Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Eligibility
 Header Item Housing Management Companies
 Header Item An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
 Header Item Thirteenth Report of the Committee of Selection: Motion
 Header Item Reappointment of An Coimisinéir Teanga: Motion
 Header Item Universities Act 1997: Motion
 Header Item Finance Bill 2019: Second Stage
 Header Item Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 268 No. 8

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Chuaigh an Leas-Chathaoirleach i gceannas ar 14:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have received notice from Senator Gerard Craughwell that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, he proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to make a statement on the provision of a post-primary feeder school for St. Andrew’s national school in Bray, County Wicklow.

I have also received notice from Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to make a statement on the review of income thresholds to qualify for social housing.

 I have also received notice from Senator Kieran O’Donnell of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to make a statement on the regulation and operation of retirement homes and villages.

I have also received notice from Senator Colette Kelleher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to make a statement on family reunification.

I have also received notice from Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of the following matter:

The need for the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief to provide funding for a flood relief scheme in Buncrana, County Donegal.

I have also received notice from Senator Tim Lombard of the following matter:

  The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to make a statement on the proposed community CCTV schemes in County Cork, in particular, the role of the data controller and the timeline for implementation of the scheme.

I have also received notice from Senator Michelle Mulherin of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to provide funding to Mayo General Hospital to facilitate the planned extension of the emergency department, a new medical assessment unit and additional bed capacity.

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 empower the Residential Tenancies Board to monitor local authority housing stock to ensure similar standards to those applied to the private landlord housing sector.

I have also received notice from Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to make a statement on the funding available for the upgrading and modernisation of the Cuisle Holiday Centre, County Roscommon.

I have also received notice from Senator Robbie Gallagher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister of State with responsibility for local government and electoral reform to make a statement on the current status of the Local Government (Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017.

  Of the matters raised by the Senators suitable for discussion, I have selected those raised by Senators Craughwell, Murnane O’Connor and Kieran O’Donnell and they will be taken now. Senator Kelleher has withdrawn her Commencement matter which I had originally selected.

  I regret that I had to rule out of order the matter raised by Senator Gallagher on the ground that the Minister has no official responsibility in the matter. The other Senators may give notice on another day of the matters that they wish to raise.

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

School Accommodation Provision

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Joe McHugh, to the House.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister for coming to the House. I have been asked by Councillor Rory O'Connor of Wicklow County Council to raise this important issue with the Minister on behalf of the parents and staff of St. Andrew's national school in Bray.

  As the Minister may be aware, St. Andrew's national school is a fantastic school with a long and impressive history, having been founded in 1888 under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It has undergone many changes, funded for the most part by the generosity of the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian communities in Bray. Over the years, it has expanded to include pupils from the Methodist Church.

  St. Andrew's national school is unique as it was the first, and remains the only, school in Ireland to be shared by three churches. This arrangement has worked very well and is mutually beneficial, with all three churches playing an active role in the life of the school. The board of trustees comprises representatives of all three churches and the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin is the school's patron. The ethos of the school is inclusive in nature and it welcomes everybody equally. The problem now facing the school is that there is no feeder status for St. Andrew's national school to any school in the area with the same ethos. As we know, Article 44 of the Constitution confers freedom to practice one's religion and State aid for schools. Schools cannot discriminate between different religions and denominations and parents of minority faiths have a right to send their children to schools of their ethos and values.

  I have been told that currently some of the pupils in sixth class in St. Andrew's national school still have no places allocated to them for next year. The transition to secondary school is challenging enough for young people and their parents, without the added impediment of there being no school available with their religious ethos. For example, pupils from St. Andrew's have no category 1 access to any school in Bray. Newpark Comprehensive School is the closest to St. Andrew's but it is still some distance away and over-subscribed. Outside of Newpark Comprehensive School there is little choice for parents unless they have the means to pay extremely high fees to other schools which are not close to Bray. The options could not be more limited. Parents with children in St. Andrew's national school find themselves in a unique and, frankly, worrying situation. In Bray, there are barriers to their children accessing places in schools of other faiths. For example, to gain admission to the Presentation College, Bray, category 1, a child needs to have a parent who is a past pupil or a sibling who attended.  Loreto school is fed into St. Patrick's school first. St. Andrew's school worked tirelessly 25 or 30 years ago to get East Glendalough school in Wicklow up and running, only to be told St. Andrew's is not in the school's catchment area. Indeed, I represented East Glendalough school in my time in the Teachers Union of Ireland, TUI.

  In 2011, the school began a campaign to build a school such as East Glendalough school in Bray, but was told it could only bid for the proposed school in Greystones. The school was initially assured that the new school would be regional rather than local. It entered the bidding process and again received verbal assurances that the catchment area would be regional. However, it was subsequently informed it would be a local school for local children, leaving a considerable number of pupils outside the catchment area. One possible solution is Temple Carrig school, which is only five minutes up the road and is the only nearby school in Wicklow of a similar ethos. Will the Minister give serious consideration to giving feeder status to Temple Carrig school for all St. Andrew's pupils?

  I understand a new secondary school is being fast-tracked to open next year with capacity for 1,000 pupils. St. David's Holy Faith secondary school is getting an extension in February 2020 to bring its capacity to 750 and Temple Carrig school is seeking an extension to accommodate 1,000 students. For St. Andrew's students to access places in Temple Carrig school the school places would have to be ring-fenced and St. Andrew's assigned category 1 feeder school status. I hope the Minister will have good news today for the pupils, staff and parents in St. Andrew's in Bray, who deeply need a school that shares their ethos within a reasonable distance of pupils' homes. I thank the Minister for taking this matter today and for his attendance in the House. I look forward to his response.

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir as ucht an cheist seo a ardú inniu. I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to outline the position relating to the provision of post-primary schools in Bray and the position of St Andrew's primary school as a feeder school.

  To plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a geographical information system, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. For school planning purposes, St. Andrew's national school is located in the Bray school planning area which is currently served by six post-primary schools, including north Wicklow Educate Together secondary school, a new 1,000 pupil multidenominational post-primary school established in 2016 to serve the Bray school planning area with a current enrolment of some 225 pupils. In April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the four year period 2019 to 2022, including a new 800 pupil post-primary school to serve the adjacent Greystones and Kilcoole school planning areas as a regional solution which is due to be established in September 2020. The requirement for new schools will be kept under ongoing review and, in particular, will have regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

  New schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand are required, in the first instance, to prioritise pupil applications from within the designated school planning area which the school was established to serve. This does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the school planning area where they have sufficient places, but reflects the need to accommodate in the first instance the demographic for which the school was established. The capital programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed. Details of schools listed on this programme can be found on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this information is also updated regularly.

  The question of enrolment in individual schools generally, including the setting of catchment areas, is the responsibility of the board of management on behalf of the school patron. My Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area.  A board of management may find it necessary to prioritise the enrolment of children from particular areas or on the basis of some other criterion, including giving priority to applicants who have attended a particular primary school, known as a feeder school. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves. Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and, where the school has places available, the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. This may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As the Senator may be aware, the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 provides a new framework for school enrolment that is designed to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications for admission is structured, fair and transparent.

  I thank the Senator again for the opportunity to outline to the House the position in respect of feeder schools and the provision of post-primary schools in the Bray planning area.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. I thank him very much for his response. With regard to the current environment in Ireland, many people are watching from abroad to see how we treat members of other faiths. In this particular instance, members of three faiths attend the primary school. There is an opportunity for the Government to be seen as magnanimous and understanding with regard to the placement of children. If Temple Carrig school could give category 1 status to pupils of the national school in question, it would go down well with the local community and would help show Ireland as a caring and understanding country with respect to the observance of the ethos of specific religions. We are becoming more multidenominational. I take the Minister's point regarding the opening of the multidenominational school in Bray, but we have to keep parents' right to choose under Article 44 of the Constitution to the forefront. Will the Minister commit to at least examining the possibility of giving category 1 status to such pupils applying to Temple Carrig school? Will he get his officials to have a look at that and to see if there is some way in which it could be facilitated?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I thank the Senator once again. One of the things I found out very early in this job was how important the integrity of all 314 school planning areas is. We had an issue in Dublin quite early on. Parents were making a similar demand. They also wished for their feeder school to be moved into a different planning area but the integrity of the planning areas must be respected because we would otherwise not be able to operate a structure to measure demographic changes and demand.

  On Temple Carrig secondary school, which the Senator has mentioned, this is a 750-pupil post-primary school established in 2014 with a Church of Ireland ethos. It is in the adjacent Greystones school planning area, some 4 km from St. Andrew's national school in Bray. New schools established since 2011 to meet demographic demand, including Temple Carrig secondary school, are required to prioritise, in the first instance, pupil applications from within the designated school planning areas they were established to serve. The important point, which I know the Senator accepts, is that this does not preclude schools from enrolling pupils from outside of the school planning areas where sufficient places are available. Rather it reflects the need to accommodate, in the first instance, the demographics for which the school was established. There is therefore nothing precluding young primary school students from applying to Temple Carrig secondary school but, because of respect for the integrity of the school planning areas, pupils from within the school planning area are prioritised.

  I will reiterate that there are six post-primary schools in the planning area and that demand is growing as a result of demographic increases. This is not only occurring in greater Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, and Louth.  I was in the Leas-Chathaoirleach's own county - the kingdom of Kerry - on Friday. As I went through different urban areas of the county, I learned that pressures like increases in the number of housing applications are increasing the level of demand for school places.

  I would like to give an indication of the position in the Bray school planning area. Woodbrook College has a Catholic ethos. Loreto secondary school has a Catholic ethos. Presentation College has a Catholic ethos. St. Kilian's community school is an interdenominational school. Coláiste Ráithín is a multidenominational school. North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school is a multidenominational school. There is continuing pressure on school places. As numbers change over the next five or ten years, the pressure will come off the primary sector and there will be increased pressure on post-primary schools. I understand where the Senator is coming from on this matter. If places are available at Temple Carrig school, I am sure students and pupils from St. Andrew's national school will be accommodated.

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy English. I have raised on many occasions the serious issue of the local authority threshold being too low to allow people to access the housing list. Carlow has one of the lowest thresholds in Ireland. Over 1,000 people are on the housing waiting list in the county. They have met the criteria, including the €27,500 threshold to be eligible to go on the Carlow County Council housing list. Many people are living at home in cramped conditions. They have nowhere to go because they do not qualify for social housing or a mortgage. They do not earn the right amount to satisfy either set of criteria. Eight years have passed since the last review. I understand that a new assessment was due to be made last summer. There is an urgent need to finalise this review and to increase the income eligibility limits for social housing in Carlow and - most likely - in other counties. I assure the House that there are no millionaires out there looking for help. I am talking about people in real families who work hard but are not getting a break. I have been told that the review was due to have been completed already. I am still waiting. People around the country are waiting. I want to know what is happening with the review.

  Today is far different from eight years ago because we are in a housing crisis. I would like to know whether the qualifying thresholds are realistic. I do not believe the threshold in Carlow is right. We are unwittingly excluding genuine people who should qualify for social housing. It is unacceptable that people who are trying to work and make ends meet are being told that they do not qualify for the housing waiting list. I was recently contacted by a family that was looking for help. As the family's weekly earnings of between €350 and €400 are over the income threshold, it does not qualify for registration on Carlow County Council's housing waiting list. I am worried because I am being contacted by families that are getting family income supplement but are not qualifying for registration on the housing list because €27,500 is too low. I would say it is the lowest threshold in the country. The other problem is that there is no appeals mechanism. It does not matter if one exceeds the €27,500 threshold by €10 or €20 - there is no appeal and one cannot go on the housing list.

  I have consistently raised this issue and I have been told it is being looked at. People in Carlow who are in the low-cap zone are caught in limbo because they do not qualify under the social housing income threshold and they do not earn enough to take out a mortgage. I am sure there are people in other counties in the same position. We are meeting people who do not qualify for mortgages or the housing list. They are in limbo. This is a huge issue. I consider this to be another form of homelessness. These people are receiving no support. I need answers. Given that we are in a crisis, it is extraordinary that the Government is not allowing families that are under intense financial pressure to access rent allowance or housing assistance payment. We are condemning people to being unable to avail of social housing.  At the same time, those people have no chance of getting a mortgage to buy their own home. Will the Minister of State clarify whether the review has been done and if it is ready? What will be the increase in the threshold for Carlow County Council? In the past eight months, this has been the biggest issue I have been trying to address with regard to the housing crisis. As I do not have any answers, I tell people the review was to be done in the summer but there is still no answer. The threshold in Waterford is €35,000, in Kilkenny it is between €32,000 and €33,000 and it is even higher in Kildare. In Carlow, however, it is €27,500. It is not possible for people to qualify for the local authority housing list.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I thank Senator Murnane O'Connor for tabling this Commencement matter. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is unfortunately not available to attend today and has asked me to take this matter on his behalf.

  Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended. The 2011 regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard household means policy. Under the household means policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. The policy provides for a range of income disregards and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once-off in nature. I emphasise there is discretion at local authority level to make that call.

  The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs and a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation. This was done to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

  Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources. However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is under way, as the Senator noted. It has been under way for some time and we had hoped it would be completed earlier this year. The review will not be fully completed until the impacts of parallel initiatives in terms of affordability have been considered as these will inform where the thresholds should lie. These parallel initiatives include, for example, the €200 million local infrastructure housing activation fund and the €310 million serviced site fund, which will deliver more affordable homes. It is open to all local authorities to put forward plans to access those funds. In addition, new agencies like the Land Development Agency and other key affordability initiatives such as the advancement of a national cost rental policy, together with the Rebuilding Ireland home loan and the help-to-buy scheme, will be factored in to ensure that supports are targeted where they are needed.

  I emphasise that we are aware that a review of the thresholds was needed and we made a commitment to such a review in A Programme for a Partnership Government. The review is under way and one part of the work is complete but we have to complete the other parts as well. The Minister is hopeful that he will be able to bring forward a new social housing package in the weeks ahead, which will also deal with income limits. There is some discretion available locally if part of an applicant's income is temporary. The Senator gave an example of a family on €300 or €400 per week. A family with such an income would qualify under the scheme. The Senator may wish to highlight other cases but the family to which she referred would qualify.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I am disappointed that this review has not been completed. We are eight years on and we are in a housing crisis. Will the review be complete by the end of the year? It is crucial that we have it as soon as possible. We must not go in to 2020 with the review unfinished. I will persist in raising this issue and asking questions in the House.

  On the appeal mechanism, someone who has been out of work for a while may have his or case reviewed but someone working part-time who has an income that is €10 higher than the €27,500 threshold cannot appeal. The decision will not change. I have received several letters stating that there is no appeal mechanism available to someone on an income of €27,500. If someone is out of work or sick, the position may change for a short time but in 99% of cases, there is no review or appeal available. I ask the Minister of State to have this matter examined in the review when it sets new thresholds for local authorities.  We are definitely the lowest in the country and it is just not right. It is unfair on people who cannot go on a local authority housing list to get housing assistance payment, HAP, and who do not qualify for a mortgage. Perhaps the Minister of State will come back to me. I will stay in contact with him and I ask that this review be published by the end of 2019.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English We hope to bring forward a package of reform and change for qualification for social housing and issues around that in the months ahead. We hope to publish it before the end of the year, but if not, then early in the new year. To be clear, I will make sure that Carlow is looked at, as well as other band 3 regions like Monaghan. Some difficulties have been brought to my attention. We have met the local authorities in most of those counties to examine how we can make sure all of the rules have been applied properly and to consider every option to give people the best chance. We will continue to do that across all Departments. To be clear, the Senator gave an example of a family in receipt of €350 per week. That family would qualify for social housing. A family in receipt of less than €400 would qualify.

Housing Management Companies

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I thank the Minister of State, Deputy English, for taking time out of his busy schedule to come to this important debate. He will be aware of this issue because I have been in touch with him about it over recent weeks. Issues have arisen in the Park Retirement Village, Castletroy, over recent weeks, including the case of two long-term residents, Liz Lynam and Antoinette McEnnis, who live in bungalows and have been issued with termination notices by the owner. The Minister of State has visited the retirement village, which is marketed as Ireland's premier retirement village. What has happened is a grave injustice. The two women have been given notice to quit by 30 June 2020 on the basis that refurbishment will take place.

  These bungalows have been their homes for many years. They came into the retirement village on the basis that this would be their long-term home. What has happened has been a grave shock to them. Furthermore, there have been notices to many other residents about rent increases, something that can happen in normal circumstances. However, what has happened has created such a degree of anxiety and distress among residents that I have advised them to take their case to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB. There are complaints before it for adjudication. I ask that Ms Lynam and Ms McEnnis's cases be expedited.

  Security of tenure is paramount for people who go into retirement villages. They have to be guaranteed that. If they are being evicted from their homes, a change in the legislation in the past 12 months means that if they return to those homes, rent can be charged at market rates. In many cases, rent could rise by €200, €300 or more. People cannot afford that. They moved to the retirement village at a time when it was marketed as a place they could live out the remainder of their lives in peace and tranquility in a safe environment. There have been other issues, such as the fact that there is no longer 24-hour security and instead a patrol system is in operation. I asked the management and owners to consult residents, which has not yet happened.

  The most immediate issue is that the RTB needs to expedite the review of what I believe to be unwarranted and illegal evictions. I refer to one clause in Ms Lynam's letting agreement.  Under the section heading "THE PARTIES AGREE", paragraph 4.2 states: "The parties agree that the Management Company reserves the right to relocate the Tenant from their existing Dwelling to another Dwelling within the Retirement Village - there are 32 bungalows in the retirement village to addition to apartments - in the event that the medical needs of the Tenant change or in the event that the Owner of the Dwelling wished to take up residence in the Dwelling." Neither of those conditions apply here. Both residents, Ms Liz Lynam and Ms Antoinette McEnnis, want to stay in their homes. The owners of the properties are not going to live in them.

  I ask that all the complaints and disputes concerning the tenants of the Park Retirement Village in Castletroy that are before the RTB be expedited. Furthermore, the Minister of State can provide reassurance on the security of tenure for retirement villages. Strictly speaking, this development was given planning permission on the basis it would be a retirement village, not for letting in the private sector. I would like to hear the Minister of State's view on this.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I thank the Senator for raising this issue concerning the regulation and operation of retirement homes and villages, to which I will respond in general. The Senator specifically raised the issue of the Park Retirement Village in Castletroy in Limerick city. It is an area with which I am familiar, and I visited the retirement village and was very impressed with it. I cannot get speak on it specifically as the matter is before the RTB. Due to the quasi-judicial role of the RTB, it would be inappropriate for me, as Minister of State, to comment on or interfere in the specifics of any case that is ongoing with it. I agree with the Senator it would be appropriate if this matter could be dealt with quickly and an outcome found. It is to be hoped the RTB has the resources, which I believe it has, to be able to deal with this matter, and it would be best placed to the judge the specific issues the Senator raised. I was disappointed to hear some complications and difficulties concerning the retirement village have arisen, and it is to be hoped they can all be resolved. As the Senator said, perhaps the best way would be for the new owners to consult the existing tenants and to agree some changes. Separate from that, the RTB will make its own decision, in which process I cannot get involved.

