Thursday, 13 June 2013
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: ] How can the Minister make any claims of transparency or stand over the process when he did not do the very thing that was so apparently necessary? The Oireachtas committees themselves have been in correspondence with each other, as I understand it, and the decision was made by them that the ombudsman was appropriate. Indeed, the Minister's own colleague, the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, is also, along with the Road Safety Authority, of the view that independence of inquiry is necessary in this matter.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I should have added to my response to Deputy Wallace that, in so far as the Road Safety Authority has any evidence to present on this matter to suggest there is anything inaccurate in the report furnished to the joint Oireachtas committee, I would welcome the Road Safety Authority making that submission to the joint committee and, no doubt, the joint committee can call before it members of the Road Safety Authority who have those concerns and let them present their case.
In the context of this matter, transparency has been provided by the publication of the two reports that were published by their furnishing to the joint committee. One cannot have greater transparency than a parliamentary committee being given the opportunity to address issues that may be of concern or conclusions that may be criticised in a report that was published. It, of course, remains for the Garda Inspectorate, or an independent body entirely independent of the Garda Síochána, to address issues in the manner in which they deem appropriate. I have no difficulty with Oireachtas committees deciding how they wish to proceed. It remains to be seen whether the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, if it receives a communication from an Oireachtas committee, determines it an appropriate matter for it to engage in.
My only interest in this is to ensure we have a system that is above reproach and that we still have a system that is humane and ensures individuals are given the benefit of a discretion in circumstances where it is appropriate and where justice is not done, and that there is no question of there being any question mark hanging over the manner in which this particular issue is administered. I would not disagree with Deputy Wallace on one aspect of this. It is quite clear there was serious administrative dysfunction, and I have acknowledged that in regard to the manner in which this was dealt with in some districts. That is why the new recommendations made and the code or protocols proposed to be implemented are of importance.
10. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will sign the European Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, including rape and domestic violence. [28246/13]
31. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his position on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28219/13]
48. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will sign the European convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence; the reasons he has not signed the Convention to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28217/13]
Deputy Alan Shatter: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 31 and 48 together.
Ireland supports, in principle, the aims and terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. It is a detailed convention, with a very broad scope across a number of policy areas with potential policy and legislative implications. The provisions of the convention, and the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be necessary to allow signature and ratification of the convention by Ireland, are being examined in my Department in conjunction with the Government commitment to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a way that provides protection to victims.
A particular difficulty to be addressed in Ireland’s consideration of the convention relates to reconciling property rights under the Irish constitution with the requirement under Article 52 of the convention - the availability of emergency barring orders. The development of the consolidated and reformed legislation, including consideration of the convention provisions, will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and other legislative priorities in my Department.
Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, is undertaking the preliminary work in developing proposals for consideration. Cosc has met with relevant groups from the NGO sector and received some proposals for consideration. Further material is also awaited from the sector.
Deputy Mick Wallace: I am sure the Minister is aware Ireland has just one third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe. The latest statistics from Safe Ireland show that on over 2,500 occasions in 2011 domestic violence services were unable to accommodate women and their children because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area. It is a fact that one in five women have been subjected to domestic violence in Ireland. While there have been Government commitments in recent years to deal with the crisis, progress has been very slow. NGOs providing services to women experiencing domestic and sexual violence are witnessing an unprecedented growth in demand for their services.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I can confirm to the Deputy that we will not be signing the convention before the end of the EU Presidency, which finishes at the end of June. As someone who spent many years of his life working with victims of domestic violence and seeking to ensure our laws were as robust as possible, I have a particular personal interest in us trying to bring about a situation where we can be parties to this convention. However, when the convention was put in place, it is my understanding that the previous Attorney General raised constitutional issues with the particular provision I mentioned. I am examining whether we can get around that difficulty and I believe it may be possible for us to do so. Nonetheless, for us to sign up to the convention will require a change in our law, and that is something to be addressed in the new consolidated legislation bringing together all of our existing law on domestic violence and implementing some additional reforms. I do not envisage this legislation will be published prior to 2014 because of the major legislative agenda and some of the other areas we are dealing with and addressing in the family law area, such as the children and family relations Bill that is under substantial preparation. However, it would be my objective that we do everything possible in this area to provide the best possible protection to victims of domestic violence.
An Bille um an Dara Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Deireadh a Chur le Seanad Éireann) 2013: Ordú don Dara Céim
Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013: Order for Second Stage
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed?
Deputy Shane Ross: On a point of order, I have an amendment.
An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, it can be moved when you------
Deputy Shane Ross: Can I move it and have a division on it now?
An Ceann Comhairle: No, you cannot do that.
Deputy Shane Ross: I cannot. Can I move it when I speak later on?
An Ceann Comhairle: Yes.
Deputy Shane Ross: Thank you.
An Bille um an Dara Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Deireadh a Chur le Seanad Éireann), 2013: An Dara Céim
The Taoiseach: Tairgim: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."
The purpose of the Bill is to fulfil the programme for Government commitment to hold a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad. It will be held in the autumn. The Government also intends to hold a referendum on the establishment of a court of civil appeal on the same day and possibly other issues arising from the early reports of the Constitutional Convention.
As the Government is proposing this referendum, it is appropriate that I, as Taoiseach, should outline the reasons why we are doing so. In July 2009, at the MacGill Summer School, I announced that Fine Gael was embarking on a root and branch analysis of the political system. As part of that analysis, we looked in detail at the role of the Seanad and came to the clear conclusion that reforming it was not realistic or achievable. The key difficulty with all of the proposals for reform is that they take the existence of the Seanad, with its widely-acknowledged flaws, as a given. It would either remain an unrepresentative elitist composition or a directly elected entity that would seek to duplicate the Dáil.
Instead, the correct approach is to start by asking whether we need a second House at all. I do not believe we do. For 75 years political insiders have discussed and debated Seanad reform. Ten reports on reform of the second House have been published since it was established in 1938, yet not a single one has been implemented.
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