Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Beef Industry
 Header Item Housing Adaptation Grant
 Header Item Local Government Reform
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Twelfth Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges: Motion
 Header Item Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (Section 95(3)) (Variation of title: Optician) Regulations 2016: Motion
 Header Item Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2016: Motion
 Header Item Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2016: Motion
 Header Item Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 245 No. 5
Unrevised

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I have received notice from Senator Jim Walsh that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, he proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to outline if the Government is refusing to support growing international calls which describe the systematic murder, rape, slavery and persecution of Christians in the Middle East as “genocide”.

I have also received notice from Senator Pat O'Neill of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to state whether he believes the proposed takeover of Slaney Meats by ABP Group will have a positive or negative effect on the future of agriculture in Ireland and, if the takeover goes ahead, whether he will be making a submission to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

I have also received notice from Senator Colm Burke of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to allocate funds to local authorities for house adaptation works and to ensure that, when the funds are allocated, local authorities will have absolute discretion over the amounts to be allocated for local authority and private housing.

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

The need for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to outline the current position on the promised review of the 2014 local government arrangements.

I regard the matters raised by the Senators as suitable for discussion and they will be taken now.

Commencement Matters

Foreign Conflicts

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Dara Murphy.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. In putting this Commencement matter to the Minister of State I wish to emphasise - the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has acknowledged this - the terrible persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa by Boko Haram, Daesh and various other bodies. There is a growing awareness that this is a systematic killing of minorities such as Yazidis and Christians and Coptic Christians in the case of Libya. There is a need for the international community to do more than it is doing. Rhetoric is fine, but it must be backed by more concrete action which will I hope, in the first instance, make the perpetrators of these atrocities begin to think they will be held accountable. Many politicians in the United States and Britain have been calling for this to be recognised for what it is - genocide.

  The Minister of State might be aware that shortly before Christmas a group of 75 British politicians sent a letter to the Prime Minister to express their concern about the genocide being perpetrated by Daesh against various communities, including Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable groups. They pointed out that there was clear evidence that genocide was occurring, including the assassination of church leaders, which we have seen, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities in Iraq and Syria, sexual enslavement, which is very common, the systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversion to Islam, destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts, and the theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity. Daesh has made statements taking credit for the mass murder of Christians; therefore, it is not as if these things are happening unknown to the world. Daesh has made these statements through the media.

  One incident is an example of what is happening. Last December Daesh tortured a young child with two other Christians and crucified them to death. In an attempt to force the child's father to convert to Islam from Christianity the boy's fingertips were cut off. The bodies were left hanging on crosses for two days under signs reading "infidels". That is a clear indication that what is happening is tantamount to genocide. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide makes it clear that genocide is not simply the random killing of individuals but the systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group which may be national, ethnic, racial or religious. The convention identifies it as acts committed with the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part.

  The purpose of this Commencement matter is to call on the Minister and the Government to use all the influence at their disposal, at both the United Nations and the European Union, to obtain an agreement that the word "genocide" be used. That will have two main benefits. It will send a clear message to those who are organising and undertaking the slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable for their actions by the international community and that they will be caught, tried and punished. It will also act as an incentive and encouragement to the other 127 nations that are signatories to the convention to face up to their duty of responsibility in this regard. It will be a sad reflection on Europe which has a strong Judeo-Christian tradition if it fails when our Christian brethren are being slaughtered to such an extent across the Middle East and parts of north Africa. The time has come for governments and Ministers to step up on this issue. I hope ideological groups within the public service in the European Union and the United Nations will not thwart this because of their antipathy to some Christian religions. It would be a sad day if that were to happen.

  This is an appalling episode in our midst. I hope the Minister of State will give a strong reply and that the Government will deny some of the reports that it is reluctant to classify it as genocide.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Dara Murphy): Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy I thank the Senator for his concern and the efforts he has made consistently to highlight the plight of the Christian minority in the Middle East and other parts of the world.  The Government is in no doubt that Christian communities in many parts of the Middle East, especially in areas facing the rise of extremist groups such as Daesh, have been the victims, as the Senator said, of appalling crimes, including murder, sexual violence, enslavement and forced conversions. The Government has repeatedly condemned crimes that have been committed against many religious minority communities, including Christians.

  In 2014, as I am sure the Senator is aware, Ireland, in conjunction with 57 other states, sponsored a resolution calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, the resolution was vetoed by two permanent members of the Security Council - China and Russia.

  In recent years Ireland has provided over €43 million in humanitarian support for the victims of the Syrian and Iraqi crises and will make a further significant contribution at the forthcoming London conference on the Syrian crisis. The conference takes place in two weeks time. We have also accepted over 200 refugees from the Syrian conflict through our resettlement programme and, together with the United Nations, have also volunteered to take in, as the Senator will be aware, a further 4,000.

  In line with international law on refugees, we do not discriminate between refugees on the basis of their ethnicity or religion. Furthermore, we do not believe the solution to persecution is to remove Christian communities from the Middle East, as this would effectively mark the destruction of Christian heritage at the very place of its birth. The only means of securing the protection of Christian communities and other minorities across the Middle East is through the promotion of sustainable political solutions to the conflicts which have for so long destabilised the region and have been the key factor in the promotion of radical and extremist ideologies. Ireland has been a key supporter of the United Nations' efforts to achieve an end to the conflict in Syria and Libya and for a unified Iraq free from the threat of Daesh crimes.

  The Government has no doubt that horrific atrocities amounting to grave war crimes have been committed in the Middle East, including, as the Senator noted, those that have deliberately targeted Christian communities. The crime of genocide is, however, specific and unique. In order to not to undermine the status of this crime or weaken its definitional elements, very careful consideration is required before making a determination that genocide has been committed. This should include an assessment of the evidence supporting such claims. Ireland fully endorses the views of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that, subject to a determination by an independent and competent court, ISIS may have committed war crimes against humanity and genocide.

  I note that the largest number of victims of jihadist terrorists and terrorism attacks have, in fact, been Muslims whom Daesh and other terrorist groups have murdered for their lack of religious observance, homosexuality or commission of petty crimes. As the Senator is aware, Ireland's capacity to obtain direct information from the areas in which the crimes are taking place is limited. It is considered appropriate, therefore, that the matter be properly investigated by an independent and competent court or tribunal. It is a determination resulting from such an investigatory and adjudicative process that is likely to assist in bringing these crimes to an end. It is for this reason that Ireland has, for example, called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court, the role of which in the investigation and prosecution of international crimes we have consistently supported.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. He dealt with the issue of genocide which, as he went on, I thought he would not. We need to be careful. There are radical ideological groups within the United Nations, in particular. It is not an organisation that is as kosher as it would like to pretend. If our blood brothers and sisters were being taken, raped, forced to convert and forced into sexual slavery and if elderly people were being killed, we would cry out to the high heavens about it. These people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, our concern should be equally strong.

  There is evidence of genocide in all of the reports that have been published. The killing of Coptic Christians in Libya and what has happened in Syria have been put on video. It is pretty clear that there is an attempt to wipe out the Christian community. I have views about whether we should be selective about immigrants, but that is a separate issue.

  I agree with the Minister of State. It is important that we not do not denude the Middle East of its Christian community. The Patriarch of Antioch has made a statement in that regard and appealed to Christians to remain there. I urge the Minister of State to ensure the Government takes a much stronger position than it has in this regard and press for the latter to be defined. Most objective people agree that what has happened is tantamount to genocide. The definition may have to be met, but it should not be allowed to be blocked by one or two countries.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy As I said, the Government believes that to date the United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, have not fulfilled their obligations to uphold the UN charter or international law in Syria. As the Senator said, genocide is defined under international law as the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnic, radical or religious group. However, proving the crime of genocide requires a comprehensive investigation of the evidence and having that established by a competent international court. We, with other members, have been strong on this issue and believe that, ultimately, this proof from a competent court will provide what we all want to see, namely, an end to the terrible violence, not just against Christians but also against Muslims and others.

Beef Industry

Senator Pat O'Neill: Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh. I am disappointed that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, is not present. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State in saying that and I am aware that the Minister is currently speaking in the Dáil, perhaps on the same matter.

  I have tabled this matter because there is a great deal of concern in the agriculture industry, especially among farmers, who are the primary producers, about the proposed takeover of Slaney Meats by ABP Food Group. Such a development would place the latter in a dominant position in the market and that could be to the detriment of farmers. The matter I have tabled asks the Minister whether he belives it would have a positive or negative effect on the future of agriculture and whether he will make a submission to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The commission has been in correspondence with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which I am a member, on this matter. It has stated it cannot make a comment until the takeover goes ahead. I am concerned about the timing of the takeover. If it takes place within the next couple of weeks, during a general election, no Oireachtas committee will be able to deal with it. The current Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will be operating in an acting capacity. The takeover may, therefore, proceed without due scrutiny.

  In the past couple of years there have been many problems in the beef industry. Rules on full beef, steer beef, specs and weights were imposed by factories and retailers and they worked to the detriment of the farming community. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine had to intervene in the beef sector at different stages because it was in crisis. He established the beef forum - whether it is working is another question, but at least it was established and is trying to solve our problems in the beef industry.   The beef and sheep sectors, including the export of live cattle and meat, employ nearly 280,000 people. It is important that these sectors have the support of the Minister and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in order that something like this will not happen. If the ABP group takes over Slaney Meats, it will have 29% of the beef kill, 40% of the lamb kill and 50% of rendering plants in the country. A big problem on the previous occasion was the rendering plants because rendering is a by-process which must be undertaken. If the ABP group has 50% of plants, it could lead to a lack of competition.

  Following the past year, the price gap between our beef and beef produced in Britain is now €293 per head. It was €97 per head on average in the past ten years. This is because the factories and the retailers have now applied specifications that live Irish exports cannot be killed and put on the shelves in Britain as British beef. That is why it is important that the Minister intervene to sort out the problem with Northern Ireland. We have a big problem in that our beef cannot be sent across the Border to Northern Ireland to be slaughtered and achieve the Red Tractor standard.

  The reason I have raised this matter is that I am worried this will have a detrimental effect. I note that the Minister is dealing with it in the Dáil and I am interested to hear his reply. The takeover could be timed to occur when this House, the Dáil and the Oireachtas joint committee are at their least effective. It is important that we keep an eye on it and that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission intervene to ensure the agriculture sector is not ignored. Livelihoods are at stake if this goes ahead and is not dealt with properly.

  I am interested to hear the Minister of State's reply. I know that he will pass on what I have said to the Minister who, I suppose, will also be able to see it in the Official Report. I note that the Minister is dealing with it.

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I thank the Senator for raising this matter. It shows that the Senator's ear is to the ground because in my constituency in County Donegal it is very much a concern in the farming community, not only regarding the proposed takeover, but in general regarding the price of beef in the factories. When the Senator's colleague, Senator Michael Comiskey, and I meet, we talk about that significant challenge in relation to price.

  The Minister apologises that he cannot be here. Not alone will this be included in the Official Report, but the Minister and the officials will also be listening to the Senator's contribution.

  On the proposed takeover, an issue raised by the Senator, there is a well established independent regulatory process involved in the assessment of such takeovers. This is to ensure consumers, other businesses or the agriculture sector in Ireland does not suffer or that the proposed takeover will not lead to a reduction in competition in any individual sector. As the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has stated, neither he nor any other Minister has any function in the process of assessing company mergers in Ireland.

  The State, through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, has an existing and well established infrastructure for the assessment of mergers and acquisitions of business organisations generally. As part of this assessment, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission examines any proposed merger or acquisition involving business organisations to ensure there will be no substantial lessening of competition. However, in situations where a proposed merger or acquisition breaches certain thresholds, the matter must be notified directly to the European Commission. In such situations, my understanding is that the Commission may investigate the takeover or refer the matter back to the Irish authorities, depending on the circumstances. As part of this process, the investigation of the proposed takeover will involve either a one or two stage investigation by the relevant authorities. At the end of the process, a number of outcomes are possible, including that the authorities may unconditionally clear the merger, approve the merger subject to remedies or prohibit the merger if no adequate remedies to the competition concerns have been proposed by the merging parties.

  The structure of the beef processing sector has been the subject of much discussion during the years and one of the recurring themes has been the question of rationalisation in the processing industry to improve its efficiency. However, it is clear that any such rationalisation must avoid distorting competition within the sector. That is why the process of examining the proposed takeover is of utmost importance. The process of investigation by the relevant authorities is detailed and robust. Furthermore, the process is transparent, with, if the matter is notified to the European Commission, details of any new notification being published on the Commission's competition website. This will allow any interested party to contact the Commission and submit comments on the merger. There are also timelines laid down for the completion of the different stages of the investigation to ensure it is completed in as timely a manner as possible for the sake of all parties.

  The Minister is very conscious of the need for competition in the beef sector, as well as other sectors in Ireland. I also emphasise that in addition to the number of meat processors, competition in the marketplace is dependent on a number of factors, including the number of markets available for sellers of Irish beef to place their product on and, of course, as the Senator said, a vibrant live export trade. Live exports are an important means of providing alternative market outlets for cattle farmers in Ireland, thereby increasing the level of competition surrounding the purchasing of cattle. While 2015 was challenging in terms of live exports due to, for example, political difficulties in north Africa and new veterinary requirements regarding IBR in Belgium, it should be noted that increased domestic prices also contributed to a reduction in live exports for the year to 180,000 head, down on the figure in 2014. It is expected that 2016 will see an increase in the export of live cattle due to the improving economic situation in other countries such as Italy and Spain which have traditionally provided an outlet for the export of Irish cattle. Additionally, there are three dedicated and three roll-on-roll off vessels approved for the carriage of livestock by sea from Irish ports and three more vessels are currently at various stages of the process for similar approval.

  On a more general note and entirely independent of the proposed merger, it is widely accepted that there are imbalances in the relative power of primary producers compared to other operators along the supply chain. With this in mind, the Minister is finalising regulations for the recognition of producer groups in the beef sector in order to permit farmers to benefit from the advantage of scale when it comes to selling their produce or purchasing inputs. I am sure this proposal had its genesis within the beef discussion group which the Senator mentioned.

  It is in the interests of all stakeholders in the beef industry that there be healthy competition at all stages of production to ensure the future of Irish agriculture is positive, one which will allow the industry and the beef sector to continue to grow in a sustainable manner. I am satisfied that the regulatory process for the assessment of mergers are in place and will ensure a thorough and independent assessment of the impact of the proposed takeover, having regard to the requirements of competition law.

