Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed).

Commissions of Investigation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach if all costs associated with the MacEntee commission have been discharged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17138/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

2 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the further action he has demanded of the British Government in regard to collusion, including recommendations arising from the reports of Mr. Justice Barron and the resolution passed by Dáil Éireann in March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18722/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

3 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he has received a request for a meeting with the Justice for the Forgotten organisation; if he will meet with it; if he has raised with the British Prime Minister the contents of the motion passed by the House in March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19447/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.

Mr. Patrick MacEntee, sole member of the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings 1974, handed over his final report on 12 March 2007 and it was published on 4 April 2007. The total amount spent on the commission of investigation was €2,632,702. All costs in regard to the commission of investigation have been discharged.

I have not received any request for a meeting with Justice for the Forgotten. During my recent meeting with Prime Minister Brown, our discussions focused on the Northern Ireland investment conference and recent developments in Northern Ireland. The British Government is fully aware of the position of the Government and of all of the parties in the House with regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Pat Finucane case and the question of collusion generally. As Robin Eames and Denis Bradley reminded us last Thursday, the painful legacy of the past remains an enormous challenge to securing a shared, peaceful and prosperous future on this island. We all want to deal with this in a manner which allows all sections of the community to face the future with confidence. The best possible response to the tragedies of the past is to ensure they can never happen again.

Does the Taoiseach agree that the outcome for the victims and their families has been very unsatisfactory in that closure has not been brought? Does he agree also that at the very least the families expected that those responsible would be identified, and does he expect that to happen?

In view of the collusion that was identified in respect of security forces and the perpetrators of those atrocities, the Taoiseach rightly pointed out that the British Government is well aware of the situation — so it is — but does he agree that it has been a complete denial of justice by the British Government not to provide the information that the Government requested on a number of occasions? While the Taoiseach did not take up that issue with Prime Minister Brown in respect of the Northern Ireland investment conference, can I take it that he will raise it with him? If any government is serious about an issue, it needs to bring finality, closure and justice to it. The information held by the British Government and being denied to the inquiry has resulted in Justice for the Forgotten — the relatives of the victims — being in as much in pain now as when the atrocities happened. Does the Taoiseach agree that this is information that should be made available in order to conclude the matter once and for all, and will he raise that with Prime Minister Brown at the next appropriate occasion for him to do so?

That is an ongoing matter between both Governments in terms of trying to advance the issues, the long length of time since it has happened and despite every effort, including the establishment of the commission of inquiry, the provision of the Barron reports and the work of Mr. MacEntee, it has not been possible to get to the bottom of it. I have a particular interest in the matter as one of the victims was from my home town.

There was also one from mine. Members of Justice for the Forgotten were forced to go to court recently in order to get access to documents that had been made available to the MacEntee inquiry. This is being contested by the Government. Why does the Government want to contest this access? Is there some information the Government does not want to provide?

The relatives of the 11 people killed in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast recently visited Dublin to highlight this issue. Has the Taoiseach had a chance to review this case and does he plan to raise it with the British Government with a view to having it investigated further? The document they presented, 1971 Ballymurphy Internment Massacre, speaks for itself. A number of issues there deserve further consideration.

I have not dealt with that case. We have processes in place, including a secretariat and Ministers to take up these matters and, where appropriate, I will obviously take them up when an appropriate occasion occurs in a meeting between the British Prime Minister and myself. I have had reason to do that in the past in other capacities.

In defending the cases the State is honouring commitments of confidentiality given by Mr. MacEntee in the course of his inquiries. An appeal has been lodged and as this is before the courts I would not like to comment further on the matter except that we seek to honour the terms upon which that information was provided to Mr. MacEntee. It is a matter for the courts to decide whether it should be released.

The Taoiseach will recall that the Sub-Committee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights issued reports on the outcome of the independent commission of inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the three related Barron reports, including the inquiry into the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk and the other incidences in Castleblayney and Belturbet, to which I believe the Taoiseach referred in his earlier response to Deputy Kenny. The Taoiseach will accept that these reports cover a range of acts of collusion resulting in the deaths of many innocent people in this jurisdiction. The work of the committee was virtually unprecedented in the history of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

However, does the Taoiseach not agree that the work of the committee, the publication of the various reports and the decision of this Chamber in unanimously passing a motion in March 2006 have not had the impact on the British Government and politics in the neighbouring island that Members of this House of all opinion would have expected? Does he agree that the Houses of the Oireachtas must take whatever appropriate steps in order to ensure that it has the impact the issues involved clearly deserve? In that respect will the Taoiseach arrange for the reports I have cited, as the former Taoiseach indicated his willingness to do, to be formally endorsed by means of full debates on motions in both Houses of the Oireachtas?

