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 Header Item Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 [Seanad]: Committee and Remaining Stages (Continued)
 Header Item Message from Seanad
 Header Item Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees
 Header Item Establishment of Independent Anti-Corruption Agency: Motion [Private Members]

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 899 No. 3

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Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch I thank everyone who has contributed. As well as mentioning John McCarthy tonight, it is important to mention the people who introduced this Bill in the Seanad in 2008. It seems such a long time ago, but I imagine that is because of the circumstances we have come through. The formers Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Dan Boyle, along with Senator Norris, were the original proposers of this legislation. We have amended it, but only to achieve the purpose they sought to achieve. That is an important point.

The numbers affected by this are not substantial in terms of the population. However, in terms of the effect, what it says about us and how far we have moved in the mental health area, it says a great deal, and that will continue to be the case in future.

Electroconvulsive therapy is controversial. I say to people that only way I can ever judge the matter is by asking how I would feel if someone belonging to me was despondent, catatonic and not eating or drinking. If someone said to me that a treatment was available and there was a possibility of it working, I imagine, like most of us, I would jump at it with both hands. That is really where this needs to be. It is a question of when it is at the last stage and it is the only possible remedy. That is why people are undecided about it. The word "unwilling" is unacceptable. If someone has capacity and says "No," then it is unacceptable.

Wider issues were raised. I very much understand what Deputy Healy has said and I have taken note of it. I have noted what other Deputies have said as well. We will have plenty of time to air these issues with the general scheme and the review of the Mental Health Act. I thank those involved for the work they have done. I have taken note of the concerns people have raised and I will make further inquiries. I am not deaf to these things - I hear them. Equally, when we are changing a service we need to allow time for the changes to bed in. Perhaps we have given it enough time and now it is time to look again. I am not making any promises. That is not something I do, as Deputy Healy knows well. However, I understand what he is saying.

I will bring the Bill before the Seanad on Thursday week, 17 December. Assuming the proposed amendments are passed, I plan to sign a commencement order in January 2016 with a likely effective date of 1 February 2016. We need to give the Mental Health Commission time to take a serious look at what this will mean, even for the small group of people affected.

I have received Government approval to develop the general scheme of a Bill and a review of the Mental Health Act. This is already being worked on. There will be substantial amendments, possibly up to 165 in total. Within these recommendations, we anticipate other issues arising.

I thank the Members of the Opposition for their co-operation. It is a sign of what we all know to be right and proper when the entire Opposition decides this is the right thing to do and no barriers are put in our way. It is a significant step. I believe that in years to come we will look back and, as with other areas, wonder what in God's name we were thinking. I thank Deputies for their co-operation. This is a measure well worth introducing.

Deputy Dan Neville: Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville I welcome the passage of the Bill. The removal of the word "unwilling" is very welcome. Now, the term is "willing." This involves consultation in all aspects of the treatment of patients with mental health illness by those providing services. I trust it will ensure a consciousness within the mental health services of the need to consult patients and their carers in respect of the treatment they receive.

There has been an approach over the decades in the psychiatric profession to the effect that they know everything and they should decide what happens without consultation. Let us consider any general medical treatment in hospital and cases in which a doctor discusses the treatment he is proposing and informs the patient of it. The same level of information and consultation and ensuring that the patient understands the treatment is vital in mental health treatment. It should be similar to the approach for physical treatment. Many psychiatrists do this, but too many do not.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Bill, which is considered to be a Dáil Bill in accordance with Article 22.2 of the Constitution, will be sent to the Seanad.

Message from Seanad

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Seanad Éireann has passed the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2015 without amendment.

Message from Select Committee

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has completed its consideration of the Credit Guarantee (Amendment) Bill 2015, and has made amendments thereto.

Estimates for Public Services 2015: Messages from Select Committees

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 29 – Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

  The Select Committee on Education and Skills has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 26 – Education and Skills.

  The Select Committee on Health has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 38 – Health.

