Order of Business.

The Order of Business shall be as follows: No. 7, the Teaching Council Bill, 2000 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 8, the Interpretation Bill – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' Business shall be No. 67, the Twenty-First Amendment of the Constitution (No. 3) Bill, 1999, and that proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 October 2000.

There is one proposal to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.

The Taoiseach and I disagreed about a sporting matter last week, but he may agree with me about the sporting matter I wish to raise this afternoon. Will he join with me in congratulating the Irish athletes on their recent success in the Paralympics in Sydney, where we won two gold medals? These athletes have given great credit to their country.


Hear, hear.

Will the Taoiseach also take the opportunity to disassociate all decent minded people in the House from the snide and derogatory remarks made recently by a columnist in a Sunday newspaper? Those comments, in a materialist and barren way, seemed to devalue the achievements of these athletes merely because they cannot compete on the same level as able-bodied people. Surely it is the philosophy of sport that people ultimately compete against themselves and their limitations rather than against some theoretical objective standard laid down by an abstract norm. The achievements of our athletes at the Paralympics, because of the struggle they must make against their limitations to be successful, are as worthy of celebration as those of athletes, whether able-bodied or not, in other sports.

Will the Taoiseach, through this statement on the Order of Business, allow the House to congratulate all of our athletes participating in the Paralympics in Sydney, to extend a special message of congratulations to the medal winners and condemn the elitist and social Darwinist observations made by some people in relation to the human spirit?

As predicted by Deputy Bruton, there will be no arguments on this issue. Everyone in the House joins in congratulating all those involved in the Special Olympics which have been a great success. Our athletes have again done remarkably well.

I am always conscious that people should realise that sporting events, particularly the Olympic Games, are about participation. Whether one comes first or last is irrelevant, it is all about taking part. People involved in competition, be it at the Olympic Games or the Paralympics, like to do their best. At the Paralympics, Catherine Walsh jumped from fifth to third place and won a bronze medal in the women's pentathlon as a result of a personal best run in the 800 metres, Tom Leahy also achieved a personal best in his event and Gabriel Shelley did very well. I take this opportunity to join with Members in congratulating everyone involved.

I have asked the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Eoin Ryan, who is representing the Government in Sydney to pass on our best wishes to our athletes. I will contact Deputy Ryan again and state that it is the wish of the House to congratulate everyone involved on their efforts.

Anyone who criticises those taking part in the Paralympics does not understand the effort they invest in their events. Members will, at some stage, have attended the Community Games, in which special events are included, or watched the Dublin marathon, in which wheelchair athletes have put up great performances for over 20 years. Everyone must recognise the amount of effort that people with special needs or disabilities of any kind must invest in their events. In many ways, those taking part in the Paralympics are even more deserving of our praise and thanks than anyone else because they compete against enormous odds.

The Taoiseach is correct.

Anyone who criticises these people does not understand the effort they invest or the value of sport.

In the time honoured tradition, perhaps we could invoke the old saying "Sunday newspapers please copy".

Free speech is cherished by all Members of the House. However, with free speech there goes an obligation to show appreciation for other people and not to see things from a narrow point of view. Free speech should be celebrated but it should also be exercised in an atmosphere of charity and responsibility.

Has the Taoiseach had an opportunity during the past hour to check a statement he made earlier on the establishment of the international criminal court and whether a constitutional amendment is required in that regard? There is a clear indication in the Government programme that such an amendment will be required. Will the Taoiseach clarify the position?

I have not had an opportunity to check the position but I have spoken to a number of ministerial colleagues in respect of it. While my briefing notes indicated that an amendment would not be required—

Could the Taoiseach speak up? The sound system does not appear to be working well and we cannot hear him.

—two of my colleagues have informed me that it will be necessary to introduce such an amendment. I will clarify the position during the coming hours and I will send a note to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe in that regard. As matters stand, it appears what I said earlier was wrong.

Item 24 on the Government's programme provides for an amendment.

I am glad the Taoiseach has clarified the issue somewhat. Will he indicate when the referendum will take place? We cannot ratify the Rome statute on the international criminal court or contribute to the court's establishment until the referendum is held. Will the Taoiseach, as Deputy Bruton requested earlier, give priority to doing what is necessary in order that we—

The Deputy should submit a question on this matter.

This matter relates to promised legislation. Item 24 of the Government's programme applies.

The Taoiseach on promised legislation.

The intention was that the referendum would take place early next year.

Given that there was no formal conclusion from the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Biarritz, there can be no debate or statements on that matter in the House. Is it the Government's intention to publish a White Paper prior to the Nice summit in December?

It is my intention to set out our position in detail in approximately one week from now. We will not be publishing a White Paper but I will ensure that my speech is circulated to all Members.

Has progress been made regarding the publication of the Bill dealing with the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law? The legislation to which I refer was to have been enacted this month but I understand that difficulties arose in the form of a difference of opinion between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform—

The Deputy should ask a question on the legislation.

—and the all-powerful president of the radical party. Will the Taoiseach indicate when we can expect the Bill to be published?

The Government authorised the drafting of the heads of the Bill in September. It will be circulated during this session.

(Mayo): Given that the cost of the mini CTC rail signalling system is overrunning by a massive £35 million, is there any possibility of bringing forward the rail safety Bill as a matter of urgency to help resolve this debacle?