Does the Taoiseach recall that the former Taoiseach invited such an opportunity if agreement could be reached on a motion to facilitate such a debate to address the issues that the Opposition voices are raising today? Will he agree, therefore, that that process should now proceed and that an agreed motion is well within the collective gift of all opinion reflected in this House, as was demonstrated two years ago? Does he agree that we need a process whereby the Speaker of the House of Commons in Britain would be formally informed of the passage of such a resolution and be requested to put the content and intent of such a message from these Houses before the Houses of Parliament in Westminster so that the matter would be considered by the British Parliament by request of these Houses?

Obviously I will check to ascertain my predecessor's views on these matters. If it is on the record of the House that he is in agreement, I do not have a problem with trying to devise a process that would allow the Houses of the Oireachtas, if they felt it appropriate, to state once again our position regarding these matters. Mr. Bradley and the former Archbishop, Lord Eames, indicated that they hope to address these specific atrocities in their report. It will be interesting to read the outcome of their deliberations and to see what ideas there might be to assist us in trying to get the greatest amount of information possible so that as much of the truth as possible about these dreadful events might be established. Clearly there have been difficulties in achieving that. The full co-operation of everyone is required.

In his reply to Deputy Kenny, the Taoiseach referred to these as "ongoing matters". This is 2008 and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings occurred on 17 May 1974. Some 34 years later for many of the survivors and bereaved of that day's terrible events in this city and in my home town, time has marched on significantly. For many of those directly caught up and their immediate families, the ageing reality and very much an ongoing concern is that they will never see the full truth and justice established.

Will the Taoiseach request the British Government, through the mechanism laid down in the Weston Park agreement, to allow an independent internationally recognised and respected judicial figure to have access to the documentation held by the British Government and all its varying arms in order to further establish what factual information is held by the British Government in all its various guises, documentation and information that clearly was withheld from Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Barronet al, including Mr. Patrick MacEntee? With time marching on, does the Taoiseach accept that as many of the bereaved families feel a great urgency that only through concerted effort by the Government and the collective weight of all represented opinion in this House working together — that is the approach we are taking, which I commend — we should seek the co-operation of the British Prime Minister to ensure such a process is put in train?

I have put this question to the Taoiseach's predecessor on a number of occasions.Given the great concern and the importance of the issue, would the Taoiseach consider approaching the British Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, on the basis of a specific Taoiseach to Prime Minister summit that would address all these long outstanding issues, referred to as acts of collusion by the British state and its agencies in carrying out a series of atrocities on this side of the Border over those years?

People will recognise the political background against which these efforts have been made. For example, mention was made into inquiries into a number of cases which affected both sides of the community were handled at the same time by Judge Peter Cory. I was there at the time. In that context we were able to have him investigate the Finucane and Nelson murders and the killing of the two policemen, Superintendent Bob Buchanan and the other gentleman whose name does not come to mind at the moment. It took considerable time and effort to ensure that occurred. We have had independent inquiries North and South arising from that, yet we still do not have an independent tribunal of inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane. We continue to try to address these issues. When one tries to advance these questions one hears the argument that there are other victims of violence for whom there will be no answers. The great tragedy of violent conflict is that innocent victims on all sides of the divide never find justice, having been denied the basic right to life.

That one tries to advance issues that, on their merits, are of such magnitude as what we are discussing here, and yet not find the core truth of the issue is disappointing in terms of the process established. It has also had varying effects on the relatives of victims in the reminder it has brought and the reliving of these traumatic events, which have had their detrimental side-effects. We must try to advance this issue to the greatest extent possible in the pursuit of truth, but also recognise there is a political context that makes it more difficult to achieve what one sets out to achieve. The disappointments that ensue as a result and the upset and revived trauma it causes can often result in a continuing no-win situation for these people. That does not deter or deflect one from trying to pursue the truth but I take cognisance of some of these issues. This is not because I do not want to pursue it but because I know this outcome also happens.

