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 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019: First Stage
 Header Item Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Cabinet Committee Meetings

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 991 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Malcolm Byrne: Information on Malcolm Byrne Zoom on Malcolm Byrne] Does he share my view that this attempt to smear the leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, an excellent candidate who would turn up to represent the interests of this island, should be condemned by all free and fair-minded democrats?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Just on the principle of an electoral commission.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy We will bring the legislation to Cabinet, I hope, in the next week.

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019: First Stage

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 (as amended) to enable complainants to be heard and legally represented in relation to applications to adduce evidence about the clothing worn by a complainant at the time of the alleged offence; to amend the provisions in respect of previous sexual history evidence and to provide for related matters.

Táim ag roinnt mo chuid ama le Teachta Martin Kenny. Approximately 12 months ago, it was reported that in a rape case in Cork, the defence lawyers introduced as evidence a lace thong belonging to a 17 year old complainant. It was an appalling and indefensible strategy that clearly implied that the victim was in some way responsible or to blame. The dreadful approach taken by the defence team in this case rightly drew criticism here and internationally. It was discussed in the Dáil when Deputy Coppinger brought the issue up. She quoted the barrister, who said:

Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.

This was an appalling commentary and it was of no evidential value. Ultimately, it was an extremely cynical strategy.

  It was clear to me and to Deputy Martin Kenny as a consequence of this that there are not adequate protections for victims of rape and sexual offences to prevent this kind of behaviour, which has no evidential value. We have tried to fix this clear failing in the law. The legislation we are bringing forward tackles the use of references to clothing of the complainant in sexual offences trials. It would also ensure that there are greater safeguards to sexual history evidence being introduced. The manner in which this will work is that where it is sought to introduce clothing evidence, the defendant must make an application to the judge, who would have a hearing without the jury but with the legal representatives of the defence, the prosecution and, crucially, legal representation for the complainant, before deciding whether it would be admitted. This procedure exists in respect of sexual history. It could only be admitted if it was the case that it would not be possible for the defendant to have a fair trial without it being introduced. It is a very reasonable and sensible Bill. The other reform it introduces is that the complainant would be represented in any hearings on admissibility. That is not currently the case.

  There was no evidential value for the introduction of that evidence at the time. It was a form of victim blaming, which caused disgust in Ireland and throughout the world. We need to ensure that where evidence is introduced such as clothing or sexual history, it is done in a way that is relevant to the case and that there are safeguards. We need to ensure that it is not introduced in such a way as to impugn or shame the complainant or in a way that has no evidential value. This legislation has great value and will improve the conduct of sexual offences trials in this jurisdiction.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny This Bill is warranted in the context of so many young women who fall foul of sexual violence and sexual attack and do not come forward. Very often, they do not come forward because of what they read in the newspapers and because of the atmosphere around all of that. They see these trials as a re-victimisation of the person and a degradation of their humanity. That is what happens in many cases when we have this type of aggressive cross-examination. The introduction of clothing in that manner, in that particular case and in others, has shone a bright light on the situation. As Deputy Ó Laoghaire pointed out, the Bill is about dealing with this specific aspect. If we deal with that aspect, we will have the opportunity to reassure people that the State is on the side of the victim and that we are not just allowing this type of situation to continue as it has for so long. Many women whom I have spoken to and I am sure many of us in this House have spoken to have been traumatised by what has happened to them and to their friends and colleagues in the past. It would be an appropriate step for this House to bring this Bill forward along with more legislation that I am sure is badly needed in this area.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)

Cabinet Committee Meetings

 1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [49039/19]

 2. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure last met. [49129/19]

 3. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure last met; and when it is next expected to meet. [50153/19]

 4. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Cabinet committee on infrastructure last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [51526/19]

 5. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of times the Cabinet committee on infrastructure has met to date in 2019. [51535/19]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on infrastructure last met on 4 November and is next scheduled to meet on 16 December. In 2019, Cabinet committee D met twice, and post the restructuring of Cabinet committees in July, the Cabinet committee on infrastructure has since met twice. The Cabinet committee works to ensure a co-ordinated approach in the areas of infrastructure investment and delivery, Project Ireland 2040, and Rebuilding Ireland. There is significant work under way across each of the areas covered by the committee through Departments, agencies and a range of interdepartmental groups such as the Project Ireland 2040 delivery board. These matters are also regularly considered at meetings of Government and in bilateral meetings with the relevant Ministers.

Significant work is continuing to deliver Project Ireland 2040. Recent projects delivered on budget include the M11 Gorey-Enniscorthy road, which was under budget, the N22 Tralee bypass, the Luas green line infrastructure and capacity upgrade, a 100-bed community nursing unit in Tymon North and the Cork radiation oncology unit, among others. Long-term projects under way include the national broadband plan, the contract for which is now signed, and the north runway at Dublin Airport, which is now under construction. The four funds launched under Project Ireland 2040 have a total of €4 billion to invest. The first round of funding allocations under these funds, amounting to just over €150 million in 2019, have been announced. Second round calls have been launched for the disruptive technologies innovation fund and the rural regeneration and development fund, RRDF. A further call for the urban regeneration fund will be announced soon, and work is continuing on legislation to underpin the climate action fund, to be funded by a levy on the oil industry.

As we know, effective project delivery needs effective governance. The Government is considering some reforms to oversight and governance of project selection, appraisal and delivery. This includes updating the public spending code, which was approved at Government yesterday. Targeted interventions under Rebuilding Ireland are also working to respond to housing needs. In the 12 months to the end of quarter 3, more than 20,000 new dwellings were completed and we have seen strong growth in leading indicators such as planning permissions, commencement notices and housing registrations. Next year we will invest in excess of €2.6 billion in housing, making it the highest investment in housing by any Government in a single year since the foundation of the State.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny The Taoiseach mentioned various infrastructure projects that are going ahead throughout the State. All of that is welcome where it is happening. I want to take this opportunity to raise healthcare infrastructure, namely the Cuisle home in County Roscommon. It is unique infrastructure as a resort that provides for people with disabilities, which many people across the country use for respite. Even people from the North of Ireland travel and use that facility, which is run by the Irish Wheelchair Association, IWA. The community in Donamon is annoyed and frustrated to see this service being taken away from them and from the entire country. The Department of Health has been in contact with the IWA to see what assistance can be put in place. My understanding is that to date there has been a denial of funding to keep this infrastructure in place. It is vital that this be funded. The excuse being used that they do not own the building is clearly off the table as the owners have stated they have no difficulty in extending the lease and they have even stated that they are prepared to pay back the money they have received in rent over the past number of years to assist the redevelopment work that needs to be carried out in the facility.


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