  In general, retirement villages are based on a model of independent living for the residents whether these are homeowners or tenants. We are trying to encourage a greater provision of them, both publicly and privately, or a combination of both, with taxpayers' money and private money. They are not nursing homes. Rather, they are homes where people in an older age bracket may collectively live in a good location, often with centralised services. I have visited quite a number of retirement villages throughout the country in recent years. Most residents are very happy in them and have made lifestyle choices based on that as well in respect of their own homes.

  As these are normal homes, they are subject to the normal planning and building control systems, as with any other development. Where the accommodation is rented, it is also subject to the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2019 and may be subject to rent pressure zone designation in relevant locations, as in the case of Limerick. The Residential Tenancies Acts set out the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. They apply to every dwelling that is the subject of a tenancy, subject to a limited number of exceptions.

  The RTB was established as an independent statutory body under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, as in this case. Recently, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, introduced a number of key measures and reforms designed to enhance protections for tenants, which would include tenants in a retirement village, such as the one the Senator mentioned in Limerick or others. The Act strengthened the security of tenure protections to guard against unlawful tenancy terminations, including applying the new RTB sanctioning regime to improper conduct by a landlord who contravenes the tenancy termination provisions; requiring landlords to copy a tenancy termination notice to the RTB; requiring a certificate from an architect or surveyor to the effect that the proposed substantial refurbishment or renovation works in question would pose a health and safety risk requiring vacation by the tenants and that such a risk would be likely to exist for at least three weeks during such works; significantly extending the duration of tenancy termination notice periods, for example, a 180 days, or approximately six months, notice period for landlords who terminate a tenancy of between three and seven years' duration; and, where a landlord terminates a tenancy because he or she needs to refurbish or renovate the property substantially, the requirement to offer the property back to the former tenant upon completion of works provided the tenant has provided his or her contact details. That is a key part of the case raised by Ms Liz Lynam and Ms Antoinette McEnnis.   Given the strong planning and building control standards in place, and the strong protections for tenants under the Residential Tenancies Acts, there are no plans to have a separate system of regulation for retirement villages. There is a need, however, to have more options for housing for older people. To this end, and further to the Senator's question on security of tenure, we are in an area of policy development and we have an action plan, Housing Options for Our Ageing Population, which was published in February. The Departments of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Health published a joint policy statement and a new framework for how we will work in the area. An implementation plan is progressing the 40 actions outlined in the statement to bring forward housing options, including supported housing for older people. We are examining security of tenure and various barriers to that, and the blend of private and public money.

  The bottom line is that we want there to be more housing options for older people in every town and village but it is about giving people the choice to move or change home if they want. I call it "right-sizing", while others refer to it other names. Often, the debate in the media suggests that people will be forced out of their homes but there is not an ounce of truth in that. It is about giving people the option to move house and facilitating it. We will plan for more retirement villages similar to the Park or the private ones in various parts of the country and have them ready in order that people will have options. It is a choice. If the planning is done correctly, with all the necessary protections, including security of tenure, it will work well in the future.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Before I call the Senator to respond, I welcome Deputy Niall Collins and his guest to the Public Gallery.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell The people in question moved to the Park retirement village in Castletroy because they wanted to do so. Many of them sold their homes. They have lived in the retirement village houses for at least eight or nine years. These are their homes and they are where the residents want to reside. It is a Hobson's choice for them. If the houses are renovated and they are offered them back, the rent will probably rise by a multiple to a price well above what they now pay. If they are moved to another unit within the complex, it will not be their home, but the rent will nonetheless be significantly higher. I want there to be security of tenure when someone makes the choice to move to a retirement village. It is totally different from the case of somebody renting in a private complex. People move to retirement villages for security and they will have made an effort to downsize. The eviction notices are causing a great deal of distress not only to Liz Lynam and Antoinette McEnnis but also to all the other people living in the Park retirement village.

  I ask the Minister of State to provide an assurance that he will seek to expedite the matter with the RTB. There has to be defined security of tenure for people who move to a retirement village. Such facilities market themselves specifically as retirement villages for people who are old and infirm. I hope there will be a speedy resolution to the matter. I call on the new owners of the Park retirement village to engage actively with the residents. They moved there because they wanted to. While there are issues that will need to be addressed, they like their neighbours and where they live, and they should be entitled to continue to live there, given that it is marketed as a retirement village.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am glad the Senator has raised the issue, both in general and in the context of the specific case in Limerick, which I hope the RTB will be able to resolve quickly. In general, it is important that we bring forward more suitable accommodation and housing for people who are ageing, which will include all of us at some point in our lives. A large part of the issue is that people want to feel safe and secure and have a sense of permanency. If one is to right-size, by selling or renting out one's home and moving into a new one, one has to know that one will be able to remain there for as long as one wishes. It is important we deal with that and we are doing so under policy interventions. An important aspect is the financing. Our implementation body, which involves all the Departments working together along with representatives of the older people associations and Age Friendly Ireland, are around the table, making decisions and driving forward the changes that are needed. There is a great opportunity in the country to provide appropriate housing for older people. I hope we can avail of that opportunity and bring it forward. It is important that all local authorities be involved in the planning aspect of setting out land and sites, specifically for what I have outlined, and ensure that it will be backed up by policy.  It is very important that all local authorities are involved in the planning aspect of this, that they set out land and sites specifically for this, and that they make sure there are backup assets and policies as well. I believe in general this can be a positive area. It is disappointing that there are difficulties in relation to the Park in Limerick, because it was quite a good example of what could be done right. Again, Senator O'Donnell has urged that the new landlords would sit down with their tenants. That is obviously the best outcome.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell The management company, yes.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The management company as well. It is important that we see progress in that area too.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister of State very much.

  Sitting suspended at 3.15 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. a1, motion regarding the thirteenth report of the Committee of Selection, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 1, motion regarding reappointment of An Coimisinéir Teanga - back from committee and to be taken on the conclusion of No. a1, without debate; No. 2, motion regarding Universities Act 1997 (section 54(3)) (University Authorisation) Order 2019 - referral to committee, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Finance Bill 2019 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and all other Senators not to exceed six minutes; and No. 4, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Report and Final Stages, resumed, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 3 and adjourn after two and a half hours, if not previously concluded.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I have an amazing sense of déjà vu. Last week, I raised the issue of gangland crime and I must do so again today. To date in 2019, there have been ten gangland-related murders in the city, which is nearly one per month. At the weekend, we heard of the horrific murder of a 22-year-old man in Coolock. Another murder took place in Lucan the previous week. People are living in fear in our cities, not just because of gangland crime but also because of petty crimes such as burglaries. People are living in fear in rural Ireland because of the major increase in crime rates. Isolated farmers are living alone and burglaries at their properties seem to be the norm. This is not right and it is not the type of society in which I want to live. There seems to be no respect whatever for the rule of law and there seems to be no disincentive to prevent people breaking the law. Scores are settled using guns rather than in more rational ways. We must formulate a solution and look at what we did in the past when we set up the Criminal Assets Bureau and strict legislation relating to sentencing and gun laws, particularly possession and crimes committed with guns. We must get much tougher. The Minister for Justice and Equality is not doing enough. There have been ten gangland-related murders in the past year, which is not a great record. He should be held accountable for this and come to the Seanad to engage in a proper debate on gangland-related crime and illegal drugs. It could be a wider debate on the drugs issue, including legalisation-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh It needs to be addressed properly.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Bang on. That is what we need to do.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I hope the Minister will do that.

  The second matter I wish to raise relates to the Irish Cancer Society's report.  The report shows that many families spend up to €1,000 extra a month on expenses they are unable to claim back. My father had cancer for 15 years. He came back six or seven times. Each time he spent three to four months in hospital. Each day he was in hospital probably three people visited him, so we probably spent €50 a day on parking. We could afford it and were happy to do so, but it is a lot of money for families, and that is only the expense of parking. The HSE should look at parking fees, not only regarding cancer patients but for all long-term illness patients. It is only a small thing but it really adds up when families spend the guts of €50 a day between them for parking, especially if they are travelling long distances. If one thing were to be taken away from the Irish Cancer Society report, a thing that is doable, it is parking.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I propose a change to the Order of Business, to move No. 4 up and No. 3 down, so that we would take the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill before the Finance Bill.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Is the Senator proposing the same time?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Yes, I propose there would be no change in the times.

  I wish to mention the passing of Major General David O’Morchoe, The O'Morchoe. David The O'Morchoe was the president of the Royal British Legion in Ireland for many years during the Troubles period. He did a great deal to bring people together in his time. He was a member of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and later my own regiment, the Royal Irish Rangers. David's passing was very sad. We buried him on Monday and I am delighted to say that there was a very large crowd and he had a wonderful send off. He was a tremendous man who did a lot of work bringing people together.

  I received correspondence the other day that I think will interest the Leader. It was from the Mayor of Galway. He pointed out that he attends between three and five functions a day while balancing a full-time job. He has attended over 200 functions since his election in June. Last Tuesday he attended an event in Brussels as Mayor of Galway. He attends functions furthering his city, as do others, all over Europe and the United States. He was communicating with me over the rules laid down on attendance requirements for members of local authorities to avail of their allowances and travel and subsistence. An 80% attendance is required at all meetings to qualify for travel and substance, and the annual allowance requires 50% for all meetings. We need to change the legislation or the statutory instrument, or regulate to include mayoral duties, particularly those carried out abroad on behalf of the local authority, accounting for the number of meetings attended. Failure to do so will deter councillors from putting themselves forward for the position of mayor. There are members of this House and the Lower House who frequently find themselves abroad, working for the State with diaspora groups, on missions with IDA Ireland and so on. It is a subject of freedom of information requests from journalists, who are tracing our every movement. I have no difficulty with that but if someone is doing work on behalf of the State, that should be recognised as such. We should not have people chasing around after our every movement. I refer especially to mayors. I met the Mayor of the Leader's own city of Cork in Chicago -----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is Lord Mayor.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am terribly sorry.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan He stands corrected.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I forgot that the Leader wanted that job.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is nice to have a royalist in the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Whatever about the Senator's royalty, we are running into injury time now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There was a plebiscite. The Senator is wrong about everything. He is getting it all wrong today. It is going well.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell There is another issue I wish to raise with the Leader and the Whip. I wrongly accused the Taoiseach of changing the day of the remembrance ceremony in Merrion Square. I have since been reliably informed from the highest sources that it was a military decision. I apologise profusely to the Taoiseach and the Whip, who I know was concerned that I was maligning her boss.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Very good.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I also apologise profusely to the Leader, who took grave exception to what I said. That is the last they will hear of it from me and I do not want to hear any of it from them.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Is that a promise?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sure the apology will be accepted.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Apology accepted.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Today I want to talk about the conference I attended yesterday along with my Seanad colleague, Senator McFadden. It was held in Westport, County Mayo. I commend Safe Ireland for such a wonderful conference on domestic violence and for holding it in Mayo. One of the reasons it did so was that it launched a report on Mayo with regard to combating domestic violence. I will speak briefly about two of the speakers who attended the conference. The first is Ryan Hart from Britain, of whom many Senators have heard. His mother and sister were killed by his father. He and his brother Luke have written a book on it, Remembered Forever. What he spoke about in particular was the eulogising of his father who died by suicide just after the death of his mother and sister. He said this has to stop. We see so much of it in this country, where women and children are killed and suddenly the person who killed them is eulogised and all kinds of excuses are made, such as being a great member of the GAA, going to Mass on Sunday or being a great community person. The reason I say all of this is that we need to do much more in this State. I have asked for the Minister to come to the House to evaluate the legislation we passed earlier this year. It is hugely important that we do so. I do not believe adequate resources are being put in place to underpin the legislation. The conference also heard from Detective Superintendent Gordon McCreadie of the Scottish police. He spoke about the many good practices in Scotland to combat domestic violence.

  The Safe Home Safe Communities programme has been launched in Mayo. The idea behind it is to have prevention, intervention, response, recovery and measurement. It is hugely important that we have these things. I will speak about it at length later. This is crucial because the funds for Safe Ireland are not guaranteed and the staff are on protective notice. We are starting our 16 days of action to oppose violence against women and it is not good enough. Tusla is not allocating the money. It is administering the money but it is not dishing it out. That money needs to be released. We cannot have a precarious situation where Safe Ireland is not being adequately funded to do the job it needs to do. I am sure I will speak about this during the 16 days of action on opposing violence against women.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe to the Gallery.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I was very sorry to learn of the death of Major General The O'Morchoe, head of the Murphy family. I knew him for more than 50 years. All of the old Irish families know each other, including the O'Haras and the McDermotts. We all know each other and I am very sorry he is gone. He was a general in the British Army. I think he was head of the British Legion.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell He was.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris He used to turn up at the Armistice Day ceremonies. He was a thoroughly decent, nice man.

  I second Senator Craughwell's amendment to the Order of Business. It is a real pity that we will take the Finance Bill, which has no terminal point and we do not know when it will end, prior to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.  Surely we should take the latter and, when it is finished, enter into the indeterminate deserts of the Finance Bill. That seems logical to me. I do not understand-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are only taking Second Stage.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Of what are we only taking Second Stage?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Finance Bill.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I know that. I want to know why we are taking Second Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We have to take it.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Is Senator McDowell in court?

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys That is uncalled for.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer In fairness, Senator Humphreys has said worse.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I stand by what I said.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris What did the Senator say?

(Interruptions).

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Humphreys has said an awful lot worse.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris has the floor.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden I could never abuse Senator Norris.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I can abuse myself, darling.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask Senators not to encourage Senator Norris.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris As already stated, I very much regret the death of the O'Morchoe, who was a thoroughly charming and gentlemanly person from, I think, Wexford. I also want to second Senator Craughwell's amendment to the Order of Business.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden I would like to-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The Senator should keep a civil tongue in her head.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Obviously. I concur with the remarks of Senator Conway-Walsh regarding the Safe Ireland conference. Yesterday was UN International Day for the Elimination of Domestic Violence against Women. The conference, which was held in Westport, was exceptionally good. What I took away from it is that we need to have a whole-of-Government approach to domestic violence. I was struck when I heard victims state that the first point of contact for a person when he or she first admits that he or she is struggling or being abused does not have to be an organisation charged with responsibility for looking after people suffering as a result of domestic violence. That point of contact could be an official of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or a local authority housing official. The point was made yesterday that, along with An Garda Síochána, everybody in these areas should be trained to take statements, help women - and, in some cases, men - and ensure that they say what is right and listen to victims.

  It is important that we would have a whole-of-Government approach in respect of this matter. That approach would not necessarily have to be led by the Department of Justice and Equality. I ask the Leader to use his good offices in the context of identifying which Department should take the lead. Perhaps the Department to the Taoiseach should do so, but with all other Departments get involved. That one in four women will have suffered abuse from their spouse at some point in their lives is striking. While there have been improvements through the years, domestic violence has not stopped. We should be brave enough to have a conversation on this issue. Perhaps, as I suggested, the Department of the Taoiseach could take the lead on this.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The debate on last year's Finance Bill was relatively short. I will be opposing the amendment to the Order of Business. I find it slightly hard to take that a group which has spent 100 hours plus opposing the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is now in a rush to have a debate on it and to have that debate taken before debates on other matters.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Hear, hear.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris That is absolute nonsense. It is a question of timing.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It is completely accurate.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is not the length of the debate that is at issue, it is a question of timing.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senators are asking that it be rushed into the Chamber despite that they spent over 100 hours opposing it.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is a good point.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris What is Senator Horkan's problem?

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan My problem is that-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The problem is that Senator Horkan does not know what he is talking about.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I know exactly what I am talking about.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Horkan is correct.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris How predictable that Senator Buttimer would say that.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should stop kidding themselves and co-operating with each other.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Horkan, without interruption.

(Interruptions).

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am making the point, validly, that the people who are proposing the amendment to the Order of Business to rush the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill into the House at 4.45 p.m. are the same individuals who have spent hundreds of hours and approximately a year and a half opposing it. That is fine. I have opposed the Bill too. I have no problem with them opposing the Bill, but I find it slightly hard to take that they want to rush it in now when they have been opposing it up to now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator is right.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell There is no rush.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senators cannot engage on the matter now.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I have the floor.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is called the Order of Business.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan On another point which I raised last week, we were all supportive of the Moorhead report being published. Again, I am not pushing an amendment on the matter and I am aware that it will be before an the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government tomorrow. However, it must be published because we need sight of it.  We need the councillors of Ireland to see what is on offer. It may not be great but I have no idea. I hope it is great but I would not advise people to take out mortgages or loans against what they might get from it.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell There is nothing coming.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It is important that we see it and that we debate it as soon as possible in the House after it is published. I hope the Leader can find out from the Minister when we will see that.

  We cannot leave the next issue unsaid. The story of the printer in the Houses of the Oireachtas is unfortunate. It is not something any of us caused.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is State procurement.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I accept that. People say this is in Leinster House when we all know it is across the road in Kildare House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan This is a matter for the commission rather than the Leader.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It is a matter for the commission.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin The Senator will have to watch his tone.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am not saying anybody did this deliberately but when this kind of mistake in expenditure happens, we should probably not just gloss over it and pretend it did not happen. The Leader knows this and it is important to say that when we spend the State's resources, however that is done, we should try to get the best value for money.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We take the Senator's point.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I listened to Senator Horkan's comments but I support my colleagues, Senators Craughwell and Norris, on the proposed change to the Order of Business. It is our function or role and ultimately this is a matter for Members.

  Will the Leader update us at some stage on the land development agency Bill? There was great fanfare with the announcement of the agency over two years ago and we were then told that eight sites had been identified and were under control of the agency. The Leader also knows we were promised the roll-out of construction of over 8,000 houses on those sites.

  I support the Land Development Agency and it is a really good proposal from the Government but the time for this Government is running out and we will be running into an election within months. If this development agency Bill does not progress through the various Stages in these Houses, which would be right and proper, there will be no Land Development Agency as the legislation will fall when the Government falls. It is too important to the delivery of affordable and social housing, or all forms of housing. There are great opportunities for this agency and I would like to see the Bill progressed, subject of course to scrutiny. It has not completed pre-legislative scrutiny but we must keep our eye on the ball. If the Leader has any further details, he might keep the Members informed.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield My dentist has told me I am grinding my teeth. I thought it might be when I am asleep but it could be when I am here listening to the drama about the judicial appointments legislation.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys It might be in the Senator's hands to stop that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It could be in the hands of Senator Humphreys as well.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin We are looking to the Deputy.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Members of the culture committee visited Mayo and Roscommon last week as part of our work on local and regional museums. We were in Straide to see the Michael Davitt museum and Strokestown House and famine museum. We also saw the Jackie Clarke collection in Ballina. We all know these spaces can be drivers for tourism, education and international and national engagement, as well as research. I encourage Members to get in touch with the committee if they have ideas about our local and regional museums. Some of the issues concern greater support for local authority arts officers and heritage officers and funding for people on the ground rather than just capital projects. For example, it is about allowing people to go overseas to meet people from organisations where there may be engagement. We should also return Heritage Council funding to pre-recession levels. The committee will shortly complete its work on local and regional museums and I encourage people to have a look at the landscape locally and get in touch with the committee or me with ideas on that report and recommendations.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Unfortunately, I must raise an issue I have raised continuously in the House, namely, criminality and murder on the north side of Dublin. It gives me no pleasure to have to raise it again because a young man was murdered on Sunday evening in Clonshaugh Avenue in Dublin 17. It is the fifth murder in the last seven months in this geographical location. The news cycle moves on quickly but I must reiterate the damage this type of event does to a family, community and area. Children are walking past Garda tape at the scene of the murder on their way to school. Time and again, I have called on the Minister for Justice and Equality to replicate in Dublin's north side what was done in the north inner city. When there was a spate of murders in the north inner city in February 2016, in fairness to the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, he responded by getting every agency, actor and stakeholder into a room, regardless of their political backgrounds, to try to find a solution. A commission was put together and a report, known as the Mulvey report, was produced. Solutions were found that were not just policing solutions.