Senator Pat O'Neill: Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill I thank the Minister of State for the reply on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Minister of State has mentioned that live exports are down this year, which is not a good development, and predicts that they will be up next year. One must bear in mind that over 50% of the live exports from this country are female dairy exports which does not help the beef sector, for example, steers, because that is what one needs to get out. I encourage the Minister and other Departments, for example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to continue to liaise with countries such as Turkey and Libya in order that we can try to export live cattle because it is important that there be competition in the market.

  The Minister of State has said mergers go through the relevant bodies such as the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and also the European Commission, but it is important that the Minister give a lead because he represents the primary producer. He is not here to represent the meat factories or those involved in the meat industry. He is here to represent over 140,000 farmers, 100,000 of whom are involved in beef production. It is important that whoever is the Minister in the next Government, whether it be the Minister or someone else, make a submission to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Commission. If someone has the weight of a Minister behind him or her, it adds credence to the worries of people. It is important no matter what. Regardless of whether the Minister thinks he can, it is important that he do so because the weight of a Minister on such a submission will help to ensure farmers are not ripped off by somebody with a dominant share of the market.

  Before I conclude, I forgot to welcome Mr. John Bambrick, chairman of Kilkenny IFA.  I thank him for coming to the House to listen to this debate. He is a former neighbour of mine. We used to live on the same road until he got a bit richer and moved on. He is very welcome.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is good that the Senator is raising this matter, particularly as he is articulating grave concerns. There was a lobbying session organised by the IFA a couple of weeks ago and the matter is very much on its radar. The Minister cannot refer anything to the Commission until the merger happens. Prior to it taking place, the Senator is raising the matter publicly, creating awareness and notifying the Minister. There is a robust process to go through if there are concerns. It is obviously that the Senator has concerns at this early stage. If the merger were to happen, there are mechanisms in place, through both the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the European Commission. That is a mechanism that is open to the Minister. It is important that the matter be raised. Every farmer who is involved in the beef industry has grave concerns about it. They are articulating them and the Senator has added value by raising the issue publicly.

Housing Adaptation Grant

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I also welcome the Minister of State. The issue I am raising relates to the allocation of funding to local authorities for house adaptation work. One local authority with which I am dealing was allocated something in the region of €1.9 million last year and that money was allocated to people who owned their own houses to complete adaptation work on them. The same local authority received only €560,000 for carrying out adaptation work on local authority houses. I am raising this issue because there is a huge backlog in the adaptation work required in local authority houses. One case with which I am dealing involves a family where the child has serious intellectual and physical disabilities. In July 2008 the family was advised that the house needed to be adapted because the child had to be lifted out of bed every morning, washed and tube fed. There is a great deal of work involved. The house in which the family lives is not adequate for idts needs. In fairness, after seven and a half years and as a result of pressure from me which the media highlighted the local authority has responded and the work is now being done. However, seven and a half years is a significant period to wait for work to be done. There is a now a waiting list with Cork City Council of between seven and eight years for adaptation work to be done on local authority houses. I am asking that for this year - I am not asking for every year, just this year - local authorities be entitled to use the money allocated to them in whatever way they can in order to reduce the waiting time to have adaptation work done on local authority houses. It is in that context that I am raising this matter. Local authorities need to deal with the backlog. The only way this can be done is by giving priority to local authority housing for one year.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I know that it is an extremely important issue, particularly for the people on the lists who are waiting for work to be done to their homes in order that they can alleviate the impact of some of the situations to which the Senator referred.

  The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government provides funding for local authorities under housing adaptation grants for older people and people with disabilities in respect of private homes and, separately, funds adaptations and extensions to social housing stock in order to address serious overcrowding and, in certain cases, meet the needs of tenants with a disability. The suite of grants available to private homeowners is 80% funded by the Department, with a 20% contribution from the resources of each local authority. Three distinct grant types are available. The housing adaptation grant for people with disabilities assists those with a disability to have necessary adaptations, repairs or improvement works carried out in order to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs. The mobility aids grant is available to fast-track funding to cover a basic suite of works to address the mobility problems of a member of a household. Qualifying works include the provision of stair lifts, level access showers, access ramps, grab rails and other minor adaptation works. The housing aid for older people provides grants to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out.

  Grant-eligible works include structural repairs or improvements, rewiring, repairs to or replacement of windows and doors, provision of water supply and sanitary facilities, provision of heating, cleaning, painting, etc. Over 7,600 households benefited under the schemes in 2015. It is expected that approximately 8,500 grants will be provided in 2016, which will assist with adaptation works to enable older people and those with disabilities to remain living independently in their own homes for longer. In 2015, €40.4 million in Exchequer support was made available countrywide for these supports and this figure has been increased by 10% for 2016. At local level, the detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment, approval and payment of individual grants to applicants, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

  Separately, my Department provides a range of supports for local authorities to upgrade, maintain and adapt social housing to meet tenants’ needs. This includes works to improve energy efficiency, provide extensions to deal with overcrowding and facilitate adaptations for people with disabilities. As funding to local authorities for adaptations to social housing is part of a broader range of improvement funding for the authorities' own stock, it is budgeted for separately from the funding provided for private houses. Adaptations to council houses are funded to the value of 90% by the Department, with local authorities providing the remaining 10%. The implementation of works under these supports for local authority tenants is a matter for the authorities themselves. It is for them to determine, in the first instance, if the works are needed in order to make the accommodation more suitable for the tenant and to prioritise the use of available resources. In recent years, a concerted effort has been made to protect expenditure in respect of extensions and adaptations to local authority homes. In 2015, funding nationally for this area was approximately €11 million and it is expected that the funding for 2016 will at least be maintained at this level.

  While local authorities do not have the discretion to reassign funding intended for private house grants to grants for the improvement of local authority stock or vice versa, my Department is responsive to the needs of individual local authorities in respect of the two separate schemes. Local authorities are asked to submit details of the works proposed under both schemes, including identifying priority cases. Where, for example, a local authority has less need for one stream of funding over another, a rebalancing of the budgets will be provided in line with the overall national availability of funding. My Department is very much aware of the social benefit accruing from these schemes in terms of facilitating the continued independent occupancy of their own homes by older people and those with disabilities and also in the facilitation of early return from hospital stays. The Department will, therefore, continue to work constructively with local authorities to meet priority needs for adaptations, whether to private houses or the local authority housing stock.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke The answer is what I expected, but the problem is that Cork city and county councils have waiting lists of seven years duration for adaptation works. The reply I have received is not going to do anything about this.  For instance, in two cases the family has gone to the Ombudsman for Children. I have one family which has been waiting more than six years. The child has Canavan disease which is related to cystic fibrosis. The parent has to lift the child up and down the stairs every day to go to the bathroom because there is no downstairs bathroom. The child is now seven years old. It is more difficult every day to lift the child because the child is getting bigger. I have a number of other such cases. That case has been referred to the ombudsman's office which is dealing with the local authority directly.

  There is another problem with house adaption work in that no rating is given to the seriousness of the disability. Once someone is deemed to require adaption work to his or her house, he or she is just a number on a list and there is no priority list whereby, for example, the most serious case is five and the least serious, one. That is another issue with which local authorities must deal.

  I have people waiting seven years with Cork City Council and the response I have received has done nothing to help me to solve their problems. The solution I have come up with is to deal with this backlog over one year to make serious inroads. This suggestion should be taken on board.

Deputy Ann Phelan: Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan I understand there are complexities and acknowledge the level of priority about which the Senator is talking. If he will forward the list of the most urgent cases with which he is dealing, I will undertake to bring them to the Minister's attention to see if we can examine them in that way. Now that the Department is aware of the position in Cork, I will undertake to look into the matter to see if we can move on that list and see what needs to be done.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke That is appreciated. I thank the Minister of State.

Local Government Reform

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford I am grateful for the opportunity to ask the Minister of State to outline the current position on the promised review of the 2014 local authority boundaries, workload and ancillary matters. The reform of local government in 2014 which resulted in the abolition of town councils and the creation of municipal districts was a sea change in local government. In retrospect, many people have come to the conclusion that some of the changes have had a negative impact. In particular, there is a growing view that local government structures at town and community level must be reviewed again. I am sure many municipal districts are working effectively, but some of them are large. For example, a number in County Cork are 18 miles long. Once a municipal district is of that scale, the word "local" is removed from the concept of local government and local democracy. We are more than three years away from the next local government elections. Unfortunately, these elections are held on a fixed five-year basis, but we have time to plan ahead.

  In the immediate aftermath of the changes, a number of senior Ministers and Ministers of State, led by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, stated they felt a review was required and consideration should be given to a town council structure, in particular. If there is a willingness to do this, we must look beyond the traditional town councils. Many large towns and urban areas never had a town council and I hope a review would consider areas where new structures were required. What is the current status of the operational review? Where is it heading from the point of view of its thinking and philosophy on local government reform and local structures? We still complain in this country about top-down decision-making in Brussels and about centralised thinking and political decision-making, but that is what have begun to do at local government level. If we want to empower and engage citizens and if we want communities to work with and on behalf of each other, driving local services, newer and small local government structures will be required.

  I hope all of this is being considered in the review. I am simply seeking an update. Will the Minister of State put on the agenda the possibility of returning to sub-county structures by way of town and community or district councils? We are beginning to learn that removing councillors from communities was a retrograde step. Town councils and town councillors did not have all the answers, but they were a visible form of local government and local decision-making and people could engage almost on a daily basis with at least one of their town councillors. This brought local government and politics closer to people, which is where it should be. Smaller councils should have a role to play in the fruits of any review. I am seeking an update on the review and the Minister of State's thinking. She served on a council in Kilkenny and will be aware of the fantastic work that can be done in a non-political, non-partisan way at local government level. This was done on a daily basis without any fanfare and I would like to return to that place. I would like the Minister of State's views and observations.

Deputy Ann Phelan: Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan I thank the Senator for raising this issue, as it gives me an opportunity to update the House on the matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly.

  The majority of the policy decisions, first announced in the action programme for effective local government, Putting People First, and subsequently given statutory effect under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, came into effect on 1 June 2014. These changes include enhanced roles for local authorities in economic development and local and community development; the dissolution of local authorities in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford and the establishment of new merged entities in their place; the replacement of town councils by municipal districts; and provision for the reconfiguration of regional structures. There were also a series of new governance arrangements such as provision for an enhanced policy making role for elected members; new citizen participation measures; local authority service delivery plans; the redesignation of the position of manager to chief executive; stronger oversight powers for the elected council in the implementation of policy; and increased obligations on the executive in respect of the elected council.

  The new structures and reform measures are still at an early stage of implementation and it is likely to take a full five-year period of operation before a definitive assessment can be made. It is important, nonetheless, to ensure the reformed system is operating effectively and as intended. To this end, the Minister initiated an operational review of new arrangements in 2015 involving an advisory group, on which both elected members and local authority chief executives are represented, together with a local government forum for engagement with the Association of Local Government in Ireland. The feedback to date from these groups suggests the revised structures are generally operating quite well but will need more time to bed down fully. The discussions at the forum indicate that there is no significant demand for any reversion to the pre-reform structures and the Minister has indicated that this is not an option.  However, if adjustments to the operation of the system are needed, they can be considered.

  One aspect about which concern has been raised is the pressure on councillors owing to increased demands. The Senator spoke of the size of the districts a councillor now has to represent. This is partly a result of the increased governance, oversight and policy responsibilities of elected councils, which are positive developments in themselves. It also reflects issues that can be addressed in the future such as the size of local electoral areas. There may also be issues around how council business is organised and the need to take account of the fact that local authority membership is not a full-time occupation for most councillors. I also stress the need for the executive to provide maximum support and appropriate facilities to enable the members to perform their new roles effectively. Already, some adjustments to the local authority budgetary process have been implemented, arising mainly from the work of the advisory group. The next stage of the review process involves surveys of elected members and the executive in relation to the operation of the new structures and related matters. This process is well advanced and the results should be useful in helping the advisory group to report on how the system is operating and whether adjustments might be warranted.

  The Government’s intention in this area is that local government will act as the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level, with the potential for improved subsidiarity, coherence and efficiency resulting in better value for money and, ultimately, improved service delivery for citizens. The review under way will provide a sound evidence base on which to consider the operation of the new structures and arrangements generally and whether further changes to local government and local democracy, structural or otherwise, are warranted.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford Does the Minister of State agree that if the advisory group is made up of representatives of local authority chief executives etc., as we have learned, and if, as we are being advised by the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, there is no going back to pre-reform days, the people most affected by the changed structures, the people who would have represented town councils which have now disappeared, are not in a position to have an input into this dialogue? This is the converted speaking to themselves, but the group needs to stretch beyond the comfort zone of the representatives of the current system. My argument which I will keep pressing as strongly as I can is that we need to look at the fact that local government is no longer local, given the size of municipal districts and towns. Town councils and, in previous eras, town commissions and other such structures gave a very strong democratic imprint to their communities and people. While we are nationally demanding subsidiarity from Brussels and talking about the power of communities and local people, we are actually stripping away that power in the name of local government reform. I am disappointed that the Minister has indicated that a return is not an option. Clearly he is at odds with some of his party and Cabinet colleagues who have spoken in a different vein. I hope all possible structures of local government are being considered and not simply how to slightly improve the status quo.

  The good news is that there is a three-year window until the next local elections and I am the first to concede that it is not the biggest issue on the doorstep, but the concept of local government, local democracy and local representation at the lowest and most local level feasible is very important and we have to have a very open mind on the work of the advisory group. I would be very disappointed if its hands were already tied behind its back by what the Minister is saying is not on the table for discussion. I ask the Minister of State to pass my comments on to the Minister. I am sure he is aware of the town councils in Templemore, Thurles, Nenagh and Cashel, all of which worked very effectively and gave us low-cost democracy. I would like them not to be permanently consigned to the scrapheap.

Deputy Ann Phelan: Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan I take the Senator's points on board and, perhaps at some point in the future, they might deserve to be debated. However, the process with the advisory group is well advanced and, because the process has begun, it is prudent to hear what the group has to state before we begin to make more changes and see how the changes are bedding in before we try to undo the process. I draw the Senator's attention to the fact that the Association of Local Government in Ireland could raise this issue and would do so in a very forceful way if it was a burning issue. The association represents the elected members and is well able to do this. I have an open mind on the matter and if it is a burning issue, after the general election, we can return to it, with the help of God.

  Sitting suspended at 11.25 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Twelfth Report of the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (Section 95(3)) (Variation of title: Optician) Regulations 2016, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, motion re Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2016, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 2; No. 4, motion re Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2016, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 3; and No. 5, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and brought to a conclusion not later than 5.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris A guillotine.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Political reform - absolutely.

