Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Election of Acting Chairman
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
 Header Item Road Network
 Header Item IDA Ireland Site Visits
 Header Item Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
 Header Item Judicial Council Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
 Header Item Teachtaireacht ón Dáil - Message from Dáil

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 266 No. 6

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach Gníomhach (Senator Gerry Horkan) i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Election of Acting Chairman

Clerk of the Seanad: I have to inform the House pursuant to Standing Order 12 that both the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach are absent from this meeting of the Seanad. It will be necessary, therefore, to elect a Member to perform the duties devolving upon and exercise the authority conferred upon the Cathaoirleach by Standing Orders for the period of absence of both.

  I will take proposals for Acting Chairman.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I propose that Senator Horkan act as Chair.

Clerk of the Seanad: Is it agreed that Senator Horkan take the Chair? Agreed. I call on Senator Horkan to take the Chair.

  Senator Gerry Horkan took the Chair.

Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I have received notice from Senator Michelle Mulherin that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to make a statement on the national roads infrastructure into north and east Mayo and to prioritise the proposed N26-N58-N5 road scheme to provide for east-west and north-south connectivity.

  I have also received notice from Senator Maura Hopkins of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to provide an update on the number of visits by IDA client companies to County Roscommon in the period 2017-19.

  I have also received notice from Senator Victor Boyhan of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to provide an update on the progress of the working group established to review sustainable rural housing guidelines following the "Flemish decree", and to publish all reports prepared by it.

  I have also received notice from Senator Rose Conway-Walsh of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to make a statement on the capitation funding model applied to the early years services in rural areas such as Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich, Westport, County Mayo.

  I have also received notice from Senator Catherine Noone of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to consider the allocation of funding to the Friends of Howth Maritime Museum to acquire the Department’s property on the West Pier in Howth, known locally as Mariner's Hall.

  I have also received notice from Senator Paul Gavan of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to make a statement on the peace process in Colombia and the continued assassinations of trade union, civil society and community leaders.

  The matters raised by the Senators are suitable for discussion. I have selected the matters raised by Senators Mulherin, Hopkins, Boyhan and Conway-Walsh and they will be taken now. The other Senators may give notice on another day of the matters that they wish to raise.

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Road Network

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I welcome the Minister to the House. I ask him to set in motion a process to prioritise a major road scheme for the N26-N58-N5. This is much-needed strategic infrastructure to provide north-south, east-west connectivity to towns such as Ballina, Crossmolina, Foxford, Swinford and to facilitate traffic from Erris and Belmullet in west Mayo that comes through Ballina.

  This is a very busy road. The N26-N58-N5 joins Ballina to Castlebar, the two largest towns in the county. Traffic counts show that every morning this segment of road between the two towns in the busiest. Multinational employers are predominant and in total there are 12 foreign direct investment, FDI, companies in Mayo, employing 4,800 people. Over half of the companies are based in Ballina and north Mayo. This leads to significant traffic as people travel in each direction to go to work. Coca-Cola and Hollister are major companies based in Ballina.

  The N26-N58-N5 is not up to standard. The N58, a considerable stretch of road from Foxford to Ballyvary, has now been reduced to a speed limit of 80 km/h because of road safety concerns. Equally there are problems on the N26 to Foxford and Swinford. There are plans for the N5, but I would like to have them linked into the N26-N58 road network.

  In the past, the N26 had been a priority in the national road scheme of Mayo County Council. That was the case until 2010 when An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for stage 2 of the N26 from Mount Falcon, just outside Ballina, to Bohola on environmental grounds. The road runs through a special area of conservation, the River Moy, where the Whooper swans spend the winter and it extends to the land either side of the river.

  Ballina, Foxford and to an extent Swinford are located on or beside the River Moy, so one cannot get away from the River Moy special area of conservation.

  Back in 2011 when I was a Deputy, I managed to secure a commitment from the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, that we should try to find a new route for the N26. Even though permission for the proposed road was declined by An Bord Pleanála, the significance of it has not disappeared. I am glad to say that in every budget from the Budget Statement of 2012 to date, moneys have been secured to try to find a solution. We now have a line on the map for the proposed road. We have gone through a process to allow for the upgrade of the N26. Thankfully we received planning permission for the upgrade of the worst stretch of the national primary route, from Cloongullane Bridge on the N26 just outside Swinford.

  We are in a situation where we are being crippled by environmental designation. Thankfully, we overcame the difficulties because I went to the Taoiseach and to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, under whose remit this comes and secured resources to sort out the issues on this small section of road, which was not the main road, to overcome the environmental concerns relating to alluvial woodlands and the freshwater pearl mussel.  Those hurdles were overcome, which shows that it can be done. The significance of and need for this road are as clear as ever. A total of €5 million was spent up to 2010 before An Bord Pleanála refused stage 2 of the N26 road project. More than €5 million has been spent to date, but there is only planning permission for one section of the N26. It is clear that there is a problem, but the need for progress is greater than ever.

  The project is a priority for multinational companies in the area. I have spoken to representatives of such companies and know that they would be happy to meet the Minister. They are trying to maintain their position and grow jobs, but they need infrastructure in order to so do. The project is also a priority for the chamber of commerce.

  Government policy in the form of Project Ireland 2040 states an objective is growing the population outside the big urban centres by more than 500,000. As the area badly needs this road, I ask that the project be looked at with fresh eyes and impetus and that the Minister prioritise it and speak to Transport Infrastructure Ireland about the case I have set out in the limited time I have with the forbearance of the Acting Chairman. The Minister should meet the significant stakeholders who cannot understand why there is not more emphasis on and priority given to the construction of this road.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Senator for raising this very important matter which she has been pursuing with a great deal of energy and vigour for a long time. I wish to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding of the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, the planning, design and operation of individual roads are matters for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

  Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, to which the Senator referred, the national development plan, NDP, has been developed by the Government to underpin the successful implementation of the new national planning framework, NPF. It provides the strategic and financial framework for TII’s national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. In the ten-year period covered by the plan, more than €11 billion will be invested in the road network.

  The NDP identifies two categories of national road improvement projects. The first covers projects to advance to construction subject to the satisfactory outcome of the project appraisal and development consent approval processes. The second covers projects at pre-appraisal and early planning stage which are being assessed, with a view to developing a pipeline of suitable projects for development. Overall, TII considers that, taking steady State and public private partnership commitments into account, the indicative NDP budget will allow the projects in the first category to be progressed and a pipeline of projects to be taken through early planning, but it will not be possible to take all pipeline projects through the development consent approval process or to construction stage within the timeframe of the NDP. Advancing projects in the second pipeline category will, therefore, be subject to prioritisation within the overall national roads programme and funding.

  The preferred route for the proposed N5-N26-N58, Turlough to Bohola and Swinford to Mount Falcon, road improvement scheme was adopted by Mayo County Council in July 2015. However, TII informed the council that the scheme could not proceed to the next phase, phase 3 design, at the time owing to funding constraints and the requirement for TII to focus on progression of the schemes identified for development during the period of the capital investment plan 2016 to 2021 and, subsequently, the NDP. TII continues to focus on these key objectives. In the interim, TII agreed that the N26, Cloongullane bridge realignment, project should progress as a separate minor improvement scheme in order to improve the safety of this substandard section of the route. The scheme involves the realignment of a 1.8 km section of the N26 at Cloongullane bridge and the construction of a new bridge over the River Moy. Mayo County Council submitted the scheme and the associated compulsory purchase order to An Bord Pleanála in November 2016. An oral hearing on the proposed road development was convened in March 2017 and An Bord Pleanála confirmed approval for the scheme in December 2018. Technical consultants procured by the council are undertaking detailed design of the scheme and preparing the tender documents. It is anticipated that the tender process for the main construction contract will commence before the end of 2019.

  On east-west roads in County Mayo, I am pleased to advise that Mayo County Council has received tenders for the N5, Westport to Turlough, scheme. It is expected that the contract will be awarded later in 2019. The project involves the construction of 20.3 km of type 2 dual carriageway from Westport to the east of Castlebar and a 2.5 km single carriageway link to the N59, Westport to Mulranny, national secondary road. It also includes a 2.5 km upgrade of the existing N59 at Barleyhill, two compact grade separated junctions, including overbridges, two bridges over the Westport to Dublin railway line, 13 road under-over bridges and six roundabouts. The project will have many benefits for County Mayo, including increased transport efficiency through a reduction in journey times over the length of the scheme, separating local and strategic traffic, improved road safety and a reduction in the number of accidents, as well as enhancing the environmental quality of the towns of Westport and Castlebar by removing through traffic.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I am well aware of much of the information the Minister has provided, although I thank him for providing it. This is about providing for proper connectivity for north and east Mayo. The Minister did not address the issue of grossly inadequate connectivity between Ballina and Castlebar or the reason there is a need for better connectivity east-west from north Mayo. One would not drive from Westport to Castlebar and on to Ballina or from Ballina to Castlebar in order to leave County Mayo; rather, one would go through Swinford in east Mayo. With respect, parts of the answer provided by the Minister are not relevant to the question I asked.

  This project is critical, as I hope the Minister recognises. I appreciate his statutory position, but that is not an acceptable excuse because the answer he has provided fails the people of north and east Mayo, as well as his Independent colleagues on Mayo County Council who are located in the area. He is failing the people in the Mayo association who live in Dublin, many of them in his constituency, and who see the project as a priority for this vast area of County Mayo.

  County Mayo is not compact; it is a big county with massive potential. We want to play our part, but this road project needs to be sorted. Where there is the political will, there is a way. I am intimately familiar with this and all other roads in County Mayo. TII has told me that it must receive some political guidance on how it should proceed. People in County Mayo have been crucified by environmental designation. I hope the Minister is seriously concerned that more than €10 million has been spent since 2010 and not one sod has been turned to improve any part of a national primary road in the area. This is crucifying social and economic growth. Is this not of concern to him? I am dismayed that he gave me a standard issue answer when I set out an authentic case.

  This road project has been a priority since before 2010. It is now as important, if not more important, than it was then. We are trying to hold onto our young people. What if the companies to which I referred were to uproot to a location where there are better roads, as is the case in many parts of the country? I ask the Minister to revisit this issue and listen to the parties concerned. It is not good enough to pass the buck to TII because I can show him correspondence in which I was told where the power lay. I implore him to take a second look at this issue and not to brush me off.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Senator for her impassioned plea on behalf of her constituents. I remind her that while she has stated she respects my statutory position in this matter, which is fair enough, she must also accept it. The fact is that under the Roads Acts, the planning and design of individual roads, the matters raised by the Senator, are ones for TII in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Pat Breen.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I also welcome the Minister of State. I want to raise the matter of the work IDA Ireland is doing in counties Roscommon and Galway. It is an issue the Minister of State is well aware of as he visited the IDA Ireland business park in Ballinasloe recently. IDA Ireland's quarterly results will be published later this morning and, therefore, it is timely to raise this issue, as my understanding is there have been no visits to Roscommon by IDA Ireland client companies so far this year and there have been just two visits to Ballinasloe. I met IDA Ireland officials last week and I was highly dissatisfied with the explanations as to why there are so few visits to counties Roscommon and Galway.

  It appears Roscommon and Ballinasloe, in particular, have fallen off the radar when it comes to IDA Ireland promoting the region. Much more needs to be done to prioritise investment in Roscommon and Ballinasloe. IDA Ireland officials said clearly to me last week that regional urban centres are performing well and this is positive. We know Galway city is performing well, as is Parkmore, which is overcapacity. However, job creation needs to be stimulated in a wider area than this. A greater balance in job creation must be achieved. For example, the IDA Ireland business park in Roscommon town has 11 acres of available space. It is a town with significant potential, and I use the example of Harmac Medical Products, based in IDA Ireland's business park in Castlerea. It is a client company, which has been there for the past 20 years. It is an expanding medical device company, which has very much sewn roots in the Castlerea area. It has a dedicated workforce of approximately 300 people and it is in the process of expanding. This is a good argument to try to ensure we support investment and job creation in more of our rural towns. I say this with particular emphasis on Roscommon town and Ballinasloe.

  This is not the first time I have raised this issue with the Minister of State. I have also raised it with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys. I am very clear that much more needs to be done. More jobs need to be created and delivered in our region. Opportunities are needed for young people to live, work and enjoy the great quality of life our region offers. A certain focus needs to be brought on this to ensure we see delivery of jobs, which we do not see at present.

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Pat Breen): Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I thank the Senator for raising this issue, which she has on many occasions. I visited Ballinasloe early last year to see the town at first hand. I am aware of the hard work the Senator is doing to try to attract investment to her region. It is something we are all trying to do for our own regions.

  I stress that the Government is determined to support the growth of high quality and sustainable employment in all regions, including in County Roscommon. Regional development is, and will remain, a national priority, and sustained efforts are being made to foster job creation and investment all over the country. IDA Ireland, of course, plays a major role in this. Every region in Ireland has experienced foreign direct investment, FDI, employment gains in recent years and more than 132,000 people are now employed by 681 IDA Ireland client companies located outside Dublin, with 50% of all new FDI jobs created last year based in regional locations.

  The agency continues to market Roscommon to potential investors. IDA Ireland works closely with Enterprise Ireland and its indigenous base of companies to enhance clusters, which are important. It is important that IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and local enterprise offices, LEOs, work together to ensure they can create employment in the regions. They work together to participate in site visits and maximise benefits for the county. From 2015 until 2017, the agency paid almost €920,000 in grants to FDI companies in Roscommon. These grants are an important means of encouraging companies to invest in Ireland, particularly in regional locations such as Roscommon.

  With regard to site visits, Senator Hopkins is correct that IDA Ireland hosted three site visits to Roscommon in 2017 and 2018. While there have been no site visits to the county so far in 2019, it is worth remembering that such visits do not reflect investment potential in an area. Many of the FDI companies in the regions are existing companies, which are solidifying and growing their bases in the regions. In fact, overall employment trends in County Roscommon are positive. Nine IDA Ireland-supported companies operate in the county, employing 1,171 people, which is an increase of 3% compared to the previous year. FDI is increasing. According to the most recent FDI employment data, between 2012 and the end of 2018, the county experienced a 25% increase in FDI employment.