  We are asking for the same template to be applied in the geographical location of Dublin 17, Dublin 13 and parts of Dublin 5. We are asking every public representative, school and local agency, including the Northside Partnership and Preparing for Life in Darndale, to come together and come up with answers as to why this is happening in the first place and possible solutions to make it stop. There have been five murders in seven months. If any other geographical location in the country had five murders in seven months, I am quite sure the political reaction would be different. It is not good enough. Nobody in this House believes it is good that children are walking past murder scenes. One primary school on the north side had a murder take place outside its gate. There is a memorial to that individual outside the gate of the school. He was shot dead there. This is not normal and cannot be considered normal.

  I am trying to be constructive and am not trying to score party political points. It was this Government under the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, that did the right thing in the north inner city and it is the same Government under the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, that can do the right thing in this geographical location on Dublin's north side. I cannot comprehend why it is felt that the news and politics have moved on when a young man of 22 years of age has been gunned down on Clonshaugh Avenue. It is as if it is just another news item. It is not good enough. It cannot be good enough and the Government must respond. If it did, I and every other Member of the House would support it in doing that.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Today, massive machinery travelled through the capital's streets. Tractors were driven by farmers who have been badly let down. We must stop waiting for mass protests like this to change things. We must do the right thing. Our ancestors made this country the great place it is today through farming. Agriculture made us and we must never forget that. Small farmers across the country are suffering crippling price cuts and bad rewards for good, hard and honest work. I stood with the farmers outside the House and I stand in the Chamber in support of them. A task force was to be convened, but it failed. Talks were to take place, but they did not. Prices were to be fixed and they were not. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, to the House to answer our questions? Why are the farmers left to feel let down again and to feel that they have no power unless they travel to the capital on enormous tractors to be heard? This is a very serious issue.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Senator Murnane O'Connor spoke about people being let down. The capital city is being let down continuously by this Government. We were promised revenue neutrality in respect of the rates from Irish Water, but there is an €8 million shortfall in the city's budget that was passed last night. The can will be carried by both the citizens and the ratepayers.  It is not good enough to tell the people of our capital city that Irish Water is neutral in the context of funding when, in fact, that is not the case. The rates from the Irish Water buildings in the city are being spread across the country on a per capitabasis. That is not the only issue in respect of which Dublin is being let down. The Government has forgotten that the capital city must be treated to some element of fair play. It certainly has not been getting fair play for the past year.

Senator Ó Ríordáin mentioned what is happening on Dublin's northside. I see the same thing happening, albeit at a lower level, on the southside. Communities are being drained of Garda resources. Community gardaí in the south inner city are out policing protests at Google, at greyhound stadiums and on Merrion Square. These are the very gardaí on which my community depends for policing. We are being starved of those resources because hours are being soaked up dealing with those protests and the officers involved are not being replaced. In one area in the south inner city, 11 cars were broken into on a single night and no gardaí were available to respond. That is not acceptable. From small acorns grow large problems. We are seeing a very large problem starting to grow on the south side of the city because of the lack of policing resources. This needs to be put right. The capital city is the largest contributor of tax to the Exchequer but it is not getting its fair share of resources or funding. I am absolutely sick of it. I keep asking what on earth Dublin did to Fine Gael to deserve being ignored in such a manner.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Senators Conway-Walsh and McFadden have already highlighted that we are in the midst of the 16 days of action campaign in the context of violence against women. Violence against women is one of the most corrosive elements across all societies internationally. There is no society in which it is not present. The patterns can be seen almost everywhere. Figures indicate that between one in three and one in five women experience sexual violence, physical violence or other forms of abuse. These are significant patterns across society. It is a global problem. Luckily, some steps have been taken on a global scale, such as in the form of the Istanbul Convention, to put forward ideas as to how to address this issue. Domestically, one of the great things the Seanad has done was to pass legislation making coercive control an offence. If we want to see that addressed, we need to ensure that the front-line organisations such as Safe Ireland, Women's Aid and the many rape crisis centres across the country are properly resourced. They are facing a constant battle to provide basic services while also trying to contribute to and support the societal change we need. For example, Safe Ireland has produced very strong research showing that a whole new generation still has attitudes of entitlement in the context of power over women within relationships. It is really important that these organisations are empowered not only to keep providing basic front-line services to which many women - thank goodness - now come forward to talk about their experiences but also to act as advocates. I ask the Leader whether we could have a debate within this 16-day period focusing on violence against women in its many forms.

  Very strong testimony on domestic homicide has been heard. Since 1996, 100 women have died at the hands of partners or former partners. In the UK, every domestic homicide is now investigated. When the full investigation is carried out, details of which are then published, it is often discovered that coercive and controlling behaviour was one of the first and earliest red flags. We have a chance to get that right. I know we are under pressure from the point of view of time but I would love it if the Leader could accommodate even a short debate on the issue of violence against women globally and within Ireland within the 16-day period to which I refer.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Last week, the Joint Committee on Health had an opportunity to question the leadership of the Irish Wheelchair Association regarding the proposed closure of Cuisle.  I commend those who gathered in Roscommon on Saturday to protest against the proposed closure. I express again my hope that there will be a stay of execution on this decision as a result of the joint committee's request. Those who care about the importance of the wonderful service that Cuisle provides to the community should be given an opportunity to see how the facility can be saved for the future and for the sake of those who benefit from it.

  I wish to highlight another threat to the provision of services for members of the disability community. The National Platform of Self Advocates is Ireland's first disabled persons' organisation and the only one to consist of and be directed solely at people with intellectual disabilities. It was established in 2011 by people with intellectual disabilities and has been funded by a grant from a private philanthropy organisation. It regularly seeks to progress vital employment opportunities for its members. Its national meeting in July of this year focused on this theme. Unfortunately, the private funding has now ceased. In the absence of direct Government assistance, the National Platform of Self Advocates will close at the end of this year. Its vital contribution to the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities, which is running from 2015 to 2024, was recognised by the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, when he attended a debate on the strategy in this House in May. The debate in question was organised by our colleague, Senator Dolan. I commend the Minister of State on his friendship and support for the platform. As I understand it, he has been a significant supporter of the platform over the past 18 months. Without him, it would have closed at the end of last year. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister. We need to impress on him the urgent need for a definitive resolution to this funding crisis. From what I can ascertain, the initial funding grant that established the platform was a modest €55,000. If such a trifling sum cannot be restored, or provided for such an important organisation, it will be a terrible shame. I ask the Leader to bring from this House the concern that Senators share about the credibility of our commitment to truly advancing participatory decision-making for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It is important that a special arrangement would be made in this case.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I support what has been said by other Members of the House, including Senator Mullen, about the Cuisle facility in Roscommon. I have listened back to the contributions that were made by representatives of the Irish Wheelchair Association when they came before the Joint Committee on Health last week. There was a huge demonstration in Roscommon over the weekend. The Cuisle facility for people with disabilities is of benefit to the entire country. It is essential for the HSE and the Department of Health to provide the required capital allocation. In her contribution to last week's debate at the joint committee, the chief executive officer of the Irish Wheelchair Association said that approximately €1.1 million would be required to avert the closure of the facility. I would like the Minister for Health or the Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues to come to the House to address this specific matter.

  When I met representatives of the Association of Irish Local Government earlier today, we discussed the terms and conditions of local authority members. I support what Senator Craughwell said about the need to do more than look at terms and conditions. We should also look at the requirement for mayors and cathaoirligh of local authorities to attend 80% of meetings. There should be a system that is similar to that which operates in the Oireachtas. When local authority members are facilitating their local authorities by being abroad or at another event, they should be able to reconcile for any local authority meetings they are due to attend. That would be on a par with what is available to Members of the Oireachtas. That facility should be made available to chairs and mayors of local authorities, in particular. When the Minister of State with responsibility for local government comes before this House next week, I hope he will have some good news for the local authority members across the country who are anxiously awaiting equality of pay.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I will speak about the impact that the overcrowding in the accident and emergency department at University Hospital Limerick is having on the lives of real people. The hospital is due to get an MRI scanner.  I hope that will be in place quickly. A review is under way on the operation of the hospital. I ask for that to be expedited to see exactly what specific plans we need in place over the next number of months until we have the 60-bed block completed.

  Furthermore, I ask that a review would be done on available bed capacity in the other hospitals within the group, including St. John's Hospital, Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and Croom Hospital. We need to ensure bed capacity is used in the most efficient way possible looking at all hospitals as the one unit. My main concern is for patients, many of them elderly, who are waiting a huge length of time. A great debt is owed to the staff who are working in the accident and emergency department because of the pressures they are under. We have to ensure that until the 60-bed block is in place, we have the correct measures and the necessary resources in place. I ask that the Leader of the House would convey to the Minister for Health the urgency of this, particularly with the overcrowding of University Hospital Limerick.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 15 Members of the House for their contributions to the Order of Business. Senators Ó Ríordáin and Ardagh raised the issue of the tragic shooting and killing of a person in Coolock at the weekend. To be fair to Senator Ó Ríordáin, there is much merit in what he is suggesting about a specific task force. Equally, Government is committed to ensuring Ireland is a safe and secure place, including the northside of Dublin. To that end, the Government established a task force in 2016, augmented and supported by increased resources for the armed support unit of the Garda, along with a suite of legislation. Senator Ardagh's point is one we should all focus upon, namely, the need for the rule of law to be respected, and that is not happening. There is also a need for accountability and for us to ensure, whether it is for the possession of firearms, the possession of drugs or whatever reason, that there is a commensurate sentencing policy and that we are not soft on crime. I do not disagree with much of what Senator Ó Ríordáin said about the effect it has on communities. We all live in communities and we all understand the impact, effect and import of what is happening. The Government is committed to that. The armed support unit is available 24-7. There has been an increase in the number of gardaí deployed in Dublin and there has been an increase in the number of gardaí recruited. It is important to note, in the context of the contribution of Senator Ardagh, that crime is reducing. There is a reduction in crime but there is an issue with gangland crime in our capital city in particular, and it is necessary for it to be urgently addressed by the Garda Commissioner. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House on the matter.

  Senator Ardagh raised the Irish Cancer Society report, entitled The Real Cost of Cancer. I have not read the report but the points made by Senator Ardagh can be addressed fundamentally by local hospitals with car parking where for cancer patients in particular the fee can be waived. In some hospitals that does happen. I would be happy to have a debate on the report although I have not seen it. I commend the Irish Cancer Society on the work it does and it is important we work collectively on the issues raised in that report.

  Senator Craughwell, seconded by Senator Norris, has not given a cogent reason for the need to change the Order of Business.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I can.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin He wants to.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I know he does but-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I cannot allow a debate on this, sadly. I ask Senators to speak through the Chair.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I know Senator Boyhan said in his contribution that it is our job to order the Order of Business and to vote for or against it. We agreed the schedule last Wednesday at the group leaders' meeting and I know it is our prerogative to change it if we need, want or deserve to. There is, however, no real cogent argument to change it, so I am not accepting the arguments put forward by Senator Craughwell.

  Both Senators Craughwell and Norris commented on the sad passing of David Creagh, The O'Morchoe. I pay tribute to him for his leadership and I thank him for his strength, valour and commitment in the public service.  I extend our sympathies to his family. Our thoughts and support are with them at this tragic time.

  Senators Craughwell, Horkan and Ó Domhnaill raised the issue of the Moorhead report. The 80% attendance rate requirement for those who are lord mayors, mayors or cathaoirligh is one that should be waived given that they are performing a ceremonial and representational duty. They are also the voice and ambassador for councils, not just abroad but also locally. A mayor, lord mayor or cathaoirleach should not have to meet the 80% attendance rate, in a similar manner to the rules for Ministers in government. It was mentioned that we can reconcile our attendance, but a mayor, lord mayor or cathaoirleach should be exempt.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris We should all be exempt.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leader might bring that issue to the Minister.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Norris has made a very different point, but I agree with him.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is a load of nonsense.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is a load of nonsense.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are not going to have a debate.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Half of the Government do not sign in.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is the case irrespective of who is in government.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Exactly.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leader might bring this matter to the attention of the Minister.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is a matter for a separate debate.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senators Conway-Walsh, McFadden and Higgins commended Safe Ireland on its conference yesterday and the quality of the speakers and presentations. Yesterday was white ribbon day and I will endeavour to have a debate as part of the 16 days of the campaign. It is important that we acknowledge not just the cultural but the legislative changes. There is an element within society that thinks domestic violence is okay which we have to curb. That culture must be continually challenged. Legislation, as well as conferences like that which took place yesterday, will help. We must consider the funding of Safe Ireland and I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House for a discussion. It is an important piece of work on which we can all stand together.

  Senator Horkan referred to the Moorhead report. The Minister is going to the committee tomorrow and it is my intention to debate the matter next week as there was a scheduling change this week. The Senator made reference to the printer in Leinster House. The Clerk of the Dáil has commissioned an investigation into the matter. I understand the Committee of Public Accounts will discuss the matter on Thursday. It beggars belief when something like this goes awry. I cannot comment on what happened. I do not know what happened. It should not happen. A measuring tape to measure the gap between the wall and the door is not that difficult to come by. Perhaps there are other issues of which we are not aware. Perhaps we should wait until we have the full report. It does not make for pretty reading. This type of thing puts us all into one basket and condemns us all, which is unacceptable.

  Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the Land Development Agency, LDA. His point on the lifetime of this Oireachtas is one that is beyond my control and his. His point on the Bill is important. As he knows the LDA is very active. It is examining the Shanganagh site in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, as well as the St. Kevin's site in Cork. Eight sites are being actively considered. I do not have an up-to-date answer for the Senator, but I am sure he has the answer given that he is pretty proactive. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is committed to the project and an interim board and chair have been appointed. I will endeavour to convey the points the Senator made to the Minister.

  I commend Senator Warfield and the committee on the work they are doing with local regional museums. We will have that debate in due course.

  Senator Murnane-O'Connor raised the issue of farmers and the beef sector. We are all fully aware of the issues affecting the sector and the Government's commitment to it through a series of measures and programmes.  I am sure the Senator would join me in welcoming the opening of new markets in China and commend the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the work he has done there. We must recognise the role of the beef sector and it is important to ensure farmers have reliable and good incomes. I will arrange for the Minister, Deputy Creed, to come to the House for a debate on this issue.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I thank the Leader for that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I do not know what Senator Humphreys has against the rest of Ireland. He seems to think that Dublin is the be all and end all. There is life beyond the M50.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Is there really?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell He would have to get off the M50 first.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin It is a long way from the centre of Dublin.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell He could be there for a week.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator should talk to people around the country about how they see Dublin.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin We are paying for it all. We are paying for everyone. Go on the taxpayers.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I do not know what the Labour Party has against rural Ireland or areas outside Dublin.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We are paying too.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will not debate that matter now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It has become Senator Humphreys election mantra now. It is important that we have accuracy in the context of Dublin City Council's budgeting and on the issue of Irish Water, and Senators should be informed of that. Equally, Senator Humphreys should recognise that Garda numbers have increased, not decreased. As Senator Craughwell said, there is an election coming up. I will say nothing more.

  Senators Mullen and Ó Domhnaill raised the important issue of Cuisle, the Irish Wheelchair Association and a presentation that was made to a joint committee last week. Many Senators have raised this matter. I do not have an update in respect of it.

  Senator Mullen referred to the National Platform of Self Advocates. Perhaps he should raise this as a Commencement matter in order that he might get a more expeditious answer. I do not have any information on the matter but it is important that we increase participation and recognise the importance of advocacy. If the Senator has not chosen to table a Commencement matter, I would be happy to arrange for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue in due course.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill We would welcome that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator O'Donnell referred to overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick. Clearly, there needs to be an increase in supply. I hope the provision of an MRI scanner will improve the position. I will be controversial about this in that I believe there is a game going on in our health system regarding the provision of trolleys in emergency departments about. We need to have an honest debate about this. I have said that previously in the House and I will not shrink away from saying it again. There is a game going on between vested interests in our health system. The person who often loses out is the patient. I hope that the House will have an honest debate about the health system prior to Christmas.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell We had trolleys in 1916.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Craughwell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 4 be taken before No. 3 at 4.45 p.m. and that No. 3 be taken on the adjournment of No. 4." Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Yes.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 22.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Victor Boyhan   Zoom on Victor Boyhan   Boyhan, Victor. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald. Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy.
Information on David Norris   Zoom on David Norris   Norris, David. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.
  Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor   Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and David Norris; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared lost.

   Order of Business agreed to.

Thirteenth Report of the Committee of Selection: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That the report be laid before the Seanad.

   Question put and agreed to.

Reappointment of An Coimisinéir Teanga: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That Seanad Éireann recommends Mr. Rónán Ó Domhnaill for re-appointment by the President to be An Coimisinéir Teanga.

  Question put and agreed to.

Universities Act 1997: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:

Universities Act 1997 (section 54(3)) (University Authorisation) Order 2019, copies of which were laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 19th November, 2019, be referred to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills in accordance with Standing Order 71(3)(k), which, not later than 10th December, 2019, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 75, and Standing Order 77(2) shall accordingly apply.”

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 4.37 p.m. and resumed at 4.45 p.m.

Finance Bill 2019: Second Stage

  Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy When the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, introduced the budget in the Dáil last month, he outlined the progress made in the economy. He referred to broad-based economic growth, low levels of unemployment, a large increase in public capital expenditure, tax revenues in line with the target of €58.6 billion and a projected surplus of 0.2% of national income. At that time, he stated that Brexit is the main immediate threat to the economy. Although there have been developments since budget day, 8 October, Brexit remains the main immediate threat. The Brexit deadline of 31 October has passed, with a further extension agreed until 31 January 2020. We are still unclear, however, as to what will be the outcome of Brexit. Even with an agreement, it is still the case that the UK is leaving the EU and that this will bring change. It is important that Ireland is ready for that change, for both its citizens and its businesses. In that context, we will continue our preparations for all scenarios. On budget day, the Minister stated that we were faced with an uncertain scenario over which we had relatively little influence and that this was all the more reason to take care with the policies that we could control and influence.  I think it is fair to say that developments since budget day have proven Deputy Donohoe's prudence to be well-founded. I understand that a section-by-section brief of the Bill has been circulated to Senators so I do not propose to go into that level of detail now but shall focus on the main themes of the Bill.