  Rural Ireland has been abandoned by the Government. Some 20 general practitioner, GP, posts have remained vacant for more than three years. According to the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, 20% of GP posts will be vacant within five years and the Government has no plan to fill these posts. The epitome of its abandonment of rural Ireland can be found in its initial response to Mr. Pat Spillane's report on the matter. I refer to the fact that it allocated the same amount of money to fulfilling the report's objectives as it gave for the care of horses in urban Ireland. Imagine that. I reiterate, for the benefit of Members opposite, that the initial response of the Government to saving rural Ireland was to allocate the same amount of money to fulfilling the objectives outlined in Mr. Spillane's report as it gave for the care of horses in urban areas. If anyone wants more proof than this, please give me a call.  According to the UN Human Development Index, Ireland is currently ranked the seventh best place in the world in which to live, which ranking is equal to that of Germany and above that of Canada and the United States. This is a matter of which everybody should be proud. It is the achievement of generations since the establishment of the first Dáil 98 years ago. Today we celebrate the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on 21 January 1919. Dáil Éireann was established on the principles of the 1916 Proclamation. In essence, we are all guardians of the values of the 1916 Proclamation. Its aims and objectives are timeless and universal. It should be remembered that what we will be celebrating this year is that which others sought to achieve in 1916. It is not about those against whom we struggled to achieve our full potential as a nation. Pádraig Pearse and his fellow signatories to the Proclamation sought to set out ideals and principles to guide us when faced with problems that they could not even imagine. As we celebrate all those involved, we should remember the words of John F. Kennedy when he said: "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but the men it honors, the men it remembers." I hope our celebrations this year of the 1916 Rising will honour the men and women of our greatest generation. We must never stop trying to achieve the standards they set us, regardless of how difficult the challenges are.

  My colleagues on this side of the House and I propose to bring the National Anthem Protection Bill 2016 before the House next week. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, has said he proposes to bring forth legislation to protect the national anthem, in respect of which copyright ran out in 2012. I note opposite an Olympian who stood for the national anthem following his great achievement on the international stage which brought great pride to the country. The national anthem for which he stood needs to be protected. I hope he will discuss the Bill which is only one page long with the Government Whips in the next few days. A great deal of legislation is being passed by this House without debate. We now have an opportunity in the dying days of the Government to protect the national anthem, which I believe would be befitting of the memory of the men and women of 1916.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I call Senator Martin Conway and congratulate him on his new role.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Five years into my time as a Member of this House, I am being asked to fill in. I am always happy to do so.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly He will be back.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Bill referred to by Senator Mark Daly is an interesting one. I did not realise that the copyright had run out on the national anthem. I was not even aware copyright was applicable to national anthems. The Bill is worthy of discussion by the Whips and I propose to suggest same to Senator Paul Coghlan.

  I would also welcome a debate in this House on tourism, preferably before the end of term of this Seanad. We are all aware of the significant achievements in the past five years of this Administration and the people of Ireland in terms of tourism, including the development of the Irish inter-county marketing strategy and allied to it, The Gathering, which was remarkably successful and probably set the tone in terms of how we should market Ireland into the future. I ask the Deputy Leader to request the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to come to this House for a debate on tourism and in that context the development of a further Gathering, perhaps, in 2018. The Gathering was followed up with the Wild Atlantic Way which has also been hugely successful. When one hears the people of County Donegal speak about the benefits of the Wild Atlantic Way in a similar vein to that of people of west Cork and all counties in between Donegal and Cork, there is no doubt but that it has driven tourism, enterprise and job creation in the country. The issue is worthy of debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator's time has expired.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I thought when I took up this position that my allocated speaking time would be longer.

  There has been much discussion on the United Kingdom's plan for its future in the European Union, a referendum on which will be held next year or the year after. We have an important role to play in that discussion with our nearest and dearest neighbour. A debate in this House with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, or the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy - I would prefer if the Minister or even the Taoiseach came to the House for the debate - on the pivotal role we can play in terms of encouraging our fellow neighbours in the United Kingdom to remain within the European project would be worthy and useful before the end of term of this Seanad. I understand the Taoiseach is meeting the Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron in 10 Downing Street, in the not too distant future to discuss this matter. We need to assist at European level the United Kingdom in terms of its requirements for a new direction for the European Union.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway We need to engage at senior level in that debate. This House equally has a role to play in that discourse and deliberation. In that regard, I suggest a debate in this House would be timely and prudent.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Before I call on Senator David Norris, I am sure Members of the House will join me in welcoming Councillor Marcia D'Alton from Cork County Council to the Visitors Gallery.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I join in the Cathaoirleach's welcome to the distinguished councillor. Earlier this morning some of my colleagues and I had a meeting with representatives of the Cork Institute of Technology, which is concerned about the Government's proposals for legislation in this area.

  I am concerned that today there are three items to be taken without debate, two of which involve regulations. The case can be argued that two of these items should be taken without debate. On No. 1, a report from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of the Standing Orders of this House, surely amendment of the Standing Orders of this House is a matter that should be discussed by all Members of this House, not only by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, of which I have the honour to be a member. This is a matter in which every Member of this House should have a say. I am seeking an amendment of the Order of Business to the effect that No. 1 be taken with discussion, which discussion should commence with a statement from the Government side on what is involved in the proposed changes to procedures and privileges. Also, while we will probably get through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 by 5.30 p.m., I find the proposed guillotining of the debate on that Bill, as outlined in the Order of Business, distasteful and object to it.

  Whatever the views of the Deputy Leader on the first two issues I have raised, I am sure she will agree with my position on the axing of the "Gloria" programme, which airs on Sundays. I take the liberty of saying I believe she will agree with me because I have been contacted by a Professor David McConnell, fellow emeritus Trinity College Dublin, who is greatly concerned about the axing of this programme and mentioned to me that the Deputy Leader might also have an interest in it. I regularly listen to "Gloria".   It is a wonderful programme presented by Tim Thurston, a gentleman with a lovely broadcasting voice and an extensive knowledge of remote areas of religious music. Professor McConnell who I think is publicly acknowledged as quite the campaigning atheist pointed out in his letter to me that "Gloria" was a celebration of the sacred music of Europe, the origin of all classical music in our tradition, which is interesting. He also states in his letter that it is one of the finest programmes he has ever had to pleasure to listen to. I agree with him. The presenter plays music by people such as Hildegard von Bingen, which many listeners might previously have not heard. He has introduced me to a range of music from the mediaeval to baroque and classical music. Some 4,000 people have signed a petition to have Lyric FM reverse its decision to axe the programme. Attached to Professor McConnell's letter to me was a letter was from a Mr. Keogan to The Irish Times, from which I would like to quote one paragraph: It states:

Gloria is, however, about much more than just choral music; it is about excellence in broadcasting; about challenging the listener to expand his or her interest to far beyond the popular classics; in short, it is what public service broadcasting should be. Is this the issue?

 If it is a question of popularity, I think there is a wide audience for "Gloria".

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes, I am, if that is the only way I can raise it in the House. However, I am not expecting a debate on it. In terms of popularity, a large number of people listen to this programme on Sunday mornings, unlike the programme about modern music, which is an hour or two of unmerciful, thumps, bangs, whistles, squelches, belches and God Almighty knows what. I switch it off every time it comes to this thing about modern music. Let us have some respect for the graceful traditions of Christian Europe.

Senator Aideen Hayden: Information on Aideen Hayden Zoom on Aideen Hayden I welcome the announcement by the Insolvency Service of Ireland of the increase of 70% in 2015 in the number of people achieving permanent solutions to their insolvency problems. This has been welcomed by New Beginnings and Fianna Fáil. A number of people have credited the improvement in those achieving permanent solutions as per the Insolvency Service of Ireland to the removal of the bank veto and the change in the term of bankruptcy to a one-year term. It seems to be quite obvious that it softened the cough, to some extent, of financial institutions. They seem to be prepared to accept solutions now that they rejected in the past.

  I take on board the criticisms of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation. The organisation has stated the numbers actually achieving settlement through the Insolvency Service of Ireland are far too low. In the region of 1,700 people have had their issues resolved. When we compare that figure with the numbers of people in severe debt, it represents something in the region of 1.2%, which is far too low. Part of the reason is that it has been said people do not understand the Insolvency Service of Ireland and what it has to offer, nor do they understand personal insolvency arrangements or the issues around bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not coming forward to use the service.

  I am calling on the Insolvency Service of Ireland to take this issue on board. I call on representatives of the service to explain to people in their communities, where they will have an opportunity to engage with them, what the issues are and how the service can be of assistance. I acknowledge that they have begun to do this. I know that towards the end of last year they announced publicly that they would go to the courts and approach borrowers personally who had cases coming before the Circuit Court. That is a positive development but one that represents the tip of the iceberg. No community or community organisation of any description in the country should be overlooked. Where people are in trouble, they should be reached out to by the Insolvency Service of Ireland and resources should be made available to ensure that will happens.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I echo the comments made by my friend and colleague, Senator Mark Daly, about the Government's neglect of rural Ireland. The people who live in rural Ireland - I happen to live in County Leitrim, but this is mirrored throughout the country - can see at first hand the impact Government policies have had, including the closure of Garda stations and the threat to post offices. I hope the Bobby Kerr report will awaken someone in government to take positive initiatives to ensure the rural post office network is maintained.

  Another aspect of my contribution on the neglect of rural Ireland comes with the damning report from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the lack of funding for the maintenance of the road network. On many occasions in this House in recent years I railed against what I saw as under-investment. It has been brought home to me repeatedly as a member of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. Committee members have heard first-hand from the various stakeholders involved in maintaining the road network that there has been underfunding for years. Let us put that against the Government spin to the effect that the economy is rapidly recovering and there is now money available. We need only look at the auction politics being engaged in by the Labour Party and Fine Gael. The latest from those in the Labour Party is that they are going to reduce college fees by €500. Who is going to believe them?

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Are they going to sign a pledge on that one?

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney Exactly. Who is going to believe those in the Labour Party who say they are going to reduce university fees by €500?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is Alice in Wonderland.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It is "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney The idea of trying to buy the public when, at the same time, the road network is crumbling beneath our feet is baffling. Representatives from the National Transport Authority told members at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications in the past 12 months that the authority needed €300 million per year simply to maintain the network. Despite this, the figures that have come out in the report from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport suggest there has been a rapid decline in investment in the road network at national primary level and at national secondary load level, which is perhaps more insidious. This means tjat there are roads in my county and other counties in rural Ireland that are beginning to crumble, especially given the rainfall of the past two months. Many of us are old enough to remember the men who used to be out on the roads with a shovel. People used to wonder what they were doing. What they were doing, until the service was withdrawn as a result of lack of Government investment, was clearing drains and gullies on roadways to ensure the surfaces were maintained. I wish we had enough time to bring in the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to answer these questions. They are important questions on issues that are impacting on people living in small communities. I do not believe the Government has either the heart or the soul to commit to making their lives better.

Senator Michael Mullins: Information on Michael Mullins Zoom on Michael Mullins I support Senator Martin Conway's call for a debate before we end this term with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on all the positive things that have happened in tourism in recent years. When the Government took over in 2011, it rightly identified the significant contribution tourism could make to the economic recovery. It set about investing and marketing Ireland as a tourist destination. We have seen record numbers of tourists in recent years and the outlook for 2016 looks particularly promising. One significant measure taken was the introduction of the 9% VAT rate for tourism related activity and the hospitality sector. That made a major contribution to making Ireland attractive. However, we need to reiterate the warning to those in the hotel sector, in particular, that they need to continue to keep their end of the bargain. The Minister for Finance made some noises recently putting them on notice that the 9% VAT rate might not remain indefinitely. There is evidence, especially in the capital and some of the larger centres of population, that the hotel sector is hiking prices, in particular when significant events are taking place in cities and major towns. If those involved in the hospitality sector wish to retain the 9% rate, they need to look at themselves and keep their prices in check.

  Senator Paschal Mooney referred to the publication yesterday of the final report on the post office network. We all want to see a strengthened post office network in communities, a network that can provide the type of service people require. I very much welcome that a post office renewal process, as recommended in the report, will be established immediately and will conclude its work within six months. In particular, I welcome the Minister announcing that the Government has agreed to support the introduction of an electronic payment account in 2016. If the post office network is to survive, it must be able to provide a range of electronic transactions. I certainly hope the work being done in the coming six months will ensure and secure what remains of the post office network throughout rural Ireland.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Feargal Quinn Zoom on Feargal Quinn I second Senator David Norris's motion. Truthfully, every time I read the words "without debate", I shiver. What are we doing here if we are going to take things without debate? I can understand the need for it sometimes when certain regulations are coming through. However, in this case it is a motion on the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders 90 and 105 and the adoption of new Standing Orders 108A to 108E, inclusive, and a Schedule to Standing Orders.  That seems to relate to this House and is the sort of issue that we should be debating. I urge the Deputy Leader to accept Senator David Norris's proposal that we debate it today.

  One of our concerns during the years has been the length of time that it takes for regulations to be implemented under legislation that we pass. The Seanad passed the Construction Contracts Act 2013 just ten hours before the new Government took office five years ago. Although I will not say nothing has happened, the Act has not been commenced since. Yesterday, I learned that it would be commenced within the coming months. At least we are getting somewhere with it, but I cannot get over how long it takes to get things done.

  I wish to address Senator Mark Daly's concerns about rural Ireland and Senator Michael Mullins's reference to post offices. There are measures that we could take to ensure rural Ireland survives. Not all of them would cost money but some would. If rural Ireland is to survive and thrive in the years ahead, we must do something. We have the answer.

  I wish to raise an issue that I mentioned previously. It concerns legislation being introduced across Europe to tackle ISIS killers who are returning to Europe after slaughtering people in Syria. They were welcomed into a number of countries, but most European nations have now introduced legislation to ensure judges can debar such persons and remove their citizenships. We do not have that ability, but we should. Austria and Italy have strong legislation. If we are not careful, we will almost end up welcoming people who are returning to, or coming to, Europe having killed for ISIS. We could do something about this. We should at least give judges the right to remove people's passports, with which we have been generous in the past.

Senator Máiría Cahill: Information on Máiría Cahill Zoom on Máiría Cahill I welcome the publication yesterday of the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence 2016 t0 2021. I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, for her efforts in this regard and, in particular, giving political priority to an issue that will always to be the fore of society. Abuse permeates every section of society. Importantly, the strategy is victim centred and highlights the devastating impact that such violence can have on victims. A wide range of supports such as counselling, information services and emotional supports will be available to victims. The strategy also recognises that victims can sometimes be placed through secondary victimisation by the criminal justice system. With this in mind, some Senators may know that Sir Keir Starmer, a world-renowned human rights lawyer, identified a number of failings in my cases and made a number of recommendations that could help future sexual abuse victims coming through the criminal justice system in the North. In this regard, I am pleased to say I will meet the North's Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Barra McGrory, on Monday when he will update me on those recommendations that he has implemented and those that he will implement in the future.