  The Government recently launched regional action plans to further stimulate job creation and investment in the regions. In February, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, launched the west regional enterprise plan. This is focused on six strategic objectives that build on the region's strengths and address vulnerabilities. These include achieving further development and growth in life sciences, agritech, tourism and the creative sector, as well as strengthening the regional ecosystem with regard to skills availability and enterprise space. Jobs growth has been strong in all regions, including the west. As the Senator said, we are awaiting IDA Ireland's results for the west later this morning. There are 28,400 more people at work in the west today than at the beginning of 2015, when the then Government first launched regional jobs plans, and the unemployment rate has reduced significantly from almost 12.6% to 5.5%.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins The final statistic cited by the Minister of State is important. Significant work has been done to reduce unemployment. As he said, the rate is now at 5.5%, which is positive. However, I am not satisfied, and I do not have adequate evidence that enough is being done. I will outline a few examples. IDA Ireland's business park in Ballinasloe, with which the Minister of State will be familiar, has two good, solid companies in Aptar and SurModics but the difficulty is that substantial space is available on the site that is not being utilised. Voluntary groups are trying to apply for planning permission to build advance facilities. I am working closely with them to support them but surely IDA Ireland needs to do more to ensure advance facilities are built because they are good templates for attracting companies. The same example should be followed in Roscommon town. It is an excellent retail town that has improved significantly in recent years. It is well connected in terms of road and train infrastructure.

  When we look at the figures for the west, the challenge is that Galway is doing well, and the Monksland site is doing well in County Roscommon but, outside of them, there are major challenges and gaps in what IDA Ireland is doing.  I am aware that there are other agencies. I am familiar with the officials in the local enterprise office who do excellent work. Enterprise Ireland also works to support client companies. I am not satisfied and do not have enough evidence that all of the agencies support the region in which we live. I am talking, in particular, about the IDA Ireland business parks in Roscommon town and Ballinasloe. Will the Minister of State speak to IDA Ireland officials at the highest level to ensure there is a focus on and that jobs will be delivered in the region because we have a huge amount to offer in terms of quality of life?

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen It is not all about IDA Ireland jobs in every region. Some 98% of enterprises are small and medium-sized that employ over 70% of the workforce. The statistics for Enterprise Ireland companies show that 765 people are employed in 45 companies in Roscommon. Again, the trend is moving in the right direction and the figure is up 4% on the figure for the previous year. Nearly €3 million was paid out to Enterprise Ireland clients in the county between 2015 and 2017. Foreign direct investment is important, but the indigenous and small business sector is also extremely important in every county, which is why I have placed a big emphasis on same. As the Senator rightly pointed out - I know that she keeps in close contact with the local enterprise office, LEO, in Roscommon - LEOs help to create jobs. For many local authorities, LEOs are a very important part of the fabric of their areas because they help to create jobs locally, which is important. One finds that foreign direct investment companies opt to locate in large urban areas. One can bring as many representatives of companies as one likes to the regions to show them sites, but in the end the companies will decide where they want to locate. There are some really good companies such as Advanced Couplings Limited, Alexion Pharma, Colour Communications Europe, Harmac Medicals Limited and Jazz Pharmaceuticals, plus the ones named by the Senator. Balanced regional development is a priority for the Government. We were delighted with the figures IDA Ireland announced for last year. Some 57% of jobs were located outside Dublin. There was a higher percentage for Enterprise Ireland, at nearly 67%. Therefore, I am happy with the structure, that it is working and that we are moving in the right direction. Much of the funding under Project Ireland 2040 will be for regeneration projects in towns and large urban areas. I hope the funding drawn down under the programme by the local authority will help to sustain and increase the number of jobs created in County Roscommon also. I have noted the point made by the Senator about the number of site visits made by IDA Ireland which I will bring to the attention of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and IDA Ireland. I intend to visit the local enterprise office in Roscommon in the very near future and will let the Senator and other Oireachtas Members know what is happening.

Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Doyle.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I, too, welcome the Minister of State. I am particularly pleased that he is here because he has a great understanding of the issue of rural and one-off housing. I asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to come to the House to report on the outcome of the work of the working group established by his Department in reviewing the sustainable rural housing guidelines following the Flemish decree. The Minister of State does not need a lecture on the Flemish decree and I do not intend to give him one. However, I have been extremely active in dealing with this matter for a number of years since I came into the House.

  I have a letter dated 9 May 2017. In summary, it outlined that the Minister of the day would set up a committee. I have a funny feeling that it might have been Deputy Coveney who was in office at the time. However, it was indicated that the Minister would set up a review group. Clearly, there is an issue with one-off housing. The Flemish decree raises a number of concerns across the European Union about one-off housing but, more importantly, about who can live in such housing or seek to develop properties. The Law Society of Ireland did some work on the issue. It identified:

A number of Irish planning authorities restrict the granting of planning permission for housing based on personal characteristics of the applicant such as their connection to a particular locale as a ‘permanent native resident’ who has lived in the area for a number of years, having employment locally, or – in Gaeltacht areas – proficiency in the Irish language. These restrictions are by their nature discriminatory but are generally justified as a means of preserving the culture or rural character of the area.

  The restrictions are also related to employment prospects. We know, for instance, that in County Wicklow and the Dublin Mountains there are people involved in forestry, horticulture, agriculture, stone masonry and so on. The people who have engaged with me on the issue include Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, Councillor Maura Healy-Rae and, of course, Independent Councillor Donal Grady in Killarney. They have raised the matter consistently with me, as have other councillors across the country.

  There seems to be a misunderstanding about what is and is not permissible. I was sufficiently concerned to raise the issue with the Oireachtas Library and Research Service which I asked to compile a paper on it. It is dated 12 May 2017. For the information of the Department, the inquiry reference number is 2017/600. I pay tribute to the Oireachtas Library and Research Service which is an amazing resource within this organisation. I draw the attention of the Minister of State to the paper it presented, the findings of which raise concerns. How is the review group established in May 2017 progressing? What conclusions has it reached? Where are its reports? There are concerns in counties Galway, Kerry, Clare and Wicklow. I do not want to predict the outcome, but we need greater clarification on the Flemish decree and the response of the Government to same.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Andrew Doyle): Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle I thank the Senator for raising this important matter. Our respective local authorities were always high on the agenda when it came to development plans. It is an important issue for many in rural Ireland. I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to provide an update on the review of the 2005 planning guidelines on sustainable rural housing issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.

  Like all statutory planning guidelines issued under section 28, the rural housing guidelines are intended to be applied on a consistent and uniform basis by all planning authorities. Under the guidelines, planning authorities are required to frame the rural housing planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way. The aim is to ensure the housing needs of rural communities can be met, while simultaneously taking into account the principles of sustainable development and avoiding excessive urban generated development. The guidelines further aim to ensure sites being developed for housing in all rural areas are suitable with reference to vehicular access and wastewater disposal and also from landscape and design perspectives. In addition, they outline a number of criteria to be taken into account in local authority development plans for the purpose of assessing whether planning applications for rural housing are intended to meet a rural generated housing need. These "local needs" criteria relate primarily to planning applicants having familial or occupational ties to the rural area in question.

  In 2007 the European Commission issued an infringement notice against Ireland on the 2005 guidelines which was specifically related to the “local needs” criteria having regard to a potential conflict with the freedom of movement principle in the EU treaty.   The infringement case was subsequently deferred, pending the outcome of a related European Court of Justice case against Belgium, generally known as the Flemish decree case. The Flemish decree linked the sale or transfer of property in certain Flemish communes to the condition that there should exist a sufficient connection between the prospective property buyer and the relevant community. This had the practical effect of precluding non-locals from purchasing property in the Flemish communes in question. In 2013, the ECJ ruled that the Flemish decree constituted an unjustified restriction on freedom of movement under the EU treaty. Following the ruling the European Commission re-opened the infringement case against Ireland on rural housing guidelines.

  On foot of the ruling and subsequent engagement between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the European Commission, a working group was established in May 2017 to review and recommend changes to the 2005 guidelines. The working group comprises senior officials from the planning division of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and senior officials from the planning divisions of local authorities nominated by the local government sector. In making recommendations, the objective of the group will be to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives in county development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the EU treaty. The working group must take account of the rural housing policy related objectives contained in the national planning framework, NPF, in its deliberations on the review of the 2005 guidelines. As a general guiding principle, the NPF fully supports the sustainable development of rural areas by seeking to encourage growth and arrest decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or population decline in recent decades. These are considered to be weaker rural areas, as such. At the same time, the NPF also highlights the need to manage certain stronger rural areas around cities and towns that are under pressure from urban-generated development to avoid overdevelopment of those areas. It also requires planning authorities to carry out a housing need demand assessment to correlate and accurately align overall future housing requirements across all types and tenures in rural and urban areas as an evolution of existing housing strategy requirements under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Accordingly, the NPF objectives are aligned with the approach already expected of planning authorities under the current 2005 guidelines.

  The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government intends to provide further guidance to local authorities later this year to support their housing need demand assessment work as part of the review of their development plans. The working group has met on five occasions. Subject to the completion of its ongoing deliberations, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government will be in a position to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 rural housing guidelines. The aim is to ensure that these revisions strike a balanced and reasonable approach to rural housing in line with the objectives in the national planning framework while also taking account of the ruling in the Flemish decree case. The revisions to the guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act. This means planning authorities and, where appropriate, An Bord Pleanála will be required to apply the revised guidelines in the performance of their statutory planning functions specifically in respect of the assessment and determination of planning applications and appeals for rural housing proposals.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I thank the Minister of State. The reply is helpful and there is a great deal of information in it. I am pleased because at least we now know that after two years the working group has met on five occasions. I do not have the dates but that will be my follow-on question at a later date.

  Clearly, the problem goes on. We still have councils telling their elected members that they cannot make certain planning decisions because the question of the Flemish decree has not been officially completed or dealt with and remains an outstanding case in respect to Ireland. That has to be of concern.

  I wish to reiterate that I believe in and support the vibrancy and idea of revitalising some of our rural communities for people who wish to remain in rural communities and live outside cities. Certainly, we have to do this in a responsible and environmentally friendly way. I know the Minister of State appreciates where I am coming from in that regard.

  I thank the Minister of State for his response. There is ongoing work and it may be helpful to collaborate. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. There is sufficient meat on all of this for me to take the matter there, but I thank the Minister of State for coming in and going through this issue with me today.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle We need to develop consistency. There can be consistent application of the rules but different circumstances arise. As I said in my opening address, we have places that are weaker rural areas where the population is stagnant or in decline and needs propping up. In contrast, those who live where I live may be subject to the risk of urban-generated pressure and that can be overwhelming at times. The county development plan and local area plans in Wicklow have always been seen to be restrictive, but that is because of the general pressure. Still, genuine local need is being met.

  Ironically, many years ago when we provided rural clusters as a tier in the settlement strategy, the arrangement was deliberately restrictive so that it would be affordable for locals. The risk was that if we opened it up too much, then no local would be able to afford it. The rationale was that capital could be generated from other people who might have sold properties in other areas. This basically is the challenge ahead.

Preschool Services

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I thank the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for coming to the House. The reason I asked the Minister to come in today relates to Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich Teoranta, which is an Irish-speaking preschool in Ballycroy, County Mayo. The preschool was established in 2001 by a voluntary group of local parents. No preschool services were available at that time. Since then, it has become the heart of the community and has enjoyed great success serving families well throughout the years. Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich Teoranta works in partnership with local government to ensure the long-term use of the old national school. As it happens, it is my old national school so the Minister will forgive me for being extra passionate about this particular project. It was a derelict school and was then transformed into a vibrant and refurbished preschool and after-school service. It has ensured a lifeline for the parish and its people.

  The Minister may be aware that Ballycroy covers a large geographical area of 210 sq. km. Hence, the preschool and afterschool service offer a space for all of the children in the parish to connect and play together. We have two excellent national schools in the parish. One was recently built and the other was recently refurbished. Funding for the preschool falls under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. This inhibits the sustainability of services because the current funding model system is not equitable. The Department funds through a set capitation model. The current system benefits services located where the population is high and, as a consequence, the numbers using preschool facilities are high as well. Increases in the capitation grant are of course welcome, but this does not address the issues for rural services. It may serve to make the services with higher numbers better off but it does not serve areas like Ballycroy.

  The rural action plan makes explicit reference to the importance of regenerating these areas and having vibrant services in these areas. However, early years services cannot access funding through the CLÁR or RAPID programmes. That is the key to it. Something needs to be done. The position needs to be reviewed so that the Department and CLÁR can jointly fund rural services such as the naíonra in Ballycroy. Such services should be able to make an application on the ground of their rural location.  If that is not done, the future of Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich will be under threat. The problem is that its closure would mean there would be no preschool service in the parish. There has been significant investment in the national park and other facilities in Ballycroy, which is on the Wild Atlantic Way and so on.

  I am afraid that this issue will be considered on the basis of a snapshot in time and the conclusion will be reached that there are not enough children to sustain the school or make it viable under the current funding model. What about next year, the year after and the year after that? What about people, such as members of my family, who wish to move back to the parish and raise their children there? There will be no preschool service for them. These children have the right to a preschool service. That right is upheld in other parts of the country and that needs to be the case in rural areas. That is why the funding model must be changed.

  I have a submission that I will give to the Minister for her consideration and that of her Department in the context of finding ways to keep these facilities open. We have had to fight for our post offices, Garda stations and other facilities, but people in rural Ireland are tired of fighting. We want a little flexibility to address depopulation in rural areas and to do everything we can to bring people back into them so that we can have vibrant communities. Can the Minister imagine a parish without young or other children? The heart and soul of the parish would be missing. It would be like having a garden without flowers. We need facilities to ensure children continue to live in these areas.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Assisting families to access high-quality and affordable early learning and care, ELC, and school-age childcare, SAC, is a priority for me as Minister. Government investment in childcare has increased by an unprecedented 117% over the past four budgets, with €575 million allocated in 2019. This investment has provided for record numbers of children benefitting from my Department's ELC and SAC programmes in 2018 and 2019. It has also provided for significant increases to the beneficiary payments to childcare providers, including a 7% increase to early childhood care and education, ECCE, providers in 2018, while targeted childcare supports provided under the community childcare subvention scheme and the training and employment childcare scheme were enhanced significantly in September 2017, some by up to 50%.

  I want investment in this area to continue to increase significantly over the coming years. I am, therefore, delighted that First 5, the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families, commits to doubling investment over the next ten years. The national childcare scheme will mark another significant milestone for early learning and care and school-age childcare and create an infrastructure through which the Government can further increase investment in services over this period.

  Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich is a small service in a remote and sparsely populated region of Mayo, as ably described by the Senator. I understand that the service has been facing sustainability challenges due to declining registrations and is expecting a further decline in demand in 2019-20. The current programmes do not differentiate between the geographical locations of services to provide ELC and SAC services to as many children and families as possible in a fair and equitable manner. However, the First 5 strategy commits to undertake research on the ELC and SAC needs of parents who work atypical hours or live in rural communities, and develop recommendations for further action in this respect. That will be progressed in 2020.