Establishment of Independent Anti-Corruption Agency: Motion [Private Members]

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt There are 40 minutes in total in this speaking slot.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I will be sharing time with Deputy Shortall, Deputy McGrath and so on. We have sent in a list. I propose to take ten minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The list includes Deputies Pringle, Fitzmaurice, Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I move:

That Dáil Éireann:
recognises that corruption in public and commercial life represents a great threat to the democratic functioning of the State;

finds that culturally ingrained concepts of patronage, clientelism and favouritism have pervaded political institutions and have led to serious failures in corporate governance, particularly where inappropriate links between business and politics have been exploited;

concludes that such failings have eroded public confidence that politics and commerce operate to benefit the many over the few;

notes that Bunreacht na hÉireann places in the care of the Oireachtas a responsibility to ensure that the operation of free competition shall not be allowed to develop as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential commodities in a few individuals to the common detriment; and that the Oireachtas has failed to adhere to this guidance in recent years;

recognises that the State has no effective means of preventing, investigating or prosecuting corruption or white-collar crime as responsible agencies are too disconnected, lack appropriate powers, or lack necessary resources;

further notes:
— that prosecutions arising from cases of proven corruption have been rare;

— the failure of the Government to adequately act on the findings of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments (Mahon Tribunal) nor the Tribunal of Inquiry into Payments to Politicians and Related Matters (Moriarty Tribunal);

— that there have been eight tribunals of inquiry in the past twenty years, and where they made findings of impropriety in public or commercial life, very few consequences, if any, have arisen; and

— that five commissions of investigation are currently in operation, and that in some cases, commissions have sought additional powers to ensure they can fulfil their terms of reference; and
recommends, in order to effectively address these matters, that the Government:
— establish a permanent, independent Anti-Corruption Agency to, initially, assume the functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission; the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; the Registrar of Lobbyists and the Competition Authority, but not confined to these bodies;

— mandate the Anti-Corruption Agency to act as a Standing Commission of Investigation;

— confer the Anti-Corruption Agency with powers of:
— investigation;

— compellability and testimony-taking;

— court-authorised search and seizure, including access to bank records;

— prosecution at District and Circuit Court level only; and

— arrest;
— empower the Anti-Corruption Agency to initiate and conduct investigations and sectoral reviews of its own volition;

— consolidate and reform legislation tackling corruption, official malfeasance and white-collar crime, and place the Anti-Corruption Agency at the apex of the State’s legislative architecture countering corruption;

— confer the Anti-Corruption Agency with a monitoring and investigative role over public procurement activities, both ongoing and historic;

— mandate an advisory role, initially upon the Anti-Corruption Agency in relation to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; the Comptroller and Auditor General; the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces; the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation;

professional bodies and any future Electoral Commission, but not confined to these bodies;

— draw on the experience in other jurisdictions in establishing an Anti-Corruption Agency, in particular the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) of Victoria, Australia, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the United Kingdom, and the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption;

— create a new joint Oireachtas oversight committee, to be called the Public Interest Committee, a majority of whom shall be Opposition members; and

— establish annual reporting by the Anti-Corruption Agency to both Houses of the Oireachtas, and ensure reports are debated in both Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.”

I wonder whether it is really appreciated how upset people feel after the programme on RTE last night about corruption. They are upset because they do not believe there will be consequences. Their ambition for this country is bigger and better than what we saw last night. This applies across the spectrum, from people who are living on social welfare to wealthy people.

  In the past year I have met many business people who want a business culture in which everyone is playing by the same rules. Many are demoralised and some are embarrassed, particularly when it comes up in front of international colleagues, by a system they believe gives a major advantage to insiders - in other words, those in power or those who are well connected.

  Only 100 years ago on this island we were subjects. We are about to commemorate a blow that was struck that allowed us to become a sovereign State. The ambition went beyond that, to a republic in which each citizen is equal. That was the aspiration. Those involved aspired to create a state in which people had individual rights but no one had absolute rights, one in which rights would be measured against the common good. They envisaged a state in which the common good would be upheld by those in authority on behalf of the individual citizen. They believed only this would ensure a genuine republic.

  Last week the Social Democrats launched a proposal for the establishment of a new body to tackle corruption and white-collar crime in Irish life - an independent anti-corruption agency. There can be no denying that in Ireland we do not have an effective means of preventing, investigating and prosecuting corruption. We deal with it in the aftermath rather than opting for prevention. We have a fragmented approach which ensures that many things go unchecked and unpunished. We need a consolidated, overarching approach if we are to tackle corruption effectively. That is the premise on which the independent anti-corruption agency is placed.

  We are proposing a root-and-branch reform of the anti-corruption regime in Ireland, similar to that recently undertaken in Victoria, Australia.

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