  Climate change is another significant threat. It was described by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in presenting the budget as "the defining challenge of our generation". Therefore, climate-related measures are among the most important aspects of the Bill. While it is by no means unanimous, there is broad support for a move towards a target of €80 carbon tax per tonne by 2030. Deputy Donohoe proposed a gradual approach to that target with annual increments of €6 each year to get to the target. Furthermore, while the €6 increase applied from budget night to auto fuels, the Minister delayed its application to other fuels until May 2020 after the heating season. The fuel allowance payment has been increased from €22.50 to €24.50 per week or an additional €56 in the full season. This mitigates the effect of the increase in carbon tax on the most vulnerable people in society.

  The carbon tax increases will raise an estimated annual revenue of €90 million in 2020 and €130 million in a full year. The additional revenue raised will be ring-fenced to protect those most exposed to higher energy costs, build a just transition and support a new investment in climate action. On budget day, Deputy Donohoe also outlined how we will invest a portion of the carbon tax in the midlands to ensure that the transition that takes place in the communities within that region will be fair to all stakeholders.

  In addition, we are replacing the 1% diesel surcharge that was introduced last year with a nitrogen oxide, NOx, emissions-based structure that will apply from 1 January 2020. This measure was introduced in recognition of the health and environmental risks posed by non-CO2 emissions, which are harmful to the environment and public health, including an estimated 1,100 premature deaths a year in Ireland directly attributed to NOx emissions.

  Another important feature of the Finance Bill are the measures included to tackle aggressive tax avoidance. Ireland offers a stable competitive tax regime to international investors which is consistent and transparent. Potential investors know how the Irish system works and that it does not change dramatically from year to year. However, this should not be taken as a licence to avoid paying the just amounts of tax due by designing complex plans that exploit mismatches or gaps in the legislation. We are making changes to the tax regime for Irish real estate funds, IREFs, to address aggressive tax planning activities identified by Revenue on examination of IREF accounts filed this year.

  We are also making amendments to the real estate investment trust, REIT, regime to ensure appropriate taxation is collected, and to the taxation of securitisation vehicles to strengthen anti-abuse measures introduced in previous Finance Acts. We are also updating existing transfer pricing rules, extending their scope and application, and introducing new anti-avoidance measures this year in the form of anti-hybrid rules to fully adhere to the EU anti-tax avoidance directive.

  Stamp duty on non-residential property has been increased from 6% to 7.5%. This is primarily a revenue raising measure that adds a further 1.5% to the increase from 2% to 6%, which was applied two years ago. It is considered an appropriate level of increase that takes account of the previous low level and the buoyant state of the non-residential property market.

  The Government supports enterprise through a variety of means, including the taxation system. This Bill provides for a number of significant enterprise taxation supports by way of broadening access to the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, scheme, the employment investment incentive, EII, and the research and development tax credit. The Bill also extends the special assignee relief programme, SARP, and foreign earnings deduction, FED, to the end of 2022. Importantly, the Bill provides for income tax measures announced on budget day, applying increases to the home carer's credit and the earned income tax credit. It also provides for the extension of the help-to-buy scheme to the end of 2021.   Finally, I draw the attention of Senators to two provisions, specifically VAT on food supplements and the sea-going naval personnel tax credit. The Bill provides that food supplements will be subject to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5% from 1 January 2020. This provision is being made to clarify the position regarding the VAT rating of food supplements under the VAT Consolidation Act 2010. For naval personnel, there is a new section in the Bill that provides a tax credit for permanent members of the Irish Naval Service. Where a permanent member of the Naval Service spent at least 80 days at sea on board a naval vessel in 2019, he or she will be entitled to a tax credit of €1,270 in 2020. This is a once-off measure that will apply for 2020 only. It is intended to operate as a temporary scheme and one that underlines the Government's bona fides in recognising the particular circumstances in which members of the Naval Service operate.

  In summary, the Bill gives legislative effect to the budget and I look forward to hearing the views of Seanad Éireann on it. We will also have the opportunity to consider it in more detail during the later Stages of its progress through the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris On a point of grammatical order, the Minister of State indicated in his speech that "Another important feature of the Finance Bill are the measures included to tackle aggressive tax avoidance." The subject in the sentence is singular and the appropriate verb is "is". The sentence should read: "Another important feature of the Finance Bill is the measures".

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We do not do grammatical corrections.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I am afraid we have just done one.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I thank the Senator. He is very kind.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We note the advice.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell The Minister of State might accept that.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan If I were in the Acting Chairman's position, I would have done the same. It is definitely not a point of order, whatever else it is. It could be a grammatical correction but it is not a point of order. I thank Senator Norris anyway.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Correct use of English does not go out of fashion.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We will take it as good advice.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senator Norris nearly always has good advice.

  I will not delay the House as we will have Second Stage today and we will be back again next week for Committee Stage, with Report Stage the following week. People often say that once the budget is done on 9 October, that is it, but the reality is Report Stage of the Finance Bill in the Seanad will be on 8 December or 9 December. The budget will finally be implemented when this is finished, along with other measures, including appropriations and social welfare legislation. People sometimes say that once the budget is done we can have an election but that is not how it works. I welcome the fact that we are here discussing a money Bill, as the Acting Chairman noted. I thank the Minister of State for being in the House yet again. He is very welcome.

  I do not want to repeat what was in the speech or the briefing notes we received this morning from the Department, which have been very helpful. I thank the Department for them. This is all about Brexit. Fianna Fáil and my party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, last December stated we intended to extend the confidence and supply agreement to a further budget to give the country and all of us some level of stability while chaos may have been reigning in other parts of the world closer or not so close to home. At least the Government has been able to focus on Brexit.

  It is fair to commend our negotiating team in Brussels, led by Mr. Michel Barnier, as well as the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, and officials in the various Departments. It has been an all-of-Government approach to dealing with Brexit rather than just one involving the Taoiseach's Department or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is fair to give credit where it is due. However, the deal has to get through the British Parliament, the European Parliament and so on. There is much work to be done before it gets through but I commend the people who were involved.

  Fianna Fáil and all of us in this House acknowledge the major uncertainty surrounding Brexit. My party facilitated the passing of this budget and, subsequently, the Finance Bill because we need a stable Government in this country. We must all continue to do everything we can as a Seanad and Dáil, involving Members of all parties and none, to ensure we protect this country from the worst outcomes of Brexit. Regardless of how good the outcome of Brexit might be, we all acknowledge it will not be as good an arrangement as we have now. My party wanted assurances in the likes of the agrifood sector, tourism and small businesses, as these are affected most by Brexit.  Unfortunately, the regions that can probably least afford to be affected by Brexit are the areas that will be most affected. Equally, areas like Dublin that might benefit somewhat from a spillover from relocated jobs are probably the areas that least need that boost and would be stuck for housing, infrastructure, schools and so on.

  I have a couple of other points. We are still heavily reliant on corporation tax. It is wonderful and fantastic and the more of it we have, the better. I have made an argument before that the more of it we have the less reliant we are on any one company but we know Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, changes are being put forward with the base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, process and so on. Some 45% of our tax receipts in 2018 came from ten companies. If any of them has a problem worldwide we will notice and feel that and the fiscal space of €700 million or €300 million is an awful lot smaller than the biggest tax relief to many individual companies. We should be cognisant of that. It is important we have FDI and the more of it we have the better but, equally, we need to try to reflect as much as we can on the fact the indigenous sector needs a hand, particularly as it is growing and going international.

  The VAT on food supplements is also important and the Minister of State referred to same. This is a retrograde step and it is unhelpful. We are trying to keep people healthy and make sure they look after themselves. People are looking after themselves and now we are going to add 13.5% to the cost of many food supplements that were previously at 0% VAT. The last thing we need is for somebody to not take these supplements and end up spending a couple of days in the accident and emergency department or on a trolley with lots of other people, putting further pressures on the health system. They are not all snake oil as the Taoiseach referred to but equally they are not all perfect.

  I welcome the changes made in the IREFs and real estate investment trusts, REITs. The treatment of a large landlord is different from the treatment of a small landlord. It is important that when people are making legitimate profits, albeit on high rents in some cases, they should be paying their fair share of tax and this goes somewhere closer to fairness than where it was before.

  There are many other issues I have with the Government's performance generally but we need stability at this point in time. I do not want to repeat myself but Brexit is still uncertain. The British polls say one thing but we all need to be careful about how we deal with polls in terms of Trump, Brexit and so on. What people thought would happen did not happen. I still hope the British people might decide that after all they have heard they would like to stay in the European Union. That is not likely but I can live in hope. We know this was a Brexit budget. Hopefully some of the measures will not be required. Hopefully we will be dealing with something that is less than the worst case scenario but again, we do not know yet.

  I mention carbon tax. It has become ever more topical as we go into the winter and people are ordering home heating oil, briquettes, coal and other fuels and there is talk about how we will deal with transport and so on. Carbon tax is something that needs to be dealt with but it also needs to be managed in such a way that we give people alternatives where we can. We need to invest in the retrofitting of homes; we need to ensure that houses that are being built now and into the future are as near to zero emissions as is possible. We need to make sure we try to use electric vehicles and other forms of public transport that are not costly to the environment in carbon. Equally, we need to look at how we deal with our public buildings. This building is noticeably warmer than it was before as it was finally insulated after a couple of hundred years. We need to look at our public buildings and we need to reduce the carbon footprint in everything we do in terms of efficiency.

  Separate from the revenue budget, it is fair to point out there have been problems. I raised this earlier on the Order of Business and the famous printer we are talking about is only a small microcosm of it but as a State, how we have managed to spend far more money on the children's hospital, broadband and other things is not a particularly new phenomenon. When we were in government, other people would have been rightly attacking us if overspends happened. It is fair that we can point this out and ask why we will have the most expensive national children's hospital in the world and why broadband will cost so much more here than in other countries. It does not inspire confidence for capital budgeting going forward when we still see these kinds of inefficiencies happening.

  On this budget, I am happy for myself and my party to facilitate the passing of Second Stage of the Bill today and ultimately for it to go through to Report Stage and beyond in two weeks time. I thank the Minister of State for being here and for his comprehensive opening statement. I have to go to another appointment shortly so if I am not here for the Minister of State's response I will check it afterwards.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I will be brief. I welcome the Minister of State here and thank him for coming into the House and providing us with the courtesy of going through this two page statement, which I welcome. I also want to acknowledge the work that is being done in the Department of Finance on how this budget has been set out in simple format for people to read and follow on the website. It was a safe budget with an election in mind and we all accept that.

  I will just make this comment because the Minister of State is here. We are all conscious in this House and in the Lower House that there is a confidence and supply arrangement in place. I come in here every day and I tend to look at what is going on in the Dáil as well. It is gas to hear Fianna Fáil criticising various matters in childcare, health, finance and all the other issues but it is a confidence and supply arrangement and democracy is not served well by that. It keeps people in jobs and it keeps the Ministers rolling around. I do not doubt their commitment but a confidence and supply arrangement is not good for the body politic and it is not good for the people. Under this regime, with all the money and all the budgetary arrangements we have we still have thousands of children waiting on the list. We still have thousands of people with cataract problems, we still have thousands of people looking for home care packages and we still have thousands of children being educated in prefabricated buildings and sheds. That is the reality of it. Members come in here and say it is great and all of this. The confidence and supply arrangement is a political arrangement to keep two groups in power and defer an election when the people will have their say. I am delighted to say some people will have their say in a few days time. Hopefully strong messages will come from that and we might learn something. I come in here every day on the Order of Business and hear Seanadóirí telling us about a problem they have with transport from Limerick, a problem in Cork with a hospital or the need for a school roof and it is all terrible. They are in government. They do not need to come in here and tell the Seanad what the problems are. They need to be knocking on doors in Government buildings and telling their Ministers what the problems are. If people want to come in here and grandstand, tweet and detail on Facebook that they were in here and sending a message, it is all a bit of a con-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Jesus.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan -----and I just want to make that point. I am not in government, I am not involved in any confidence and supply arrangement and I am not in any political party so I just wanted to make that point. It is worth saying because we can get ourselves all tied up in the figures and percentages. Let us call it as it is. At this time, we have virtually full employment and we have thousands of people in need of a leg-up, hospital beds, home care packages and schools and we have people with disabilities. I mention the visually impaired people I spoke about two weeks ago who cannot even get two hours of home schooling per week. That is the reality and this is happening on the watch of a confidence and supply Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil regime that is here.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan There are Independents involved as well.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson There are too many Independents.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan There may well be. I am not aligned to any of them.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor The Senator was.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I stand here on my own.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Boyhan was with Deputy Ross.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor What a hypocrite.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We are debating the Finance Bill 2019, not the Government arrangement.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Correct.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan We are talking about the finances that are there or should be there to put in place coherent Government policy. A policy to serve-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Boyhan was with Deputy Ross until he got elected.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I was never with Deputy Ross.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Senator was with Deputy Ross until he got elected.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I am happy to take this opportunity to say I was never involved with Deputy Ross. I acknowledge we need a Government but let us not pat ourselves on the back too much. There are serious deficiencies in services in this country and they need to be addressed. Hopefully times will change and we will address them.  It is important that we do not lose the run of ourselves because there are big difficulties. I thank the Minister of State who has always been courteous and shown respect for the House. He has always come in and explained his role and position. I acknowledge this and show my appreciation.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I also welcome the Minister of State to the House. He has given enormous service as a Minister of State and former Member of the House. I was trying to pick out the elements of the Finance Bill about which Senator Boyhan spoke. His speech was very illuminating and good to listen to. It sounded great.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Thank you.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell The content was a small bit suspect. The grammar and syntax were in order-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Lovely, thank you.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell -----but the content was questionable.

  We are members of a Government party but we have a role to represent our constituents also. There is no contradiction. We beat down the doors of Government Buildings and the offices of Ministers repeatedly, as the Minister of State will testify. There is not enough money to deal with many of the issues that are raised with us. People come to us with issues regarding health, education and crime.

  I want to deal with the budget itself. It has been framed in the shadow of Brexit and no other budget could probably have been brought in. We had to ensure the books were balanced in a fiscally responsibly way. We had to look after people who were more vulnerable, particularly with regard to the increase in the exemption for medical cards and increasing the fuel allowance for groups. At the same time, we must progress on climate change. My children tell me it is the big issue for them. I have no doubt it is the same with everyone else. We have grasped the nettle on climate change.

  We have issues to deal with regarding broadband. Not to be disrespectful to my colleague, Senator Horkan, whose contributions I enjoy, he is having a little bit of selective amnesia. Twenty years ago, his former colleague, Mary O'Rourke, had available to her fixed line infrastructure to roll out broadband up and down the country but she sold it. The former State company has been tossed and sold on repeated occasions and the State has gained nothing from its sale. If the Eircom fixed line business had not been sold we would probably be in a different position today with regard to the roll-out of fibre broadband. The broadband model we have introduced will ensure fast delivery. What has been overlooked by many is that the option to buy it back will be available at the end of the period. If it is profitable, the State can recoup 40% of its investment. This should never be forgotten.

  I still have concerns with regard to affordability in housing. I have sought a meeting of the finance committee to see exactly how the help-to-buy scheme and, more particularly, the Rebuilding Ireland loan scheme operate. Many young people who come to me are in safe and secure jobs on the face of it but they do not qualify for mortgages. This is something we need to look at.

  The budget contains some pretty strong measures. It will probably go unnoticed outside of business but the scope of the research and development tax credit has been extended. This will be hugely beneficial for Ireland. The earned income credit for self-employed people has increased. Loopholes have been closed off. My view on taxation is that the very minute a suite of measures that is supposed to be of benefit is introduced people will look to see how they can be used for other purposes. Closing loopholes will always be a feature of government. There are big questions in two areas. Due diligence on new sections must be enhanced and reviews must be carried out much quicker to ensure loopholes do not continue for a period of time.

  I beg Senator Boyhan's indulgence as I want to deal with a national issue that has major implications for us in Limerick. I am referring to the living city initiative. I welcome that it has been extended but it is not working in the way I would like it to work. Limerick is a Georgian city and its Georgian footprint is unique. The majority of the inner city is Georgian. I have told departmental officials and the Minister of Finance that I would like a review done on the living city initiative to see how it is working.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Limerick should be promoting itself.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is a very important city.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell That is good to hear.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It has a wonderful Georgian core.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Senator O'Donnell has the floor.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell One of the features unique to Limerick is that so much of the city is Georgian. If people come from abroad, they come to see Georgian Limerick. For this reason, we must ensure the buildings are renovated. In many cases, it is proving prohibitive for people to live in the buildings. I want to see if there are other ways to get families back into the city. It is controversial. Are all of the costs required fully necessary for conservation? This is something people may not agree with. A different model operates in the UK. I ask the Minister of State and his officials to initiate a review of the living city initiative to see how it is working and what could be done to ensure greater take-up. There may be areas we are missing, such as shortening the tax period or enhancing grants from the Heritage Council. It is an area that should be hugely beneficial but the take-up is not as strong as I would like it to be. The initiative could have exponential benefits for Limerick city. There are also Georgian quarters in Dublin and Waterford.

  The Government could not have introduced any other budget. It is a responsible budget, which was framed in the shadow of Brexit. Going back to what Senator Horkan said, what is happening in the UK is outside our control. We have to be prepared for all eventualities. Would I like Brexit not to proceed? Absolutely. If it is to proceed, I would like it to take a form that has the least impact on us. It is important that when a Government must do a budget it does what is necessary at that point in time. The budget could not include all of the measures we would like for various groups but I hope that when Brexit is finalised we can get back to looking at areas we were unable to deal with in the budget.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. I concur with what Senator Boyhan said with regard to his support for the House. I also support what he said with regard to Fine Gael Senators coming in here day after day and week after week pointing out all of the gaps. Can we just imagine what they would do if they were in government? Would it not be fantastic?

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I think the Senator means Fianna Fáil.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan No, she did not.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh No, I meant Fine Gael.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I see. How interesting.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I am coming to Fianna Fáil.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Very good.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I was waiting for it.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Let us stick to the budget and the Finance Bill.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh It is all about finance but day after day we must listen to Fine Gael Senators saying we should have more of this, that and the other. I am just trying to imagine-----

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Senator Conway has the floor to discuss the Finance Bill.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy It was sarcasm.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I am trying to imagine what things would be like if Fine Gael was in government.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy That is sarcasm.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell We are in government at present.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Sinn Féin was in government in the North and it pulled the plug.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Excuse me, I ask Senator Conway-Walsh to continue on the Finance Bill.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor She should not be hypocritical.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony On the Finance Bill, please.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy Senators are very narky today.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh The budget and subsequent Finance Bill are discussed at a time when people should be able to see clearly where the priorities of any Government lie.  This year thousands of workers and families throughout this State were desperately looking for a well-deserved and long-awaited break. They were looking for something, indeed anything, that would enable them to feel less worried about how they were going to meet the ever-increasing costs they face every week and every month, including the cost of higher rent, mortgages, childcare, health, education, travel, heating and, of course, insurance, with which the Minister of State will be familiar. They hoped that Brexit would not be used as an excuse to give them nothing again this year and to ask them to be resilient and to carry the burden for just one more year-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Next page.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Yes. I wrote this at about 12 midnight on Saturday.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Good for the Senator.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I wrote it after spending the day speaking to constituents who are suffering under this Government. It is important that they have a voice here. We ask people to carry the burden time and time again and tell them that we will see what can be done next year. The Government says it will do this when the people return it to power with its ever-compliant partners, Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael has told the people often enough that it is the responsible party and that it knows everything there is to know about economics. Indeed, it wants people to believe they have no alternative but to keep it in the position to which it has become accustomed and to keep returning it to power.