  In the meantime, I fully recognise the challenges that may be faced by community services, including those such as Naíonra Bhaile Chruaich, which are situated in rural or isolated locations. That is why my Department has developed a strong case management system operated by Pobal through which a dedicated team assists services facing challenges. This assistance may include expert guidance, a review of the financial position of the service and an assessment of its operating and business model. I understand that the service in question has sought assistance from Pobal case management. I urge staff to continue engaging with the Pobal case management team, which will be able to provide these supports in partnership with the Mayo county childcare committee.

  In addition to the non-financial supports I outlined, my Department has made a number of financial supports available to community services facing specific challenges to their ongoing sustainability, including a one-off financial support for services in rural and isolated areas that suffer from falling or fluctuating demand. These one-off financial supports are intended to assist services in transitioning to a sustainable operating model and may be accessed through Pobal case management following a standardised financial assessment process.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I thank the Minister for her reply. I take some heart from it. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating in terms of the naíonra remaining open or the situation there being reversed. We need congruence between rural development plans and childcare plans to address cases such as this. I will work with the Minister, the Department and the committee, which I wish to commend along with the voluntary committees of all childcare facilities. The parents on these committees, some of whom have children who no longer need preschool care, continue to work for the betterment of their communities. With some flexibility and understanding of the challenges services are experiencing, all these challenges can be worked through. I am looking for a solution and nothing else.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am grateful for the Senator's willingness to co-operate in this regard. It is important that she raised the matter of this preschool centre. I am committed to ensuring the sustainability of early learning centres, particularly in rural and isolated areas. I described to the Senator our way of approaching such issues. I believe that, through research, we will find a better way to approach them.

  I take her point about the need for a match between the rural action plan and what is happening in the childcare setting. I am impressed by her description of the naíonra having been established by a group of parents from the community and that the original national school was transformed and is used by the service. That demonstrates the great resilience and flexibility of the people there. I hope the representatives of the service encounter the same qualities when they meet my officials and Pobal.

  Sitting suspended at 11.27 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, Judicial Council Bill 2017 - Report and Final Stages to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I wish to mention three groups I met yesterday, as did many of my colleagues in the House, namely, the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, and Fáilte Ireland. The INTO and USI had significant support yesterday from Members across the two Houses. I want to stress some of their requests. We know, especially for primary school education, that class size is one of the most important mechanisms for ensuring that children get the best education possible. I work in, and hope eventually to represent, Dublin South Central, an area which has one of the highest proportion of schools in the delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, programme in the country. DEIS has been successful since it was brought in by my Fianna Fáil colleague, former Deputy Mary Hanafin It is time now to bring in a second round of DEIS because, despite the programme's success, many children in inner city and more disadvantaged communities are still left behind. We need proper investment in schools, class sizes and appropriate support, leadership and paths for career progression to keep young teachers in the profession. The teachers make the children and ensure they get the best possible education.

  The representatives of the USI brought forward many issues that we already knew about and discuss every day in this House. The first and foremost is housing. Where one will live is a significant factor when considering where to go to a third level institution in this country. The CAO forms allowing students to change their minds are out now and students have ten days to decide what courses they would like to pursue and housing is an issue. A student who is fortunate enough to live in Dublin can stay at home and have a choice of the excellent colleges in the capital. However, for a student who lives outside the capital and far from a good third level institution, the issue of where he or she lives will be the biggest factor in deciding which college to put on his or her CAO form. That should not be the case. Students should be able to decide what course they want to do based on the merits of the course.

  I ask the Government to look at grants and the prospect of reducing fees for third level students. It is a cliché but the old Irish saying, "Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí; cáin an óige agus críonnfaidh sí" is pertinent and very much applies to education. It is the best investment we can make in our State.

  I was very impressed by the presentation from Fáilte Ireland. There is stiff competition for tourism across Europe at the moment. I commend the local authorities around the country that are putting their best feet forward in Dublin, the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and across counties Cork and Kerry. We have great options available for tourists. There has been an increase in numbers of tourists to Ireland and we need to keep an eye on it and ensure there is proper investment in tourism. Perhaps we could have a debate on it in this House at some stage.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher Today is World Refugee Day and all of us in this House should reflect on what exactly this means. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, yesterday released its annual global trends report which found that 70.8 million children, women and men were forcibly displaced at the end of 2018, the highest number in the agency’s almost 70-year history. This is twice as many people as 20 years ago and 2.3 million higher than 2017’s figures. It is deeply worrying that this global figure of refugees is likely to be an underestimate.

  Today the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, issued a strong statement calling again for changes to be made to the International Protection Act 2015 which are in line with my International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill. The commission states that it "has criticised the narrowing of access to family reunification for people granted international protection" under changes to the legislation made in 2015. The commission also stated: "the removal of the right of international protection beneficiaries to apply for family reunification with extended family members under the International Protection Act 2015 and the introduction of a statutory time limit for applications constitutes retrogressive measures".

  The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill, which I introduced in July 2017, passed all Stages in the Seanad on 7 March 2018. It passed Dáil Second Stage on 13 December 2018 with a huge majority of 78 in favour to 39 opposed. On 6 February 2019, the Bill was received for detailed scrutiny by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. The committee report is pending and still awaiting the Minister for Justice and Equality's observations. The report is expected to be supportive of my Bill.

  This Bill has been consistently backed by majorities in both Houses but blocked by the Government with the threat of a money message. While we await this legislation, families cannot reunite with their vulnerable family members who are still living in dangerous places. These are families like that of Lilav Mohamed in Clones, Izzeddeen Alkarajeh in Cork, the Sido family in Navan and many others whose names we do not know. It is really time for the Minister and the Department to engage on this. They should listen to IHREC, both Houses of the Oireachtas and the desperate families who have already suffered more than any of us can possibly imagine.

  I request that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, come into this House to outline his position on the concept of family reunification, my Bill and the IHREC’s call today. I want to hear his response to the global refugee crisis.

  Ireland has an opportunity to revert to a tried and tested, humane system of family reunification, which worked. This House and the other House of the Oireachtas voted for this. Ireland can and must play its part to help alleviate the traumas of the record numbers of refugees who are fleeing crises and conflicts to the safety of Ireland.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I want to talk about the €100 million beef package that was well advertised before the election to cover the income losses that beef farmers have incurred, or may incur, because of Brexit. We have now learned that the €50 million from the EU is on the basis that the beef sector will be restructured.  This has caused much concern for farmers all over the country but particularly those in the west of Ireland who are dependent on suckler cows. Does this mean the number of suckler cows must be reduced? We need the Minister to come to the House to explain it. A sum of €50 million was to come from the State but we now find this is to be made up from savings from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. They did not tell us that before people went to the ballot boxes. We have no idea who will receive this money and we need to know who will receive it and that it will be distributed on an equitable basis.

  None of these matters was highlighted before the election, which is symptomatic of something that happens time and again here. There are headlines and budgets in Departments for public relations exercises but once we are beyond the fooling of people as they go to the ballot boxes, the real truth emerges. As a matter of urgency, I want the Minister to come to the House and tell the truth. Is the €100 million there and to whom will it go? What are the conditions attached to that funding? Farmers deserve that information. Farmers and the agriculture sector in general have struggled for many months and years and they now have the threat of a hard Brexit. They received promises but they have now found these to be no more than smoke and mirrors. I want some answers from the Minister about this issue.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden For the past couple of months I have heard anecdotally about anti-social behaviour in Longford town but seeing it last night on the 9 p.m. news was very shocking. It is really not good enough that a couple of feuding families could terrorise the good people of Longford and its neighbourhoods while damaging local businesses. Longford town and county has much to offer and tourism has become a very significant part of its economy. The Garda Síochána is doing the best job it can and it has called in the western region armed support unit. The unit is patrolling with local gardaí as a temporary preventive measure to ensure the people of Longford remain safe in their homes.

  Will the Leader use his good office to ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House and outline for us the procedures to be put in place to ensure the Garda Síochána in the Longford area have enough resources and gardaí on patrol? What other resources will be put in place to help them deal with the matter? It is just not good enough that this is going on and we must protect people in their homes and businesses.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I will speak to the climate action plan. At a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action yesterday, the Minister outlined the 180 recommendations and actions needed to ensure greener and renewable energy for the future of Ireland and the world. We had a long debate with him and extra impetus was placed on certain elements. The home page of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has a link to the Climate Action Plan 2019 but it also has a link to two consultations relating to site surveys by Europa Oil for Edgeworth Prospect and Kiely East Prospect. These relate to discovery of oil or more fossil fuels, which goes against the idea of keeping fossil fuels in the ground and aiming for renewable energy. The links to these consultations are beside the link to the climate action plan, and it is quite staggering to have them on the Department's homepage.

  We must move to renewable energy, and some of the 180 actions we discussed yesterday deal with that in depth. On the Department's website the first thing we see is the potential for more licences for fossil fuel discovery and extraction but we know we must keep them in the ground. We must stop digging. Will the Leader ask the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to come in and explain these licences, how many there are in hand and how many have been applied for? How many will be successful and who makes the decision, given that the climate action plan was published two days ago?

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Yesterday was a very special day for a very special, well-loved and highly respected individual. This man, in his tenth decade, celebrated a very important anniversary that may resonate with the Leader. Seventy years ago Belfast priest Fr. Des Wilson was ordained and he has spent the 70 years of his ministry in the service of his faith in the diverse community of Belfast and beyond. Fr. Des, as he is affectionately known, is a sage, a man of great wisdom, a scholar, a fluent Irish speaker, a published writer and regular columnist. He is a theologian with a keen sense of the gospel of hope and liberation for the oppressed, powerless and those on the margins of life. With a small number of other priests he has spent his life opening the church and its teachings to the people in the pews, so much so that he decided to live, teach and struggle among them.

  He has always acknowledged, celebrated, empowered and lifted the role and place of women in our society, including the late Ms Noelle Ryan, a lifelong friend and confidante. He did all this because he knew the depth of people's faith and the deep desire they have to be treated with dignity, respect and justice. For Fr. Des, the church and its people are indivisible, one and the same. He is a crusader for justice with a compassionate and consummate commitment to help those in need. In the most difficult days of conflict, he was a beacon of reason, hope and peace for those people hurt by the conflict.

  Fr. Des has a great sense of humour. He is a raconteur and a joy to be with for a cup of tea around his famous and much sought-after kitchen table in his equally famous community house in Springhill, where he has educated generations of people from Springhill, Ballymurphy and beyond. I studied for my maths GCSE there as I needed a bit of extra help at the time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I do not think so.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile He is a priest for all the people and for all seasons. He is generous, warm and a remarkable human being. We are all the better for having had him in our midst and I wish him from the Seanad a very happy 70th anniversary of his ordination. Comghairdeas leis an Athair Des. Go maire sé an céad agus gabhaim buíochas leis.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn The Leader is familiar with the many tragedies we have had at sea around our coast over the years. As a Donegal man, I have heard of far too many of our fishermen losing their lives. We were delighted in 2016 when it was announced by Bord Iascaigh Mhara that it would fund a €1.5 million sea safety and survival training centre at the National Fisheries College at Greencastle. The centre would have a deep 15 m pool where weather conditions found at sea could be simulated. The only other pool of this kind on the island is in Cork, so there would be one at the top of the island in Greencastle on the Inishowen Peninsula and one at the bottom in Cork. Fishermen and others involved in life-saving would be trained, including Coast Guard and Royal National Lifeboat Institution personnel. It could train people from Mayo up the coast to the top of Donegal, as well as people from the Six Counties, I am sure.

  We learned in recent days that the announcement made just a week before the general election in 2016 has been rowed back. Bord Iascaigh Mhara has said it will not now proceed. This centre would have cost €1.5 million and it is essential. I have spoken to people in the college and the community, as well as fishermen, and people are very angry about this. There is a real sense of betrayal. I ask that the Leader send a transcript of what I have said to the Minister with responsibility for the marine and ask him and his Department officials to urgently intervene, meet officials from Bord Iascaigh Mhara and see how this officially announced centre could be made a reality.  That is the least the Government can do for the fishing communities right along the west coast and into the North.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Multi-Units Development Bill was enacted in 2011 but several problems have arisen for apartment owners and dwellers in the interim. The legislation should be reviewed to determine its impact on apartment owners and those living in apartments. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to the House to discuss the legislation and the changes needed to improve apartment living and make it more affordable.

  The recently launched Climate Action Plan 2019 is very welcome. Concerns have been raised about overruns on capital projects such as the children's hospital. In that context, there is a need for Ministers with responsibility for delivering on Project Ireland 2040 to come to the House to discuss delivery under that plan and the changes that will need to be made in the context of the climate action strategy and the aforementioned overruns.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I invite the Leader to respond.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We might keep the Acting Chairman in position because he is certainly fast-tracking the Order of Business. I thank the eight Members who contributed. I join Senator Ó Donnghaile in sending best wishes to Fr. Des Wilson who is celebrating 70 years in the priesthood. He is renowned as a champion of the people, particularly in the context of education. Fr. Paddy McCafferty spoke at his mass yesterday. We thank him for his work. His 70 years in the priesthood is, by any stretch of the imagination, a wonderful testimony to a life well lived. We wish him ad multos annos.

  Senator Ardagh raised the issue of a number of briefings held yesterday, one of which was hosted by the INTO. We all value our education system. We applaud the quality of our teachers and school communities. I also attended the briefing in the museum yesterday by the INTO. As the Senator will be aware, last year we continued to pursue the Action Plan for Education with a budget of €10.763 billion, an increase of 6.7%. The request made by the INTO yesterday was reasonable. Last year's budget provided one day for teaching principals for administration. The Government has also created more than 1,300 new posts, including 950 new SNA posts and 372 new teaching posts. The school capitation grant also increased by 5% in the budget. Under Project Ireland 2040, there will be an €11.9 billion capital investment in education. Between 2011 and 2016, at a time the country had little or no money, the Fine Gael-led Government made a significant commitment to improve the capital spend in the built environment in our education communities. Notwithstanding the positivity, there are challenges at third level, particularly with regard to housing. I am sure the Senator will join me in welcoming increases in the availability of student accommodation. That said, challenges remain. The Higher Education Authority, HEA, and the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, raised numerous concerns yesterday.