  To put it on Senators' radar, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, One in Four, Women's Aid and I will host an event next Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Buswell's Hotel to update those politicians who are going forward for election to this and the Lower House. They are strongly calling for funds to be made available for a SAVI II report, as SAVI I has been such a long time in the offing that we do not have an up-to-date picture of sexual violence. I ask all Senators who can make themselves available to listen to that presentation.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Fad is atáimid inár suí anseo ar maidin, tá naonúr teaghlach de chuid an Lucht Siúil ag dul isteach chuig Comhairle Cathrach na Gaillimhe ag rá go bhfuil siad gan dídean.

  Nine Traveller families from Galway who have been living at a dump for the past six months and face eviction tomorrow must declare themselves homeless to Galway City Council because of a failure by local authorities in the west to deal with the crisis in Traveller accommodation. They were in an inappropriate place, which we highlighted previously, with the site's owner being left with no option but to have them evicted. Responsibility for Traveller accommodation lies with local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Will the Deputy Leader implore her colleague, the Minister in that Department, to enter into negotiations immediately with the Galway city manager to find a temporary resolution for these families? They will be declared homeless and end up on the State's books unless something is done. They have found themselves in a diabolical situation.

  I highlight an issue that has arisen in my travels around rural Galway. The home care system has been privatised and the number of home helpers employed by the HSE has dwindled. The race to the bottom in the sector is a major issue. The rates paid to people to work in the companies running the services are too low and finding workers is proving difficult. That people must travel between houses for appointments without being paid travel expenses or for the time they spend travelling means that the work is not worth their while. The fallout has seen older people left in hospitals when they would be able to return home were home care available. People who work in health services in the west tell me that the situation is chronic. It shows the failure of the system's privatisation. There is a myriad of crises in the health sector, but this one needs to be addressed and I call for a debate with the Minister for Health on it. If that is not possible, the concerns we are raising could at least be raised with him in order to see what might be done in the short term. Some patients in the hospital system in Galway cannot return home because home care is not available following the failed privatisation initiative.

Senator Mary Ann O'Brien: Information on Mary Ann O'Brien Zoom on Mary Ann O'Brien I wish to raise the issue of drugs and criminality. Senators heard about the terrible incident in Cork this week involving six people who were left in hospital by the drug 2C-B. They were so psychotic that they were naked, the walls were covered in blood and they did not even realise that one of them was having a heart attack on the floor. This morning on "Today with Sean O'Rourke" RTE ran a sad segment about children in Limerick city who were on Valium, Xanax, benzo, spice and TC, which are synthetic drugs. Cannabis and cocaine cost €50 per bag, but a child with lunch money can afford these tablets. A drug dealer in Limerick might be a boy in a nice track suit with a packet of new fags in his or her pocket because he or she can afford to buy these drugs and sell them for €10 at €2 per tablet. One will be out of it for the day and end up being sick psychotically. An articulate 20 year old who is now out of that scene was interviewed. He stated there was no hope for young people, including his friends. They take these drugs to stay out of it and remain numb because they do not believe there is any hope. This is our country. In the United Kingdom the Psychoactive Substances Bill will go through Parliament. It seeks to alter the situation by applying a blanket ban on anything that might be conceived as a mood-altering substance. Possession for personal use will not be an offence, but those found guilty of making or supplying the substances could face up to seven years in prison. The net of the new law is cast deliberately wide and applies to any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. This excludes nicotine, food, caffeine, alcohol and medical products. Two new substances appear on the European market every week. Beautiful, clean laboratories in China are making these drugs every day. Much of this drug-making is funding terrorism. The Minister for Justice and Equality must attend the House to debate this issue in the next Government's term. Something must be done for our youth because "Love/Hate" is the reality.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I support Senators David Norris and Feargal Quinn. It is appalling that we would allow changes to the privileges and practices of this House without a debate.  I have spoken many times on the issue of speaking time for Senators such as myself who are not members of groups or the way the House divides on party political grounds rather than on vocational panels which is what we are elected to. It would be healthy to discuss these issues in the open.

  I wish to speak about teachers, lecturers, institutes of technology and technological universities. We are about to have a teachers' strike and nobody is saying a word about it because we are heading towards a general election and nobody wants to speak about things that are nasty. We need to have engagement with teachers. The system is crumbling. We need engagement and discussions with them.

  In the rush for technological universities I ask the Leader to confirm that the Technological Universities Bill 2015 will not be brought before the House before the general election. We cannot rush a Bill of that magnitude through this House in a matter of a couple of days purely to satisfy the electoral ambitions of somebody or other on the other side of the House. It is simply outrageous. At the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection yesterday some very distinguished academics appeared before it who all agreed that the move towards technological universities was ill-advised in the way it was being done. One point made by Dr. Greg Foley from DCU was that we would finish up with 16 universities in the country and no alternative pathway. The focus is on level 8 qualifications and we are pushing people through universities, towards a level 8 qualification, who are not sufficiently able to reach that level. The focus on level 6 and level 7 qualifications has been removed. We no longer have that focus. I accept that the Government has done much to assist apprenticeships, but we need to broaden the vocational base of education in Ireland. The Technological Universities Bill 2015 needs to be set aside until the next Government is in place. We have in the Visitors Gallery a number of people from Cork Institute of Technology who would like to meet Members of both Houses to outline some of their concerns. I ask Members that if they meet them during the course of the day to give them a few moments of their time.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan I thought I had better rebut some of the comments made. First, Senator Paschal Mooney referred to rural Ireland being forgotten about by the Government. The fact is Fianna Fáil closed more Garda stations and post offices than the Government.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Would the Senator agree that the Government accelerated the process?

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan In the past four and a half to five years employment has gone way up, while unemployment has come down to below 9%.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney What about emigration?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Eamonn Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Recent statistics show that job creation in rural Ireland stands up as much as it does in urban Ireland.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Not in iob creation.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Under the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs 60% more jobs were created in rural Ireland.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan I just want to point out the facts.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Does the Senator have a question for the Deputy Leader?

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan It is all about keeping the recovery going.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I hope the Senator sends that story to rural Ireland.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Senator Mark Daly's comments-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Eamonn Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney That is going down well in rural Ireland. The Senator is losing votes by the second.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Eamonn Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney Coming from a Dublin-based Senator, that is going down a storm in rural Ireland. The Senator should keep saying it and he will-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Does Senator Eamonn Coghlan have a question for the Deputy Leader?

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney The Senator should keep it going.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Like Senator Mark Daly, I would like to refer to "The Soldier's Song".

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of information, is there an election in the offing by any chance?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Does Senator Eamonn Coghlan have a question for the Deputy Leader?

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan I did not get to speak yet. I only wanted to pass a comment on Senator Paschal Mooney's comments.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is almost out of time. Does he have a question for the Leader?

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Yes, I have. In reference to Senator Mark Daly's comments on Amhrán na bhFiann, "The Soldier's Song" - this will be a little longwinded because the Cathaoirleach would not let me in because of all the interruptions - I was surprised to hear that the copyright was not protected. The Senator referred to me standing and listening to Amhrán na bhFiann at a time in one's life when hearing it was the most exhilarating, thrilling, pride-filled feeling. It is a signification of some kind of coronation or achievement when one hears the national anthem; therefore, I am surprised copyright has not been protected. When I thought about it, I was saying to myself people would not know who wrote the song.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is way over time.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan Peadar Kearney wrote it in 1907 and in 1923 Liam Ó Rinn gave the Irish rendition, but it is correct that we need to copyright for the national anthem. I support this in every way. The Government bought it in 1933 for £1,000 and, unfortunately, copyright ceased 40 years after Peadar Kearney had passed away. I call for a debate on how we can protect Amhrán na bhFiann, the national anthem.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I refer briefly to my colleague, Senator Eamonn Coghlan, who is living in the suburban reality of Dublin. It is not the same in County Donegal or the west.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan The Senator came to Dublin and look at all the jobs that are-----

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The jobs are not being created.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption, please.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill The reality is that 30% of the 18 to 30 year age group in my county have emigrated since 2011. The opportunities they are obtaining are not in this jurisdiction, they are overseas. We cannot say that is a good statistic.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan: Information on Eamonn Coghlan Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan That was then; this is now.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill That is only one county. The figure comes from the CSO. It is not a good statistic. I am not making a political point, but I am expressing the reality. Rural Ireland is struggling. The economic recovery that we see is predominantly in the capital and interurban areas. The focus of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland has been on job creation in urban areas, not rural areas. Yes, there have been opportunities and jobs have been created in rural areas, but they have been created because people have been willing to take a risk themselves, not through the intervention of any Government policy.

  The issue of the insolvency legislation was raised by Senator Aideen Hayden who said it was not working. The reason it is not working is that the banks have a veto over the insolvency legislation because the banks, through rent seeking behaviour, were allowed to write the insolvency legislation which was supported by the Government in these Houses. It is not protecting the ordinary consumer who is in debt, negative equity or personal debt.

  The other issue that is emerging and was debated in the other House last night is that of State board appointments. It is not unique to Labour Party leaders that they are being appointed or reappointed to State boards. State boards are being stuffed in the last days of the Government with people who are aligned to the Government parties. That is wrong. Yes, it happened under Fianna Fáil. It was wrong then and it is wrong now because State boards should be filled with people who have some level of expertise in corporate governance. I refer, in particular, to one State board, the Irish Greyhound Board, which is in receipt of almost €15 million from the State, or €285,000 per year. Its corporate governance failings have been highlighted in an Indecon report published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. One of the recommendations made in that report was that those who served on the board should not do so for any more than two terms. The Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Tom Hayes, has reappointed to the board a crony for a third term who does not have the expertise set out in the Indecon report.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill That is wrong.

Senator Terry Brennan: Information on Terry Brennan Zoom on Terry Brennan I support the call made by my colleagues for a debate on tourism. I acknowledge the achievements of tourism and the number of jobs created. In doing so I acknowledge the voluntary contribution of a total of 850 local communities, north, south, east and west, and the part they have played which at times is not recognised. In making their towns and villages better places in which to live and better places for visitors to visit and stay, they have created hundreds of jobs throughout the country.  I can instance my home town of Carlingford-----

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh That is a village.

Senator Terry Brennan: Information on Terry Brennan Zoom on Terry Brennan -----where in excess of 400 jobs have been created by voluntary organisations that have worked for the betterment of their community. There would be great celebrations in any town or village on hearing an announcement of 400 jobs. One of the Senators instanced his county of Clare and the Loop Head peninsula. What that community has done has been recognised worldwide and the area has been listed as one of the top 100 green areas in the country. The scheme was initiated by Gabriel Keating who is one of our county council colleagues in County Clare. He used his own initiative, but he was helped by local communities in the region. I cannot emphasise enough the valuable work done by voluntary organisations. Some of them have worked for the entire winter to make their towns and villages beautiful, primarily for their own benefit but also to attract visitors. I seek a debate on the voluntary sector when again I will acknowledge the contribution made by volunteers.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford I agree with Senator Gerard P. Craughwell on the question of debating the Technological Universities Bill. It would be remiss in the long-term interests of the country's educational prospects if we were to rush to put in place structures about which there is great uncertainty. I understand how the concept of technological universities can seem attractive, particularly from a political perspective. In the interests of the long-term educational needs of our society, there must be serious reflection on the legislation. There is a lot of academic research to indicate that it may well be an incorrect destination that we are attempting to take and, therefore, we should proceed slowly and carefully. In the past 40 or 50 years great advances have been made in the education system. Now, with a worldwide comparison, worrying trends have emerged. We must ensure every institute, college or university is worthy of its name and the highest academic standards must apply. Undoubtedly, there is a place in society and the education system for every student, but we must match each student's needs with the best courses on offer. Just claiming that one can, willy-nilly, have colleges here, there and everywhere does not do anybody any favour; therefore, we must proceed in a cautious fashion.

  I concur with the welcome extended to the Kerr report on the future of the rural post office network. I hope its recommendations will be acted on. There is the broader issue of rural development. The regeneration of the rural economy and rural Ireland is necessary. There is an almost daily tour of Ministers at present and this has been the case in recent months. I would call it An Action Plan for Jobs tour. There is no doubt that worthy announcements have been made but they could have emanated from the Department. I would like an action tour that focused on rural development where three or four Ministers visited the provinces, counties and regions and we could talk about putting in place a plan for regenerating rural Ireland. We must accept that we cannot simply go back to some of the structures that were in place previously. If we want a balanced country, we must ensure towns and villages are supported. A big national plan in this regard is necessary and I hope the next Government will take the issue on board. There can be a future for rural Ireland and rural communities, but only if it is planned, supported and funded using a proper structure. I hope the matter will be taken very seriously by the next Government.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I join my party's acting leader, Senator Mark Daly, in acknowledging that today marks the 97th anniversary of the opening session of the First Dáil, a body which embraced the Proclamation and the vision of our patriots of 1916. I refer to one of his comments. He said Ireland was ranked as the seventh best place in which to live according to the UN Human Development Index. As he said, such a ranking is welcome. Ireland is one of the best places in which to live, provided people are not unfortunate to be newly married couples who want to access shelter or do not want to provide shelter either for themselves, their partners or families. Ireland is okay as long as a person is not looking for a house. As I have said in the House before, if a person is on a low income, local authorities will not accept him or her as a qualifying applicant on the housing list, even though he or she has no hope of providing or securing a house for himself or herself other than renting. If a person is a mortgage holder who has had difficulty in meeting repayments, the Government will throw him or her to the wolves of the financial sector and the Four Courts. If a person is endeavouring to get together enough money to buy a house, he or she will be unable to secure a mortgage from most of the financial institutions. Obviously, if a person is sick or elderly, he or she will be unable to access health services. Ireland is grand if a person does not belong to any of the categories I have outlined. Surely the vision of the Proclamation, the people of 1916 and the Members of the first Dáil - we are their successors - is one we should be embracing, especially as we approach the centenary of the First Dáil and commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

  I ask the Deputy Leader - I have asked for it before - for a good, open-ended debate on housing. I know that time is short and we may only have a week or two left, but there is nothing stopping us from fitting in statements on housing. A far greater commitment needs to be given than we have seen given by the Government in the past five years. I do not view housing as a political issue, but it is important to the people that together we articulate the needs they have in this regard. Unfortunately, the housing problem has led to other issues in relationship difficulties simply because people cannot find proper accommodation. I am not just talking about the RTE television programme broadcast the other night. We did not need such a programme because anybody who works in his or her constituency to deal with the average person who comes to him or her for representation knows exactly how bad the situation is and the extent to which it has been allowed to deteriorate. I appeal to the Deputy Leader for a debate on housing. I also appeal for good representation in the House to ensure some spark is set under the Government in its dying days and in order that the incoming Government will at least start with greater energy and determination to solve the problem.