  We will discuss the detail of the Bill on Committee Stage next week, so today I just want to cover a few aspects of how I believe the Government has failed to give ordinary workers and families a break despite us being the fastest growing economy in Europe. Brexit is an issue and it does present problems and challenges but we are still the fastest growing economy in Europe.

  First, let us look at the carbon tax levied on households and drivers who can least afford it and on those of us living in rural Ireland. Since 2010, we have paid €3.35 billion in carbon tax. Last year alone, the Government collected €435 million. None of this has been ring-fenced for climate action measures. I welcome what the Minister of State said about ring-fencing €90 million this year but, in all of the time it has existed, this tax has failed to reduce emissions. Increasing the carbon tax will not do so either. Britain does not have a carbon tax yet its emissions have decreased. The Government says that it wants to change behaviour but it does not provide the alternatives in public transport, renewable energy or proper investment in rural Ireland.

  Now let us compare the extension of tax breaks for multinational executives with the treatment of average paid workers and farmers. SARP is a little-known scheme that enables wealthy executives to write off one third of their salary against income tax. This means a multinational executive who moves to Dublin on a salary of €1 million per annum can avoid more than €123,000 in tax, which anybody else would have to pay. This is in contrast to a small farmer whose payments are delayed due to a computer glitch and run over into the new year. Not only is he under severe financial stress as result of not being able to pay his bills, he is taxed on two payments within one financial year. This means his tax liability is increased through no fault of his own. There is no SARP for him or his family. He will be worse off while someone earning €1 million will be better off by €123,000. Where is the tax justice in that? Where is the fairness?

  Other workers will have to pay tax of 40% on their salary above the standard rate band while these multimillionaire executives will pay tax of 28% above the standard rate of tax. It really does not make sense. Based on the cost of this tax break in recent years, it is likely to cost the Irish people €100 million next year. We could have increased the number of apprenticeships by 5,000 at a cost of €35.8 million. We could have cleared the home help waiting lists entirely for €59 million. We could have reinstated the rehabilitative training allowance, which was cruelly taken away from people with disabilities who are trying to access training and education, for a cost of just €37 million. We still would have had €1.5 million left over. The choice was whether to give more to millionaire executives or to create equality of opportunity and protect the vulnerable. This Government, ably assisted by Fianna Fáil, chose those to whom they are closest, those who have the most.

  Despite all of the expert advice on another measure, the Government and Fianna Fáil have decided to extend the help-to-buy scheme for another two years under section 15 at a cost of another €100 million in 2020 alone. That is €40 million more than was allocated for additional social housing. More than one fifth of houses that were bought through this scheme were bought at a cost of more than €375,000. Worse still, 40% of the people who availed of this tax break had the 10% deposit needed to get the mortgage to buy the house. That 40% equates to €40 million that was handed out to people who did not need it to get a deposit to buy a house and yet Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil think that money is better spent in their pockets than it would have been spent in reaching out to people who do not know where they will sleep this Christmas. It is wrong on so many levels. This is not an affordable housing scheme no matter what way it is wrapped up. The report by the Parliamentary Budget Office made it quite clear that it has done nothing to reduce house prices and has failed to help low and middle-income earners onto the property ladder.

  I welcome the move in the Bill to heed Sinn Féin's calls to tackle the serious tax avoidance among property investors through REITs and IREFs, particularly the provisions of section 28 which seem to close the re-evaluation loophole that was present upon REIT cessation by requiring that the relevant REIT must be in operation for over 15 years before enjoying preferential treatment. However, there should not be a capital gains tax exemption even if a REIT is in operation after 15 years. If these properties are sold to a company after that time, the REIT should still not avail of a capital gains tax exemption. Section 60 seems to close the tax loophole on stamp duty that has existed for investors for far too long despite Sinn Féin's insistence that it be closed.

  The provisions of this Bill do not go far enough. Property investors have for too long been allowed to aggressively invest in property and avoid serious tax payments. They should be subject to the new 7.5% rate of commercial stamp duty just like everybody else. If somebody buys a local shop in Belmullet or Ballina, he or she has to pay 7.5% stamp duty, while others are exempt.

  On Committee Stage, I will examine in detail some of the opportunities to give workers and families a badly-needed break, which have now been lost. An awful lot of people, including myself, are disappointed with this Bill. People are struggling, every week and every month, just to exist. It should not be like that when we are the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will avail of the opportunity to make recommendations on Committee Stage so I will just touch on some of the cross-cutting issues and some of the issues the Minister of State himself raised in his contribution. One key issue I would like him to address when he replies is that of the equality-proofing and gender-proofing of the budget. The Government committed to this. It was spoken about in previous budget speeches although, as far as I am aware, it was not highlighted in this year's budget speeches. I am concerned that we are not following through on and intensifying our commitment to delivery on this issue. Individuals in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are working in this area but I am concerned that it is not reflected at a high enough level. It needs to be central in to documents such as the summer economic statement and budget statements. For many years, I have been pushing for an equality statement to accompany the budget, as is the case in Scotland. Will the Minister of State indicate the extent to which equality and gender-proofing of the budget have taken place? How will the impacts of the budget, including the impact of these Revenue measures, be analysed from the perspectives of equality and gender? We are entering into an election period as there is likely to be an election before the next budget. In that context, will the Minister of State reaffirm whether his party is committed to continuing, improving and building on the gender and equality-proofing of the budget? That is important to many people.  The benefits to society from gender and equality proofing have often been proven.

The Minister of State spoke of the increase in carbon tax, or what I call carbon pricing, by €6 each year. It is actually €20 already before the additional €6. Why is the entire €26, or if we look at the costings, the entire €521 million which will be gathered from the levy on carbon, not being directed towards climate measures? The rationale for a levy on carbon is not about lifestyle change and so on, although that has been discussed. The economic rationale, which is used at European, international and other levels, is the law of economic and environmental externalities, in that there is a cost to fossil fuel usage and carbon production which society and the environment bears and that cost to society should be reflected in the price. If that is the rationale for any levy on carbon, all that should be redirected towards either mitigation, to reduce the impact of carbon, or adaptation, to deal with its impact. The economic argument, to be consistent, suggests the full €26 and €526 million be used to this end. The €90 million is being used for good measures, none of which is enough or intense enough. Imagine what the impact of €521 million would have next year in scaling up and really delivering on some of the actions and proposals on climate change. It would be very different. Therefore, as well as discussing the €6 we should also discuss the €20 underneath, using it and redirecting it, which does not require another increase. I ask the Minister to comment.

I note the measures relating to nitrogen oxide, NOx, but we will have to look at methane and its cost as a carbon gas down the line. There are also upstream costs. How do our trade agreements, policies, imports and investment policies cost these greenhouse gases, particularly when we are talking about economic engagement with the United States if it falls out of the climate agreement? It may only be at a point of import that the emissions are really captured in the global picture.

I acknowledge the measures on IREFs and REIT schemes and what the Minister of State described as the "aggressive tax planning activities" and abuse and avoidance measures. These were all flagged by members of the Opposition in previous budgets. It is great to see action but when the Finance Bill comes to Committee Stage and Report Stage, things can become adversarial and so on. I ask that the Government please consider the recommendations that come through there. Occasionally the issues highlighted and the red flags that are raised by the Opposition can be very useful and can save the State money and lead to a better and more efficient use of our finances. I ask the Government to be aware that there are good ideas which come from the Opposition benches to which it should be open.

Concerns are being raised about the special assignee relief programme, SARP, and I also raise concerns about the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, scheme. These include measures which take money that could be liable for income tax out of the system. It is a concern if there is to be an increase in millionaires or billionaires in Ireland. I do not expect it to come within this Government's term necessarily, but I would like us to look to the global conversation around billionaires and very high earners but in the meantime, we should not take a step backwards. I am concerned about both of those schemes that they may lead to a hollowing out and reduction of income tax. Will the Minister of State comment on how the differences in income tax in both of those schemes will be tracked? It is attractive if someone in a KEEP scheme can be given shares and go from a salary of €250,000 and get a portion of that in shares and pay less tax.

Stamp duty has been raised. The Land Development Agency Bill has not yet passed through the Houses but we see it is being asserted and is beginning to operate on an ad hoc basis. Public land being given to private developers is a policy change that I would like radically reconsidered. I would like to see public builds on these lands. Where public land is being given to private developers, who are not purchasing that land, what does that relationship mean in terms of stamp duty? People should not receive public land while also avoiding certain taxes and levies which they would have paid had they purchased the sites. That is a loophole and it may be inadvertent, but it would be terrible if we were to be doubly subsidising private developers who will sell the houses, or at least many of them, at market prices. They are not paying the same type of stamp duty as another private developer who had purchased their site. If this type of development increases, and it seems likely it will, we will have to address this loophole.

On tax reliefs, auto-enrolment for pensions is being rolled out. I raise this matter every year. The marginal rate of private pension tax relief is one of the more expensive items of personal tax relief. Are we looking to revise that in the context of an auto-enrolment scheme which, if rolled out successfully and managed properly, might go some way to increasing the levels of coverage? The huge cost is largely towards higher earners and, from a gender perspective, mainly men, who benefit from the marginal, high-rate tax relief. Will this be the subject of further revision in light of auto-enrolment?

Finally there is tax relief on bicycles. They are marginal and I think they should be at the standard rate. Children cycling to school and so on is a huge issue. Is there scope to re-adapt the tax relief to help address family investment in cycling for the next generation?

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Senator Lawlor will be next, then Senators Bacik, Mulherin, and McDowell. I am following the rota I was given.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor The Minister of State has been to the House often and I have locked horns with him on a couple of occasions but I welcome him this evening. The budget was framed around the Brexit situation. People may say a deal has been done but it has not passed through the British Houses of Parliament and current comment in the UK suggests the person who will lead the next Government hopes to get a further deal done by 31 December 2020. Most European trade deals take seven years on average to complete. If it happens in one year it will be a total miracle. They could yet crash out without having a sufficient deal, so the budget is focused around that possibility.

  The employers contribution to the training fund was increased. This was announced in the budget through the Minister of State's Department although it is actually administered and collected by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and then delivered through the Department of Education and Skills. In the past, there was a training fund that was abused. I refer to the FÁS scheme, and things like that. Will the Minister of State reassure the House that his Department will keep a watchful eye on the manner in which this training fund is expended?  Given that there is full employment, the Minister of State might explain the reason for the increase in the training fund and give some assurance that the Department of Finance will keep an eye on how it is spent.

  Are we getting any closer to the introduction of an affordable purchase scheme for housing? While I accept that it is not the remit of the Department of Finance, that Department will sanction it because the funding will come through it.

  In regard to the carbon tax provisions, will the Minister of State indicate whether hydrogen cars will be covered? Currently, three companies in Japan sell such models. If they are imported, will they be covered by vehicle registration tax and the various carbon tax initiatives for electric cars?

  How much did the banks pay the State in the past tax year? What dividend did they pay back to the State and for what is it used? Is the Minister of State happy with the performance of the public interest bank directors? They have been in place for a number of years. Does he expect them to be replaced?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister of State to the House. It is always welcome to have our former Seanad colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, here with us and I thank him for that. My party's finance spokesperson, Deputy Burton, set out clearly in the Dáil the Labour Party's position on the budget and on the Bill, as the Minister of State will be aware. In keeping with what she stated, I have to say there was not much with which I agreed in his contribution. I agree with him in respect of his comment that Brexit is the immediate threat, as the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, noted, which we all accept. It is clear it is the largest immediate threat to the economy. We fully accept that the Minister and the Government were in an uncertain position when devising the budget and that it was especially uncertain in October, when we did not know whether Brexit would happen on 31 October, or with or without a deal. We still face a precarious position, not least given the state of the British opinion polls and the fact that we do not yet know the shape of the new British Government or whether Brexit will happen at the end of January 2020, although I think we can agree that the threat of a no-deal Brexit has receded somewhat since October.

  I also agree with the Minister of State that climate change is another significant threat. It is the defining challenge of our generation, although it is of a different order to Brexit, which poses an immediate and direct threat to our economy. It is a much broader, global threat.

  Having accepted those two points, one would have to be broadly critical of the budget for the Government's failure to deal adequately with those two severe challenges, namely, the immediate, pressing challenge of Brexit for this island and the broader, global challenge of climate change. The budget has failed to deliver on both counts, as Deputy Burton argued. She noted little justice, equality or progressiveness in the budget, and it was on that basis that our party has opposed it. She pointed out that given the likely impact of Brexit on consumers, there are likely to be price rises on household goods and on the cost of living. In that regard, it is a very regressive budget because there has been a failure to take account of those rises or to ensure that those on the lowest levels of income would see their income rise sufficiently to take account of such increases. In particular, the failure to index tax bands means that for the majority of ordinary workers, the budget will be highly regressive, while the failure to increase social welfare rates will lead, in real terms, to incomes falling as the cost of living rises.

  This is not just an assessment from Deputy Burton or the Labour Party. The headline commentary of a scarcely publicised report of the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, published on 11 October, stated that budget 2020 would hit poorer households harder. It outlined a clear metric, stating the budget would reduce the incomes of the poorest households by 3% but leave the highest earning households worse off by just 1%. The ESRI's point was that the budget would have a much more severe impact on the incomes of poorer households. Given that wages and prices are rising, those on welfare, who will not receive increases, will be left behind. It was a fairly devastating assessment from an independent body of the impact of the budget and its regressive nature. It is most unfortunate that more provision has not been made for the likely cost-of-living increases. An alternative approach was available, and the Labour Party's alternative budget proposed increased investment in public services. There is a fundamental problem on the right throughout Europe, whereby spending, whether on public services, health, education or housing, is viewed as money going out, whereas it should be viewed as investment in services for all of us. It is not empty expenditure but rather investment in assets for all of us to share, and in future generations and their assets.

  With that in mind, we proposed a major programme of investment in public housing, but again there was little in that regard in the budget. There was little to address the serious, chronic shortage of housing in Dublin and throughout the country. I acknowledge that the Minister of State is not a Dublin resident. I live in the south inner city, on the South Circular Road, where there is a great deal of construction but it is all student accommodation, with tiny spaces for students. While it is fine and welcome for derelict sites to be used to provide accommodation for people, it is all student accommodation or hotels. Within 1 km of my house, all the construction is concentrated on those two types of accommodation. There is no construction of houses or apartments that families, individuals, people on the homeless list or people seeking to move from the private rented sector can buy. It raises the question as to why we cannot incentivise the building of houses and homes in the same way that, clearly, somebody is being incentivised to build hotels and student accommodation, which are springing up in various parts of the city but especially in the inner city. It is a specific critique of the budget that there were no targeted measures to address the chronic housing shortage.

  Similarly, the budget fell short in respect of dealing with climate change. There is nothing like the sort of proposal we had put forward for a just transition, a new green deal, or serious investment in alternative energy production or in addressing our emissions. Ireland is uniquely placed to promote a model of sustainable farming, a matter that is probably closer to the Minister of State's heart than the issue of inner city Dublin accommodation. There are interesting and valuable models throughout Ireland. I am especially familiar with the Burrenbeo Trust in the Burren, which is led by some incredible people such as Brendan Dunford who have rolled out a model of sustainable farming that is highly productive on small areas of land. It produces high-end, organic food produce that could point the way forward for Irish agriculture and food production. Bord Bia promotes that vision of Ireland, and the organic and sustainable model of food production is in keeping with an environmental and green vision.

  There also needs to be increased investment in transport. I was a strong proponent of the model to allocate funds for cycling. Senator Higgins mentioned the idea of schools rolling out the equivalent of the bike-to-work scheme. I proposed to the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, that there should be a bike-to-school initiative, with tax breaks for the purchase of bicycles and training of schoolchildren in cycling. It would be a highly beneficial scheme. There should be far greater investment in bicycle lanes in Dublin and other urban centres, to make cycling a much more attractive and safe proposition for children. I cycle every day and have worked hard with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to try to secure provision for cycling in Leinster House. There has been a great deal of obstruction and resistance, however, which is unfortunate because we should lead on the issue.

  They are some areas of the budget in which there should have been far more leadership from the Government. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, of which I am a member, pressed for commitments on overseas development aid to ensure we will meet our targets. We have been repeatedly assured by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, that we will make those commitments but it is difficult to see that pathway as clear, given the low levels of increases year on year.  This budget could have done much more and it is very disappointing. It has failed to meet some of the greatest challenges we face as a country.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I highlight inherent inequity in the treatment of small-time landlords of residential properties, specifically the manner in which rental income is treated. A landlord pays local property tax but gets no credit for this when calculating income tax liability on the rental income. No matter what way we look at that, it amounts to double taxation. Not only are these landlords not given credit for the property tax but they must also pay USC and PRSI on the same tranche of income but get nothing for doing so.

  Sometimes we wonder why things are not straightforward for landlords or about the reasons people do not want to become landlords. We know about "accidental" landlords or those who may have a property or two who have fallen into a position where they became landlords. This matter must be addressed. There was a review of the local property tax and it will be examined again next year. Equity in our tax system requires that there should not be double taxation. Owners of a commercial property are entitled to deduct commercial rates, which are in many ways equivalent the local property tax. That tax, therefore, is deductible for a commercial rental property but not a residential rental property.

  Everybody knows about another matter that is unsatisfactory. I was talking to a man the other day who has a commercial property that he rents to a tenant. He is paying a tax rate of 52% and related charges on the income while a vulture fund that owns a commercial property beside him does not pay anything. Many of our sensibilities are offended by this and we seriously need some action on the matter as revenue to the State is being lost. The small-time landlord is being squeezed out of the sector.

  I also raise the provisions for retrofitting homes and the climate action agenda. In 2011, application was made by the Government to the European Commission under state aid rules for the Government to be allowed to place a PSO levy on electricity customers to finance the co-firing of the midlands peat-burning power stations so they could also burn biomass. We all know that this was expected to go to 2027 but the arrangement will cease in 2020. There is a provision in the budget of €70 million per annum to be collected under the levy and I wonder what will happen to the money as the co-firing will not be allowed and will not happen. Will there be a reduction in people's electricity bills or will the Government just pocket the savings? In the context of just transition, which we have all discussed, we are all trying to protect people who are now faced with a carbon tax increase but who are on low incomes. One of the obvious ways to do this is by helping to retrofit houses. Over the summer we witnessed a debacle when the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, ran out of money for a number of schemes used to help people on the lowest incomes to retrofit their houses.