  Our tourism figures continue to increase. There was a 6% increase in the number of overseas visitors between January and March of this year, albeit with a number of caveats. The spend is down by 4%, with the exception of North America. Numbers from mainland Europe and long-haul destinations are up. There is a concern that we are pricing ourselves out of the market, particularly in Dublin vis-à-vis hotel accommodation. While that is an issue about which we must be concerned, Fáilte Ireland is to be congratulated on its wonderful ability to promote, sell and market Ireland through campaigns such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and so on.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Ireland's Hidden Heartlands-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Yes, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, with Athlone in the middle.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Athlone is the centre of the universe.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Griffin, has been very strong in promoting Ireland. The briefings that were held yesterday were very important.

  I join Senator Kelleher in welcoming today as World Refugee Day. All Members should send a message about Ireland being an island of welcome and a place of sanctuary. I do not have an answer to the Senator's question on the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 but I urge her to raise it as Commencement matter to get a timely response from the Minister.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I have done that but the Minister for Justice and Equality is not engaging. The Leader is my last hope.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I will make representations to the Minister on behalf of the Senator.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher Will the Leader invite him to the House to discuss it?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Yes, I will do that. I will talk to him.

  In response to Senator Conway-Walsh, I know that the Sinn Féin Party is in a period of transition. Its members are modifying their language. They want to be warm, woolly and fuzzy but are they really-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine No, we are warm, woolly and fuzzy. Baa.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Is Senator Conway-Walsh telling farmers that we should reject the €50 million from Brussels and should not take the money? Is that what she is saying to us?

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I want to know-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Please allow the Leader without interruption.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Government-----

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I did not say that. The Leader is misrepresenting me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Conway-Walsh knows full well that the Government went to Brussels and secured a €50 million compensation package from the European Commission.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I want to know the conditions.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator knows full well-----

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh What are the conditions?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I ask the Senator to go back to the farmers in Mayo and tell them that she does not want them to take the money. They will tell her where to go with that.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh On a point of order, I want to know what it will be used for-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The European Commission-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan That is not a point of order.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine The Leader is not answering the question.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The European Commission has given us a Brexit compensation fund.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Where is it?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We will have a period of consultation until 31 July, when we will respond. The Government is awaiting the publication of the Commission's regulation. Consideration will be given to that, and the IFA is engaging with farmers across the country on the matter. The Government has put the case. It will have a response back and will do the right thing, as it has always done, for Irish farmers. I know that the Senator will join me in congratulating the Government on securing that money from Brussels. We will spend it wisely, as she knows.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Where is it? To whom is it going? We do not want it going to the Goodmans and others.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator McFadden raised the issue of anti-social behaviour, which is a very important matter. Anti-social behaviour is beginning to spiral upwards in many parts of the country. While I appreciate that we need to understand why people engage in such behaviour, there is an obligation on all of us to ensure that it does not continue or go unchecked and that those who perpetrate it on communities, individuals and families are punished. The Senator referred to Longford, which is a very fine town. We all know of people who have had car windows or mirrors destroyed, hanging baskets on their houses ruined and so on. We all know of businesses and properties that have been damaged and of people who have been interfered with and intimidated. This cannot continue. A more robust approach must be taken to anti-social behaviour, whether through increasing the use of anti-social behaviour orders, ASBOs, or instituting no-go zones in the context of zero tolerance, although I do not like using that phrase. We must make a concerted effort on anti-social behaviour.

  Senators Devine and Humphreys raised the issue of the climate change action plan. It is my intention to have the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment come to the House before the summer recess to have a discussion on it. As Senator Humphreys knows, there is shadow pricing in respect of carbon in all plans. The shadow price is set at approximately €100 per tonne. It is also important to note that, as time moves on and technology changes, that price may decrease. I am happy to invite the Minister to the House to debate the matter.  It is important that the good work of the Members of this House on the climate action committee be acknowledged. Second, it is my intention that we will have a debate on the climate action plan before the summer recess.

  I am aware that a debate on the summer economic statement will take place in the Dáil. It is my intention to have a similar debate in this House, probably in the week after next week, but I will come back to the House on the matter.

  Senator Mac Lochlainn referred to BIM. I do not have the answer to his question, but I know that there is similar one in Ringaskiddy. The Minister is aware of the issue and I will be happy to have him come back to the House to discuss it.

  Senator Humphreys raised the issue of a review of the legislation dealing with multi-units. We all join him in wanting to see apartment living made more affordable. I will be in touch with the Minister's office on the matter.

  Order of Business agreed to.

Judicial Council Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan For the information of Members, by agreeing to the motion to recommit, the House will allow a Committee Stage-style discussion on amendments Nos. 16 and 31 to 35, inclusive, when Members may speak more than once on each amendment. In respect of other amendments, I remind Members that on Report Stage a Senator may speak only once on each amendment, except the proposer of the amendment who may reply to the discussion on it. Also on Report Stage each non-Government amendment must be seconded. Amendment No. 1 is a Government amendment. Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 4 to 15, inclusive, 20 to 25, inclusive, 39, 42 and 43 are related and will be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. Amendment No. 12 is consequential on amendment No. 7. Amendments No. 23 is consequential on amendment No. 22. Amendment No. 24 is consequential on amendment No. 23. Amendments Nos. 25 and 39 are consequential on amendment No. 21.

  Government amendment No. 1:

In page 7, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“(b) the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee,”.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy When Committee Stage of the Bill was taken last April, there was a considerable volume of amendments to be discussed related to sentencing matters. On this occasion, there is also a considerable volume of amendments to be discussed, but this time related to personal injuries matters. I propose to take the approach taken on the last occasion, that is, explaining the purpose behind the various amendments I am proposing and associated related amendments in a way which I hope will facilitate an informed and structured debate on what is a very important matter both for this House and society at large.

  By way of background, Senators will be aware that the proposal to assign a role to the Judicial Council in compiling guidelines on appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury first arose in July 2018 when the second and final report of the Personal Injuries Commission was published. The Government took the view that there was considerable merit in the recommendation, not least because its implementation, in promoting consistency in the level of damages awarded by the courts, should have a calming effect on the insurance market in general.

  The first set of amendments I am proposing – amendments Nos. 1, 5, 6, 14, 15 and 20 – will effect a range of technical changes to the Bill to accommodate the personal injuries guidelines committee in its structure. Consequent on the establishment of the committee, it is necessary to have a definition of personal injury in the Bill. Amendment No. 6 deals with this issue. Also, because of the terminology being used, a small change is needed in the language used in section 17 which deals with the role of the judicial studies committee. Amendment No. 20 is relevant in that regard.

  Amendments Nos. 2, 4, 21, 39, 42 and 43 are connected in various ways with the functions the new committee will have. A key amendment is amendment No. 21. Following the model related to both the sentencing information and guidelines committee and the judicial conduct committee, provision is made for the committee to prepare draft personal injuries guidelines and submit them for review by the board of the Judicial Council. The amendment specifies that the first draft of the guidelines must be submitted to the board no later than 12 months after the establishment of the committee. The committee will be required to review the guidelines on a three-year basis. If the review indicates that amendments are required, the committee will be obliged to prepare a draft of such amendments for submission to the board.

  To assist it in carrying out its functions, the committee will have broad powers to obtain any information it might need. It may also consult appropriate persons and bodies, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, and conduct research into the level of damages awarded by the courts in the State and elsewhere.

  Under the amendment, the committee is also mandated to prepare material for inclusion in the annual report of the Judicial Council on its activities.

  The amendment is linked with amendment No. 42 which seeks to amend the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 so as to remove from the board the responsibility it currently has for preparing the book of quantum and revising it at least once every three years.

  Amendments Nos. 4 and 39 are central to the reforms I am proposing. Specifically, amendment No. 39 provides that the guidelines are to contain general guidelines on the level of damages that may be awarded or assessed for personal injuries. They may also offer guidance on matters such as the range of damages to be considered for a particular injury or the impact multiple injuries may have on the level of damages.

  The amendment specifies various factors which are to be taken into account by the committee in preparing drafts of such guidelines. One such factor relates not just to the level of damages awarded by the courts in the State but also to the damages awarded by courts in places outside the State.

  Much attention has been focused on the finding made in the second and final report of the Personal Injuries Commission that soft tissue injury claim costs in this jurisdiction are a multiple or over four times those which prevail in England and Wales. This element of the amendment will provide the committee with the tools it needs to take relevant international comparative costs into account when drawing up draft guidelines.

  Another important factor concerns the principles set down by the courts in this jurisdiction. We have become very familiar with the idea that modest injuries should attract moderate damages. At the heart of this idea is an appreciation that damages for pain and suffering must be reasonable, having regard to the injuries sustained, and must be proportionate within the scheme of awards made to individuals for injuries which are of significantly greater or lesser import. In addition, the courts have recognised that damages should be objectively reasonable in the light of the common good and social conditions. I am confident that guidelines which reflect these principles will inevitably bring about a much-needed recalibration of the existing book of quantum.   A final factor to which I will briefly allude concerns the need to have regard to guidelines relating to the classification of personal injuries. While not specifically referenced, this would allow the committee to take account of the highly reputable whiplash associated disorder scale, which was developed by the Quebec task force and helps to determine the type and extent of medical care likely to be needed to treat an injury effectively and to resolve accompanying pain and discomfort.

  The final element in this set of amendments is contained in amendment No. 43, which relates to section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. One element of the amendment, which is purely technical, replaces references to the book of quantum, to which the courts shall have regard, with references to the personal injuries guidelines. The other element of the amendment, which is more significant, requires a court which departs from the guidelines to state the reasons for such departure in giving its decision. This amendment will allow for greater assessment of the extent to which the guidelines are being followed and will also be of assistance to the appellate courts in determining whether the reasons given for the departure are justified.

  Amendments Nos. 7 to 13, inclusive, relate to the role of the council and the board of the council in the draft personal injuries guidelines. To ensure consistency with other provisions in the Bill, these amendments mirror the arrangements envisaged for the judicial conduct committee and the sentencing guidelines and information committee. As a result of these amendments, it will be a clear function of the council to promote among judges an understanding of the principles governing the assessment of damages for personal injuries. Express clarification is also provided that the council can enter into contracts or engage consultants for the purposes of enabling the various committees to carry out their functions. This is especially important in the case of the personal injuries guidelines committee.

  Amendments Nos. 22 to 25, inclusive, are concerned with issues around membership of the committee and the procedures of the committee. Amendment No. 22 provides that the committee will consist of seven judges, with at least one judge drawn from each of the jurisdictions. Amendment No. 23 specifies that the standard membership term for the committee shall be four years, to be renewable once. The filling of casual vacancies is dealt with in amendment No. 24. Matters such as the procedures for meetings, the first of which is to be held not later than one month after the date of the committee's establishment, and the quorum for meetings, which is set at three, are addressed in amendment No. 25. I hope Senators will agree that the amendments I have outlined are comprehensive in nature. I look forward to their comments on them.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I will not prolong the agony of the House. It is striking that amendment No. 22 proposes that the personal injuries guidelines committee will consist entirely of judges. Will the Minister of State explain the rationale for that? I am reminded of one of the main contentious issues with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, which I am loath to invoke. It is the last thing I want to do. I am conscious of the need to avoid conflating the two Bills. I will not labour that Bill any more than I have to. The question of whether the appointments committee should have a lay majority among its membership and should have a lay chair is the contentious issue that comes to mind. I ask the Minister of State to take this opportunity, before the Bill proceeds elsewhere, to explain the departmental rationale for the proposed composition of the personal injuries guidelines committee.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy Awards are matters for the Judiciary rather than the lay members of the personal injuries guidelines committee. The Senator alluded to the lay structure that is proposed in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 for the appointment of judges. This legislation is about recalibrating the guidelines. It is a matter for the Judiciary, rather than lay members, to do that. We have made a determination in this regard. The model we are proposing aligns with the model which operates in Wales, England and Northern Ireland. As will be the case here, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales has a broad membership which includes academics with appropriate expertise, whereas the Judicial College for England and Wales, which draws up personal injuries guidelines, is embedded firmly within the UK judiciary. We are in line with other jurisdictions. It does not seem that there is an obvious pool of disinterested parties who could be drawn on to participate in the function of the committee. There may be others who will advise - it will be possible for the advice to be taken - but subsequently the decision will be a matter for the members of the Judiciary only.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane This issue is addressed in different ways throughout my amendments. I understand that the Judiciary acts with professionalism. Unconscious bias has a significant impact on the way we interpret laws and engage with the legal system. When this group of judges are looking at sentencing guidelines, will there be nobody else in the room? We need people with expertise, diversity and an understanding of the impact of sentencing on the lives of people, especially when there is unconscious bias. We understand direct bias in terms of race and gender, but unconscious bias can go much further than that. We will come to my amendment later in this debate. This is a concrete example of the issue I am seeking to address. It is proposed to fill a room with people who come from a certain social, cultural and economic background. I do not think it would be right for us to continue to look at introducing sentencing guidelines, and at how those guidelines will play out when they are implemented, without having a diversity of opinion in the room.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy Who does the Senator believe should be in the room with the Judiciary when these decisions are being made? Should representatives of the insurance companies be present? Should medical practitioners be present? Insurance companies should not be represented because they have a vested interest. Medical practitioners could potentially have a vested interest too. There is nothing wrong with the Judiciary, through the council, setting the guidelines. It will be able to source information and knowledge from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. It may require information from insurance companies or medical practitioners. When the time comes to conclude the matter, it will be up to the Judiciary to make the determination.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I welcome the Minister of State's amendments. I am glad they will provide guidance to us on awards. I have concerns about the timelines. The Minister of State might be able to shed some light on this matter. When will the personal injuries committee be in place? Has the Department taken logistical steps ahead of the appointment of the committee, for example, by putting aside office space to cater for it? When exactly will the guidelines be in place?

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I have a timeline in mind. The Senator has probably heard me expressing my view on that. I understand that it is a challenging timeline. I am prepared to challenge any party. The urgency of this matter means it needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. The first timeline will be met when I get out of here. I do not use that term in a negative way. I appreciate that people have been helpful in facilitating this Bill. I hope we will get through here today. When we are finished with the Bill in this Chamber, it can be concluded in the other Chamber. I hope we can get it through the Lower House as quickly as possible. Then we will have to get the Bill signed into law. I have asked for an earlier signature motion, but it seems that such a motion is not required. It would make a difference of no more than a couple of days. As this is a priority, an earlier signature motion is not required. We will not have to go down that route at all. Subsequent to that, the amendments provide for particular periods of time within which work will have to be done. That is the longest period. That is what I am saying. There is nothing wrong with this being done quickly and effectively. Some works can be done in tandem while structures are being put in place. There is nothing wrong with these structures being established as quickly as possible while work is being done to source and fit out office space. It can be done in parallel. We will not wait until everything is done in one phase before we start the next phase.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Has office space been found?

