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 Header Item Mental Health Parity Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Mental Health Parity Bill 2017: Referral to Select Committee [Private Members]
 Header Item Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Order for Report Stage
 Header Item Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 968 No. 4

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  6 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy James Browne: Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne] Only one out of 165 recommendations has been implemented to date. Where is the Bill to give powers to the Mental Health Commission so that it can have powers equal to those of the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, to investigate 24-hour residential community care centres? Why was the role of the director of mental health removed by the HSE this year? Why has the number of referrals seen by child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, dropped by more than 2,000, from just over 12,000 to just over 10,000? All of this reflects the fact that mental health simply is not being given priority in the Department of Health. That was the catalyst to bringing forward this Bill. This Bill mimics and reflects similar legislation in the UK. There is little or no reason for the Government not to be able to enforce this legislation. The Minister of State seemed to imply there would be some sort of difficulty in doing so. It was flagged several months ago with the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health and it is a pity that he is not here to hear the closing speeches. It was flagged with him several months ago so it was no surprise that this Bill was coming forward.

I believe that the lack of parity for mental health is partly due to a deep-seated cultural issue at policy, institutional and organisational levels and at individual levels at the height of the Department of Health. It is seen as something other and something lesser within the Department and it is not given the priority that it deserves. The previous Fianna Fáil Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2017 that came through the Houses is now on Final Stage in the Seanad, having worked its entire way through the Dáil. I expect it will pass all Stages in the Oireachtas within the next two months. I intend to pursue this Bill with the same drive as that with which that Bill was pursued and I will not let it rest there. I commend this Bill to the House.

  Question put and agreed to.

Mental Health Parity Bill 2017: Referral to Select Committee [Private Members]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Health pursuant to Standing Orders 84A(3)(a) and 141.

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Order for Report Stage

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I move: "That Report Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, line 25, after “body” to insert “(including a member of a local authority)”.

This is an amendment to paragraph (j) of the definition of "Irish official" in section 2 of the Bill. This amendment is to provide explicitly that members of a local authority are included in that paragraph. Concerns were raised on Committee Stage about the wording here. I said on the occasion that I felt that public officials were covered by way of a more general description in the Bill. I was satisfied that there was sufficient reference to local authority members in the previous wording. I accept what Deputies Ó Laoghaire and O'Callaghan had to say. I do not see any harm - in fact, I see merit - in clearly stating that this section applies to that category of officials, as suggested on the occasion by Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Laoghaire. I hope that this amendment will assuage the Deputies' concerns as evidenced in the earlier part of the debate.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan I welcome the amendment put forward by the Minister. We will support it. As the Minister indicated, this is a proposal that we put forward on Committee Stage. I am now on a very technical reading of the Bill as it was drafted. When one looks at Schedule 1, under "Irish Public Bodies", in paragraph (j), there is a reference to "a local authority". However, I think because of history and the importance of local government in Ireland that it is appropriate that local authorities should be spelled out expressly in the interpretation section of the legislation. I welcome what the Minister has done.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire The Minister has taken on board the point we made. It is fair to say that there have been issues in the past with corruption that have centred around local authorities. It is important to acknowledge that, similar to other public representatives and elected persons, we should identify members of local authorities specifically, and I thank the Minister for taking the point on board.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I note section 2 says it relates to members of a local authority. Irish public bodies, as we know, is an umbrella movement loosely representing all local authorities and operations of local government. It took some time for the Minister to accede to the request to have a separate mention for local authority members. It rings hollow because local authority members and local government have been decimated by the previous Government with all the attacks on and the banishment of local authorities as we knew them. In my county, there were five or six of them. It has happened to town, urban and district councils such as the borough council for Clonmel which used to be and may still be the biggest inland town in the country. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to hold a plebiscite to see if they could be reinstated, if the public wanted them, on a no-cost basis. I have not heard a word about it since the Minister closed the books that evening, almost two years ago now. There has not been a mention.

The acceptance by the Minister of this amendment to the Bill is certainly welcome because in the times when I was a member of the local authority, I did not feel that Irish public bodies was that caring and nurturing of local authority members. One could get lost in the system and the whole cumbersome nature of IPB and its dealings with Government, Ministers and officialdom at a national level. It was a national organisation, as we all know, but sometimes it did not represent its members.

It is important for any legislation to address any person who is elected to a local authority. Local authorities are now nearly a third of a Dáil constituency.


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