  The vast majority of the money from the PSO levy goes to Bord na Móna and the ESB but perhaps it can be redirected to reduce the numbers on the waiting list trying to make it easier to heat homes and save on bills, as we know there has been an increase in the carbon tax. These retrofitting jobs are creating employment in local economies, with contractors carrying out the work. Many of them have upskilled and have people working for them. They may have had to let those people go temporarily because we ran out of money for a while. We do not want to lose people with skills and we want to fund people so they can be warmer in their homes. Will the Minister of State see if this money, which will not be spent on the renewable energy feed-in tariff, REFIT, 3 scheme to Bord na Móna and the ESB, can be redirected to the just transition for these people in fuel poverty?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am sorry Senator Conway-Walsh has left.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan She is back.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell She is back.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I am here.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am glad she is back as we were discussing the mutual recrimination that goes on between parties. It is all go now in examining political interference by one set of politicians in the affairs of another country. I was being told today that Northern Ireland is now the most neutral country in the world because its politicians will not even interfere in their own affairs.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy Perhaps Senator Conway-Walsh should be afforded the opportunity to respond.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I will allow the Senator to carry on.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy There is no response.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Senator McDowell has the floor.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I was going to make two or three points. Senator Bacik referred to the availability of accommodation and the fact that this budget is doing little for housing. We have seen much investment in student accommodation and hotels but very little investment in residential accommodation by comparison. That is certain the case in Dublin city and I hope that changes. The student accommodation and shared living idea must be contrasted with the foolishness of scrapping bedsits in Dublin in 2013. The measure was introduced in 2009 by a former Minister, Mr. John Gormley, and, in 2013, it resulted in perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 separate dwellings being obliterated in Dublin and people being evicted from that step of accommodation. It was done with the best of intentions and supported at the time by Threshold, the housing charity, but it is a simple fact that it obliterated the first step on the ladder of accommodation for many people, including students.

  Senator Kieran O'Donnell spoke about Limerick and Dublin and all these living city initiatives are highly commendable on paper but there are laws relating to landlord and tenant, and it is unlikely that the places I speak of would be occupied by the owners, for the most part. We are speaking about rental properties and the laws relating to landlord and tenant are driving landlords from the market. The balance has been tilted too heavily against any new investment by private landlords in accommodation. They will ask whether even if there are incentives to convert the upper floors of a property and build accommodation, they will be able to control that accommodation or get it back into their possession because of the way landlord and tenant laws have gone.

  There is a point relating to carbon taxes and electricity. I put it again to the Government that it is slightly confused with its priorities. On the one hand the Government is pursuing the establishment of data centres in Ireland, which consume vast amounts of electricity, while, on the other, it is pursuing a policy of energy consumption reduction in its entirety. We must work out whether data centres are in our interests.  If the current crop of data centres goes ahead, we must determine whether that will lead to an increase in demand for electricity by upwards of 25% to 30% at a time our capacity to produce renewable electricity is strictly limited.

  My final point is one I never tire of making. When Mr. Charlie McCreevy became Minister for Finance in 1997, he immediately reduced the rate of capital gains tax from 40% to 20%. The consequence of this change was that the yield went up by between 500% and 600% and remained at that higher level in subsequent years. Some people have an ideological hang-up about capital gains tax, but it has been at 33%, which is a high rate, since the financial crisis. The Government should consider a reduction to 20% on the basis that it will provide us with more money to spend on the expensive social programmes for which there is such a clamour. The point needs to be made repeatedly that high rates of capital gains tax reduce economic activity and the overall take to the Exchequer. We saw the proof of the pudding in that regard in 1997.

  I wish the Minister of State well in progressing the Bill through the House. He has been dragged away from Wexford, where he would much rather be today. I doubly thank him on that account.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy Senators seem to have taken the funny beans this afternoon. I thank those who contributed to the debate. On the night of the budget, I responded to all the points made by them-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris There is no need to do so again.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael  D'Arcy Zoom on Michael  D'Arcy I was just about to say the same. I was given out to for speaking for 45 minutes that night. We will have further discussion on specific provisions in the Bill on Committee and Report Stages. For those Members who had questions that are outside the scope of the Bill, I will try to get back to them with responses.

  I have never pretended that everything is 100% right. It is rarely the case that one achieves such a level. However, those who are saying that everything is wrong are not correct. I say this to the Sinn Féin Members, in particular. We have a very good country, which has come through a difficult decade. We have made more and quicker progress than could have been expected. Nobody would have believed ten years ago that we would be back to where we are now, with 2.3 million people in work. We have achieved that while also seeking to reduce the taxation burden on the average worker. Some Members only want to talk about SARP and some seem confused about KEEP. The objective of these initiatives is to get people back to work and allow them to earn more money and pay less tax. Senator McDowell referred to the potential that was realised by the former Minister, Mr. McCreevy, in the 1990s. We all want to achieve the objective of generating sufficient revenues to fund the €60 billion or so in current expenditure. We spend that money reasonably wisely, but not perfectly, across the various Departments. Perfection is something one strives towards but does not usually achieve. However, what we have achieved is pretty damn good in the context of where we have come from versus where we are today. I look forward to further debate on the Bill on Committee Stage.

Question put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 7.

Níl
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy. Information on David Norris   Zoom on David Norris   Norris, David.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim. Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

Question declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Next Tuesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 3 December 2019.

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister for Justice and Equality is very welcome.

  Amendment No. 5 is in the names of Senators Norris, Boyhan and Craughwell. It arises out of Committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are related. Amendment No. 6 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 5. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris No.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Sorry, it is not but they are all related.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Good.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan So they can be discussed together by agreement.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It seems that this is not agreed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, to delete lines 20 and 21.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I second the amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The intention of the amendment is to remove lines 20 and 21 so that lay member means a layperson who is a member of the commission and includes a chairperson. This is to get rid of the definition of "lay member" from the Bill and to stop an outrageous situation. It is the particular idea of the Minister, Deputy Ross, that there should not only be a majority of laypeople but also that the chairperson should be a layperson. It revolts the intelligence that this should happen. I do not see any reason, in a professional situation, one excludes the majority of the members of the profession from making the decision, including the chairperson. It is some kind of wild Stepaside notion.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I support Senator Norris's amendment. This body, which is intended to be established for the long term, is going to be one where the chief qualifying attribute for the chair is that he or she, when appointed eventually-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Has no qualification.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----has no qualifications or experience of how the legal profession or the legal system works of a hands-on type. It can be argued that the Bill envisages that, among the laypeople, people with knowledge of how the courts impact society will be included and that includes perhaps people from the insurance area, people concerned with family law and the like. We are still stuck with the fundamental issue, which is that we are setting up this commission on the basis that the chairperson may not be a practising barrister or solicitor, a judge or the Attorney General. The question that we have to ask ourselves in that context is why those people are disqualified from chairing the commission and having a casting vote, if it ever should come to that.

  I have come to the conclusion that there is no valid reason the commission itself should not select its own chairperson. I cannot see any reason, whether it is a minority or majority of laypeople on the commission, why they should not, among themselves, select their own chairperson. Why is it important that the chairperson be selected by a separate process and, so to speak, imposed upon the commission? Why can the commission not select its own chairperson? This reminds me of the process where we set up a Seanad reform implementation group recently. It is noteworthy that in that context the Taoiseach proposed that no less a person than myself should be the chairperson of the group.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Indeed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell One person opposed the proposition and that was Minister, Deputy Ross. He proposed that it was entirely wrong that the chairperson should be decided for the group and that it should be decided by the group. Indeed, he attended the first meeting.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The Minister is such a democrat - admirable

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell He attended the first meeting with a view to ensure that I was not made chairman of the group. Happily, that did not happen and his interest waned in the group's activities thereafter. When I say "waned", I am being very charitable; It disappeared.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is a pity the Minister would not.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I return to the principle of the matter. The commission should be allowed select its own chairperson or that somebody ex officio should be chairperson. Those are possibilities.

  Senator Norris's amendment simply is designed, as I see it-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Senator McDowell wrote it.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----to say that the disqualification of a person from being a chairperson, on the grounds that he or she is either a lawyer or a member of the Judiciary or whatever, should be removed from the Bill.

  There may be some case to be made for having the chairperson not be a judge. That case could be made because the Bill in other provisions envisages the chairperson being called before Oireachtas committees to explain the operation of the commission in certain circumstances. It could be argued that it would be a problem for the separation of powers if a serving judge had to explain to Oireachtas Members how the group is functioning, or defend its performance or whatever. I strongly believe that there is no reason a solicitor, nominated by the Law Society, could not be chosen by his or her colleagues on the commission if he or she was likely to be an effective person in that context.

  I do not see a strong case being made for requiring the chairperson to be a layperson. I believe that Senator Norris's amendment is apposite and appeals to common sense, and I strongly support it.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I do not tend to speak in debates on the Bill but I want to say that while I cannot vote for it, I agree with the amendment. The one major difficulty I have with the Bill is that members of my profession, or members of the profession of the Minister and Senator McDowell, are ineligible to be chair of the commission. I do not see the logic in it. Many of my fine colleagues throughout the legal profession would be completely objective enough to chair the commission. I agree with the point that having a judge as chair might be inappropriate. Often I am conflicted about this legislation but I cannot sit here and not say that I really do not like the fact that a member of either branch of the legal profession would not be allowed to chair the commission. I want to put this point on the record.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister to the House. I also speak in support of amendment No. 5 in the name of Senator Norris. I thank Senator Noone for the very clear outline of her concerns about the Bill and her support in principle for the amendment. It is sensible. It is also an issue to which we will return when we come to amendment No. 7 in the Minister's name and amendment No. 30 tabled by the Labour Party and supported by Senator Norris. It also looks at the issue of the chairperson of the commission.

  As I said on the last day, I have a fundamental difficulty with the approach in the Bill. It appears the sole criterion to be qualified to chair the commission is that a person was never a judge and never worked as a lawyer for the State and if they ever practised law that they gave it up at least 15 years before. This is the basis on which the Minister's amendment No. 7 is outlined. It seems to be a particularly extreme definition of a layperson. One wonders why such an uncompromising approach is being taken on this.

  On Committee Stage, I spoke about the fundamental difficulty I have with the process through which the Bill is being put to us. It is coming from a position where there has been absolutely no attempt at compromise and no sitting down to speak to those of us in opposition who have no difficulty with reform in principle but would like to see negotiated reform of the judicial appointment process which is sensible and does not get embedded in rigid positions, and which recognises that, as with the appointment of other professionals such as engineers, architects and academics, we enable and facilitate the exercise of professional experience and expertise while also having lay participation. As I said in the previous debate on the Bill, minority lay participation ensures integrity and even-handedness in the appointment of hospital consultants but we do not have this exclusion of people with expertise and this very particular definition of a layperson that we see in amendment No. 7. Amendment No. 30 would address this if it were passed. In the meantime, I will certainly support amendment No. 5.

  An obvious compromise proposal for reform was put forward in the Dáil in Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's Bill. It had a sensible approach to reform. It provided for a commission with a well thought-out mixture of competencies that would enable the application of legal expertise and experience while also allowing for lay participation and the participation of nominees of key entities, such as the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC. There was also provision for gender balance in the commission, which is the subject of some of my later amendments on Report Stage and which we also debated on Committee Stage.

  We are not against reform. We want a sensible negotiated reform based on sensible compromise that enables the exercise of experience and expertise and does not have a knee-jerk reaction against expertise in the way in which the Minister's proposals appear to be set out. In this context, I support the amendment of Senator Norris.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It will come as no surprise to Senators that I do not intend to side with them on the amendments. This issue was the subject matter of endless hours of debate not only here in this House in the presence of the current group of Senators who now propose amendments but also in the wider Oireachtas. I made it clear then and I make it clear now that the shape and form of the Bill as originally drafted included specific reference to a desire on the part of the Government to ensure there would be a lay majority and a lay chair who are not persons with judicial experience and not persons who are members of the Bar or the Law Society but laypersons in the sense of being non-judicial figures or non-lawyer figures. I do not intend departing from this.

  I am not sure whether Senator Noone said she was going to vote for the proposal or not. That would represent something of a new departure in the legislation.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I said I cannot vote for it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I regret that I do not intend departing from what is a core policy decision in the Bill. Should Senators in my own party decide to vote against what is a core policy issue, I would very much regret it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I do not have very much to say but it seems completely idiotic to disqualify the most qualified people. That is the way the Government wants to go but I do not agree with it. I commend Senator Noone for her honesty and openness-----

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Hear, hear.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris -----in saying she disagrees fundamentally with this ridiculous policy of the Government. It is an honourable thing to do. I do not expect her to vote against the Government and the Minister knows damn well that she will not be able to do that but she would if she were able. There is no question or doubt that she would. There is no enthusiasm whatever on that side of the House for the Bill. It is a complete, utter and absolute waste of our time but nothing to what happened previously when I sat for an hour and a half listening to the flatulences of my colleagues. The only contribution worth a solitary damn was that of Senator Mulherin, who raised a series of very important issues. That is part of parliamentary procedure; we have to sit, listen and take it. Sometimes we give it out and other people think we are talking nonsense.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is Senator Norris pressing the amendment?

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris I am most certainly pressing it to a jelly.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway He is not going to win it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Who knows?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will not prejudge matters.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Is Senator Conway able to tell the future?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I can in this case.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order please.

  Amendment put.

  The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment again put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 16.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Victor Boyhan   Zoom on Victor Boyhan   Boyhan, Victor. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy.
Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on David Norris   Zoom on David Norris   Norris, David. Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.
  Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.


Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Michael McDowell; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendment No. 6 has already been discussed with amendment No. 5.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It was not discussed.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am sorry, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, but it was not discussed and I have a lot to say on it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan This was agreed to by the House, as I read out to Members.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris We did not agree to it and the Leas-Chathaoirleach did not give a ruling.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I did. I stated that it was agreed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris He did not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, I did. I do not wish to have an argument about this but I reiterate that I did give a ruling.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On a point of order, the Leas-Chathaoirleach may indeed have ruled on the matter. I am not questioning his integrity. However, I did not think he had done so and I intended to speak on amendment No. 6. Is the Leas-Chathaoirleach saying I will not have an opportunity to do so?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am in something of a bind.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Senator Craughwell cannot speak on the amendment as the matter has been decided.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am in the Chair, Senator Conway.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leas-Chathaoirleach is in the Chair and he has the option to allow Members to speak on amendment No. 6. I would appreciate if he would allow us to do so.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor If Senator Craughwell gets in, everyone will want to get in.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order, I never even mentioned my own amendment. I assumed when Senator Norris said he objected that the matter would be debated separately.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That is my understanding.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I never spoke about my own amendment. I merely spoke about Senator Norris's amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Exactly.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senators McDowell and Craughwell are both telling me that they wish to speak on amendment No. 6 and that it was their clear understanding that they would have an opportunity to do so.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will make an exception and allow it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Well done, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am allowing it because I want to avoid any confusion.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway This is a joke.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Leas-Chathaoirleach should not allow it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senators may be right but that is a matter for another day.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is a terrible ruling.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell That would be an ecumenical matter.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please. I have made my ruling.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Leas-Chathaoirleach is letting the bully boys win again.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The Leader is a fat one to talk.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I have lost some weight, so I hope I am not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator McDowell to speak on amendment No. 6.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I move amendment No. 6:

In page 8, line 21, after "chairperson" to insert "where the chairperson was a lay person at the time of his or her appointment".

My amendment is somewhat different from that of Senator Norris in that it does not exclude the possibility that the chairperson may be a layperson but instead proposes that the definition of "chairperson" be included in the definition of "lay person" where the chairperson was a layperson at the time of his or her appointment. The purpose is to introduce flexibility and allow for the possibility, for instance, that a person who is appointed to the position of chairperson might thereafter be in the process of studying to be a lawyer or switching from one profession to another. It also covers a situation where a person who is not a judge is thereafter appointed to be a judge. For example, a legal academic who is a member of the commission and is subsequently made a judge should be capable of becoming chairperson of the commission. Subsection (1) sets out that a layperson is a person who does not hold, and has never held, judicial office, is not and never has been the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief State Solicitor or a law officer, and is not, and in the relevant period specified by subsection (2) for the purposes of this paragraph, was not, a practising barrister or a practising solicitor.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The definition does not exclude academics.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Academics should be capable of being chairperson of the commission and of being appointed to judicial office and retaining their position as chairperson notwithstanding their being a lawyer.

  My second point is one the Minister may tire of hearing but which he never deals with in a substantive response. I have repeatedly said in the course of this debate that the Minister has brought proposals to Government for the appointment of excellent people as judges, people whose appointment has excited absolutely no controversy of any kind whatsoever and who are generally accepted to be highly qualified and excellent people. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which recommended these people to the Government for appointment has, as far as I can see, been chaired at all material times by the Chief Justice. One might ask whether that chairmanship by the chief Justice is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it giving rise to inferior candidates being recommended to Government or is it inhibiting people who might otherwise apply for judicial appointment - perhaps they would apply to the commission, if it is ever established - from applying to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board?

  The problem with this whole enterprise is that the answer to these questions is obvious. The high-quality candidates the Minister has proposed to the Cabinet for selection have been recommended in the main, I presume, by the advisory board, which is chaired by the Chief Justice. Neither the current incumbent nor his predecessor has been a negative influence on the type of person who is available or had any type of dampening effect on the willingness of people to become judges. I would go one step further and wager that some of the excellent people the Minister and his colleagues in Government have appointed, notwithstanding the squeaking of protest from one member of the Cabinet about appointments being made at all, if the media are to believed, would never have applied to the proposed judicial appointments commission if it were in existence. Some of them would have declined to put their names forward for a number of reasons.

  It was the practice when I was Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and has continued recently to be the practice, as I understand it, that there was an element of talent spotting and persuasion of people who might not otherwise, off their own bat, seek to be judges. Rather than the entirely passive idea proposed in this legislation, the practice has been that people were approached and asked if they would put their name forward to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board on the understanding that they would be favourably considered if the board approved their application. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is everything to be said in favour of that regime.  This Bill sets out to dismantle it and to replace it with a totally different regime where it is not considered proper for the members of the commission to go hunting for people to become judges. The whole thing is passive. The question of having conversations with people and urging them to apply for judicial office is imperilled by the canvassing provisions later in the legislation. Maybe I am straying slightly away from the point of the amendment.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I do not think the Chair would notice.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The point of the amendment is simple. It is to point out to the Minister that the presence of the Chief Justice, as chair of the advisory board, has had no negative effect whatsoever on the quality of people appointed. The present system is much more likely to produce good appointees than the proposed new system.