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy We will not look for office space until the Bill is enacted. It is only then that we will move, but preliminary work has been done to determine how we will proceed in that regard.

  The Judiciary is very supportive of the incorporation within the Judicial Council structure of a function of formulating and issuing appropriate guidelines on compensation in personal injuries cases. The approach I am taking is in favour of a guidelines regime that will have a clear legal basis and that will be fully within the remit of the Judiciary. I am satisfied that this approach is one with which the Judiciary can work.

  Under the proposed amendments, the personal injuries guidelines committee will be mandated to prepare a draft of the guidelines within 12 months of its establishment. That is the period in which it must be done. There is no reason it cannot be done before 12 months have elapsed. The guidelines will have to be adopted by the Judicial Council. Every Member of the Oireachtas understands the importance of this legislation. There will probably not be more important legislation coming through the Houses in this term. The insurance side is a small corner of crucial legislation to revolutionise how the Judiciary works. I compliment the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, on the legislation. I also thank him and the Department for giving me the opportunity to add a section on insurance to benefit insured persons and society as a whole.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister of State and the opportunity to debate this Bill on Report Stage. It is an important Bill. I have already spoken on behalf of the Labour Party on Second and Committee Stages when I welcomed the legislation and the amendments.

  I seek a response from the Minister of State on a specific issue. Senator Ó Donnghaile has raised aspects of it. It relates to this group of amendments about the personal injuries guidelines committee. Under amendment No. 22, the committee will comprise seven judges who will be nominated by the Chief Justice. Is there any provision - I do not see it in the amendments - for the committee to consult external persons or experts? I ask because I am contrasting the committee with the sentencing guidelines and information committee, which I very much welcome. This is set out in section 19 which specifically refers to lay members, in addition to judicial members. Section 20 provides that it would be desirable for the lay members to possess knowledge of and experience in a number of areas, including the administration of justice, sentencing policy, the use of statistics and the rehabilitation of offenders, and that the Public Appointments Service shall have regard to this desirability. That is important.

  What Senator Ruane said about diversity of committee membership and an unconscious bias is important. The Senator has tabled specific amendments to deal with this issue. I support her in that regard.

  It is worth reflecting on whether the personal injuries guidelines committee, by contrast with the sentencing guidelines and information committee, should have some lay members or, if not, at least the ability to consult experts in this area.

  I very much support the sentencing guidelines provision, the proposed section 82, and the committee. From my work on sentencing practice over a number of years and my research into the issue, I realise the importance of having a structure for the exercise of judicial discretion in sentencing. I hope the structured framework will have regard to recommendations such as those of the Oireachtas justice committee. Some years ago, other members of the committee, including Senator Conway, and I made various recommendations which implied that imprisonment should be a sanction of last resort. We referred to the need for greater consistency in sentencing and less reliance on short sentences, which achieve so little in terms of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, our system has been too dependent on them for too long for minor, non-violent offences. We recommended a move towards community-based sanctions instead. I am hopeful we will see really positive and progressive developments in sentencing as a result of this legislation, but I am interested in contrasting the sentencing guidelines and information committee's structure with that of the personal injuries guidelines committee. I welcome the latter, but I just want to know whether there will be a facility to consult experts.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I apologise if I did not bring to the Senator's attention subsection (7) of the proposed new section 18. It states:

The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee, and any person authorised by it to act on its behalf, may, for the purpose of performing its functions under subsection (2)—
(a) require any person to provide it with such records, documents or information as it may reasonably require for that purpose,

(b) consult with such persons as the Committee considers appropriate, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board,

(c) conduct research on damages for personal injuries including—
(i) the level of damages awarded by courts in the State and by courts in places outside the State, and

This reflects the Personal Injuries Commission’s second and final report. Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, former President of the High Court, launched the report on behalf of the commission. It refers specifically to lower level injuries. I had a conversation about this issue with a party colleague of Senator Bacik yesterday, namely, Deputy Penrose. Much of what I am talking about concerns the lower levels of awards, or lower levels of damages, which are out of kilter by comparison with those made in our nearest neighbours, Wales and England. The work done was independently verified by KPMG. Damages awards at the lower levels in Ireland are 4.4 times higher than those made in England and Wales. There is an opportunity for persons to be consulted or spoken to on behalf of the committee.

  The proposed subsection (7)(c)(ii) refers to "settlements of claims for damages for personal injuries". The proposed subsection (7)(d) states: "organise conferences, seminars and meetings relevant to those functions". This is as open and flexible as it can be to try to get in as much information as possible. The information will be analysed correctly and appropriately. The commission had the information analysed and independently verified by KPMG. The Department of Finance compared awards made in Ireland, England and Wales and concluded that awards made here at the lower end were five times higher than those made in England and Wales. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board also did work on the issue and concluded that awards made here were a little less than five times higher. There is enough evidence at this stage and enough scope within the Bill for the seven judges not only to consider the matter but also to authorise people, on their behalf, to obtain and analyse the information and ensure it will be scrutinised correctly in order that they will be properly informed. I refer to information from other parties, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and insurance companies, that may not be available to anybody else. There will be scope and flexibility to ensure we get all of the information needed.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Cuirim fáilte roimh gach duine ó Scoil an Duinnínigh, Sord, atá sa Gailearaí.

  I welcome the Minister of State. I really welcome the Judicial Council Bill. The amendments the Minister has tabled on Report Stage will make a great difference. They address many of the concerns of businesspeople who are under tremendous pressure as the economy recovers from hikes in insurance premiums which are sometimes outrageous. They are putting some out of business and making it impossible to hold charity events. Much of this is being driven by excessive awards that are totally out of sync with those made in our European neighbours, particularly the United Kingdom, on the law of which much of ours is based. Therefore, I really welcome the Bill and the fact that there will be a commission to review all awards made and ensure they are brought back into line with European norms.   There is a concern that this work needs to be done quickly and that it cannot take two years. There is a significant concern among members of the Insurance Alliance, which welcomes many aspects of this Bill, that there will be delays in its implementation. We need the legislation implemented as quickly as possible. There is unanimous support for this in the House and among our citizens who take risks and set up their own business, and innovate. Many of the young people who are in the Gallery today will be among them. People need to be able to run their businesses without fear of being put out of business by fraudulent or excessive claims and excessive insurance costs.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 2:

In page 8, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
“ “Data Protection Regulation” means Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation);”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 3:

In page 8, line 32, to delete “as so” and substitute “so as”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 4:

In page 10, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“ “personal injuries guidelines” shall be construed in accordance with section 82(1);”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 5:

In page 10, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“ “Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee” means the committee established under section 18;”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 6:

In page 10, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“ “personal injury” has the meaning it has in the Civil Liability Act 1961;”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 7:

In page 12, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:
“(g) adopt—
(i) draft personal injuries guidelines prepared and submitted by the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee to the Board under section 18(2)(a) with the modifications (if any) made by the Board under section 11(1)(d), or

(ii) any draft amendments to personal injuries guidelines prepared and submitted by that Committee to the Board under section 18(2)(b) with the modifications (if any) made by the Board under section 11(1)(d),

as soon as practicable, and in any event not later than 12 months, after such submission and publish the personal injuries guidelines and amendments in such manner as it considers appropriate as soon as practicable following such adoption,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 8:

In page 12, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:
“(h) promote among judges, in such manner as it considers appropriate, an understanding of the principles governing the assessment and award of damages for personal injuries,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 9:

In page 13, line 6, to delete “Act,” and substitute “Act, and”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 10:

In page 13, line 7, to delete “committee,” and substitute “committee.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 11:

In page 13, to delete lines 8 and 9 and substitute the following:
“(4) The Council may for the purposes of the performance of its functions or the functions of a committee—
(a) enter into contracts or arrangements, and

(b) exercisable only with the consent of the Minister, engage consultants or advisers.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 12:

In page 13, lines 10 and 11, to delete “the functions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) and paragraph (g) of subsection (2) shall not be—” and substitute the following:
“the functions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) and paragraphs (g) and (h) of subsection (2), other than in so far as the functions referred to in paragraphs (d), (g) and (h) refer to publication, shall not be—”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 13:

In page 15, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
“(d) shall review—
(i) draft personal injuries guidelines prepared by the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee and submitted by it to the Board under section 18(2) (a), and

(ii) draft amendments to personal injuries guidelines prepared by that Committee and submitted by it to the Board under section 18(2)(b), and may make such modifications to those draft guidelines, or draft amendments to such guidelines, as it considers appropriate,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 14:

In page 18, line 38, after “sections 17,” to insert “18,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 15:

In page 19, line 21, after “apply to” to insert “the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee,”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 16.

  Government amendment No. 16:

In page 19, to delete lines 24 and 25 and substitute the following:
“17. (1) The Council shall—
(a) establish a committee to be known as the Judicial Studies Committee, and

(b) at the first meeting of the Council, specify the date upon which that Committee shall stand established which shall be a date not later than 6 months following that first meeting.”.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Amendments Nos. 16, 26, 29, 31, 34 and 35 are related, and amendment No. 35 is consequential on amendment No. 34. Amendments Nos. 16, 26, 29, 31, 34 and 35 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy When the Bill was first presented, it provided for two committees of particular note: the judicial studies committee and the judicial conduct committee. Since then, provision has been made for a sentencing guidelines and information committee and, courtesy of the amendments just passed by the House, a personal injuries guidelines committee. The original arrangements envisaged that the committees then in contemplation would be established by the Judicial Council at its first meeting and, in the case of the judicial conduct committee, that its first meeting would be held not later than three months after the first meeting of the council. Within 12 months of its establishment, it would have to prepare and submit to the board of the council draft guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics. Given the number of committees now falling within the ambit of the council, it seemed prudent to look again at the arrangements for their establishment with a view to seeing if some phasing would be possible to alleviate some of the pressures that might otherwise arise if they were all required to begin their work within the same short timeframe.

  Under the proposed amendments, provision is made whereby, at its first meeting, the council will specify a date upon which the individual committees will be established. Different dates may be set for different committees in order that some may begin their work sooner than others. All the committees will have to be established within six months of the first meeting of the council. In the case of the judicial conduct committee, the sentencing guidelines and information committee and the personal injuries guidelines committee, their first meeting will have to be held no later than one month following their establishment. The proposed phasing will ensure that, in the case of committees where lay membership is an issue, there will be adequate time to ensure that the necessary people are in place to facilitate their establishment. In the case of the judicial conduct committee, it is also essential that there be sufficient time to ensure that a registrar is in place so that the complaints regime can run smoothly from the outset.

  There are also practical issues relating to the selection of judges for the various committees, the need to have a physical space where meetings can take place and the need to have adequate resources available to the committees in order that they can carry out their work in an effective way from their very first meeting. I am confident that much of this work would have been done in any event but it is no harm to have a measure of flexibility in the timing of establishment in case there are some unforeseen issues, however minor they may be.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have a couple of queries because many committees come under the Bill. Will there be enough judges to fulfil all of the committee roles? Will the timescale that the Minister of State outlined for the committees that he is establishing be adhered to? He mentioned six months and said that a number of the committees will be prioritised initially. Some committees should take priority over others due to necessity and importance. Does he envisage a problem allocating judges to all these committees?

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy There are 165 judges and, therefore, we should have enough of them for the committees. All the committees will have to be established within six months of the first meeting of the council. In the case of the judicial conduct committee, the sentencing guidelines and information committee and the personal injuries guidelines committee, their first meeting will have to be held no later than one month following their establishment.

  Let us make no mistake about it; a lot of work needs to be done. The initial work is being imposed on the Judiciary. It is reasonable to allow some phasing of the timelines within the legislation rather than have it specified and prescribed just in case there may be unforeseen circumstances that we have not considered. We do not want to put in place a structure that cannot be achieved. This proposal gives a degree of flexibility. That does not take away from what I said in reply to Senator Clifford-Lee earlier. We want to have this done as quickly and effectively as we can.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan These amendments are all about the commencement of various committees.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Yes. I appreciate what the Minister of State said. He said that there are 165 judges. In my own area of Naas, one judge has complained that his current workload is excessive, and that is probably the case for many judges around the country. How many judges in total will be on these committees? Is the Minister of State confident that he will get enough judges to fill the committees within the timespan that he set out to commence them?

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I do not know how many judges will be on the committees. The insurance aspect of the Bill is a small corner of very important legislation for the Judiciary. There are seven on the committee that I propose to establish under this legislation. There are four other committees so I do not know what the breakdown is per committee, unfortunately. There will be between 20 and 30 members of the Judiciary on all of the committees.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendment.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I move amendment No. 17:

In page 19, in line 31, after “judges,” to insert the following:
“including materials relevant to the exercise by judges of their functions in conducting criminal trials with a jury, including but not limited to the functions of:
(i) trial management;

(ii) jury management; and

(iii) directing the jury,”.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I second the amendment.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I thank the Senator. I am conscious the amendment speaks to a similar issue to Government amendment No. 18 and amendment No. 19, which has been tabled by Senator Ruane and her colleagues.  I believe all of these stem from the same impetus or motivation. I have raised this point on previous Stages of the Bill. Our purpose in drafting amendment No. 17 was to ensure a specific role for the judicial studies committee in providing judges with guidance on the conduct of criminal trials. Our amendment suggests the insertion of a provision into section 17 to change it somewhat. While section 17(3) already enables the judicial studies committee to prepare and distribute relevant materials to judges, we believe this should specifically include materials relevant to the exercise by judges of their functions in conducting criminal trials with a jury, including but not limited to the functions of trial management, jury management and directing the jury. We have been specific because of concerns that have arisen recently around comments made by judges, as well as judges controlling prejudicial comments made to jury by counsel. I have in mind specifically sex offence trials where issues have been raised in the public domain about aspects relating to the complainant's clothing in a sex offence trial. The recent controversies have illustrated the need for guidance to be provided to judges in how to conduct criminal trials where such prejudicial comment is made. Having been a practitioner I am conscious of the way so many appeals have come forward through the criminal courts relating to aspects of what a judge has said in summing up to a jury or in seeking to sum up evidence or give the jury instruction on procedure and criminal law.

  It would be helpful to prescribe that the judicial studies committee should give guidance of this specific nature to those conducting criminal trials. I am conscious that the Government amendment, amendment No. 18, seeks to do something similar by inserting a line referring to the conduct of trials by jury in criminal proceedings. If either of the amendments come through I will not push mine to a vote. The Government amendment seeks to do something similar.