When we had statements here on the Barron report and the report of the Oireachtas committee at the beginning of the year there was considerable disappointment among the families of the victims that the opportunity was not taken to have an agreed, all-party motion on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and what needed to be done following those reports. This motion could have been similar to that passed in 2006 in connection with the Finucane case. Following the statements, my colleague, Deputy Joe Costello, wrote to the Taoiseach's predecessor suggesting proposing a draft all-party motion for consideration. Two questions arise from that. Does the Taoiseach agree in principle that there should be an all-party motion? I understood that is what he said when he replied to Deputy Ó Caoláin. Will he undertake to consider the draft that was submitted to his predecessor by Deputy Costello?

Some of the families took a court case arising from which the High Court made an order that the Government produce certain documents, which the Government has appealed to the Supreme Court. I heard the Taoiseach say he did not want to go any further into it because it is before the court. Can he give the House any idea when he thinks the Supreme Court might consider the matter? As has been said by previous Deputies, this happened 34 years ago and people have waited a long time for answers. If there will be prolonged litigation in the Supreme Court it will add to that. Has the Taoiseach any information on when the Supreme Court might deal with it?

I have no idea where it is on the Supreme Court's list, which as Deputy Gilmore knows, is a matter for the superior courts. Hopefully, as the Deputy said, it will be as soon as practicable and possible given, as he mentioned, the length of time and the particular subject matter we are addressing. As I said in an earlier response, I have no objection in principle to doing anything that would be regarded as being of assistance to the group concerned in terms of this House being given an opportunity on an agreed, all-party basis to comment on the situation with this ongoing, distressing saga for so many families. I will ask an official to deal with this matter and to begin work on consulting with parties in the House to see how we might advance that suggestion.

The Taoiseach's reply is very helpful. There was a desire for an all-party motion on this. As I said, the draft submitted by Deputy Costello seeks to have the Ceann Comhairle convey to the speaker of the British House of Commons the content of the motion and what is required following it and directs the Taoiseach to pursue the matter in certain ways with the British Government. That would be very helpful.

May I ask about the Supreme Court appeal of the High Court order to produce the documents? I appreciate that ordering the business of the Supreme Court is a matter for itself. However the appellant, in this case the Taoiseach, has some control over the speed with which the matter is progressed. Would the Taoiseach pursue that and see if the Supreme Court can deal with it sooner rather than later?

I do not think I, as the appellant, have any role in that matter since the papers have been lodged. However if there is any appropriate contact or inquiry I can make on it I will check it out.

Fire Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

4 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 6 March 2008 with persons (details supplied). [11397/08]

My predecessor in office, Deputy Bertie Ahern, met twice with the families of the two fire fighters who died last September responding to a factory fire in Bray, County Wicklow. He took the opportunity to convey the sympathy and condolences of the Government to both families on their loss. During the meetings, discussion focused on the concerns expressed by the families for the safety of the people of Bray and improvements to the fire services in the area, together with their call for an independent investigation into the tragedy. During the meetings he assured the families that the Government will address all the issues arising from the findings of current investigations. The families were also assured of the Government's commitment to support the development of modern, safe fire services for the community of Bray and nationwide.

When the families met the previous Taoiseach, they were very grateful for the opportunity. They met twice, as has been said, but there was an expectation that those meetings would lead somewhere. Is the Taoiseach aware that prior to those meetings a statement was signed by all the local Deputies, including Government Deputies, and all the other key players in regard to the fire service in the county, calling on the Government and the Taoiseach to set up an independent inquiry, to set up a national fire authority and to provide a full-time service for areas of large population like Bray? That is the context.

Will the Taoiseach state in detail what has happened since that statement was made and since the families were brought to meet the previous Taoiseach? This matter has gone on for a long time and, if anything, the service has been deteriorating rather than improving as a result of people being out sick and numbers being reduced. People's concerns are heightened in the town of Bray in particular.

As the Deputy knows, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Wicklow County Council, the Health and Safety Authority and the Garda Síochána each announced it was carrying out an investigation into the fire, so three inquiries are currently underway, each dealing with particular aspects of the tragedy. In these circumstances, it is best to await the outcome of the inquiries and then decide what next steps could be considered or taken. The then Taoiseach indicated we would seek to address all issues arising from the findings of those investigations which remain current and, hopefully, they can be brought to a conclusion as soon as is practicable.