  We will come to the other provisions later that deal with the composition of this board. The Minister said that there is a policy decision that the chair is to be a layperson and that there is, effectively, a policy decision that the Chief Justice is not to chair this process in the future. I ask him, in all honesty and putting his hand on his heart, is there any good reason to introduce that change in the law? Has the presence of the Chief Justice, as chair of the JAAB, had any detrimental effect or any disincentive effect on a top talent becoming available to the Government for appointment? I strongly believe the answer has to be that it has not. I believe there is no good reason to do this except some kind of mad ideological view that the Chief Justice, who has presided over the JAAB since its inception, should not hold the job, crucially, because of the suggestion somehow that judicial cronyism comes into this and that the Judiciary are a self-perpetuating kind of priesthood who select and favour themselves in some way. If my suspicion was just purely a suspicion, that would be one thing. One only has to look at a book co-authored by the Minister, Deputy Ross, in which he made that very charge against that Judiciary. He pointed out that Chief Justices attended other judges children's weddings and so on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, is that relevant?

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is. Absolutely.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It is. He made the point that it was cronyism-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris He would know all about that.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----that the Chief Justice attended the wedding of other judge's children.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway So the Taoiseach cannot go to the wedding of a Minister's daughter or son.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I hear everybody. Order, please.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell That is the point I am making.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That is crazy stuff.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It is part of this unspoken accusation of cronyism that has been articulated both in leaflets distributed in Dublin Rathdown, which I have drawn the Minister for Justice and Equality's attention to, that somehow there is some inside group of people making these decisions and that the Government is not getting the best talent available. I ask him to consider long and hard whether all the people, whom he has recently appointed, would wade through this process that he is establishing to become judges had it been in operation for the last year. I know, in my heart, that they would not. I know that the high-quality people he has, and some of them have been extremely high-quality people, would have felt, to a major extent, put off by the processes that are involved in the legislation and by the idea that they would be assessed by people who are, in the majority, laypeople and who did not know as much as the present JAAB does about the relative merits of candidates.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The longer that this Bill goes on, the worse I feel for the Minister because this Bill is in his name but it is not his Bill. We are ramming through a Bill to satisfy just one person. There is something terribly wrong when one person can wield this much power over the Houses of Parliament. It is just wrong in every sense of the word but we have to deal with the amendment.

  Amendment No. 6 relates to section 2(2) and is directly linked to the definition of a "lay person". Section 2(2) defines the term "relevant period", which is used in the definition of a "lay person". The definition of a "lay person" sets out a number of considerations that serve to disqualify a person from being regarded as a layperson for the purpose of the Bill. This obsession with laypersons gets to me. As I said last week, I would much rather go into an appointment on a cardiology ward with a cardiologist who had been supervised by his colleagues and interviewed by his or her colleagues, and I was sure that that person knew what he or she was doing. I, therefore, do not understand the obsession with laypersons.

  One consideration that excludes a person from being considered as a layperson is the relevant period in respect of a practising solicitor or barrister. If one were a high-flying practising barrister or solicitor in this State, would one honestly subject oneself to this selection process that is so daunting? Senator McDowell has alluded to this all the time. The committee is large, unwieldy and all over the place with laypeople making decisions and chairing the interviews. I would love to see how a layperson would react if he or she were in front of a justice committee or the Committee of Public Accounts in the event of him or her being called in to explain what was going on. I take Senator McDowell's point that a member of the current Judiciary being chair may present a problem.

  It is proposed that the relevant period will be 15 years, which is an awfully long time.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris One does not get that for murder.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Fifteen years is an horrendously long time. It is not that we are trying to make sure that the people coming in are 15 years out of practice; we are saying that we are putting them through a decontamination process of 15 years. A learner judge, barrister or solicitor all have to be cleansed over a period of 15 years. They might need to be locked away from the courts or prove that they have not stepped inside a court for 15 years to be suitably cleansed. It is the most ridiculous period of time. I will accept that if we are going down the route we are going and we want laypersons on the commission, the laypersons involved should genuinely be laypersons but I disagree with stipulating 15 years. What about somebody, for example, who lectured in law and practised a little on the side? They will not qualify. A perfect reasonable period is three years and I do not see the need to stipulate 15 years.

  Does the Minister genuinely believe that this decontamination period is justifiable? If so, where did the arbitrary figure of 15 years come from?  How do we determine that after 15 years they have been cleansed and decontaminated of their practice at the Bar? Is it that they would not be allowed, for example, to have a drink with a colleague who is still working in the law courts? Perhaps the Law Library would have a function but such a person would not be allowed to attend it because it would bring him or her into recontamination. Would the 15 years have to start the day after a few Christmas drinks with a judge or a leading barrister because one had once again been contaminated?

  It is ludicrous and mad. We are hammering this Bill through this House before it goes back to the Lower House in order to satisfy one person. I mention the amount of time it has taken and the important legislation the Minister has sitting on his desk. When this mad Bill is passed, if it passes, it will become the Minister's Bill in perpetuity. It will be there for all time as the Minister's Bill. There will be another man sitting in his new electric car outside the Garda station-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I thought the Senator was going to say electric chair.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----in Stepaside grinning from ear to ear, knowing he got away scot free. The Minister is carrying the can for what was described not so long ago as a dog's dinner. We can justify the decontamination period but three years is perfectly fine.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I want to speak to this amendment but before I do I preface my remarks by welcoming the Minister here and thanking him for his indulgence and patience. I know it is frustrating for the Minister but it is also frustrating for us.

  In preparing an opinion piece today, I took the time and trouble to look at the amount of judges this Government has presided over and appointed. Without reading that whole list onto the record of the House, because I hope my opinion piece will be published in the newspapers in the next few days, the Minister has appointed 58 judges under this Government, of which the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, is a member. That is the same man who made the various statements my good colleague, Senator McDowell, referred to. I want to endorse everything Senator McDowell said because we have to ask ourselves what we are doing, what we are trying to achieve and who is behind all of this. I feel sorry for the Minister and I am sympathetic that he has had to spend over 100 hours in here. I share his frustration because I do not particularly fancy being in here but this is the Upper House. We would be failing in our job if we did not scrutinise this. We are here because we are engaging in the system. There are many empty seats here tonight so what am I to take from that? Are Members disinterested? Do they not give a hoot? I do not know. Look around at how many people are in this Chamber. What does that say? We are here to do a job. The Taoiseach came in here last year and talked about our role and he wanted us to rigorously pursue and tease out all the issues with legislation. That is what we are doing. It may be tiresome, time-consuming and frustrating but we are doing the right thing.

  I want to set out that I support reform of the judicial system and I support lay involvement in the process but I do not support the removal of the major function of the Chief Justice. Looking at the list of the 58 judges appointed by the Minister, they are an impressive list of people throughout all ranks of the Judiciary. The Government can be proud of its achievements and it can be proud of the men and women it has entrusted the judicial system to be in the hands of. This is good news. Why change it? The Minister and I know what the story is. Everyone on both sides of the House knows what the story is. We will be here for many months yet as far as I am concerned. This will not just blow away. The people who have stuck with this have to be encouraged, supported and acknowledged because they are doing the work they are paid for, which is to come into this House, tease out legislation and make a case for amendments to legislation. I accept the Minister has a prerogative to accept, reject or amend any of those suggestions.

  Amendment No. 6 states: "In page 8, line 21, after “chairperson” to insert “where the chairperson was a lay person at the time of his or her appointment”." It is under the name of myself and my good colleagues, Senators McDowell, Craughwell and Marie-Louise O'Donnell. The amendment would have the effect of changing the definition of a lay member, as the Minister well knows, to include: "where the chairperson was a lay person at the time of his or her appointment". This amendment sensibly removes the overriding theme evidenced in this Bill and in the Government's new amendments put forward on Report Stage that anyone who is even touched by the non-lay influence should have no say. That is madness. Such a person can have no say and could never be a chairperson of the judicial appointments commission. Why? What is the logic behind that? Explain that to us. This is complete folly. There is no comparable body in this country where someone with such responsibility would be bound to have so little experience over the role he or she is tasked with overseeing and managing. What would be so wrong about a retired solicitor, barrister, a legal academic who might have practised or a former judge who may now be a lay person in ordinary life being chairperson of the commission? Those people would be banished from ever participating in the commission. It does not make sense.

  This has all come about because of the suspicions of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. The Minister for Justice and Equality and I know that and the dogs on the street know it. This amendment should be considered. I hope the Minister will reflect on it and agree with it.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I have to agree on the point about the calibre of judges who have been appointed since the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, took over in July 2017.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Hear, hear.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That will get the Senator extra posters down in Clare.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway When the Taoiseach took over, he appointed Deputy Flanagan as Minister for Justice and Equality. I could not and would not question the calibre of the judges appointed since that day. It is a credit to this Minister-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Hear, hear.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway -----and his colleagues that he has been able to persuade such fine people to sit on the benches and preside over the laws of this country-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Under the current system.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Senator Conway is saying the current system works.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That does not say the system is not flawed.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Fair play to Senator Conway.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is great to hear Senator Conway speaking in support of Senator McDowell.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway No system is flawless and I would always encourage Senator McDowell with his fine legal brain to look to some day becoming a judge as he would make a fine judge. We would all be delighted if he considered the Judiciary as a career following on from his illustrious career in the Houses of the Oireachtas-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell If Senator Conway does not get into the Dáil he is hoping to get into the Judiciary.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway -----and in the corridors of power where he did a wonderful job.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell He might make Senator Conway a judge.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Conway is straying from the amendment.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I have not strayed much further from the amendment than my colleagues across the floor.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Perhaps not.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I will give him a little latitude.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I did give a little latitude.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell He is speaking in favour of Senator McDowell's point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order please. We want to hear Senator Conway without interruption.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am elaborating on the point Senator Boyhan made, which I agree with, that since the Taoiseach and the Minister took over their respective offices, the calibre of the judges-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan Deputy Enda Kenny as well. He did a good job too.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway -----who have been appointed have been second to none.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am bound by the Leas-Chathaoirleach's earlier exhortation that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 would be taken together. That was my understanding.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It was my understanding too but-----

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell May I reply to Senator Conway?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I want to explain something first. I allowed a little latitude and then there was confusion about Senator McDowell's name being on amendment No. 6 but not on amendment No. 5. Senators Boyhan and Craughwell did not speak at all on amendment No. 5. I noticed Senator Norris disagreed with my ruling and perhaps I was not forceful enough in pressing it. The Chair has discretion and I have ruled. That is the end of that.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan We respect that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator McDowell.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell While I understand the Minister does not want to contribute further on amendment No. 6-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I respect that.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I respect his right not to do so in the circumstances. That is not a problem. I am grateful to Senator Conway for asking me to consider planning to become a judge.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Senator McDowell would be great.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It echoes the Minister's invitation last week when he asked me to stand in Dublin Bay South.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Again, the Senator is probably straying a little.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Obviously, members of the Fine Gael Party want me anywhere but here. I take that as a compliment and am pleased to do so.

  The selection of someone to chair a body of the kind we are discussing is either left to the body or it is an ex officio appointment, but this is not an ex officio appointment. Rather, it is an appointment based on the proposition that there is one type of person who cannot become chairman of the commission, namely, a person who has practised as a lawyer or has ever held judicial office.

  I ask the Minister to reconsider the amendment in the following context. Supposing somebody practised as a barrister or solicitor for five years and was intelligent and motivated enough to apply for a position as a professor at a university. If such a person had spent 12 years as a professor at a university and three years practising as a barrister beforehand, is there any reason whatever why he or she should be excluded from serving on the commission as a lay person?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Would such a person be contaminated?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Is there any reason in common sense that should be done? The answer is "No". I note that the Minister chose not to respond to any of the arguments I made about the quality of the appointments he has made or about the disinhibiting effect the amendment will have on decent people making applications. He simply stated he did not wish to answer those points. He has a right to silence and not to incriminate himself by saying anything about the matter but I appreciate the candour of Senator Noone in saying that, although she will be forced by her party whip to support the votes on the measures in question, she personally disagrees with them. The candour on her part is not new. I recall when the proposal to abolish the House was debated nationally, she and I visited Maynooth university, where we spoke to law students-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Well done to Senator Noone.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell She stood up and stated she personally believed it was a bad idea-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I have always held her in the highest esteem.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----but she was forced by her party whip to do what she had been told to do.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan That is terrible.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On the quarantine period of three years Senator Craughwell mentioned, if the Government wanted, for some crazy reason, to exclude people from being chair of the commission, three or five years would surely be enough. If the person had gone from being a lawyer to being-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The great unwashed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----joining an insurance company or becoming chairman of a bank, or another such change that has happened in the past, a period of ten years is surely not necessary to get rid of the camaraderie or whatever of the Law Society or the Law Library, which is supposed to be so terrible.

  The prohibition on the chairperson being a lay person means, according to the legislation, that someone who has practised for three years as a barrister or solicitor, became an academic, rose through academia and, after 12 years, became a professor or the dean of a law faculty, would as a result be wholly excluded from being considered a lay person, whereas somebody who simply took a bachelor of civil law degree and a master's degree, but never darkened the door of a solicitor's office or the Law Library, would be eligible to be considered a lay person. How daft is that? How shameful that such arbitrary discrimination should be put into law.

  We talk these days about populism, and about people making inflammatory remarks regarding immigration, using words unwisely and trying to create, by wolf-whistle politics, a wrong impression among voters. There is a danger of that, as the Minister has noted. The purpose of the 15-year quarantine provision, however, is to reinforce the notion that the Bill will somehow get rid of cronyism. It will not do that in the first instance, and it is false to suggest that cronyism has any part to play in the appointment of judges, as the 58 appointments Senator Boyhan mentioned prove.

  We read constantly in the newspaper - the more I hear about it, the more I believe - that the Minister, Deputy Ross, now objects to Circuit Court and District Court appointments, and to vacancies in the Supreme Court being filled. That any Government could abase itself to allow one Minister take the appointment of judges hostage is bad enough, but to do so somehow to bully this House into doing what it should not do, namely, pass the legislation, which will only disimprove the quality of the Judiciary appointed hereafter, is worse.

  Accordingly, I am happy with the amendment, which will simply make it possible for a lay person, judge, solicitor or barrister, or someone who has worked for three years as a practising lawyer before becoming a distinguished academic, to be chairperson. The amendment is good and the Minister should accept it. His silence, on this occasion, speaks volumes. I have not heard anybody, including Senator Conway, refute the points I have made or offer a different point of view.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway For the information of the House, three further judges were appointed today-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan That is helpful. I can remember my opinion piece.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Galway District Court can sit again in that case.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway They are people of the highest integrity. I am delighted that Ms Justice Marie Baker, Judge Rosemary Horgan and Mr. John Campbell were appointed to various courts today. The system is working.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan It is brilliant.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway All good systems need to be considered and improved.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Obviously, the system works.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Let us be clear: the appointments could not have happened if this stupid Bill had been passed into law. The Government would have had to advertise every one of the appointments, and each of the sitting judges who have just been promoted to other positions would have had to reapply to the commission.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am delighted that Ms Justice Baker was appointed to the Supreme Court. Was the Senator aware of the appointment?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I was not aware, but I am delighted to hear about it.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask Senators to resume discussing the amendment.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Senator Conway might dwell upon the fact that the appointment to which he referred could not have been made if this Bill were in place because it would have required its being advertised by the Government. That makes a nonsense of what we are being told is the purpose of the Bill.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I hope the appointment in question was not to the High Court or the Court of Appeal because that would have meant another nine months of waiting.

(Interruptions).

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Order, please.

  Amendment put.

  The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment again put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 12.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Victor Boyhan   Zoom on Victor Boyhan   Boyhan, Victor. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on David Norris   Zoom on David Norris   Norris, David. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.
  Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.


Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Michael McDowell; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome back the Minister. I ask for Members' attention. We will move on to amendment No. 7, which arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, are related.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Hold on a second.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No. I am not hearing any word from the Senator; I am going to make this statement. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are physical alternatives to No. 7. Amendment No. 11 is consequential on No. 7. Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are physical alternatives to No. 10. Amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell No, it is not agreed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris No.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Agreed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Amendment No. 7 proposes an entirely new subparagraph (d) in the definition at section 2(1). This has never been discussed before. It proposes to exclude people who have served as, for example, a barrister or judge in Northern Ireland-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Or France.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----or France or anywhere else from ever serving on this body. It has not been discussed before. It is not really the same as, for instance, the question of whether a member of An Garda Síochána is a lay person or not. I do not see how they are connected at all.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan They are physically overlapping. That is my advice.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I agree with Senator McDowell. These are very significant amendments. Amendment No. 7 in particular is very different from, and of a different order to, the others. It is far more substantial. It seeks to insert four new paragraphs into page 8 of the Bill. I have already referred to this amendment a number of times in my speeches on earlier amendments. It certainly should not be grouped together with a whole group of much less significant amendments. In addition, amendment No. 9 relates to a very specific issue regarding An Garda Síochána. I will wait for the Chair.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am formally advised that, because of the overlapping-----

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik To finish my point, amendment No. 12 relates to the length of time for which a lay person's period of disqualification or "quarantine", as it has been referred to, should last. That is very specific and not contingent on amendment No. 7. It relates specifically to the existing text of page 8 of the Bill, as do amendments Nos. 8 and 10. These refer to the deletion of existing text, which is very different.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan In a sense, this grouping facilitates the Senators because, if amendment No. 7 is agreed, Nos. 8 and 9 cannot be moved. Because of the overlapping, it is better to discuss Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, together, as advised. That is the reason for the grouping.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris May I draw the Leas-Chathaoirleach's attention to Occam's razor, which forbids the hypothetical discussion of the non-existent?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On a point of order-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Follow that.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Government amendment, No. 7, has not really been considered by this House at any stage. I formally propose that we recommit the Bill to Committee Stage in respect of amendment No. 7.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will Senator Craughwell repeat that?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am saying that amendment No. 7, which begins with "In page 8, to delete lines 22 to 27", was not properly discussed on Committee Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator wants to recommit the Bill in respect of amendment No. 7.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Yes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That would not undo the grouping. The Senator can make that proposal but, if we were to proceed in this way, Members could be discommoded because, when we finish with amendment No. 7, they will not be able to discuss the other amendments. They will not arise.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I fully accept what the Leas-Chathaoirleach is saying about amendment No. 7 sweeping away Nos. 8 and 9. I do not want to question the correctness of logic of that point in any way. Senator Craughwell is suggesting that we should recommit the Bill in respect of amendment No. 7. It is a novel proposition that people who have been, for example, solicitors in Northern Ireland for two or three years in the last 15 years-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Are the two Senators proposing that the Bill be recommitted in respect of amendment No. 7 only?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The other amendments are to be excluded.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I object to this. After 122 hours, or whatever it has been, recommittal is not appropriate.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris It is a new idea.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is a decision for the House. I would like to know-----

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I seek the direction of the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the Clerk in this matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris The Clerk is not in a position to give a direction. He might think he is, but he is not.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Clerk has prompted the Leas-Chathaoirleach fairly consistently.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Conway will resume his seat.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I will not until I have finished making my point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan You will.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I will not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan You will. The Senator will respect the Chair.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am making a point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will respect the Chair. I want to clarify the proposal. Resume your seat.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway No, my point-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan You will be heard.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway There-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan You are out of order.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway There is filibustering going on and that is out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Kick him out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Kick him out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris is also out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David Norris Zoom on David Norris Kick him out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, I want to get this clarified. What, specifically, is the proposal?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I propose that we recommit the Bill to Committee Stage in respect of amendment No. 7 in order that it can be fully discussed on that Stage.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That is not acceptable to this side of the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will be heard but he is out of order now.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am not out of order.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan You are out of order if I say you are. I am in the Chair.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is proposed that the Bill be recommitted in respect of amendment No. 7 only. Senator Conway opposes the proposal.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Yes, I oppose the proposal because discussion on Committee Stage of this Bill went on for longer than 100 hours. This is a House of the Oireachtas. It is not a Chamber for filibustering. I seriously object to the Bill being recommitted. I seek the protection of the Leas-Chathaoirleach for the integrity of this House in ensuring it does not happen. It is totally inappropriate.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is the Senator's view.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am not finished.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is entitled to his view, for what it is worth. The House will decide.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Chairman needs to rule on this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ruled in accordance with Standing Orders.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Chairman is quoting Standing Orders.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We do not want this to go on.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is totally unacceptable -----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is to the Senator, I accept that.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway ------ to recommit something on Committee Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is entitled to his view, for what it is worth. I thank the Senator. We will now hear from Senator Bacik.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The issue of recommital is one for the Chair's discretion.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway That is missing my point entirely.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I did not interrupt Senator Conway.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is a matter for decision by the House.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway No it is not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am advised that it is a matter for decision by the House and I accept that.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I stand corrected. It is certainly not a matter for Senator Conway, nor is it a matter related to the amount of time.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is not a matter for any individual Senator. The Senator should be respectful.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Nor, if I may say so, does it relate to the amount of time spent discussing other amendments on Committee Stage. This is a new and substantive amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have a proposal.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I do not believe that I have broken any rule or gone against Standing Orders in any way.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I did not say that the Senator had.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I appreciate the Leas-Chathaoirleach's indulgence on this. I wish to move that the Bill be recommitted to Committee Stage in respect of the amendment.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I object to that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Conway is opposing.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Will the Leas-Chathaoirleach clarify if it is at the discretion of the House or at the discretion of the Chair?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is a decision of the House.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I would like the specific Standing Order that covers that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has been given a ruling by me. It is a decision by the House.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Under what Standing Order was that made?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will give the Senator the number in a minute.