  Senator Ruane's amendment seeks to address something different, that is to say, the issue of unconscious bias, although that is what I am trying to get at in my amendment as well. I hope that would be got at through the guidance provided by the judicial studies committee to judges in the conduct of criminal trials more generally.

  I know there are judges' bench books in the Four Courts. Yet, despite their central importance they are private and unregulated documents. The overall tenor of this legislation is to seek to provide a structure to judges within which they may exercise discretion without being unduly prescriptive and without fettering judges in their discretion.

  That is also an important point to make and it is similar to the point I have already made in respect of the sentencing guidelines. There has been considerable criticism over the years of the fact that our sentencing practice is largely reliant on an instinctive synthesis, as the Law Reform Commission has said. Over many years Tom O'Malley and other experts have called for a structure to be provided to judges within which they may exercise discretion. The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality has recommended a particular approach to sentencing that would minimise the use of short sentences of imprisonment for minor non-violent offences and instead place greater reliance on community-based sanction. We are moving in that direction anyway with greater emphasis on rehabilitation - I very much welcome that - and this Bill is an important part of that process. Just as we provide guidance to judges in the exercise of sentencing discretion so too should we specifically provide a structure and framework within which judges conduct criminal trials, direct the jury and exercise control and management of the trial process, including control over comments made in the course of a trial by counsel or others.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I should have said that amendments Nos. 17 to 19, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I was waiting for you to say that, Acting Chairman.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan You dealt with all three amendments anyway, but we can agree that they may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

  I will bring everyone in together. Did you wish to come in, Senator Ruane?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I thank the Minister of State for being here this afternoon. I welcome the Bill and the changes that are being made to it in the Seanad. The provisions on sentencing guidelines, education and training and the introduction of disciplinary procedures are most welcome.

  The Bill is a welcome attempt by Government to modernise and improve the Judiciary and how it operates. It allows for the standardisation of experiences in order that there will be some form of continuity between courts and judges for people with similar legal cases and so that judges will receive standardised education and training sessions. Over time, this will start to build up further institutional continuity in sentencing.

  While we want judges to have discretion in how they decide cases, we also want to ensure that the Irish legal system handles near-identical cases with some degree of similarity and that individual judges and courts do not hand out vastly different sentences. We are lucky to have high public confidence in our Judiciary and that needs to be maintained. However, the fact is that judges are human too. They may be charged with interpreting our laws and the Constitution but they are normal people and the fact is that people are a product of their environment, background and how they were brought up. Their experiences all come together to shape their perspectives on the law, life, society and other people too. When judges make judgments on a case or hand down a sentence they consciously use their years of experience of legal scholarship. However, unconscious factors will also come into play. It will not be intentional but arises from their unique life experiences. Every judge will see the same case in a slightly different way.

  Amendment No. 19 seeks to ensure that judges would be regularly educated and trained on the impact of unconscious bias in their decisions and sentencing so that they know to be aware of it and take it into account. This is not to say that judges are biased in any way. It simply seeks to recognise the reality that no judge is the same.

  As we progress a Bill that is designed to bring continuity of experience to our judicial system, this is a piece of the puzzle. Legal training and the continued development of our Judiciary must expand to ensure we continuously address the impact of unconscious bias on stereotyping and sentencing. We must look into the fact that it manifests itself in how legal proceedings can unfold.

  I spent a good deal of time in and out of courts during the past 20 years as someone in the court as a young offender and later as someone who supported many people in addiction and homelessness in the court system. I have sat, witnessed and watched how different judges use different language and impose different sentences. I have seen different opportunities and chances, especially for people in addiction. I have said this before in the House. When one of the participants on our addiction programmes was before the court in Kilmainham, we used to hope for the female judge - I think her name was Catherine. I think she has passed away now but we hoped she would be in position because she had a unique understanding of addiction and the implications of a person's environment. We took the view that she was fair in her assessment of the individual before her because she had training or personal experience of someone living in addiction. That had a major and positive impact on the people who were before her within the court system.

  As humans, we make quick assessments and we have preconceived ideas. It happens so quickly and it is not something we do consciously. We need to continuously challenge that to create a far fairer system. In that way, people from minority backgrounds might take the view that they are stereotyped less and that court proceedings are more fair and equal. It would be positive for judges to be able to constantly challenge unconscious bias and become aware of it within themselves. I hope the Minister of State can support the amendment.

  I support the Government and Labour Party amendments in the section on jury conduct.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy In its current form, section 17(3)(c) specifies that the judicial studies committee may provide education and training on matters relevant to the exercise by judges of their functions. In order to guide the committee, examples are given of several areas where training might be appropriate. During our Committee Stage debate, Senator Bacik spoke about using the opportunity provided by section 17 to reference the need to have training for judges who are conducting criminal trials with a jury. Mention was made of model charges to juries.

  Having reflected on the matter, I have concluded that an amendment along the lines suggested would be a useful addition to the text.  What I am now proposing is a short amendment which simply refers to the conduct of trials by jury in criminal proceedings. I believe that this will be more than adequate to address the various issues that may arise in jury trials, such as trial management, jury management, directing the jury, etc. These were matters adverted to by Senator Bacik on Committee Stage and they are, of course, also itemised in the amendment which she has tabled. I have chosen to deal with this matter the training context set out in section 17(3)(c). I believe that this is the appropriate location for the text I am proposing. It does not, of course, preclude the distribution of relevant materials on this topic under section 17(3)(a). I believe, however, that it is better that that subsection continues to have a general import. I hope Senator Bacik can accept that a broad provision of the kind I am proposing is sufficient to achieve the objective we both share. I hope she will not press her amendment in these circumstances.

  I also note amendment No. 19 in the names of Senators Ruane, Higgins and Kelleher dealing with unconscious bias. I will comment briefly. While I understand Senators' concern and why this amendment is being put forward, I am reluctant to include a provision of this kind in the Bill. As a consequence, I am not prepared to accept this amendment. I put that on the record because the fact that a matter is not specified in the indicative list provided does not mean that training regarding that matter is precluded. Matters set out in the subsection are by way of example. I anticipate that what the Senators are asking to be included is already included in the Bill. I do not believe it is appropriate to be putting specific areas into the Bill. The context of the amendment goes more to behavioural characteristics linked to temperament and attitude. We can all agree that it is important to recognise the reality of unconscious bias. I am very reluctant, however, to single out the Judiciary as being the only profession where specific training is needed on this issue. It is also the case that while training is not specifically itemised it is not precluded. I hope the amendment will not be pressed.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I thank the Minister of State for acknowledging my role in raising this issue on Committee Stage. It is an important issue and I am glad that the Minister of State has listened to what has been said and that Government amendment No. 18 was drafted in response to the concern I raised. It was certainly an omission from section 17(3) to not have reference in that provision to criminal trials specifically and to the conduct of trials by jury. I am glad that is now there. I will not be pressing my amendment because I accept that what I had hoped would be covered is now covered, albeit not as specifically set out in my amendment. I do, however, think that this provision meets the concern I had. This is clearly an enabling provision, as was mine. We should be cognisant of the fact that in England, the judicial college drew up the English Crown Court compendium under roughly similar statutory enabling powers. This sort of enabling power has been used elsewhere to provide the type of guidance I am seeking. It also serves to meet the concerns many people have about judicial control of criminal trials where prejudicial comments are made.

  I also listened carefully to the comments of the Minister of State regarding Senator Ruane's amendment. She will respond herself on that. It is important, however, that within section 17 the judicial studies committee would be providing training and guidance to judges in respect of unconscious bias. Judges should be informed about the way in which gendered stereotypes, for example, can impact upon the conduct of sex offence trials. I use that again as a specific example. I also refer to the prevalence within society of rape myths built upon these gender stereotypes. These are the sorts of things on which judges must and should be receiving training when they are anticipating conducting trials for sex offences or, indeed, for criminal cases generally. I hope that sort of training will be built into the work of the judicial studies committee in any case. I know the Minister of State has stated that he does not want to be so specific as to address this matter in this section. As I have said, it is up to Senator Ruane as to how she responds. It is important, however, that we raise these issues in the debate. It is also important that what we have said would inform the work of the judicial studies committee as well. I say that because this is part of the very important training that could and should be provided. I can thank the Minister of State again for acknowledging my own role in raising this issue on Committee Stage. I will be supporting Government amendment No. 18 as it meets the concerns I had raised in my amendment No. 17.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Does Senator Bacik wish to withdraw her amendment?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I will withdraw my amendment.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The Minister of State said that he does not want to be specific but there are other lists in the legislation concerning what can be provided. Behavioural and attitude characteristics do play a part but unconscious bias does not necessarily show itself in negative behaviour. We must take into account a person's intentions. This is about preconceived ideas and their impact. That is not necessarily manifested in outwardly negative and obvious stereotyping. It may be, however, be couched in the types of sentences given. There may be no vocalisation of the reason as to why that has happened. Unconscious bias has an impact which is silent and that is not always behavioural.

  As for not singling out the Judiciary, this Bill is focused on the Judiciary so I cannot look at any other profession within it. It is the only fair place for me to do this. Regarding other professions, I have been working, with many others, on the idea of doctors understanding the social context in which they work. I have done much work on this issue with the medical profession and it is usually open to assessing how medicine looks a little different in the different communities that people come from. I have also addressed this issue in respect of the teaching profession. I am definitively not, therefore, singling out the Judiciary. This is just an acknowledgement that human beings have preconceived ideas. We must remember that in this case, the Judiciary will possibly be imposing sentences. The impact of unconscious bias in this sphere can determine the rest of someone's life. It is important, therefore, that we address this issue and to do that in legislation. I am still trying to figure out whether I will be pressing the amendment. I have about two minutes to do that.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy The Senator's raising of this issue here reflects, certainly to my mind, that this should be considered in respect of the analysis regarding the studies. That has been achieved by simply raising it. We can have a vote, if Senator chooses to press the amendment, and we might win or lose. I do not know. It will not further progress on this issue. This debate has, however, already advanced the issue that the Senator wishes to be considered.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I note there can be no further discussion because this is Report Stage.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Government amendment No. 18:

In page 19, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(ii) the conduct of trials by jury in criminal proceedings;”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 19:

In page 19, after line 38, to insert the following:
“(iv) unconscious bias,”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Government amendment No. 20:

In page 20, line 2, to delete “in personal injury actions” and substitute “in respect of personal injuries”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 21:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

18. (1) The Council shall—
(a) establish a committee to be known as the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee, and

(b) at the first meeting of the Council, specify the date upon which that Committee shall stand established which shall be a date not later than 6 months following that first meeting.
(2) The functions of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall be to prepare and submit to the Board for its review—
(a) draft personal injuries guidelines in accordance with section 82, and

(b) draft amendments to the personal injuries guidelines in accordance with that section.
(3) The Council may issue directions to the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee in relation to the performance by it of the functions referred to in subsection (2).

(4) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall submit the first draft of personal injuries guidelines to the Board not later than 12 months after the date on which the Committee stands established.

(5) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee may, from time to time, review the personal injuries guidelines and shall—
(a) review those guidelines within 3 years of the first guidelines being adopted by the Council under section 7 and at least once thereafter in every 3 year period beginning on the completion of the first review, and

(b) submit the outcome of each review under this subsection to the Board.
(6) Where the outcome of a review under subsection (5) includes a recommendation for amendments to the guidelines, the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall prepare a draft of such amendments and shall submit the draft amendments to the Board for its review at the same time as the outcome of the review is submitted to it.

(7) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee, and any person authorised by it to act on its behalf, may, for the purpose of performing its functions under subsection (2)
(a) require any person to provide it with such records, documents or information as it may reasonably require for that purpose,

(b) consult with such persons as the Committee considers appropriate, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board,

(c) conduct research on damages for personal injuries including—
(i) the level of damages awarded by courts in the State and by courts in places outside the State, and

(ii) settlements of claims for damages for personal injuries,
(d) organise conferences, seminars and meetings relevant to those functions.
(8) Without prejudice to his or her obligations under the Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018, a person of whom a requirement is made under subsection (7)(a) shall comply with that requirement.

(9) A person who, without reasonable cause, contravenes subsection (8) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine.

(10) The court in which a conviction for an offence under this section is recorded or affirmed may order that the person convicted shall comply with the requirement made under subsection (7)(a), the contravention of which led to the conviction concerned.

(11) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall prepare and submit to the Council, for inclusion in the annual report of the Council under section 30, a report in writing of the activities of the Committee during the period to which the annual report relates.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 22:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“Membership of Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

19. (1) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall comprise 7 judges nominated by the Chief Justice as follows:
(a) a judge of the Supreme Court;

(b) a judge of the Court of Appeal;

(c) 2 judges of the High Court;

(d) a judge of the Circuit Court;

(e) a judge of the District Court; and

(f) at the discretion of the Chief Justice, a judge of either the Circuit Court or the District Court.
(2) The Chief Justice shall appoint one of the judges nominated under subsection (1) to be a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee to act as chairperson of the Committee.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 23:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“Term of membership of Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

20.  (1) Subject to subsection (5) and section 21(3), each member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall continue to be a member of the Committee for a term of 4 years from the date of his or her nomination unless he or she sooner dies or resigns.
  (2) Subject to subsection (3), a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee whose term of membership expires with the passage of time shall be eligible for renomination to the Committee for a further term of 4 years.

  (3) A member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee who has served 2 terms as a member of that Committee shall not be eligible for re-nomination as a member of the Committee.

  (4) A member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee may resign from that Committee by notice in writing given or sent to the chairperson of the Committee and the resignation shall take effect on the day on which the chairperson receives the notice.

  (5) Where a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee ceases to be a judge, or ceases to hold the judicial office which he or she held when he or she was nominated to be a member under section 19, he or she shall thereupon cease to be a member of the Committee.

  (6) Subject to section 22(4) the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee may act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 24:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“Casual vacancies in membership of Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

21.  (1) Where a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee dies, retires or resigns from judicial office, resigns from the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee in accordance with subsection (4) of section 20 or ceases to be a member of that Committee under subsection (5) of that section, the vacancy so occasioned shall be filled by a judge nominated by the Chief Justice to be a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee.
(2) The term of office of a member of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee nominated under subsection (1) shall be for the unexpired period of the term of membership of the member of the Committee whom he or she has replaced.

(3) A term of membership of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of any duration resulting from a nomination under subsection (1) shall be regarded as a term of membership for the purposes of section 20(3).”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 25:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“Meetings and procedures of Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

22. (1) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall hold such and so many meetings as may be necessary for the performance of its functions.
(2) The first meeting of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall be held not later than 1 month after the date on which the Committee stands established under section 18(1)(b).