It is over eight months since the fire happened and although the three investigations were set up relatively quickly, we still have no reports and there is no sign of an independent investigation being established. Given that the Taoiseach's Department, and the Taoiseach's predecessor, took a particular interest in this matter, will he pursue it with the three bodies which are carrying out these reports, ask them to come to a conclusion and report back so we can begin to respond to the concerns that have been expressed and the suffering that has arisen for these families? It deserves attention and some kind of response that will have real meaning for the people of Bray.

As I said, I can make inquiries of them as to when they expect to have their inquiries completed, if that is in order, which I am sure it is. I will tell them the matter has been raised in the House and inquire in what way they can complete their investigations.

That would be helpful. I thank the Taoiseach.

I remember when this tragedy occurred. I live less than three miles from where the fire took place and I know the families concerned. There was much shock at the time, locally and nationally, at what happened, namely, two firemen killed in the course of their work in what appeared to be a normal enough fire that they found themselves confronting. One of the issues was the astonishment shared by many people that a large town like Bray does not have a full-time fire service. One of the calls made at the time was for the establishment of full-time fire services under a national fire authority in large urban centres like Bray. Has any progress been made at Government level to advance the idea of the fire service being made full-time in large centres like Bray?

The provision of a fire service in its functional area is, as we know, the statutory responsibility of the local authority——

That is the problem.

——which is Wicklow County Council in this case. Without revisiting the issues raised at the time, I do not think it was a question of whether it was a part-time retained or full-time service. It was an unfortunate accident which occurred when two gentlemen——

We do not know that.

In so far as one's understanding of it is at the moment——

No, there is a different view.

Fine. If there is another view, that is fair enough. That is perhaps why we should await the outcome of these inquiries and wait for those who are competent in these areas to comment further. I am just giving the response to Deputy Gilmore's point. My understanding, subject to the outcome of the inquiries, is that this was not the critical issue in this case, although I am not seeking to raise a contention in this regard. This issue is a matter between the local authority, in the first instance, and others in the area, and that is where it is best dealt with.

The issue with which my Department had an involvement was in regard to ascertaining what arises from these current investigations. As I have said, I will inquire as to when they might reach finality so we can have a better idea and a further discussion thereafter.

Official Engagements.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

5 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach his plans for official trips abroad between 7 May and the end of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14616/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

6 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he will attend the fifth summit of the Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union in Peru on 16 May 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14617/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

7 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he will attend the EU-Asia summit which will be held in Beijing in October 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14618/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

8 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the foreign trips he will undertake during the remainder of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17131/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

9 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the official trips abroad he plans for the remainder of 2008. [20812/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 9, inclusive, together.

On 8 May, I travelled to Belfast to attend the Northern Ireland investment conference. I also had meetings with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, the First Minister, Dr. Paisley, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr. McGuinness. On 24 May, I travelled to Cardiff to meet the First Minister of Wales, Mr. Rhodri Morgan, and I also attended the European rugby cup final between Munster and Toulouse on the same day.

With regard to my travel plans for the remainder of 2008, while the programme has not yet been finalised, I intend to travel to the European Councils in June, October and December in my role as Head of Government. I have received a letter of invitation to the Europe-Mediterranean summit in Paris on 13 July. I have not yet had an opportunity to consider the matter but hope it will be possible for me to attend. I also expect to travel to the seventh Asia-Europe summit — the ASEM summit — which takes place in Beijing at the end of October.

The fifth summit of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union took place in Lima, Peru on 16 and 17 May. The Irish Government was represented by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for overseas development, Deputy Peter Power.

What matters were discussed at the meetings which the Taoiseach had with the Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, in Belfast on 8 May and with the First Minister of Wales, Mr. Rhodri Morgan, on 24 May? Has he received any invitation or has he plans to travel to the opening of the Olympic Games? Has any invitation been extended to the Government to attend the opening and what is the attitude of the Government towards such an invitation? Is it intended that the Government will be represented at the opening of the Olympic Games?