  Senator Craughwell has proposed to recommit. Has it been seconded?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway And it has been objected to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan And it has been objected to strongly by Senator Conway. Senator McFadden has seconded the objection.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell For the purpose of being orderly, Senator Craughwell has proposed that the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of discussing amendment No. 7. I have seconded that proposal. I understand there is opposition to it but it is a matter for a decision by the House.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Hear, hear.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is correct. I am going to put the proposal to the House.

Question put: "That the Bill be recommitted in respect of amendment No. 7."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 11.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Victor Boyhan   Zoom on Victor Boyhan   Boyhan, Victor. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
Information on David Norris   Zoom on David Norris   Norris, David. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Michael McDowell; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Question declared lost.

  Government amendment No. 7:

In page 8, to delete lines 22 to 27 and substitute the following:
“ “lay person” means a person who—
(a) does not hold, and has never held, judicial office,

(b) is not, and never has been, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief State Solicitor or a law officer,

(c) is not, and in the relevant period specified in subsection (2) for the purposes of this paragraph, was not, a practising barrister or a practising solicitor, and

(d) does not hold or occupy, and has never held or occupied, an office or position in a place outside the State equivalent to an office or position referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) and is not, and in the relevant period specified in subsection (2) for the purposes of this paragraph, was not a solicitor or barrister practising in a jurisdiction outside the State in accordance with the law of that jurisdiction;”.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order, does that mean we are returning to discussing all the amendments grouped together?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, the vote on the recommital of amendment No. 7 is defeated.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes, so the Leas-Chathaoirleach was proposing to group the debate.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will speak on that in a minute and then the Senator can decide.

  I welcome the Minister back to the Chamber. We are back to Report Stage. I have already moved amendment No. 7. Will Senators please pay attention? We will have no repetition of what happened earlier. Amendment Nos 7 to 12, inclusive, are related; amendment Nos 8 and 9 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 7, which means that if amendment No. 7 is agreed, Senators will be unable to speak to amendments Nos. 8 and 9; amendment No. 11 is consequential on amendment No. 7; and amendments Nos 11 and 12 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 10. Amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Are amendments Nos. 11 and 12 alternatives?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I respectfully request that we do not group them together.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator wants to separate them. Is that what the Members wish?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The groupings are set independently of the Members. The Members cannot decide what amendments go with what.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We generally seek the assent of Members.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer With respect, I have never seen the assent of Members being asked for any other Bill in the House. If we are going to allow a minority to dictate what happens, we would set a bad precedent.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will not do that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The groupings of amendments have always been determined independent of the Members of the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The House is always asked by the Chair are the groupings agreed.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Let us talk to Senator Higgins and see how she got on with her groupings.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please. I had to ask if they were agreed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell May I suggest to have agreement and consensus ------

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is what I am looking for.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell ----- that amendments Nos 7 to 10, inclusive, be taken together.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan But not amendment Nos. 11 and 12.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell No, let us leave those separately.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Let us take amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is it agreed that amendments Nos 7 to 10, inclusive be taken together?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer No, the Leas-Chathaoirleach proposed amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am advised that we can take amendments Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer May I ask on what basis? Why has the Chair changed his mind on the first grouping?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am not changing my mind. The Members know that if amendment No. 7 was agreed, amendments Nos. 8 and 9 cannot be moved. The Members who are disadvantaged accept that.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik What is the point of the list?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Members cannot all speak together, please.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am sorry for incurring the displeasure of the Chair.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The spokesperson on behalf of the Government is Senator Joe O'Reilly. He has indicated that he wishes to speak.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer What is the purpose of drawing up a list independent of Members?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will take Members, one at a time.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Presumably these amendments are grouped here for a reason. It is presented as the order of the day.  Does it count for anything? Has it any standing?

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson It is only a suggestion.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Can it constantly be subject to amendment?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Unfortunately, it is up to the House. The tradition is to ask for agreement.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I accept that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments are taken together by agreement.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly There has never been a case in which it has been opposed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, because there is always agreement.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senators are all trying to speak together. Order, please. What does Senator Craughwell wish to say?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On a point of order, there is a great deal of spurious information being thrown out about things not having been accepted or done in the past. As the Leas-Chathaoirleach, who is doing an excellent job-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor The Senator is right.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----rightly pointed out, the groupings are a suggestion. It is up to the House to agree them. We have accepted that amendments Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, will be grouped.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly With respect, the Senator is suggesting anarchy in the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Ciúnas, please. I must-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Might I just add-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson This is a democracy.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly No, it is anarchy.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer With respect to Senator Craughwell-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am going to clarify the procedural position. I will read the House a note.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order. Will Senators please resume their seats?

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Is the order not what is on this paper?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order. I am not hearing anything.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I was just pointing something out.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Save it. Will Senators please listen to me? I am going to make a ruling.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly There is no point in the groupings if we are going to go on like this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on. I want you all to pay attention to this. The Chair is always anxious to accommodate, as far as is reasonable, the views of Senators as to the grouping of amendments, and for this purpose generally seeks the assent of the House before proceeding. However, it is ultimately the prerogative of the Chair as the judge of order in the Seanad to rule on methods by which amendments are to be discussed with reference to one another so that duplication of discussion can be avoided.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Hear, hear.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The grouping of amendments is also sometimes necessary to protect the interests of a Senator whose later amendment might not be open to debate by reason of a decision on an earlier amendment, for example, in the case of physical alternatives. Groupings are never a matter for formal decision by the House. Amendments are grouped for a variety of reasons, for example, where an amendment is consequential on another; where amendments are physical alternatives to one another, that is, they seek to amend the same text within the Bill such that the agreement of one amendment would necessarily preclude the moving of another; where amendments are logical alternatives to one another; where amendments are cognate, that is, they embody the same principle where they are offered to different parts of the Bill; and where amendments are similar, that is, they effect the same or similar purposes. Ultimately, amendments are grouped in the interests of an efficient and productive debate and the Chair exercises such latitudes as are available to him or her with those principles in mind.

Senator John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I might try to bring this together. If groupings of amendments are suggested and printed, I presume that they should be up for discussion and, if challenged, voted on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Again, that is the prerogative of the Chair.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Is this a filibuster of business?

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Jesus Christ.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We are learning from the masters.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell That is an own goal, Senator McDowell.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on. I am going to make a ruling in light of all that Senators have said. Amendments Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, will be taken together by agreement.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer No.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am ruling on that now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On what basis?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have just explained it. I read it out.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I heard the-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Let us not hold up the show further.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Why are we changing the order that was presented to the House?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Who presented an order?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is not an order.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Why are we changing the groupings that were presented to the House?

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am now ruling. Let us proceed.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Let us get on with this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, are being taken together.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Since we have discussed those already, can we vote on them?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The House has not discussed them.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Government still has to move it.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor We have discussed amendment No. 7.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on. These are Government amendments. I will call on the Minister after amendment No. 7 has been moved.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Move it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It will be. I will then call on the Minister.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan On a point of order, if I can make one. The Leas-Chathaoirleach will probably tell me that I cannot.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister probably cannot.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It seems clear to me from what the Chair has said that he has introduced an element of confusion. To my mind, amendment No. 12 must be read in conjunction with amendment No. 10. The Chair has now split them. I advise against the type of decoupling that we had on an earlier Stage that resulted in contradictions in the Bill, but I am in the hands of the House. I just-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan If amendment No. 10 is agreed, amendments Nos. 11 and 12 cannot be moved.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The House has a disposition to do more than just throw up every procedural angle available in order to ensure that this debate is slowed down. As Chair of the proceedings, I ask the Leas-Chathaoirleach for assistance to ensure the smooth running of the debate insofar as he can. It seems that, if he decouples amendments Nos. 11 and 12 from amendment No. 10, which is now his proposal, we will be in waters that could give rise to a contradiction.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, it will affect the debate, not the decision. Senator McDowell quite understands that amendments Nos. 11 and 12-----

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell On a point of order-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Hold on.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell It is a relevant point of order. How did the groupings arise originally? Who made the decision to group the amendments in this fashion?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan A recommendation was made by the Bills Office.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell There was an independent recommendation that they be grouped together. We should be guided by that recommendation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We normally are, but the Chair is not instructed by the Bills Office.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On a point of order, there is a lot of waffle going on here about-----

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are moving on.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I need to make the point. There is a lot of waffle going on here-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is not a point of order.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----about filibusters and using procedural issues.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will let the Senator in when we are discussing the amendments.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell In a moment, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden The Senator would recognise filibustering.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is the duty of every Member of the House to scrutinise legislation-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Hear, hear.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly But not to go into the Bills Office to organise this.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----and use whatever parliamentary tools are available to him or her to ensure that a Bill that is outrageous, like this one, never passes or a Bill is finely scrutinised.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is outrageous that the Senator would interfere with the independence of the Bills Office.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have ruled.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is outrageous. I have never seen a Member of this House do that at any time. It is outrageous, Senator Craughwell.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader is out of order. All of the Senators are out of order.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order,-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Jesus.

(Interruptions).

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order, to stop this filibuster by Fine Gael, I am quite happy to go back to the original grouping.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senators are withdrawing their proposal.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Leader should respect the Chair's ruling.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We have agreement on the original grouping. Amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, will be taken together.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I will be brief. This provides for a new definition of "lay person" to be inserted into section 3 to ensure that the term "lay person" is not confined to exclude only persons who held judicial office, had been the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General, the Chief State Solicitor or law officers in the State, or had been practising barristers or solicitors in the State. It now encompasses in its exclusions those persons who have held office outside of the State. A person who has held judicial office outside of the State or, subject to the time limit in subsection (2), has been the equivalent of a practising barrister or solicitor in another jurisdiction cannot be regarded as a lay person for the purposes of the Bill under the amendment.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I wish to address all of the amendments that we are discussing, if I may.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are dealing with amendments Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, by agreement.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Minister has very briefly and tersely proposed amendment No. 7. The effect of his amendment is to remove three existing paragraphs and substitute four. The fourth paragraph is the new point in this debate. It would appear that the Government, following Committee Stage in the House, suddenly got the bright idea that the definition of "lay person" was too loose and that what was needed in the definition that it had already proposed was an additional disqualification from being regarded as a lay person, namely, a person "does not hold or occupy, and has never held or occupied, an office or position in a place outside the State equivalent to an office or position referred to in paragraph (a) or (b)", which means judicial office or the attorney general, director of public prosecutions, chief state solicitor or a law officer of another state.  In other words, if a person is a civil servant in Britain whose position depends on having a qualification in law, he or she should never, ever be capable of being appointed to the Irish judicial appointments commission. Likewise, if one is a civil servant in Northern Ireland whose job involved having a legal qualification - and let us be clear about this because Senator Ó Donnghaile might have some interest in this - no matter what one does for the rest of one's life, and it could be 20, 30, 40 or 50 years later, one still stands disqualified under this provision from being eligible to be appointed to the judicial appointments commission. Does Sinn Féin really believe this is a good idea? If a person serves two years in a position in the civil service in Northern Ireland, for which a legal qualification is required, and should thereafter come south of the Border - or even remain north of the Border - this amendment would mean that he or she may never be capable of being a member of the Irish judicial appointments commission.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile We should get rid of the Border.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It is a pretty shocking proposal in the Bill. This occurred when the light went on in somebody's brain in the Government - and I do not know who it was - to say the Bill contained a previous definition of "lay person" and that it should be amended to contain that prohibition. I believe this to be pretty shocking. I do not see how we can accept it. I want to be 100% clear about what we are doing.

  The definition of "law officer" as I understand it is a person who holds office in the public service, and whose tenure of that office in service as a barrister or solicitor, or whose qualification as a barrister or solicitor-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Part 1, on page 8 of the administrative reprint has the definition. It is halfway down the page.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am looking at the wrong document. Yes, I have it now. The Bill's definition is that " “law officer” means a person employed in the service of the State where a condition for the employment of the person was that he or she was a practising barrister or a practising solicitor". Paragraph (b) of amendment No. 7, however, means that if a person did two years' service - for example with the Director of Public Prosecutions Office for Northern Ireland - in a position for which he or she had to be a practising barrister or solicitor - then that person would thereafter never be capable of being a member of the Irish judicial appointments commission, no matter for how long. This is not a 15-year limit; it is forever and ever and the person could never carry out that function. One must ask why this is being done. Why would a young woman who did two years' service in the office of the Attorney General of Northern Ireland, for which the status of practising barrister was required at the time of appointment, be forever disqualified from being appointed to a position in the Republic of Ireland, no matter what she had done in the intervening period? I cannot understand why this is necessary. I do not understand why we are being asked to do that. That is paragraph (b).

  Paragraphs (c) and (d) of amendment No. 7 state the person "is not, and in the relevant period specified in subsection (2) for the purposes of this paragraph, was not, a practising barrister or a practising solicitor [...] in a jurisdiction outside the State in accordance with the law of that jurisdiction;”. Again, it is a solicitor or barrister who is to be disqualified. Does this apply to notaries or advocates in France or Germany, or is it purely common law jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand? It may not apply to America as they have a unified profession of attorney. I do not understand this amendment.

  Consider the first line of paragraph (d): " [...] has never held or occupied, an office or position in a place outside the State equivalent to an office or position referred to in paragraph (a) or (b)". There is an equivalence matter here, whereby the amendment would disqualify a person who is a magistrate in France, for example, which is an equivalence of judicial function. With the disqualification for persons acting as barristers or solicitors in a foreign jurisdiction it is only barristers and solicitors that the Bill is concerned with. I believe this to be completely irrational. An American attorney would not be excluded but a barrister in the Channel Islands would be. A Northern Ireland barrister is caught by this provision, whereas an American attorney is not. For the life of me I cannot see how this makes sense. I cannot see how such a provision could have been drafted. It is badly drafted.

  If one was to try to knock out legal professionals across the world it should have said "has never been a barrister or solicitor or held or occupied an equivalent position anywhere else in the world", but the Minister has not done that. This is a simple flaw with the drafting. The Fine Gael Party came in here and prevented us from looking at this again on Committee Stage. They came in here and said "No" and objected. They said it was all wrong to recommit it. They voted down a motion to recommit this amendment. Now there is another dog's dinner being put into the law, whereby an American attorney can be appointed, a French notaire or advocate can be appointed, or an equivalent anywhere in Europe can be appointed to the judicial appointments commission but anybody whose name is barrister or solicitor cannot, because these are common law descriptions of divided professions. That is a major and embarrassing mistake to have put into legislation. It is inexplicable and indefensible. It should not be waived through this House. The Minister should withdraw the amendment because it simply does not make sense. Very little depends on this amendment and if the Minister withdraws this amendment the Bill will not be hugely changed. The disqualification of some people outside the State from being appointed to the commission is wholly unnecessary, wholly irrational and wholly indefensible because it distinguishes between a person who is described as a "solicitor" or a "barrister" in England, and a person who might be a professional anywhere in the EU, the United States of America, or anywhere else in large portions of the common law world where the profession of barristers and solicitors have been amalgamated into attorneys or equivalents.

  It is a mystery to me as to why this proposal was made. I want to examine it again, if I may. Was there a danger that a foreign judge - or a retired judge from a foreign jurisdiction - would be appointed to this commission?  The Government, suddenly in its wisdom, when it framed these amendments decided we could not possibly have a retired judge from a foreign jurisdiction appointed to this commission. What is wrong with that? What is wrong, for instance, with having a retired judge from Northern Ireland function on this commission? Is that person supposed to be part of a cronyist cabal of practising lawyers who would tend to dominate the whole system to the detriment of the common good? It simply does not make sense. There is absolutely no reason a solicitor or barrister from all the professions practising law throughout the world should be selected for exclusion unless, and this is what I am wondering, this is aimed at Northern Ireland. I think it must be aimed at Northern Ireland. That is the most likely place from where somebody, if this amendment was not passed, would become a member of the judicial appointments commission.

If someone from Northern Ireland was or continued to reside north of the Border and had retired from practice 12 years ago, how could it possibly be inappropriate that such a person to be considered a lay person if he or she had never practised in a court in the Republic? How could that possibly offend Deputy Ross's view of the legal insider concept? It could not. Therefore, I am strongly of the view that this paragraph (d) which came from nowhere, was never discussed as far as I can recall on Second or Committee Stages in this House or the other House is the product of a hyperactive imagination. Someone saw some loophole whereby somebody with a legal qualification in Northern Ireland might be considered a lay person and quickly put together an amendment, used the term "barrister" or "solicitor", notwithstanding the fact that it does not apply to advocates, notaries and all the other descriptions, abogadosand all the rest of it in Spain and the like, and simply said they did not want it to happen. It reeks of an anti-Northern Ireland prejudice. If the purpose of this lay-non-lay distinction is to exclude people who have practised in the Irish courts, this amendment goes far further than that and has no rational connection with it.

Debate adjourned.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.

 The Seanad adjourned at 8.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 November 2019.


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