(3) At a meeting of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee—
(a) the chairperson of that Committee shall, if present, be the chairperson of the meeting, or

(b) if and so long as the chairperson of that Committee is not present, the next most senior judge present shall be the chairperson of the meeting.
(4) The quorum for a meeting of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall be 3 or such other number, not being less than 3, as the Committee may determine.

(5) Subject to this Act, the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall regulate its own procedures.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 26:

In page 20, lines 9 and 10, to delete all words from and including “(1) The Council” in line 9 down to and including line 10 and substitute the following:
“(1) The Council shall—
(a) establish a committee to be known as the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee, and

(b) at the first meeting of the Council, specify the date upon which that Committee shall stand established which shall be a date not later than 6 months following that first meeting.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 40 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

  Government amendment No. 27:

In page 20, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:
“(c) monitor the operation of sentencing guidelines,”.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy On Committee Stage, a number of Senators, in particular Senators Ó Donnghaile and Ruane, mentioned the need for the sentencing guidelines and information committee to have a monitoring role in respect of any guidelines which may be adopted by the council. An undertaking to consider this matter was given and, as a result, I have decided to introduce amendment No. 27 which includes among the functions of the committee the monitoring of the operation of sentencing guidelines. This will allow the committee to have a degree of oversight as to how the guidelines are functioning in practice and will be a useful tool in the context of reviewing the efficacy of those guidelines.

  Amendment No. 40 parallels amendment No. 43, which we have already discussed in the context of the personal injuries guidelines committee. The provision in the Bill which is the subject of the proposed amendment requires a court to have regard to sentencing guidelines relevant to the proceedings before it, unless the court is satisfied that to do so would be contrary to the interests of justice. By virtue of the amendment, the reasons for departing from those guidelines will have to be stated by the court in its decision. This will facilitate an assessment of the extent to which the guidelines are being followed and will feed usefully into the review process. It will also allow for greater public insight into why it is that a particular sentence is arrived at in an individual case.

  There is a further amendment in the name of Senators Ruane, Higgins and Kelleher which would enable the sentencing guidelines and information committee to conduct public consultations on draft sentencing guidelines. This is a power which the committee already has and, for that reason, I am reluctant to accept this amendment.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I commend the Minister of State for coming back with this amendment. It is appropriate. Some sort of oversight over sentencing guidelines and their effectiveness is important and welcome. If I may divert for a moment, I will welcome to the Public Gallery Dr. Sinead Kane, a solicitor who ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. She is very welcome to Seanad Éireann.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I welcome amendment No. 27 because of the need to have consistency in sentencing and to have a monitoring system in place to ensure that consistency and that justice is carried out in an even-handed fashion. I am not suggesting that it is not now, but issues occasionally arise which raise eyebrows and these need to be examined. It is good that there will be a system in place to do so. May I also speak to amendment No. 40 in this group?

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator is firing on all cylinders today.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Amendment No. 40 is in this group.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes, the group comprises amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 40.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly This is an important amendment because it inserts the words "the reasons it is so satisfied shall be stated by the court in its decision". It is critically important that people understand the rationale behind this. It relates to amendment No. 43, which has already been discussed. Insurance Ireland specifically requested that when judges exceed a guideline they be asked to explain why they have done so. All in all, these two Government amendments are very important. They make up a critical part of the Bill and will be broadly welcomed.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I apologise to Senator Ruane. I have bit of a blind spot for her today.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The Acting Chair has forgotten me twice. She should not worry; I am not too sensitive. I will speak to amendment No. 28. It is fairly self-explanatory. It would allow for the sentencing guidelines and information committee that will be set up by the council and which will actually be drafting and disseminating the sentencing guidelines to hold public consultations on draft sentencing guidelines before they are formally adopted. This could take the form of inviting submissions and observations from the public and NGOs working in criminal justice reform.

  As I mentioned on Committee Stage, I have drawn from the provisions of the UK's Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which gave the sentencing council for England and Wales a massive public engagement role which has been praised by stakeholders for giving real public ownership of, and confidence in, the management of sentencing policy. This council provides online submission forms, organises community round-table meetings, and engages with judges, magistrates, victims and witnesses. This is all really welcome and turns the drafting process into a collaborative experience, from which we could really benefit. At a time of reform in An Garda Síochána and an increasing focus on community policing and on what it could look like in the future, we cannot do enough to engage with the public and communities with regard to how this process will work.

  I hope the Minister of State can accept the amendment. I note that he has said that he cannot and that the committee already has the power to carry out public consultation, but can the Minister of State inform us that it will actually carry out such a public consultation? That is very different from being able to do so. Will the Minister of State clarify that it will carry out a public consultation and make this a collaborative effort?

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy On numerous occasions I have heard Senator Reilly express his strong view that, when guidelines are not being adhered to, the court should explain why that is the case. This amendment gives that idea legal effect. I thank the Senator in that regard.

  I hope that what we are doing in respect of sentencing guidelines will be done in conjunction with the Judiciary. We are outlining in legislation the direction in which we want things to flow. Can I tell Senator Ruane that the committee will carry out public consultation? I cannot but I hope and anticipate that, if it is required, it will be done. The aim of everything in this Bill, including the insurance side of it, is to improve the structures between people, sentencing and the Judiciary. That will benefit everybody. I do not have a principled objection to the Senator's amendment, but there are already two provisions in the Bill which will allow this to be done. I cannot make the committee do so if it does not want to. It is important that we accept that the Judiciary is our partner in this. The Bill should seek to influence the flow of events rather than to give instructions.

  Amendment agreed to.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 28:

In page 20, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:
“(b) conduct public consultation on draft sentencing guidelines,”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Government amendment No. 29:

In page 24, to delete lines 36 and 37 and substitute the following:
“(2) The first meeting of the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee shall be held not later than 1 month after the date on which the Committee stands established under section 18(1)(b).”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 30:

In page 25, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“Sentencing policy review

24. The Minister shall—
(a) not later than 2 years after the enactment of this Act, commence a review of current statutory mandatory, minimum and presumptive sentencing provisions, and

(b) not later than 12 months after its commencement, make a report to each House of the Oireachtas of the findings made on the review and of the conclusions drawn from the findings.”.

Amendment No. 30 would require the Minister for Justice and Equality to review all provisions currently on the Statute Book which require mandatory, minimum or presumptive sentencing of individuals when convicted of certain crimes. This review and its conclusions would then be delivered to both Houses of the Oireachtas in a report. My point in calling for this review is that as we are now looking to a judicial system that will be guided by sentencing guidelines to ensure consistency in sentencing. As the Minister of State will be aware, most countries in which these kinds of set sentencing policies exist are states that do not have such guidelines. Now that such guidelines will shortly be introduced, a review of these provisions seems timely.

  When the Oireachtas sets out mandatory, minimum and presumptive sentencing in law it removes the opportunity for judicial discretion and for judges to issue sentences which are sensitive to the details of an individual’s case and circumstances. They are a blunt tool that could do with review and reform in light of the work on sentencing that will be undertaken by the new sentencing guidelines and information committee. The review would take place over two years with a further 12 months given for the drafting of the report and its conclusions. I know this is an issue on which the Minister is keen to make progress but if such a review is given a legislative mandate it would continue even if there was an election or Cabinet reshuffle, which looks likely to happen in the next 12 months. I hope therefore that the Minister of State can accept the amendment.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I second the amendment.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy First, no election is due until 2021.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Sounds good.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I have listened with interest to what the Senator has said about the need for a review of current mandatory minimum and presumptive sentencing provisions.  Regardless of the merits of the proposal, however, the Bill does not provide the appropriate home for it. It is concerned with the Judiciary and the additional functions they are being given courtesy of its new provisions. It is not concerned with the way the Executive arm of the Government should address a particular matter, nor is it concerned with substantive matters to do with sentencing policy. The content of the amendment is more appropriately a matter for a criminal law Bill. It simply does not fit within the structure of this Bill.

  As Senators may be aware, the traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down a maximum sentence and for a court to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum, having considered all the circumstances of the case and applying the principle of proportionality. There are some exceptions to this, such as a mandatory sentence for murder and a presumptive minimum sentence for certain drug trafficking and firearms offences. Such sentences were introduced because of the impact such offences have on society and on communities in particular. Such sentences are under consideration by the Department of Justice and Equality. That consideration has been given added impetus by a recent decision of the Supreme Court. Departmental officials are examining the judgment and its implications for existing legislation, together with the Office of the Attorney General. Any necessary recommendations arising from that consideration will be brought to the Government in due course.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 14.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose. Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul. Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
Information on Aidan Davitt   Zoom on Aidan Davitt   Davitt, Aidan. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie. Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary. Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Lynn Ruane and Lorraine Clifford-Lee; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared carried.

  Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 31 to 35, inclusive.

  Government amendment No. 31:

 In page 26, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
“(2) The Council shall, at the first meeting of the Council, specify the date upon which the Judicial Support Committees shall stand established which shall be a date not later than 6 months following that first meeting.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Does the Minister of State wish to comment on amendment No. 32?

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly It has been discussed already.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am not sure it has.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy It is a new provision.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Some say it has been discussed.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy No, the Bill has just been recommitted.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It has not been discussed.

  Government amendment No. 32:

In page 28, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:
“Interim Secretary to Council

27. (1) The Chief Justice may appoint a member of staff of the Courts Service to act as interim Secretary to the Council (in this section referred to as the “interim Secretary”)
pending the appointment of the Secretary by the Board under section 26(1) and pending that appointment—
(a) the interim Secretary shall perform all the functions assigned to the Secretary by or under this Act, and

(b) a reference in this Act to the Secretary shall include a reference to the interim Secretary.
(2) When a Secretary is appointed under section 26(1), the interim Secretary shall cease to hold office.”.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy This is a new provision which stems from a concern that there should be a person specifically tasked with putting as much preparatory work as possible in train pending the establishment of the Judicial Council. When new bodies are established, much of the vital administrative work often takes place in advance of their establishment. This is specifically contemplated by section 17 of the Interpretation Act 2005. In this instance, I have taken the view that there is merit in having a recognised person who can work with the Judiciary to identify the supports needed if the council is to carry out its functions from the date of its establishment. That person can also work in the background, carrying out the many routine administrative tasks which will be necessary in the time leading up to the establishment of the council and between its establishment and the appointment of a secretary by the board. The approach taken will allow the Chief Justice to appoint a member of the staff of the Courts Service to act as interim secretary pending the appointment of a secretary by the board of the council, as is provided for in section 26. The post is interim secretary and will cease once the formal appointment is made. This touches on a matter that I raised earlier concerning the establishment of structures. Work can commence in parallel, rather than afterwards, section by section.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 33:

In page 32, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“Prohibition on disclosure of confidential information

34. (1) A person shall not, unless he or she is required or permitted by law or duly authorised by the Council to do so, disclose confidential information obtained by him or her while performing functions—
(a) as a member of the Council, the Board or a committee, or

(b) as the Secretary, Registrar or a member of staff of the Council, or as a consultant, adviser or other person who is or was engaged under contract or other arrangement by the Council.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine.

(3) In this section, “confidential information” includes—
(a) information that is expressed by the Council, the Board or a committee to be confidential either as regards particular information or as regards information of a particular class or description, and

(b) proposals of a commercial nature or tenders submitted to the Council, the Board or a committee by consultants, advisers or any other person.”.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy The purpose of this provision is to impose an obligation on a person not to disclose confidential information obtained while performing specific functions, for example, as a member of the committee of the council, a staff member or a consultant. Unauthorised disclosure is an offence which, on summary conviction, carries the penalty of a class A fine, that is, a fine not exceeding €5,000. A confidentiality provision has been a standard provision in legislation of this kind in recent years. The Statute Book is replete with examples of similar provisions.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 34:

In page 33, lines 6 and 7, to delete all words from and including “(1) The Council” in line 6 down to and including line 7 and substitute the following:
“(1) The Council shall—
(a) establish a committee which shall be known as the Judicial Conduct Committee, and

(b) at the first meeting of the Council, specify the date upon which that Committee shall stand established which shall be a date not later than 6 months following that first meeting.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 35:

In page 39, to delete lines 20 and 21 and substitute the following:
“(2) The first meeting of the Judicial Conduct Committee shall be held not later than 1 month after the date on which the Committee stands established under section 35(1)(b).”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendments.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Amendments Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

  Government amendment No. 36:

In page 68, line 35, to delete “or 65,” and substitute “or 65, and”.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy The key amendment is amendment No. 38 which involves the deletion of section 79(4)(l).  Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 are simply a consequential tidying up of the text. For reasons that I need not dwell upon, the Bill which emerged from Committee Stage contained two provisions relating to the publication in the annual report of the name of a judge to whom a reprimand is issued following the conclusion of the complaints process. The amendment I had proposed is contained in what is now subsection (7) and this is the provision which I am the proposing should remain in the Bill.

  Under that provision, the default position is that both the name of the judge and the reprimand issued shall be published. However, there is a saver where it is considered that to safeguard the administration of justice, such publication should not occur. Subsection (4)(i) will, however, ensure that there is information about the number of cases where a reprimand was issued, but the information about it is not made public.

  I have been informed that there are good legal reasons which underpin the provision which the Minister for Justice and Equality originally proposed and these are grounded in the unique independent function of judges in the administration of justice in public under Article 34 of the Constitution. For example, it is important that regard is had to the ongoing functions of a sitting judge and, in certain circumstances, there might be a risk that litigants could use the fact of the published reprimand to seek judicial review of a judge’s decisions. There may also be instances of reprimands where the judicial misconduct was connected with the health of a judge and where publication might be inappropriate.

  I repeat however that, as the amendment is structured, the default position is that there is a requirement to include both the name of the judge and the reprimand issued in the annual report. Non-publication will always be an exceptional step.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Sinn Féin will oppose amendment No. 38. It seeks to remove from the council's annual report information relating to judges who have been reprimanded by the council. That seems contrary to the spirit of the rest of the Bill and boils down to it being a matter of public interest. While I respect that where an accusation has been made and a judge has not been reprimanded for misconduct, that anonymity ought to be protected, that is not the wording nor is it an issue that exists within the current Bill. Where it is the case that a judge has been reprimanded and the threshold for such a fine has been adequately met by the functions of the council, then it is vital that this be included in any annual report for the important perception of transparency and accountability which is core to the spirit of the Bill. While I concede that I do not have the legal experience or capacity of other colleagues across the House, and while I do not want to get into hypothetical examples, there are examples where I believe this could become an issue if that information were not to be forthcoming and was not brought before the public in a way that was appropriate, respectful, transparent and in the public interest.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I do not think that we can have a blanket provision which mandates the disclosure of a judge in all circumstances. Non-publication will always be an exceptional step. In addition to the examples I gave previously, it is possible to imagine that there may be circumstances where the naming of a judge might have unintended consequences in terms of its impact on third parties. I am thinking here of cases held in camera where it is important that no information gets into the public domain that might inadvertently disclose the identity of a party to a relevant action.