The heads of the Bill will be before the Government shortly and the Bill will be introduced next year.

Last Wednesday the Taoiseach informed the House that at a Government meeting earlier that day the amendments to the Children Bill had been cleared by Government and would be published shortly. Members on this side of the House, perhaps naively, took it that the Taoiseach meant they would be published within 48 hours. To the best of my knowledge, those amendments, if they have been published, have not been distributed to Members occupying offices in the Leinster House 2000 office complex. Will the Taoiseach indicate when they will be published and when the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be in a position to inform the chairman of the relevant committee that it is prepared to proceed with Committee Stage?

In another three and a half years.

That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

I am sure Deputy Quinn is correct in stating that they have not been circulated. However, they were cleared last Wednesday morning. I will try to arrange for their immediate circulation.

When will the promised courts and court officers Bill be circulated and will the Taoi seach indicate whether it will contain a new title for the putative president of the radical party?

The first part of the question is in order.

This session.

In view of the Government's continued failure to deal with the housing crisis, planning delays and traffic gridlock, when will Statements on Housing, Planning and Transportation, be resumed in the House?

That is a matter for the Whips and not for the Taoiseach.

The matter is on the Order Paper. When will it be discussed by the House?

In view of the grave dissatisfaction of many farmers with the way appeals against the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development are dealt with, when will the Agricultural Appeals Bill, 2000, come before the Dáil?

Early next year.

Arising out of the Commission on the Newspaper Industry a number of proposals were made, including one to appoint an ombudsman for the newspaper industry. In the context of a hurtful and ignorant article in last Sunday'sSunday Independent, are there plans to implement this proposal?

No legislation is proposed. There may have been some discussions on the matter.

The Deputy should submit a question on this issue.

While I respect your ruling on Standing Order 31, the EU sees the waste crisis as a matter of national importance. Given that the EPA (Amendment) Bill will not come before the House in the near future, will the Taoiseach make a statement on the EU threat to impose enormous fines on Ireland for our failure to tackle the waste problem?

That question is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Will the EPA (Amendment) Bill be brought forward so that we can get to grips with this crisis?

The heads of the Bill have been approved by Government and the Bill is being drafted. It will not be published until the middle of next year.

Given that 28 homes in Bal lybough in the north inner city, in which families are living, will go for auction tomorrow without regard for those families, will the Taoiseach, as a matter of urgency, bring forward promised legislation regarding security of tenure arising from the report of the Commission on the Private Rented Sector? Does the Taoiseach regard this auctioning of people's homes as unacceptable ethically and morally?

The report is being examined and legislation will be required.

What is the Taoiseach's view of what is to happen tomorrow?

Many thousands of homeless people are sleeping on the streets. This is partly due to the accommodation crisis. The Planning and Development Act was signed by the President last August. When will the various sections of the Act be put into effect?

The legislation has been passed and it is a matter for the Minister to put the sections into effect.

It is nonsense to suggest to the House that the Whips order business. The Government Whip, on the instruction of the Government, brings business before the House and he pays the House the courtesy of informing the Opposition Whips of this. The Opposition Whips have no say in the ordering of business. It is a matter for the Government and not the Whips to order the business of the House.

Deputy Gilmore asked when a matter would be discussed in the House.

The ordering of business has nothing to do with me or the other Opposition Whips. It is entirely a matter for the Government, and the Government Whip carries the message to us. That nonsense has been perpetuated in the House.

Given the repeated assurances of the Minister for Public Enterprise that the ESB would not be privatised and her recent U-turn when she said she intended to sell the ESB, when will legislation for the sale of the ESB come before the House?

The Electricity Bill will come before the House shortly.

The Electricity Bill will not privatise the ESB.

The Minister for Public Enterprise is like a character in "The Simpsons".

What is Deputy Bruton like?

What is the position with regard to EU extradition legislation?

It will be published late next year.

Will legislation be required to facilitate the withdrawal of Aer Lingus from Kerry airport following the news today that the Aer Lingus tender is £2 million higher than any other? Will the Government consider an amendment to the Aviation Bill to ensure the continuation of an Aer Lingus service to Kerry and to the regional airports?

That does not arise on the Order of Business.

When will the Valuation Bill be introduced? It has been promised for some time.

The Bill has been published. It will be before the House in the next week or two.

(Dublin West): Since the Attorney General failed on the Radical Party issue, will the Taoiseach advise him that the only name left to him is the Redundant Party? The Prevention of Acts of Piracy Bill is on the list of proposed legislation. The Tánaiste may wish to move that Bill.

Many people complain to me that they receive replies from State agencies in English despite having written to the agencies in Irish. In view of this, when will the Official Languages Equality Bill, Bille na Gaeilge, be introduced?

The heads of the Bill are expected before Christmas. The Bill will be published next year.

When will the Bill to regulate the financial services industry be published and which Minister will sponsor the legislation?

On a non-mainstream radio station last night it was announced that the Attorney General, Mr. McDowell, has refused to join the Palestinians. That will be a great relief to the Israelis. Does the Taoiseach share the Attorney General's lack of confidence in his Progressive Democrats partners?

Work on the Bill is nearing completion. I am not sure which Minister will bring the Bill forward.