. The Government has no further proposals at present to hold any other referenda in 2004. The position will continue to be held under review in the light of developments including the outcome of the examination by the Government of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's ninth progress report on private property, which was published on 7 April, the outcome of the examination of the report published on 28 April 2004 by the Committee on Procedures and Privileges sub-committee on reform of the Seanad, and the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference on the draft constitutional treaty which commenced in Rome on 4 October 2003.

If the House is agreeable I will take two questions from Deputies Sargent and Ó Caoláin, a reply from the Taoiseach and then two questions from Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte with a final reply from the Taoiseach. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Has the Taoiseach looked again at the ill-judged decision to have the citizenship referendum on the same day as the local and European elections in light of the amount of advice that has been given on this? Does he now accept that there is not going to be a need for a referendum on the price of property, as he said before, given the all-party committee's report? What legislative response will the Taoiseach give in the light of that decision?

On 17 February I asked the Taoiseach in the House if it was intended to hold a referendum or referenda during 2004. In his reply he said the Government "has no proposals at present to hold a referendum to change the Constitution". On 14 January, more than a month before that, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government notified the Department of Finance that there were strong indications that a further ballot paper would be required for polling on 11 June and that additional e-voting machines had been procured.

Can the Taoiseach explain why that information would have been in the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Finance more than a month before he replied to my question of 17 February? He made no reference to this information nor admission or indication of such consideration, let alone of a decision. Was it not disingenuous at best of the Taoiseach not to have referred to that information which must have been available to him?

Does the Taoiseach not accept that, in light of the continual requests of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution for comprehensive consultation and legislative scrutiny of all constitutional referenda proposals, the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill should have been referred to that committee in the first instance as a matter of best practice? Does he agree that it is unacceptable that this matter has bypassed an Oireachtas committee and moved ahead to a referendum without consultation?

The matter of legislation on the property issue is being discussed by a number of Departments. I note what the report states, although I have not read all the documents on the property issue. The National Economic and Social Council report on housing is also due out shortly. That will be important and should be read along with the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. I also note that the committee's report states several times that the issue is not the price of land but the price of housing. To be frank, I do not believe that, although it is a finding from our constitutional committee. It is extraordinary. I have read the case study the committee offers to support that statement, but that does not match with what I live with and see every day. Maybe the committee members know much more than me. As I said to Deputy Rabbitte when we discussed this previously, if this problem can be dealt with through legislation, then we should examine that option closely and move on legislation.

I remember the arguments, the cases and the briefs I read extensively about Part 5. These matters are being discussed in a number of Departments. In recent years I have read a considerable amount on these issues. The report states that, perhaps, the Kenny report was over-conservative. Many examinations of the Kenny report have been carried out during the past 30 years, all of which state that the report is far too radical. It is a totally different interpretation of it. I make those points because I have read this subject over many years.

Will there be legislation?

I am not sure if that will solve the problem, but perhaps legislation is the way to proceed and then we will see what happens.

On the issue raised by Deputy Ó Caoláin, many of these issues are subject to discussion before a decision is finally taken. The rule is that one cannot prejudice Government decisions and one has to avoid making public statements or commenting on policy proposals that are not brought to Government or are under consideration by the Government. That is the rule of the Cabinet handbook.

It can spend public money in buying additional voting machines.

Sorry, Deputy Ó Caoláin, I want to call Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte.

The voting machines will be used in any event because there will not be a separate machine.

They will not be used now.

Aer Lingus might make use of them.

The Government is spending public money.

If Deputy Ó Caoláin wants to deny Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte the opportunity to submit a question he is going the right way about it.

On the second issue, in so far as this matter was covered in Oireachtas report, there was a clear view of what should happen in the 1996 Oireachtas review report. It thought we should legislate to amend the Constitution.

I assume Deputy Ó Caoláin would not want to deny his fellow Irishmen, Deputy Rabbitte and me the right to express an opinion here. It appears as if we are now in uncharted waters in respect of Judge Curtin. Today the Government decided to give him extra time.

If legislation has to be introduced for judicial regulation, I assume that would require an amendment to Article 35 of the Constitution. If that is the case, obviously it is uncharted waters and will require great sensitivity and thorough discussion and investigation, as would any amendment of the Constitution. It is good governance to bring the people with Government in dealing with problems. It appears from soundings that the Government will require the full co-operation of the House if these waters are to be entered. In that case, would it be good governance, from the Taoiseach's perspective, to withdraw the citizenship referendum, which is being rushed on the people without thorough investigation and analysis? There would then be the possibility of two serious referendums, on a date to be appointed later in the year, following full and thorough discussion at an all-party committee or whatever forum may be appropriate.

Following the debacle of the rushed judgment on electronic voting, serious consideration of an amendment to the Constitution should be fundamental to how the Government deals with its business.

Is the Taoiseach saying to the House that no heed should be paid to any answer he gives on this kind of generic question in the future because the Cabinet has not formally endorsed a referendum? Why did he tell the House on 17 February that there would not be a referendum when manifestly it was decided between himself and his Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that there would be?

If the Government is as determined this week as it was last week to impeach Judge Curtin and to impeach him without compensation, is that still——

That does not arise out of these questions.

I believe it does, Sir. Like Deputy Kenny I believe we will be forced down the road of a constitutional amendment. The question was put down not just to highlight the fact that the Taoiseach told the House one thing on 17 February and a different thing today. The question was tabled because we want to know whether the Government is contemplating——

This one may be held.

In all probability it will be held.

The question asks what constitutional referendum may be held; it does not deal with specific cases.

I agree it does not. I am positing a specific one. For as long as I have been a Member of this House, it has been possible to put in such a generic question and to tease it out by way of reference to a particular case. I ask the Taoiseach if his Government is as resolved this week as it was last week——

That does not arise out of these questions.

——to impeach Judge Curtin and whether he thinks it will be necessary for us to have a constitutional amendment to do precisely that.

On the first issue raised by Deputy Kenny, I do not agree with any of the points he made about the citizenship referendum. This issue was highlighted eight years ago. We tried to operate a particular system but abuses of the law in some respects were being practised more frequently. This will be a minor change. It will not have that great an effect on most people. It will have the effect of closing off an area. I do not see the necessity for further debate.

Regarding the other matter, the Government considered it today. As stated this day last week, it could be that the House may require changes in Standing Orders and it might require legislation. It is being examined by the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

My advice at this stage is that it does not cause a constitutional difficulty because the problem is how to make the mechanism work. This was tried in 2001 and some of those areas have to be revisited. The constitutional right of this House to deal with a member of the Judiciary by impeachment is already in place. Judge Curtin today asked for additional time and he will be given that.

The Government has also received the reports from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Síochána. Until a reply is received from Judge Curtin, there will be no decision made on the action to be taken on those reports.

How much extra time has Judge Curtin been allowed?

A fortnight. He asked for two weeks from today and he has been allowed two weeks from today to reply to the Government.