  It may be of interest to Senators to know that, on the issue of naming judges, there is no uniform practice which can be pointed to insofar as other jurisdictions are concerned. In England and Wales, the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor have discretion not to publish a disciplinary statement where a formal disciplinary sanction has been imposed, based on the individual circumstances of a case. In New Zealand, where a complaint is not such as would warrant consideration as to removal from office, it is referred to the head of bench who is in charge of the court where the judge complained of sits. Any subsequent consideration of the complaint takes place on a confidential basis. In Canada, the only decisions published are those of an inquiry committee and some of the cases before that committee would relate to investigations which may result in the removal of the judge from office.

  This is not an issue of transparency. It merely removes the blanket effect which may not be the correct structure. I have highlighted the other common law jurisdictions which are in line with our own.

   Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 37:

In page 68, line 37, to delete “66, and” and substitute “66.”.

   Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 38:

In page 68, to delete lines 38 and 39.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 15.

Níl
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee   Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Aidan Davitt   Zoom on Aidan Davitt   Davitt, Aidan.
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine. Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John. Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Niall Ó Donnghaile.

Amendment declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Members should take their seats if they are staying.

  Government amendment No. 39:

In page 70, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
“Personal injuries guidelines

82. (1) Personal injuries guidelines adopted by the Council under section 7, including any amendments adopted under that section (in this Act referred to as “personal injuries guidelines”) shall contain general guidelines as to the level of damages that may be awarded or assessed in respect of personal injuries and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the guidelines may include guidance on any or all of the following:
(a) the level of damages for personal injuries generally;

(b) the level of damages for a particular injury or a particular category of injury;

(c) the range of damages to be considered for a particular injury or a particular category of injuries;

(d) where multiple injuries have been suffered by a person, the consideration to be given to the effect of those multiple injuries on the level of damages to be awarded in respect of that person.
(2) The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee in preparing draft personal injuries guidelines or draft amendments to personal injuries guidelines shall have regard to the matters set out in subsection (3) and the Board, in reviewing those draft guidelines or draft amendments, may have regard to such of the matters set out in that subsection as it considers appropriate for the purposes of its review.

(3) The matters referred to in subsection (2) are:
(a) the level of damages awarded for personal injuries by—
(i) courts in the State, and

(ii) courts in such places outside the State as the Committee or the Board, as the case may be, considers relevant;
(b) principles for the assessment and award of damages for personal injuries determined by the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court;

(c) guidelines relating to the classification of personal injuries;

(d) the need to promote consistency in the level of damages awarded for personal injuries;

(e) such other factors that the Committee or the Board, as the case may be, considers appropriate including factors that may arise from any records, documents or information received, consultations held, research conducted or conferences, seminars or meetings organised (as referred to in section 18(7)).”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 40:

In page 70, line 32, after “of justice” to insert the following:
“and the reasons it is so satisfied shall be stated by the court in its decision”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 41:

In page 71, to delete lines 20 to 31 and substitute the following:
"Restrictions of rights and obligations under Data Protection Regulation

86. (1) The rights and obligations provided for in Articles 12 to 22 (and Article 5 in so far as its provisions correspond to the rights and obligations provided for in Articles 12 to 22) and Article 34 of the Data Protection Regulation are, in so far as the rights and obligations relate to the processing of personal data by a person or body specified in subsection (2), restricted to the extent necessary and proportionate to enable the person or body perform his, her or its functions under Part 5.

(2) A person or body referred to in subsection (1) means—
(a) the Judicial Conduct Committee,

(b) the Registrar,

(c) the Complaints Review Committee,

(d) a designated judge or designated judges,

(e) a panel of inquiry, or

(f) the registrar to a panel of inquiry.
(3) In this section—

"personal data" has the same meaning as it has in Article 4 of the Data Protection Regulation;

"processing" has the same meaning as it has in Article 4 of the Data Protection Regulation.".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 42:

In page 72, after line 7, to insert the following:
"Amendment of Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003

89. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 is amended—
(a) in section 54(1), by the deletion of paragraphs (b) and (ba), and

(b) in section 54A(1), by the substitution of "paragraph (c), (d)" for "paragraph (b), (ba), (c), (d)".".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 43:

In page 72, after line 7, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 22 of Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004

90. Section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 is amended—
(a) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):
"(1) The court shall, in assessing damages in a personal injuries action—
(a) have regard to the personal injuries guidelines (within the meaning of section 2 of the Judicial Council Act 2019), and

(b) where it departs from those guidelines, state the reasons for such departure in giving its decision.",
(b) in subsection (2), by the substitution of "other than those personal injuries guidelines" for "other than the Book of Quantum", and

(c) by the deletion of subsection (3).".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I want to touch on the insurance side of the Bill. I described the insurance section as a small corner of the Bill, which it is, but we cannot ignore the importance of that corner for businesses throughout the country. I thank the Seanad for its speed and flexibility on Committee and Report Stages. There are a few areas I want to touch upon but I do not have the time to highlight the good work done on this crucial aspect of the Bill. We have to get this through the Dáil before the summer recess so the Judiciary can form the judicial council and the committee to deal with personal injury damages and move on to the next stage. A lot of work has been done that has gone completely without comment. Senator Reilly has highlighted the fact that if a judge moves beyond the guidelines for something he or she has always requested, because it is now in legislation, there will have to be an explanation given to the court explaining the who, what, when, where and how it has been arrived at. This is very important.

  On many occasions, people have stood up and said there has not been a Garda insurance fraud section, but that is incorrect. We considered the establishment of an industry-funded structure within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, who is the man with knowledge and policing skill sets that I do not have, has decided to establish a divisional structure. On every occasion that we hear somebody state we are not going to have a Garda insurance fraud section, it is not correct. We will, but it will be on a divisional basis. It will be in every county, quarter and area of the country, which is very important.

  A number of other things have been done. We had last year's Insurance (Amendment) Act, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019, the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018 and this Bill. Deputy Michael McGrath has a Bill as does Deputy Pearse Doherty that we are hoping to improve. This Bill, of course, is crucial. One of the aspects added to the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act last year was in sections 8 and 14 with regard to CCTV footage. Under data protection rules, if somebody does not state within a month, in line with the data protection period, that there is a potential case and that he or she is making a claim, so that any CCTV footage or video footage can be retained for a full and proper defence, at that point the court will make an inference for or against. This is a crucial aspect of legislation that has also been changed. On every occasion somebody is being political about insurance and stating we are doing nothing, they are aiding and abetting insurance fraud and exaggeration because we are doing a lot. The message must get out that we are doing a lot and we have done a lot. I thank Senators on this matter. I thank them for their speed and efficiency. I hope and anticipate the Judiciary will do its work a lot sooner than the periods set out in the Bill.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I congratulate the Minister of State on the Bill and on all of the hard work he has done quietly and assiduously over the past year and before. He has brought it all together in the end in a way that makes an impact. I reiterate the need for expeditious implementation of the Bill and the meeting of the council and that these matters are taken in hand early on.

  I welcome the Minister of State's comments on what I will call the fraud squad in the Garda. I understand that in essence this is what it is but it will be in every division, so local knowledge will apply and local action can be taken, sometimes in an informal way. Sometimes, when people realise gardaí are looking at them, they can have a change of heart very quickly.

  I want to praise in particular the Alliance for Insurance Reform. Peter Boland and his group have done us a great service. I was very much struck on Committee Stage by the fact that, unlike so many other groups, not alone did it come in and explain the problems but it suggested a suite of solutions. In fairness, the Minister of State has taken many of them on board in one form or another, and that is democracy in action. It is about listening to those on the front line suffering the brunt of this in terms of insurance hikes.

  There are many aspects to the issue, as the Minister of State pointed out, and the Bill attacks only some of them. A perjury Bill will come to the House, which the Government will support. As the Minister of State said, a loud message needs to leave the House to those who would defraud people by grossly exaggerating, making false claims, or setting up accidents for the purpose of making a claim that there will be consequences, because there have not been to date. People think that if they try it on today and are found out, they can try again next month. This will no longer pertain and this message is very important.

  The CCTV provisions are also very important. They send a loud message to people that this will impact on them. I believe this was used as a ruse by certain people who waited until the last minute when a lot of the evidence was gone and then made their claim.

  I thank the Minister of State for doing all he has done to bring this together. I also want to mention the great work done by the Garda and I support it. We want to be in a position to support it.

  With regard to the Judiciary, this is not remotely a witch hunt but an effort to help it improve its performance and have, as do all groups, an element of continuing professional development that allows it to oversee what is happening and help those who might be a little out of line for a host of reasons, which can be done in a friendly and supportive fashion. It takes a long time to become a judge and we do not want to lose people from the Judiciary. We want to support them. However, we have to demand an even justice system for all of our citizens.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I congratulate the Minister of State on what he has done. Since his appointment we have had the personal injuries commission report, various legislation, improvements in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board legislation, and this, which is another piece of the jigsaw to help citizens with their insurance payments and reduce the premiums paid by businesses, small enterprises and individuals. Even today, we see the cost of VHI insurance increasing.

  I am a little concerned about a couple of issues. The Minister of State has said that he will push the timeframe for this as hard as possible. The legislation outlines periods of time within which reports must be done. If they can be done faster, that will be all the better. We do not want to wait for guidelines so that in two years we are still paying high premiums as a result of the awards being made in court. I am concerned that if the committee recommends leaving awards as they are at present, which is way in excess of what they are throughout Europe and the UK, we will then be looking at capping awards. This has been mentioned by the Minister of State. There could also be a referendum and we do not want to go there. I hope the Judiciary takes note of the sentiment of the Seanad and the Oireachtas because we are expressing what the people want.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I congratulate the Minister of State on having the Bill passed by the House. It is approximately 15 years since I attempted to bring this legislation into reality. During the period I was Minister with responsibility for justice, I did not receive the requisite co-operation from the Judiciary, as a result of which nothing happened.  I had to explain to the Dáil on a number of occasions that I was being left high and dry for want of response to my proposals.

  It is also 15 years since the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 was passed. For a while, that legislation had the effect of driving down premia but it began to degrade and, to some extent, there was resentment in the legal profession and some areas of the Judiciary to the measures in the Act. They were designed to ensure litigants behaved with utmost good faith in this kind of litigation and they provided penalties, such as loss of the entire claim where any part of it was exaggerated deliberately. Unfortunately, some members of the Judiciary thought this was draconian but there is nothing draconian in asking people to behave in good faith when making a claim of this kind. There must be consequences for behaving other than in good faith as a plaintiff. Under the 2004 legislation, there was provision made for a register of personal injuries actions and this was designed to create a database so that people could be easily recognised as serial claimants. That has never been commenced and I ask the Minister to consider such a commencement.

  The media probably misquoted the Minister of State on occasion by suggesting that somehow this House was holding up this legislation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I congratulate the Minister of State and his officials on the passage of the Bill through the Seanad and I welcome the legislation. As others have said, it is long overdue for us to establish a judicial council for so many reasons. It is important and good that we are seeing this through. I am particularly pleased that we have seen within the Bill a framework for the structuring of discretion on sentencing and personal injury awards. We have had much debate on that matter. I am very grateful that the Minister of State accepted my point on Committee Stage and an amendment has been passed to ensure that guidance will be given to judges on the conduct of jury trials and criminal proceedings. I also welcome the passage of Senator Ruane's amendment providing for a review of mandatory minimum sentences. It is an important amendment that I hope is retained when the Bill goes through the Dáil.

  Further amendment of the Bill may be required in the Dáil, particularly of section 79 and the provisions on the annual report of the judicial conduct committee, on which we have just voted. The text in section 79 may need to be streamlined. It may well be the case that the Bill will come before the Seanad again but I hope it will have a speedy passage. As Senator McDowell has said, we certainly have not delayed it in this House and we have been very anxious to see it go through. Any of us who have spoken on it in this House as it has gone through its Stages have expressed our strong support for it and our desire to see it passed without further delay.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I concur with my colleagues and commend the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, on the work he has done in the area. It is always difficult to make changes. The Minister of State has created the structures here to enable amendment of the personal injury guidelines. The judicial council will be established and I hope that happens once the legislation passes through the Dáil. I hope the Chief Justice will then move to establish the personal injuries guidelines committee as quickly as possible. Most of the seven people appointed to that will be judges. The Chief Justice is a very capable man and I expect he will be able to make those appointments very quickly. I ask that the committee report on the matter as quickly as possible.

  I am particularly pleased about amendment No. 39, which makes reference to personal injury guidelines under a new section 82(3). As a result of the amendment, the personal injuries committee will look at the level of damages awarded for personal injuries in courts in the State and in such places outside the State as the committee or board may consider relevant. It is a key provision. To date, reviews of awards have been limited to the existing courts system. Guidelines relating to the classification of personal injuries need a little more detail and I have the minor soft tissue injuries in mind in this respect. Where people have genuine and severe injuries, the court system exists to protect their rights. We should never lose sight of that. However, this is about cases where awards are above what is warranted because of a minor injury.

  I commend the Minister of State on this body of work, much of which has been quietly and efficiently done. The structure is now in place and I call on our colleagues in the Lower House to put this legislation through quickly. I hope the judicial council will be established with immediate effect so we can quickly arrive at a position where there is a fair and reasonable system of people being given awards commensurate with their injuries, particularly with respect to serious injuries.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan As I am in the Chair I can say very little but as Vice Chairman of the finance committee I note we have done much work on insurance. I know the Minister of State has worked very hard on it. I am usually the spokesperson on finance and I hope this Bill does what it is supposed to. It is a very good step on a journey and I commend the Minister of State on all he has done.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I concur with the comments made about the Judicial Council Bill 2017. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, as I know it was a personal crusade to get this over the line as quickly as possible.

  Question put and agreed to.

Teachtaireacht ón Dáil - Message from Dáil

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Dáil Éireann has agreed on 19 June 2019 to the amendments made by Seanad Éireann to the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018. I thank everybody for co-operating with me over my two days as Acting Chairman. When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway At 2.30 p.m. next Tuesday.

  The Seanad adjourned at 2.10 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 25 June 2019.


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