I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.
During the course of an address delivered in Rome during ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, announced that the Government considered it would be of value to institute open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and non-confessional organisations on the same lines as those provided for at European level in the draft European constitution. Accordingly, my Department will make contact with the churches and faith communities to invite them to participate in exploring how such a dialogue might be established and what its scope might be. When their views have been received, the Government will give further consideration to the matter and will decide at that point whether and, if so, in what way to proceed with the dialogue.
Clearly, the churches and faith communities make a very important contribution to the life of this country, not least through the participation of church representatives and church-based organisations, for example, in the National Forum on Europe and through social partnership. Any future structured dialogue which may be put in place will, of course, have to be open, inclusive and transparent and fully in accordance with the provisions of Article 44 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, which guarantees freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion.
I envisage that any such dialogue would in principle be capable of addressing any matter of mutual interest or concern. I do not envisage, however, that it would displace the existing and ongoing consultation and dialogue between churches and church-based organisations and the various civil authorities in matters of their functional responsibility.