Senator John Crown: Information on John Crown Zoom on John Crown I was somewhat inspired when I heard the interplay between the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Senators on various issues, including the national anthem. I kept thinking that perhaps we should entitle today's proceedings "Civil War: The Musical".

  On a very serious note, it is probably a well known fact at this stage that I am unlikely to run for election to this House again. In reflecting on the five years I have been a Member, the single, greatest and most colossal disappointment I have had, which in a five-year timeframe is a microcosm of the disappointment I have felt over the 22 years since I came back to Ireland, has been our complete failure to address the structural problems in the health service. When one hears something like we have heard in the past 24 hours, that in the second largest city in the country, in what is either the largest or second largest acute hospital in the country, all elective surgery has been cancelled - I know I am speaking to an audience who, from the medical and health profession point of view, are largely a lay audience - this is abnormal as abnormal gets. This is unprecedented. This is mad. This is nuts. This is crazy. This is the greatest illustration one could possibly have of a system that has failed. It is not a Third World health system. I will not use emotional language. I have seen Third World hospitals. We do not have a Third World health system. We have a First World health system but one that is strictly third class and mediocre. There has been a complete, absolute and utter failure of all attempts to reform it.

  I endorsed the Government, although I am sure my ringing endorsement had nothing to do with it being elected, and I endorsed the potential coalition partners in three consecutive elections because in each of them they stated they would reform the health service when my colleagues in Fianna Fáil had a different plan and wanted to redevelop the existing structure, with which I respectfully disagreed because I thought plan B was much better - to break up the health service and start from scratch.  There was colossal disappointment on hearing, about two thirds of the way through the current Oireachtas, that they had basically given up on that plan.

  I apologise if I sound like a broken record, but people need to think about the sheer abnormality of having all the elective surgery in a major hospital cancelled. It is crazy. One can talk about the slippery roads in Cork last Friday and people falling on the Mardyke and all of that, but the system should be able to absorb that activity. Other systems absorb occurrences of multi-vehicle car crashes and terrible epidemics. The situation is simply wrong and it is not just in Cork. It is very close to happening in other hospitals in the State. I have walked through the emergency department of St. Vincent's University Hospital on a number of occasions in recent months and sometimes wonder how it would pass a fire inspection, never mind a health inspection. One sees people having to move one trolley to move between them to get to the next patient. I ask that when all the Members are back in the House in the next term they think about this situation.

  In the past five years a number of Bills have been advanced in this House and been allowed to remain on the Order Paper. As they are not Government-sponsored Bills, they will die. I feel strongly about this. When Members propose these Bills without pushing them, it becomes an optical exercise. I ask the Deputy Leader to designate several hours some day next week which may be our last sitting week in order that we may at least go through the formalities and, if the Government does not accept these Bills, reject them. I ask the Deputy Leader to allow No. 55, Longer Healthy Living Bill, which everyone to whom I have spoken thinks is really progressive which could go some way towards fixing many problems in the health service and the wider public service to proceed some time next week in order that it would have the opportunity to be accepted or rejected.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is out of time.

Senator John Crown: Information on John Crown Zoom on John Crown I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Health come to the House to discuss the emergency in Cork.

Senator Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne I second that amendment.

  Ireland is facing a major choice in the next few weeks and is currently facing a severe crisis. We have a Government in place which seems more than happy to blame the previous Government for problems that arise and which is more than happy to take credit for any good that comes. However, what shocked people most this week was the callous response of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, when asked about Monday's television programme "My Homeless Family". He suggested it was a priority for the next Government. The Government does not care. It is doing its very best to ride a wave of glory to seek a coronation and get into power the next time, but in reality it has achieved very little. It has implemented a plan which was devised by the late Brian Lenihan when Minister for Finance. At the time, the plan was bitterly opposed by the parties which form the current Government and they voted against it time and again, but they have performed a U-turn. It is heartbreaking for the majority of the nation to see the way the homeless crisis has developed and the lack of shame on the the Government benches in the Seanad and the Dáil on this matter. Of course, people want low taxes and the recovery to continue, but they also want basic decency in the country. They do not want people and families in hotels and do not want them in tents, but that is what has arisen in society. They do not want crime to run rampant. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, said this morning that crime was a feature of modern life. Crime and homelessness are not, however, an acceptable feature of modern life.

  Shame on the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, and the Government for putting the problems of today into tomorrow, while blaming past Governments for any issue that arises. They are not fit for government and deserve to lose office. I am confident that in the next few weeks the public will put the Government out of office and that there will be a new broom. There will be great responsibilities on the new Government to solve the homeless crisis. If the Government is not prepared to do it and is prepared to sit back and ignore what is going on, it should be aware that the people are not prepared to sit back. The next Government certainly will not sit back. I wish it to be said in the House that Fianna Fáil is leading the charge to be the alternative Government. We are in business; we are back in the game; we want to be in government and have a programme to deliver, at the heart of which is decency.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I will respond first to Senator Mark Daly and the other Senators who referred to the situation in rural Ireland, the rural GP practice scheme in particular. The Government is committed to ensuring patients throughout the State will continue to have access to GP services, especially in remote rural areas and also in certain urban areas. The rural GP practice is top of the agenda in the discussions on the new GP contract under way with the Irish Medical Organisation. In fact, Ireland has a very low rate of GP vacancies nationwide. As of 1 January, there were 15 GMS lists without a permanent GP in place out of a national total of more than 2,400, which represents a figure of only 0.06%. Of the 15 vacancies, only five are in rural areas. Half of the 15 vacancies are recent and have occurred in the past 12 months. However, each of the lists has either a locum or a neighbouring GP who has taken it over and is providing the full range of GP services for patients. Patients continue to have access to GP and primary care services. I hope this allays the concerns of Senators about this very specific issue.

  On the broader issue of unemployment in rural areas, the Government has consistently stated job creation has been a top priority since it took office in 2011 when the rate of unemployment was over 15%. We have seen a dramatic drop in the level of unemployment, which must be welcomed, regardless of which side of the House we are on. Action Plan for Jobs 2016 was launched this week. It was noted that the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched with a target of creating 100,000 extra jobs by 2016. Many people, including some Members across the floor of the House, criticised that plan at the time as being unrealistic. However, according to the figures of the independent Central Statistics Office, the target was hit 21 months early in 2015. There are now more than 135,000 additional people at work today than when the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched. That is a significant and remarkable achievement. The Action Plan for Jobs 2016 has set a target of creating 50,000 extra jobs this year. To achieve it 304 actions are outlined. They are particularly focused on the creation of jobs outside the Dublin area. Following on the successful roll-out of the regional jobs plans, further actions to support regional job creation will be supported by funds of €530 million. There is also a national cluster initiative focused on strengthening rural initiatives to ensure job creation. We can see an impressive roll-out of jobs within the agrifood industry, as well as the food and drink industry.

  Senator Mark Daly acknowledged the UN Human Development Index which has produced the very welcome statistic that Ireland is the seventh best place in the world in which to live, which is great news for us all.

  With his customary eloquence, the Senator also spoke about the commemorations of the 1916 Rising this year, to which we all look forward. In particular, we look forward to the 97th, rather than the 98th, anniversary of the first meeting of the First Dáil in January 1919. Colleagues will recall that in 2009 a significant commemoration was held in the Mansion House and I hope we will have a similarly significant commemoration in 2019 to mark the centenary.

  The proposed National Anthem Protection Bill 2016 was referred to. I have not seen it, but, as Senator Martin Conway said, it appears to be eminently worthy of discussion among the Whips and deserves support. I disagree with Senator John Crown when he says there was a civil war on the issue. Any colleague who spoke on either side of the House was very supportive of the principle of the Bill.

  Senator Martin Conway in calling for a debate on tourism pointed to the great success of The Gathering and the Wild Atlantic Way, which has driven job creation and local enterprise across the west. I agree with the Senator in his call for a debate on Brexit, a matter of huge significance for Ireland. While we will look to arrange debates on issues raised by colleagues, there will be a full legislative schedule in the next two weeks. As such, it will be difficult to find time for the making of statements.

  A number of issues were raised by Senator David Norris. He referred to a meeting he had today with members of the TUI from Cork Institute of Technology whom other colleagues and I have also met. I have a very strong personal connection with Cork Institute of Technology which is a superb third level institution which offers a high quality education. It eminently deserves technological university status. The Technological Universities Bill was referred to by some colleagues and the Government has been pushed in recent years to bring it forward.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris By whom?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik By people from all corners but especially in the south east. There has been massive momentum behind it, but it is important to get its terms right.  I understand Senator Gerard P. Craughwell, among others, sought information on the timing of its introduction. I am informed that the Bill is due to complete its passage through the Dáil next week, but I am not certain if we will have it in the Seanad before the end of this term. I am making inquiries, but that is all I can say for now. The TUI is engaged with the Minister for Education and Skills and officials from the Department met delegates yesterday. There is ongoing engagement on amendments the TUI has sought to the Bill, particularly to address concerns it has raised with all of us about the terms and conditions of its members in the event of a merger. I have engaged with it on this matter, as have other colleagues.

Senator David Norris also referred to No. 1 on the Order Paper, the motion regarding the Twelfth Report of the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Senator is entitled to propose an amendment in that respect, but the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was concerned with House business and was not a matter for the Leader's office. We had a full meeting yesterday and, unfortunately, a number of members were absent. We received legal advice, examined the amendments proposed to Standing Orders 90 and 105 and considered the adoption of new Standing Orders 108A to 108E, inclusive. That is the subject matter of No. 1 on the Order Paper. I am very happy to inform the House that we were told the amendments proposed changes which were technical in nature but important because they would provide the protection of privilege for official Seanad documents and the personal papers of Senators. They give Standing Order status to a rule already present in Article 15.10 of the Constitution which states, "Each House shall make its own rules and standing orders ... to protect its official documents and the private papers of its members". Despite this provision in the Constitution, neither the Dáil nor the Seanad had Standing Orders dealing with the issue of privilege for private papers or official documents. In the case of Howlin v. Morris the High Court criticised both Houses for their failure in this regard. On foot of the requirements of the High Court ruling, as well as the relevant provision in the Constitution, the new Standing Orders are being introduced in both the Dáil and the Seanad to bolster, or confirm, the existing practice to provide privilege for these documents. There is nothing new in them and they are available for all Members to see.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That may be the case, but the matter is eminently worthy of debate.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik We obtained legal advice on them and I am not sure anyone could disagree with their contents.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I do not say that, but there is an historical context in which the matter could be placed. The Deputy Leader referred to a High Court case.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik It was Howlin v. Morris. The new Standing Orders are straightforward and simply give effect to the constitutional imperative under Article 15.10. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment proposed to the Order of Business.

  The Senator also referred to the axing of the RTE programme "Gloria" on Lyric FM. This matter was raised by our eminent colleague Professor David McConnell. I agree that it is one of concern. Perhaps the Senator might raise it as a Commencement matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Perhaps we might share it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik We could.

  Senator Aideen Hayden welcomed the increased in the number of people achieving permanent solutions through the Insolvency Service of Ireland. I agree with what she said in that regard.

  Senator Paschal Mooney raised the matter of the neglect of rural Ireland. I think I have dealt with that issue in full. The Senator spoke about auction politics, but it was political rhetoric, rather than something that required a response from the Leader.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I was curious about the offer of €500.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Is Deputy Ruairí Quinn going to sign it?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik In the interests of unity, I am going to agree with the Senators. I do not agree with auction politics which we are seeing from all kinds of people at present.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney There is no credibility surrounding the offer.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Senator Michael Mullins supported Senator Martin Conway in calling for a debate on tourism. He also spoke about the need to achieve value for money. I agree entirely with him.

  Senator Feargal Quinn seconded Senator David Norris's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I hope I have given Members a clear idea of what is contained in the amendments from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

  Senator Feargal Quinn also spoke about the neglect of rural Ireland. He further asked about people returning to Ireland having engaged with ISIS, the so-called "Islamic State", and the imposition of sanctions. In this regard, he raised the possibility of the removal of passports. He may know that at EU level new transnational offences are being drafted which would apply in the scenario he described where people had moved from EU member states to fight for ISIS and commit atrocities in Syria. While the matter is being dealt with at EU level, I agree that it is also one for member states. We heard yesterday about the issue at the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

  Senator Máiría Cahill welcomed the new national strategy from the Minister for Justice and Equality to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I absolutely agree with her. Today, when we debate the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, we will discuss some very important supports that will be put in place for victims and complainants in sexual offences cases. It is welcome that the Senator is meeting the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland and that she has called a meeting for next Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Buswells Hotel on the provision of support for the victims of sexual offences. There has been a great deal of work done recently in Britain on the use of intermediaries for child witnesses in sexual offences cases and this is something we need to consider in this jurisdiction in the context of future legislation.

  Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh spoke about a specific and serious issue in Galway involving the eviction of a number of Traveller families and asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, to enter into negotiations with the county manager. This is an issue the local authorities are dealing with and I ask the Senator to table it as a Commencement matter. Clearly, there is real concern among local authorities following the appalling fire last year in which so many children and adults were killed.

  The Senator also raised the matter of home helps. It is a specific issue where individuals are unable to be sent home from hospital because of the lack of home help. I ask the Senator to consider tabling it as a Commencement matter to be debated with the Minister for Health.

  Senator Mary Ann O'Brien raised the serious issue of drugs and criminality, noting the very tragic incident in Cork where a number of people are in hospital as a result of the ingestion of a particular drug. In this context, the Senator referred to the law in the United Kingdom, particularly the Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality held hearings on drug policy, following which it produced a report. It took a similar approach in calling for an end to criminalisation for the possession of small amounts of drugs, believing use of the criminal justice system might not be the most appropriate approach in that regard. The report is under review by the Government and we can look further at the matter.

  Senator Gerard P. Craughwell asked about the Technological Universities Bill. I have dealt with that matter.

  Senator Eamonn Coghlan spoke about rural Ireland and helpfully rebutted some of the points made by other Senators.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I hope he prints and circulates in rural Ireland what he said.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It will be a good news letter.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney It is a case of all alive and well in rural Ireland.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I will deliver it to those living in Finn Valley.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Senator Eamonn Coghlan also noted that Fianna Fáil had closed more Garda stations and rural post offices than the Government.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney It has nothing to do with the Deputy Leader; she would never say anything like that.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Senator Eamonn Coghlan also expressed support for the protection of the national anthem.

  Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill also raised the issue of the neglect of rural Ireland. I think I have dealt with that matter. The Senator also referred to a specific matter related to State board appointments. Again, it would be more appropriate to raise that matter in the Commencement debate.