I met the Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, at the airport in the first instance when I arrived and we had a bilateral discussion on our own for about half an hour. I had known Mr. Brown when he was Chancellor and we discussed many issues and had a general political discussion. We joined officials thereafter and discussed issues of bilateral interest between Britain and Ireland, the Northern peace process obviously being an important element of that but not the only one. We discussed how we might be able to review the relations that exist between Britain and Ireland to ascertain what way we can advance them during our respective tenures in office, being relatively recent incumbents.

I also joined the Prime Minister at the investment conference and spoke with him there. We were joined by others and met investors and potential investors who attended the conference at Stormont. I also attended a meeting with Sinn Féin before the dinner took place, attended the dinner and met various functionaries and others.

In regard to my trip to Cardiff, I previously met the First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, in Ireland while I was serving in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. We discussed relations between Wales and Ireland and attended the match afterwards. Obviously, the British-Irish Council is the context in which discussions can be advanced between us and with others in terms of the east-west connection under the Good Friday Agreement.

I do not think the Taoiseach responded to my question on the Olympic Games.

We have worked hard to develop a good working relationship with China, a country of great importance and complexity. Where issues arise, they are dealt with through dialogue and engagement. EU Ministers have not supported the calls for a boycott of either the Olympic Games or the opening ceremony. Instead, the importance of continuing to deal directly and frankly with the Chinese Government on these issues is stressed on a regular basis.

When the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, met on their own, did they discuss tactics or did the Prime Minister advise the Taoiseach to be careful about certain things because they could go south very quickly?

He would not be as obsessed by his opposite number as Deputy Kenny.

I am not privy to these discussions and I do not know what advice was given. Perhaps they should continue to meet on a regular basis because it could be of advantage to those of us who sit over here.

What is the Taoiseach's view of the economic conference in the North? The European People's Party, with which Fine Gael is aligned, believes tax competition is the way forward, yet a number of business people would argue that it is difficult to attract foreign direct investment to Northern Ireland while its corporation tax rate is much higher than ours. Did the Taoiseach discuss that matter with the Prime Minister and does the latter continue to hold an entrenched view? He was previously completely opposed to giving special tax designation to Northern Ireland on the basis that the island could develop as an economic entity.

Deputy Crawford has on a number of occasions raised a matter of considerable interest to him. Apparently, Irish taxpayers are to fund a motorway in the Six Counties which will narrow to a single carriageway once it enters the Republic. Did the Taoiseach take an interest in that and what will be the outcome of the matter as he sees it?

As we have said on many occasions in respect of the decision which will be made on the Lisbon treaty on 12 June, the issues raised have covered a broad spectrum of truth and untruth. I ask the Taoiseach to reaffirm a fact that I know myself, namely, that the treaty is not self-amending.

I am not sure that the Deputy's inquiry is captured in the scope of his original question.

I am sure the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be flexible.

I am sure the Deputy will construct the question in such a way that makes it in order.

I am sure the Taoiseach discussed the matter with the Heads of State.

It is a preoccupation of mine.

I ask him to reaffirm that, in the event of future changes being made to European policy, Irish people will again have the opportunity as set out in the Constitution to decide by referendum on whatever question arises. We have made that clear on many occasions but there are those who do not want to accept it.

I can confirm what the Deputy had to say regarding the latter matter.

On the question of taxation policy in other jurisdictions, that is a matter for the governments of those jurisdictions. The matter was raised by investors at the question and answer session and the Prime Minister outlined his well-known view that when one takes account of allowances and other arrangements, the net position compares favourably to our 12.5% rate. These are matters to be constantly considered by investors. It is fair to say that Northern Ireland has been improving economically for some time, particularly as the peace process becomes, hopefully, bedded down. They have areas of competitiveness and, even if it is not possible to achieve exact parallels between North and South on corporation and other tax rates, the logic of the island economy as a whole means that in respect of many projects, packages can be devised which derive benefits from the competitiveness on both sides of the Border. I would like to see more such efforts on marketing both sides together and various agencies are active in that regard. We have to continue to co-operate and build trust between us in respect of these areas.

In my former position as Minister for Finance, I have been able to work with the First Minister elect — if his nomination proceeds tomorrow — to market the island for financial services and to reap the benefits that result from an island approach in terms of providing additional jobs on both sides of the Border. That represents a pioneering effort on our behalf and shows how others can do likewise in the future.