  Senator Terry Brennan spoke about tourism. In this regard, he called for recognition of the role of voluntary activists and community workers. It is an important point to make.

  Senator Paul Bradford asked about the Technological Universities Bill. I have dealt with that matter.

  Senator Jim Walsh referred to the anniversary of the first meeting of the First Dáil and called for a debate on housing. The Leader responded in full to a question on housing and homelessness earlier this week, after a number of Members had looked for a debate on the subject. There is a great deal of work being done to ensure we deal with what is a very serious crisis. The current funding allocation for the provision of emergency accommodation for homeless persons was increased in budget 2016 by €17 million, bringing the level of Exchequer support to €70 million, an increase of 56% since 2014. Many initiatives have been taken. In 2015 over 13,000 units were delivered across all social housing programmes, an 86% increase on the figure for 2014. The target in 2016 is to deliver over 17,000 units. Therefore, a very ambitious social housing programme is in place, but, as anyone who saw the television programme on Monday night will know, there is still a very serious problem and we need to move swiftly to deal with it. As the Leader has already done, I will seek to arrange a debate on the issue.

  Senator John Crown described the failure to reform the health service as a disappointment. He acknowledges that there have been massive reforms, notwithstanding the failure to introduce the universal health insurance system that it was hoped to put in place. There has been the provision of free GP care for children and the elderly. There have also been very significant changes in hospital governance, as well as investment in primary care services.

  The Senator also raised the issue of the taking of Private Members' Bills. We can seek to make time available next week to bring forward Private Members' Bills still on the Order Paper.  I urge the Senator not to lose heart. In 2011, at the time of the last general election, I had a Private Members' Bill on the Order Paper to prohibit female genital mutilation. I am happy to say it was restored to the Order Paper by the Government in 2011 and is now in force.

Senator John Crown: Information on John Crown Zoom on John Crown The Deputy Leader is a Government Senator.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Not at the time the general election was called. Therefore, there is hope for these Bills.

  Senator Thomas Byrne spoke about homelessness. I think I have dealt with that matter.

  I cannot accept the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator John Crown.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be taken with debate." Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes.

  Amendment put.

  The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. 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, 16; Níl, 24.

Níl
Information on Sean D. Barrett   Zoom on Sean D. Barrett   Barrett, Sean D. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Paul Bradford   Zoom on Paul Bradford   Bradford, Paul. Information on Terry Brennan   Zoom on Terry Brennan   Brennan, Terry.
Information on Thomas Byrne   Zoom on Thomas Byrne   Byrne, Thomas. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Máiría Cahill   Zoom on Máiría Cahill   Cahill, Máiría.
Information on John Crown   Zoom on John Crown   Crown, John. Information on Eamonn Coghlan   Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan   Coghlan, Eamonn.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Michael Comiskey   Zoom on Michael Comiskey   Comiskey, Michael.
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Paschal Mooney   Zoom on Paschal Mooney   Mooney, Paschal. Information on Maurice Cummins   Zoom on Maurice Cummins   Cummins, Maurice.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on John Gilroy   Zoom on John Gilroy   Gilroy, John.
Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor. Information on Aideen Hayden   Zoom on Aideen Hayden   Hayden, Aideen.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Imelda Henry   Zoom on Imelda Henry   Henry, Imelda.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned. Information on Cáit Keane   Zoom on Cáit Keane   Keane, Cáit.
Information on Feargal Quinn   Zoom on Feargal Quinn   Quinn, Feargal. Information on John Kelly   Zoom on John Kelly   Kelly, John.
Information on Jim Walsh   Zoom on Jim Walsh   Walsh, Jim. Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.
Information on Mary M. White   Zoom on Mary M. White   White, Mary M. Information on Marie Moloney   Zoom on Marie Moloney   Moloney, Marie.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Mary Moran   Zoom on Mary Moran   Moran, Mary.
  Information on Tony Mulcahy   Zoom on Tony Mulcahy   Mulcahy, Tony.
  Information on Michael Mullins   Zoom on Michael Mullins   Mullins, Michael.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Mary Ann O'Brien   Zoom on Mary Ann O'Brien   O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on Susan O'Keeffe   Zoom on Susan O'Keeffe   O'Keeffe, Susan.
  Information on Pat O'Neill   Zoom on Pat O'Neill   O'Neill, Pat.
  Information on Jillian van Turnhout   Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout   van Turnhout, Jillian.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and David Norris; Níl, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator John Crown has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Health on the cancellation of elective surgery in Cork University Hospital be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator John Crown: Information on John Crown Zoom on John Crown Tá sé.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 25.

Níl
Information on Sean D. Barrett   Zoom on Sean D. Barrett   Barrett, Sean D. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Paul Bradford   Zoom on Paul Bradford   Bradford, Paul. Information on Terry Brennan   Zoom on Terry Brennan   Brennan, Terry.
Information on Thomas Byrne   Zoom on Thomas Byrne   Byrne, Thomas. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Máiría Cahill   Zoom on Máiría Cahill   Cahill, Máiría.
Information on John Crown   Zoom on John Crown   Crown, John. Information on Eamonn Coghlan   Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan   Coghlan, Eamonn.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Michael Comiskey   Zoom on Michael Comiskey   Comiskey, Michael.
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Paschal Mooney   Zoom on Paschal Mooney   Mooney, Paschal. Information on Maurice Cummins   Zoom on Maurice Cummins   Cummins, Maurice.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on John Gilroy   Zoom on John Gilroy   Gilroy, John.
Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor. Information on Aideen Hayden   Zoom on Aideen Hayden   Hayden, Aideen.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Imelda Henry   Zoom on Imelda Henry   Henry, Imelda.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned. Information on Cáit Keane   Zoom on Cáit Keane   Keane, Cáit.
Information on Feargal Quinn   Zoom on Feargal Quinn   Quinn, Feargal. Information on John Kelly   Zoom on John Kelly   Kelly, John.
Information on Jim Walsh   Zoom on Jim Walsh   Walsh, Jim. Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.
Information on Mary M. White   Zoom on Mary M. White   White, Mary M. Information on Marie Moloney   Zoom on Marie Moloney   Moloney, Marie.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Mary Moran   Zoom on Mary Moran   Moran, Mary.
  Information on Tony Mulcahy   Zoom on Tony Mulcahy   Mulcahy, Tony.
  Information on Michael Mullins   Zoom on Michael Mullins   Mullins, Michael.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Mary Ann O'Brien   Zoom on Mary Ann O'Brien   O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on Susan O'Keeffe   Zoom on Susan O'Keeffe   O'Keeffe, Susan.
  Information on Pat O'Neill   Zoom on Pat O'Neill   O'Neill, Pat.
  Information on Jillian van Turnhout   Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout   van Turnhout, Jillian.
  Information on John Whelan   Zoom on John Whelan   Whelan, John.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Thomas Byrne and John Crown; Níl, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins.

Amendment declared lost.

  Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

  The Seanad divided by electronic means.

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

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 11.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Sean D. Barrett   Zoom on Sean D. Barrett   Barrett, Sean D.
Information on Terry Brennan   Zoom on Terry Brennan   Brennan, Terry. Information on Thomas Byrne   Zoom on Thomas Byrne   Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on John Crown   Zoom on John Crown   Crown, John.
Information on Eamonn Coghlan   Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan   Coghlan, Eamonn. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Michael Comiskey   Zoom on Michael Comiskey   Comiskey, Michael. Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Paschal Mooney   Zoom on Paschal Mooney   Mooney, Paschal.
Information on Maurice Cummins   Zoom on Maurice Cummins   Cummins, Maurice. Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
Information on John Gilroy   Zoom on John Gilroy   Gilroy, John. Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh   Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
Information on Aideen Hayden   Zoom on Aideen Hayden   Hayden, Aideen. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Imelda Henry   Zoom on Imelda Henry   Henry, Imelda. Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Cáit Keane   Zoom on Cáit Keane   Keane, Cáit. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on John Kelly   Zoom on John Kelly   Kelly, John.  
Information on Denis Landy   Zoom on Denis Landy   Landy, Denis.  
Information on Marie Moloney   Zoom on Marie Moloney   Moloney, Marie.  
Information on Mary Moran   Zoom on Mary Moran   Moran, Mary.  
Information on Tony Mulcahy   Zoom on Tony Mulcahy   Mulcahy, Tony.  
Information on Michael Mullins   Zoom on Michael Mullins   Mullins, Michael.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Mary Ann O'Brien   Zoom on Mary Ann O'Brien   O'Brien, Mary Ann.  
Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.  
Information on Susan O'Keeffe   Zoom on Susan O'Keeffe   O'Keeffe, Susan.  
Information on Pat O'Neill   Zoom on Pat O'Neill   O'Neill, Pat.  
Information on Jillian van Turnhout   Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout   van Turnhout, Jillian.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and David Norris.

Question declared carried.

Twelfth Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges: Motion

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I move:

That the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders 90 and 105 and the adoption of new Standing Orders 108A to 108E, inclusive, and a Schedule to Standing Orders be adopted, laid before the House and printed.

  Question put.

Senators: Vótáil.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Will the Senators claiming a division, please, rise?

  Senators David Norris, Paschal Mooney and Terry Leyden rose.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 61, the names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Seanad.

  Question declared carried.

Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (Section 95(3)) (Variation of title: Optician) Regulations 2016: Motion

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (Section 95(3)) (Variation of title: Optician) Regulations 2016,
copies of which were laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 18th January 2016 be referred to the Joint Committee on Health and Children, in accordance with Standing Order 70A(3)(j), which, not later than 28th January 2016, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 73, and Standing Order 75(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2016: Motion

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2016,
copies of which were laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 20th January 2016 be referred to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, in accordance with Standing Order 70A(3)(j), which, not later than 28th January 2016, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 73, and Standing Order 75(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2016: Motion

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2016,
copies of which were laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 19th January 2016 be referred to the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in accordance with Standing Order 70A(3)(j), which, not later than 28th January 2016, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 73, and Standing Order 75(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. Before we continue, I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of order, in the case of someone who opposes a section, can that person speak twice?

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill No.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Thank you.

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill No sections are being discussed. We are discussing amendments.

  Government amendment No. 1:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
“ “image” means any photographic, film or video representation or any other form of visual representation, and any accompanying sound or any documents;”

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The term "image" arises in section 6(1)(b) in the context of the offence of causing a child to watch sexual activity. Section 8(4) sets out the definition of "sexually explicit material". The section sets out how it is an offence to send such material to a child by means of information and communications technology. For the purposes of clarity, it is proposed to define the word "image" to ensure it clearly encompasses still and moving images and any other type of image that may be produced.  The wording used in the definition is similar to that used in the definition of "visual representation" in the context of child pornography, as it appears in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. An additional phrase, "or any other form of visual representation," has been included to ensure images produced by new technologies are automatically covered by the definition.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is important that definitions be as clear as possible. As the amendment appears to achieve this, I am happy to support it.

  Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5 to 22, inclusive, 27 and 44 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, line 14, to delete "child pornography" and substitute "child sexual abuse material".

These amendments were also tabled on Committee Stage. As I have already articulated my views on this issue on Second and Committee Stages, I do not intend to be repetitive today. I appreciate that the amendments, as drafted, technically do not address everything that needs to be addressed, but I am strongly of the view that use of the phrase "child pornography" is abhorrent and we need to be using it for the term that it is. The word "pornography" in some way implies that there is some consent. In the English dictionary in the mid-19th century the word was associated with terms such as "taboo" and "secretive," but it has now become common parlance. For me, the words "child" and "pornography" should never be used together. We are clearly talking about child sexual abuse material relating to children who cannot and would not consent; they are victims of a crime. The child abuse images are documented evidence of a crime in progress, a child being sexually abused.

  Similar to the amendments I tabled to the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 in relation to assault, these amendments seek to positively change this legislation. Similar amendments have been accepted. Also, I note that the United Kingdom, through an amendment to its Serious Crime Act 2015, has amended its Sexual Offences Act 2003. The term used in the United Kingdom for both child prostitution and child pornography is "sexual exploitation of a child." I want us to name this material for what it is. What I am seeking from the Minister is a commitment that her Department will seek to rectify the balance.

  As I said, I do not propose to reiterate the arguments I put forward on Second and Committee Stages. I believe that in Ireland we should have a system to filter all child abuse material, as happens in the United Kingdom and on our mobile phones, as mobile phone providers have signed up to an EU agreement in that regard. We should be automatically doing this work. I commend the work of the Internet Watch Foundation in the United Kingdom and hope we could have something similar here. The purpose of the amendments is to name this material for what it is, namely, child sexual abuse material. Interpol and Europol have asked us to call it what it is. They have asked us not to use the term "child pornography," because it in some way diminishes the act. I ask the Minister to consider my proposals.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I second the amendment which is excellent. I am interested to learn that Interpol supports this proposal. That is a very strong argument. I hope the Minister will see her way to accepting the amendment, particularly in the light of the strong support for it from Interpol. I may be an innocent, perhaps because of my age - I am almost 72 years old - but I have never seen child pornography. I agree with Senator Jillian van Turnhout that it is doubtful that this material could be correctly termed pornography. The word "pornography" comes from the Greek words "porne" and "graphein," and means the writings of prostitutes. In common parlance it is taken to be erotic material to arouse the viewer. I cannot imagine circumstances in which any normal adult would be aroused by the spectacle of children engaging in sexual activity, presumably, on many occasions, under compulsion. Some of these children, I understand, are extremely young. That is very worrying. It seems that in every situation this is material that is an abuse of children. It should not happen and it is a violation of children. To my mind, the correct terminology is "child sexual abuse material". The only reason I can think of for retention of the phrase "child pornography" is that it is a term that has registered in the public imagination and is the phrase used in the newspapers and so on. I believe the Seanad has a role in educating the public and should take the lead in that regard. I ask the Minister to positively consider the amendment, acceptance of which will not result in any complication in terms of the passage of the Bill. This is an aspect of the Bill about which I feel quite strongly.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I thank the Senators for the amendments. As stated by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, the effect of the amendments would be to substitute the term "child sexual abuse material" for "child pornography" throughout the Bill and the other Acts in which it appears. The EU directive on child sexual exploitation and pornography uses the term used in this Bill. However, I appreciate Senator Jillian van Turnhout's concerns and support her aim of ensuring no one is in any doubt about what is meant when we speak abpit child sexual abuse material. It is, as stated by the Senator, crime scene evidence of the most depraved and disgusting acts in relation to children. A huge concern for criminal justice investigations across Europe and the world is the increasing evidence of abuse of children, most of whom, as stated by Senator David Norris, are very young.

  While I am not entirely convinced that the term "child pornography" fails to convey the true nature of this heinous material, I am, as I have stated previously, open to considering the change proposed by Senator Jillian van Turnhout in a future review of child pornography legislation. For technical reasons and owing to the scale of the review involved,which I think the Senator will appreciate, I am unable to accept the amendments today. The Minister of State outlined on Committee Stage the technical reasons to which I referred and I would like to reiterate them for the benefit of the House.

  The term "child pornography" appears in the Statute Book outside the 1998 Act. Any general amendment to that term throughout the Statute Book should be carefully made. I am advised that a general amending provision such as that proposed by Senator Jillian van Turnhout in amendment No. 27 would not suffice. Rather, apparently, each provision in the Statue Book containing the term it is proposed to amend should be individually identified. While it is not unusual to substitute one form of words with another, this is done through individual identification in each instance. This is an important safeguard, particularly, of course, when it comes to criminal justice legislation.

  The amendments proposed also raise technical issues, including, for example, the impact on the Short Title of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. I am advised that it is not appropriate to amend the Short Title of an existing Act by way of an amendment in subsequent legislation. The Senator will appreciate that such amendment would need to be provided for by way of a different Bill. The Act should be substituted and repealed. I hope the Senator understands the reason I am unable to do that at this point. However, I take the points made by her and they will be taken into account in the context of any review of that legislation.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I thank the Minister for her reply. I believe there are proposals at EU and Council of Europe level to look at this issue. I hope Ireland will be at the vanguard and lead any change in that regard. I appreciate that the change cannot be made today, but I hope the Minister will accept the need for it. It is an issue about which I feel strongly and a measure which has the support, as I said, of Europol and Interpol.  An Irish garda working for Europol made a presentation to us here a few years ago and was able to show us the types of material - he did not show us images - the nature of the material and the depravity involved. He talked of pictures of babies who still had umbilical cords on them. There is no age too young for these horrendous and heinous images and it needs to be ensured our legislation reflects this.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I move amendment No. 4:

In page 7, lines 12 and 13, to delete "to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both" and substitute "to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years".

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. The explanatory memorandum states Part 2 "contains provisions to enhance the protection of children from sexual exploitation, including exploitation through child prostitution and child pornography. Provisions are also included to target acts of child sexual grooming". It further states: "A person found guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction on indictment to up to 10 years imprisonment." On Committee Stage the Minister of State took the Bill and did not give a compelling reason section 3 had been watered down. Section 3(5)(b) states:" A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable ... on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both". The Minister of State made this amendment on Committee Stage.

  This begs the question: of what offence would the person be guilty that he or she could get by with a fine? The section does not even specify what the fine should be, stating:

3. (1) A person who for the purposes of the sexual exploitation of a child—

(a) pays, gives, offers or promises to pay or give a child or another person money or any other form of remuneration or consideration,

(b) provides or offers or offers or promises to provide, a child to another person, or

(c) obtains a child for himself or herself or for another person,

 shall be guilty of an offence.

These are most serious offences. The best the Minister of State could come up with on Committee Stage was that perhaps previously legislation reflected the fact that judicial discretion would apply to conferring a fine or to imprisonment. On summary conviction, it can be a fine or imprisonment and I do not challenge this, but if someone is charged on indictment, it means that a more serious offence has occurred in the opinion of the Director of Public Prosecutions. If the courts decide that the person is guilty, he or she is guilty of a grievous crime against a child and it is unconscionable that we would send a signal that a fine is adequate sanction in that scenario. Therefore, I hope the Minister will accept my amendment and revert to the original wording which was drafted and approved by her and the Government. Whatever lobbying went on to make her amend this should be set aside at this stage. We should revert to sending a clear signal that paedophilia is not acceptable in the minds of Oireachtas Members and send a clear signal to the Judiciary that imposing a fine is not sufficient sanction when a person is found guilty on conviction on indictment.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I second the amendment. Senator Jim Walsh has outlined clearly the reason the amendment has been tabled. Somebody convicted on indictment of a serious sexual offence against one of the most vulnerable cohort of people in our society, namely, children, should face a term of imprisonment, not a fine. To even provide for the option of a fine minimises the serious offence a person would be convicted of and there should be no leeway in this regard. On conviction for a serious offence against a child, there should be a mandatory prison sentence up to a maximum of ten years.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Virtually everyone would agree that sexual offences against a child are heinous, but I have reservations about the amendment proposed by my Fianna Fáil colleagues for a number of reasons. First, Senator Jim Walsh referred to conviction on indictment as if that was the only provision in the section but it is not. Section 3(5)(a) states:

"(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable--
(a) on summary conviction, to a class A fine, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months."

Summary conviction is also considered, therefore, by the legislation.

  The second reason is there is nothing that states anything about the knowledge or the mens rea of the person committing the alleged offence. One has to take into account the possibility that somebody might engage in sexual relations with somebody who appeared above the appropriate age.

  On the question of age, in this section and the following two sections, there are three different definitions of what a child is in terms of his or her years. That suggests a certain confusion. What is a child? In one section, it is a person under the age of 18 years; in the next, it is a person under the age of 15; and in the next, it is a person under the age of 17. That leaves it open to ambiguity. What about somebody, for example, who engaged in sexual congress with a person who was for the purposes of this section 17 years, 11 months and 28 days? That seems to be a situation in which a fine would be perfectly well justified rather than a term of imprisonment of up to ten years. I am afraid I cannot support my colleagues' amendment.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I thank Senators Jim Walsh and Diarmuid Wilson for the amendment, the effect of which would be to remove the possibility of imposing a fine as part of the penalty for an offence under section 3. That includes the offences of obtaining or providing a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation and related offences. The aim of the amendment is to ensure persons convicted of such appalling offences cannot escape with a fine instead of imprisonment. While that is an understandable aim, it is, however, the norm, in particular for offences which may be motivated by, for example, financial gain, to include a fine in addition to a penalty of imprisonment. The purpose of providing the options of a fine, a sentence of imprisonment or both is to ensure the court can determine the most appropriate sentence in all the circumstances of a particular offence and a particular offender. It leaves this to the discretion of the court having regard to the particular offence, circumstances and so forth.  Obviously, these offences will vary, about which there is no question. As we know, there are different levels of exploitation and the related offences also.

  I want to highlight that section 3 contains a number of related offences. It includes offences of paying for a child, providing a child and accepting a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation. I have to agree that it is almost impossible to imagine any circumstance under which anything, other than a prison sentence, is acceptable for such offences. It is also the case that a person who agrees to accept or give money to a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation but then thinks better of it and does not proceed any further is guilty of an offence under section 3. That is one example of the kind of range one could have. I am not passing any judgment but making the point that one can have different types and levels of offence under section 3. I mention that example not to suggest for one moment that any particular offence for which a fine alone may be appropriate but to illustrate the range of offences and circumstances covered by section 3.

  In other areas of law, for example, in the case of a non-fatal assault, where in a similar discussion to the one we are having, one might say: "Of course, imprisonment is the option here." In fact, we again leave it to the discretion of the court. There is a possibility, in certain circumstances as we know, of a fine or a prison sentence or both. It is leaving discretion to the court, with the judge to decide having considered all of the evidence. It is a recognition that the court is best placed to determine the appropriate sentence in a particular situation, taking into account all of the circumstances. I think it is appropriate to provide in law a range of possible sentences, including under this section. That is the usual practice. Senator Jim Walsh said my colleague and the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, had referred to the fact that it was the norm to have that range of sentences in order that the judge would have the option, in examining each case, to decide what was the most appropriate sentence. As I said, in other very serious offences, that is what we do in our law. We give the range of sentences and then leave it to the courts to actually decide. We are reflecting, in this legislation, the general approach in the discretion we allow the courts to decide. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I thank the Minister for her response. I have found her concluding remarks very unsatisfactory and would like to deal with some of the points she and Senator David Norris made in this regard.

  Our knowledge now of paedophilia and the effects it has on victims is far superior than it might have been some decades ago. Therefore, it is important that we send the correct signals to society, perpetrators and the Judiciary as to where we rate this offence in the criminal code.

  Senator David Norris pointed - I had already made reference to it - to the phrase "on summary conviction". Is it not the case that when the evidence is gathered and when the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions assesses that evidence, it will determine whether the charge will be made on summary conviction or on conviction on indictment or, if the case goes to a lower court, it might decide that it should be made on conviction on indictment?

  With regard to what Senator David Norris said, that mens rea is part of the defence, if it applies, it can be made in whichever court the case is heard. Also, mens rea forms part of the consideration before the judgment is determined. That means that there is nothing to prohibit the person before the courts who is being charged from being able to defend his or her position legally with the various arguments that his or her legal team can put forward in defence. What we are talking about is after all of that and the particular judgment has been made. We are talking about what the sentence should be. This is where I digress considerably from the Minister. She talked about various levels of exploitation. In the first instance, that will be taken into consideration, depending on whether the case is taken forward on summary conviction or conviction on indictment. Some evaluation will be made in that regard.

  Section 3 clearly sets out that this is a deliberate attempt when somebody is found guilty of (a), (b) and (c). Section 3(1) states:

3. (1) A person who for the purposes of the sexual exploitation of a child—
(a) pays, gives, offers or promises to pay or give a child or another person money or any other form of remuneration or consideration,

(b) provides or offers or offers or promises to provide, a child to another person, or

(c) obtains a child for himself or herself or for another person,
 shall be guilty of an offence.

Regardless of whether they were the ones who only got money from it, they are as guilty as the people who sexually exploited the children. This comes back to the best interests of the child. I have to say I was sceptical when I saw the Government put a referendum to the people on the best interests of the child. There has been no Government in the history of the State and in my lifetime under which the child is more vulnerable because of the actions of the Government in its period in office.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is rubbish.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I could name many of them. In this specific instance the Minister has said there is a range and that judicial discretion should apply to a range of particular sanctions. Depending on the gravity of the offence and the assessment of the judge, when a person is found guilty, the judge will still have a range because the amendment states clearly that it is "imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years". That means that there is a scale of sentences ranging from one day, two days, one week up to ten years. There is also the issue of suspending part of the sentence.

  I am clearly saying we should not accept a situation where a person can get off purely by paying a fine where he or she has been found guilty of an offence to exploit a child. If the Minister has said that to me, I must clearly say to her and the Government that they have failed in their duty to children and the constitutional amendment they have brought forward. It begs the question as to how sincere the Government was about that amendment to the Constitution.

  I am not a member of the Government, but I am a Member of the Oireachtas. I do not want to be part of an Oireachtas which sends a signal to the Judiciary or society that a mere fine is sufficient where a person has been found guilty of an offence to exploit a child sexually, whether he or she is the direct exploiter or a participant. I do not for one second understand - the Minister has not explained this -why the change in the amendment was brought forward by the Government on Committee Stage. I am well aware that there are ideological groups globally that advocate sexual freedoms, including pederasty and sex between children. We have seen such groups. A plethora of groups have argued the case.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I doubt there are very many.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I would hate to think such ideologies are influencing what is happening or being reflected here. I ask and appeal to the Minister to reflect on what has been said and include a reference to the best interests of the child in this legislation. That means signalling clearly that such behaviour is unacceptable and that if a person is found guilty of such acts, he or she will face a term of imprisonment. The length of the sentence will be at the discretion of the judge and depend on the gravity of the offence. We must send the message that perpetrators will not get away, if they have deep pockets, with just paying money. We have seen cases where this has happened with adults and money was paid. There was a huge public outcry about money being paid and, subsequently, the decisions were appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. I ask the Minister to, please, let that not happen.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald To suggest for one moment that the approach we are taking in the Bill is the result of lobbying is absolutely and totally incorrect.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Why did it happen?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald For the reasons I have outlined.  To suggest the Government or anybody working on the Bill or the approach we have taken in it has any ambivalence whatsoever in relation to the offences about which we are talking is simply outrageous and untrue. If we were to accept the amendment, it would bring the penalty for this offence out of line with penalties for similar offences in other sections of the Bill. A trial on indictment may indicate a more serious offence that still requires to be proved before a court-----

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Yes, absolutely.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald -----but also a person tried summarily indicating a minor offence may elect to have a trial by jury which brings them into this penalty range. That is an important point. The reasons are as I have outlined. To extrapolate from the approach we have taken in this part of the legislation; to suggest the Government is not putting the best interests of the child first, in a week when the Child and Family Relationships Act has come into effect, where the best interests of the child have to be the paramount consideration when making decisions on guardianship, access, custody and maintenance; given the work that has been done on the children's rights referendum which gives the individual child rights and protects children in long-term care in order that better decisions are taken for them in terms of adoption, and given that we have passed the Marriage Equality Bill 2015 which protects children who are living with same-sex couples, I certainly cannot accept what the Senator has had to say about children and the approach of the Government to protecting children's rights. I have given the reasons we are including a fine or a term of imprisonment for this offence. It is in line with the approach taken to all serious offences, apart from murder, where we leave it to the discretion of the court to examine individual cases and look at the individual circumstances. To extrapolate beyond that and suggest that in some way there is an ambivalence about people who exploit children is incorrect.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh May I-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill No, I cannot allow the Senator to interject.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I am so allowed. Standing Orders-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill Standing Orders state the proposer of an amendment may reply to a discussion on it. The Senator cannot speak twice.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Therefore, the Acting Chairman is silencing me.

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill I am not silencing the Senator. These are the Standing Orders of the House.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh In that situation I find what the Minister has said unacceptable. I think it is a dereliction of fulfilling our constitutional responsibilities.

Acting Chairman (Senator Pat O'Neill): Information on Pat O'Neill Zoom on Pat O'Neill I am sorry, but the Senator knows the rules of the House.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I am going to press the amendment and it will be up to the Members on the other side to decide if they agree with the Minister's weak response.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 21.

Níl
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Paschal Mooney   Zoom on Paschal Mooney   Mooney, Paschal. Information on Terry Brennan   Zoom on Terry Brennan   Brennan, Terry.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú   Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú   Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Jim Walsh   Zoom on Jim Walsh   Walsh, Jim. Information on Máiría Cahill   Zoom on Máiría Cahill   Cahill, Máiría.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Eamonn Coghlan   Zoom on Eamonn Coghlan   Coghlan, Eamonn.
  Information on Maurice Cummins   Zoom on Maurice Cummins   Cummins, Maurice.
  Information on John Gilroy   Zoom on John Gilroy   Gilroy, John.
  Information on Aideen Hayden   Zoom on Aideen Hayden   Hayden, Aideen.
  Information on Imelda Henry   Zoom on Imelda Henry   Henry, Imelda.
  Information on Cáit Keane   Zoom on Cáit Keane   Keane, Cáit.
  Information on John Kelly   Zoom on John Kelly   Kelly, John.
  Information on Marie Moloney   Zoom on Marie Moloney   Moloney, Marie.
  Information on Mary Moran   Zoom on Mary Moran   Moran, Mary.
  Information on Tony Mulcahy   Zoom on Tony Mulcahy   Mulcahy, Tony.
  Information on Michael Mullins   Zoom on Michael Mullins   Mullins, Michael.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
  Information on Mary Ann O'Brien   Zoom on Mary Ann O'Brien   O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on Pat O'Neill   Zoom on Pat O'Neill   O'Neill, Pat.
  Information on Jillian van Turnhout   Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout   van Turnhout, Jillian.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Jim Walsh and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins.