It is more than ten years since the launch of the concept of marketing the island of Ireland in a tourism sense. This concept will stand up to any test because neither Government can allow it to fail. As somebody who gets the occasional opportunity to walk around a golf course, I see the need for a massive effort this year to promote the island of Ireland for next year. Many of the links courses along the west coast have experienced decreases of 2,000 rounds of golf by American visitors due to the fall in the dollar and because Americans do not travel during presidential election years. We know who these people are and I suggest that the authorities in Northern Ireland and Fáilte Ireland should put their heads together with a view to launching a campaign to recover that ground next year. We are competing against Scotland and other countries. In the context of quality, we can be justly proud that golf courses in County Donegal and Northern Ireland are making arrangements for future Irish Open competitions but if incentives were provided now by the Six Counties and the Republic, they would pay dividends.

Were discussions held on the matter raised by Deputy Reilly and referred to by the Minister for Health and Children during our debate on cancer services, namely, that cross-Border co-operation on cancer services should have been much better, whether between Letterkenny and Altnagelvin or Enniskillen and Sligo? That seems to have been the reason that the national cancer strategy opted for a satellite unit in Letterkenny on a geographical basis. Has the Taoiseach a view on that given that health crosses all borders? Both Governments should give serious consideration to this matter with a view to providing services for all patients, irrespective of from where they come.

I am a strong proponent of co-operation between the North and the Republic in all areas and in every possible way because I believe it represents the best deal for the taxpayer and the best way by which the country can progress. The CAWT initiative has been ongoing in the health area for many years and a co-operation agreement has been reached, for example, between the north east and Daisy Hill in Newry for renal services. Arrangements have also been put in place in respect of Altnagelvin. Anything that improves patient care and increases co-operation between clinicians in order to enhance the prospects of patients on both sides of the Border is not only to be welcomed, but is also common sense.

In regard to the tourism issue, Tourism Ireland markets the island as a whole. As Deputy Kenny noted, tourism from the United States will be under pressure this year due to exchange rate issues and because this is an election year. I am aware concerns exist in that regard. However, it must be remembered we are working off a higher base. Anything that can be done to restore previous levels of activity from next year will be done. I will bring the matter raised by the Deputy to the attention of the relevant agencies.

These questions cover quite a spectrum of matters. On attendance by members of the Government at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics or at the events that will take place during the games, will the Taoiseach clarify the position in respect of his indication regarding official representation at any or all of the events in question? Has the Taoiseach given consideration to visiting the United States before the presidential election there later in the year?

My final question relates to the meeting between the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on 14 April. Is the current Taoiseach aware of whether his predecessor raised with Chancellor Merkel her statement on the Lisbon treaty in the European Parliament on 27 June 2007 to the effect that "The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact."? Is Chancellor Merkel's view, which she repeated in the interim, shared by the Taoiseach?

In respect of the question on China, I am of the belief that one should not mix sport with politics. We should show solidarity towards those who will be competing, in the spirit of the Olympic Games and all it represents. I am strongly of the view that since its reconstitution, the Olympic movement has been a unifying factor. The boycotts of the Olympic Games in Moscow and Los Angeles did not assist matters in any way. We have a responsibility to bring to the attention of the Chinese any issues about which we are concerned and this should be done in a frank and appropriate way in the context of our normal bilateral relations. I do not have available to me details of the arrangements with regard to who will be attending the Beijing games on the Government's behalf. We should show solidarity with those sportspersons who will represent this country at the Olympic Games.

I have not yet finalised arrangements in the context of making a further visit to the United States. However, I have indicated my willingness to travel there and I am waiting to receive final confirmation. I will work hard to achieve that.

I am not aware of the statement the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made on 27 June of last year. However, I had the opportunity to meet her on that occasion before the then Taoiseach had dinner and discussed business with her. She has been very supportive of those campaigning for a "Yes" vote in the referendum on the Lisbon reform treaty. Germany has been a great friend to Ireland during its membership of the EU. I am glad to know that Chancellor Merkel is a strong supporter of the "Yes" campaign.

Does the Taoiseach agree with her view?

I would have to check the Deputy's quote in that regard before I could comment. I am sure he provided a full and complete quotation.

It is accurate.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.