Amendment declared lost.

  Amendment Nos. 5 to 22, inclusive, not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Amendment Nos. 23 to 26, inclusive, and 45 are related and may be discussed together.

  Government amendment No. 23:

In page 16, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“PART 3

SEXUAL ACT WITH PROTECTED PERSONS
Definition
20. In this Part “sexual act” means—
(a) an act consisting of—
(i) sexual intercourse, or

(ii) buggery,
(b) an act described in section 3(1) or 4(1) of the Act of 1990, or

(c) an act which if done without consent would constitute a sexual assault.”.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am conscious that these very important amendments have been introduced at what might be a late Stage of the debate on the Bill in this House. They are a response to the amendments in which Senators Katherine Zappone, Jillian van Turnhout and others have had a particular interest. Detailed discussions have been held with Senators on the approach to this section. I thank all Senators who have made contributions to the discussions. This has been a technically difficult part of the legislation on which to work. The contributions have been very carefully considered, legal advice has been sought and we have worked with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Office of the Attorney General on the amendments.

  There are four sections proposed which are at the core of the amendments. I draw the attention of Members to the proposed section 21 which creates the offence of a sexual act with a protected person. In order to define the persons who require protection under this provision and to move away from the status-based approach that was followed in section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 which it is agreed needs to be changed, a functional test as to the capacity of a person with a mental or intellectual disability or a mental illness has been adopted. Essentially, the offence arises where a person engages in a sexual act with a person who they know lacks the capacity to consent to the sexual act by reasons of a mental or intellectual disability or mental illness. The offence also arises if the person is reckless as to the capacity of the protected person to consent to the sexual act. A lack of capacity to consent to a sexual act is defined in subsection (7) of the proposed section 21 and arises where the person is incapable, by reason of a disability, incapacity or illness, of understanding the nature or the reasonable foreseeable consequences of the sexual act; to evaluate relevant information for the purpose of deciding whether to engage in the act; or to communicate his or her consent to the act.

  There is no presumption that a disability or an illness of itself gives rise to an incapacity to consent. However, where a disability or an illness does mean that a person is incapable of understanding the act, evaluating relevant information or communicating consent, there would be no capacity to consent. This approach is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which requires respect for the full participation in society of persons with disabilities and to which the Government is committed, as well as appropriate protection for those who lack capacity to consent to such an act owing to the nature of the disability. The amendment will introduce the required provision.  There is a second offence of inviting, inducing, counselling or inciting a person to engage in a sexual act where they lack capacity to consent by reason of the said disability or illness. Again, I repeat, there is no offence committed where there is capacity to consent. These offences clarify in law the approach advocated under the UN Convention and by the Law Reform Commission and address a number of the issues raised by and on behalf of various interest groups.

  In regard to the other amendments which have been proposed, the meaning of "sexual act" is expanded in the proposed section 20 from that set out in the 1993 Act. It includes the acts described in section 3(1) or 4(1) of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 which would amount to a rape or aggravated sexual assault. It also, importantly, includes the wide range of acts done without consent that would amount to sexual assault. This also responds to a number of calls to expand the meaning of "sexual act" under the 1993 Act. I hope this meets the concerns people had and the need to develop our legislation in order that it respects the rights of those who may be dependent in other ways but respects their rights to have relationships, effectively. That is what the amendment is doing.

  I will highlight one or two other aspects of the amendment. The proposed section 22 retains the provision from the 1993 Act which confirms that no proceedings for an offence under this Part will be brought, except with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is an important provision.

  Section 23 will repeal section 5 of the 1993 Act about which many people had concerns. It will also repeal section 6(2) of that Act which contained an offence of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution a mentally impaired person. I think these proposals address a very important and complex subject which was discussed in the course of the legislation in the House and on Committee Stage some time ago.

  I commend thee amendments to the House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not opposed to the amendments in general, but I have a couple of queries. The first concerns the use of the word "buggery". It does not occur elsewhere in the Bill, as far as I understand. It is an antique and imprecise phrase. It originated in the middle ages with an accusation against the Albigensian heresy of unnatural sexual relations as was then considered by the Papal states. The term "buggery" actually comes from the Middle French, bougre, meaning a Bulgarian because that is where the Albigensians originated. It is antique and imprecise. Buggery as understood in Irish law, simply means anal intercourse, engaged in either by a man and a man or a man and a woman or a woman and a woman with mechanical assistance. I just wonder why this antique phrase is used, particularly when it is not used in other parts of the Bill.

  There is also the question of a sexual act with protected person. The people of diminished capacity certainly need to be protected. There is no question or doubt about that, but I am glad that the Minister also recognised the entitlement of people with restricted mental capacity to engage in sexual relations. I think this is important. I will make one point from my own experience. Quite a number of years ago I was contacted about and dealt with a case where a man was jailed for having a sexual relationship with a person who was determined to be of diminished mental capacity. There was no external evidence of this. Apparently, the person looked perfectly normal. There was not much indication in speech or anything else of this, but yet he was convicted. It turned out that the other person involved had routinely engaged in sexual activity with other adults and then blackmailed them. I think that was a bit ridiculous. We need to be careful. Of course, the principal imperative is to protect people of diminished responsibility and also to guarantee their rights. We also need to bear in mind very unusual cases such as the cases that are brought to the attention of the Seanad, but I am not opposed to the amendments and do not propose to call a vote.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I thank the Minister for bringing forward this amendment in response to my colleague, Senator Katherine Zappone, who raised this issue on Second and Committee Stages. I know that she would have preferred if the Minister had taken the approach set out in amendment No. 45 in regard to the offence of abuse of the position of dependence and trust, but I appreciate what the Minister is doing.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney It is just a small point. In the context of the language being used-----

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am listening.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I did not want to distract the Minister.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Senator may go ahead.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney Subsection (1) of the proposed section 21 refers to a person who engages in a sexual act with a protected person knowing that that person is a protected person, while subsection (2) refers to a person who invites, induces etc. a protected person knowing that that person is a protected person. The reason I raise this issue is that a case has finished in the courts where an unfortunate victim of a rape by a non-Irish national was a Down's syndrome individual. If my reading is correct, the main plank of the defence, according to media reports, was that the individual who was convicted, rightly so, was not aware and did not know the concept of Down's syndrome because he came from Pakistan or some small village or wherever else. It was the main plank of the defence, if my reading of it is correct.

Senator Marie Moloney: Information on Marie Moloney Zoom on Marie Moloney Yes, it was.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I was only just curious. It is a minor detail as to why if the language indicates they have to know, whereas in this instance it did not matter, it was irrelevant whether he knew. The actual act was a criminal offence and the judge found accordingly and the convicted person is awaiting sentence. Let us see what happens.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I advise Senator David Norris that the term is used in existing law. It is used here in the same context as sexual intercourse, also described as an act under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 which involves penetration and that these are commonly used and understood in this area of law. There is a precedent.

  On the points made by Senator Jillian van Turnhout, we have tried to take on board the substance to deal with the issues which the Law Reform Commission felt needed to dealt with in this area which were not being dealt with under section 5 of the 1993 Act. That section 5 did not really make allowance for the fact that a person incapable of living an independent life may, nonetheless, be capable of giving consent to a sexual act. It was strongly believed and all of the recommendations indicated that section 5 of the 1993 Act failed to respect the autonomy of individuals solely on their status rather than capacity. We have also widened the range of offences because the Law Reform Commission also stated that was an issue.

  On the last point as to how the lack of capacity of the protected person would be proved in court, the way that is done is that evidence of the person's capacity could be shown through the victim's own testimony, the testimony of close family or others who know them or, as has been the case, expert evidence of persons with knowledge of a particular disability or illness and the impact of such on the individual's capacity at the time the act took place.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 24:

In page 16, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“Sexual act with protected person

21. (1) A person who engages in a sexual act with a protected person knowing that that person is a protected person or being reckless as to whether that person is a protected person shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) A person who invites, induces, counsels or incites a protected person to engage in a sexual act knowing that that person is a protected person or being reckless as to whether that person is a protected person shall be guilty of an offence.

(3) In proceedings for an offence under this section, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that the defendant knew or was reckless as to whether the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed was a protected person.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) where the sexual act consisted of sexual intercourse, buggery or an act described in section 3(1) or 4(1) of the Act of 1990 shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a lesser term of imprisonment.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) where the sexual act consisted of an act which if done without consent would constitute a sexual assault shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) shall be liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

(7) For the purposes of this section, a person lacks the capacity to consent to a sexual act if he or she is, by reason of a mental or intellectual disability or a mental illness, incapable of—
(a) understanding the nature, or the reasonably foreseeable consequences, of that act,

(b) evaluating relevant information for the purposes of deciding whether or not to engage in that act, or

(c) communicating his or her consent to that act by speech, sign language or otherwise,
and, in this section, such a person is referred to as a “protected person”.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 25:

In page 16, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“Prosecutions

22. No proceedings for an offence under this Part shall be brought except by, or with the consent of, the Director of Public Prosecutions.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Government amendment No. 26:

In page 16, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“Repeals

23. Sections 5 and 6(2) of the Act of 1993 are repealed.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Amendment No. 27 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Amendments Nos. 28 to 31, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 are physical alternatives to Amendment No. 28. Amendments Nos. 28 to 31, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Government amendment No. 28:

In page 16, to delete lines 24 to 36, and in page 17, to delete lines 1 to 5 and substitute the following:
“Amendment of Act of 1993

20. The Act of 1993 is amended—
(a) in subsection (2) of section 1, by the deletion of paragraph (a),

(b) by the insertion of the following section after section 7:
“Payment etc. for sexual activity with prostitute

7A. (1) A person who pays, gives, offers or promises to pay or give a person (including a prostitute) money or any other form of remuneration or consideration for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a prostitute shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction—
(a) in the case of a first offence, to a class E fine, and

(b) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to a class D fine.
(2) In this section “sexual activity” means any activity where a reasonable person would consider that—
(a) whatever its circumstances or the purpose of any person in relation to it, the activity is because of its nature sexual, or

(b) because of its nature the activity may be sexual and because of its circumstances or the purposes of any person in relation to it (or both) the activity is sexual.”.
(c) in section 8, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):
“(2) A person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse fails to comply with a direction under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a class D fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both.”,
(d) in section 9, by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (i):
“(i) on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or”,
(e) in subsection (1) of section 10, by the substitution of “to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both” for “to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both”,

(f) in section 11, by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (i):
“(i) on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or”,
and

(g) in subsection (1) of section 13, by the insertion of “7A,” after “7,”.”.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald These amendments follow a review of the penalties for prostitution offences. The offences for which I am increasing the penalty in this amendment - organising prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution and brothel-keeping - are central to the exploitation of vulnerable women and men who find themselves engaged in prostitution. Increasing the penalties to the maximum available for summary convictions reflects the seriousness with which we view these offences. The amendment also introduces a change to the powers of arrest provisions in section 13 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993. The amendment adds the new section 7A of the 1993 Act inserted by the Bill to provide an offence of payment for sexual activity with a prostitute to the list of offences in section 13 for which a person may be arrested without warrant or required to give his or her name and address to a member of An Garda Síochána when asked to do so. This is a necessary power for the Garda to have to ensure the new offence of payment for sexual activity with a prostitute is enforceable.

  I want to make points about some of the other amendments which have been proposed by Senators. Amendment No. 31 proposes increasing the penalty for the organisation of prostitution. I support the Senators' proposal. As I have outlined, my own amendment also proposes an increase to the penalty for this offence. The maximum penalty that can be imposed on summary conviction is a class A fine, that is, €5,000, and that is what I am proposing. I do not propose increasing the maximum fine available for conviction or indictment, as proposed by the Senators. Senators may wish to note that the fine was increased by the Fines Act 2010 and stands at €22,220. There is also a significant term of imprisonment available for conviction on indictment.

  Amendment Nos. 29 and 30 concern the offence of solicitation. Their effect would be to delete section 7 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 in its entirety and I do not believe that was the intention. That section provides for the offence of soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. Following an amendment to the section which was agreed to by the House on Committee Stage, the Bill will remove men and women offering their services as prostitutes from the offence of soliciting, limiting the offence to buyers and pimps only. Retaining the offence of soliciting for buyers and pimps is in line with the principle of criminalising the purchase of sexual services while ensuring those selling such services do not commit any offence. Therefore, I will not accept the amendments because they would be contrary to what the amendments accepted on Committee Stage in the House which were introduced in the Bill to tackle demand for prostitution and deal with the extreme trafficking of women we are seeing across Europe. An extremely large proportion of women being trafficked are being trafficked for the purposes of prostitution.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I oppose these amendments. I attempted to table amendments and signally failed to find a single person in this House who would second my amendments, even for the sake of having a discussion. I find that quite astonishing. It shows a totally closed mind. I recall about 20 years ago when Maggie Thatcher was introducing a provision known as section 28 in the light of a book that had been produced in Denmark. It was called Maggie Lives With Joe and Fred or something like that. It was the story of two gay men, one of whom had left his wife, with whom he had had a daughter, and set up a relationship with another man. They established this relationship and the daughter came to stay with them on weekends. When they went out shopping, a neighbour shouted at them "abuse". The parent of the child said that was only Mrs. So-and-so who was upset and bewildered because in most cases a man formed a relationship with a woman but that in a minority of cases, people of the same sex formed relationships. It was eminently sensible, a perfectly reasonable, decent and understandable thing, but it was used by Maggie Thatcher to introduce this legislation which prohibited what they called the "propagandisation" of homosexuality, as if it needed any propaganda, being a part of human nature.

  On that occasion, I also signally failed to find a single voice in Seanad Éireann that would support an amendment or sign a motion on the topic. I found that astonishing and find it astonishing today that the serious concerns I have about this legislation have been met with a resounding silence, despite the clear balance of scientific evidence I am opposing these changes to the law. If one looks at the results in Sweden, the progress report published in Gothenburg showed an increase in trafficking of 106% between 2008 and 2010. The number of reported cases of sexual services sold increased by 569%. That is with this sort of legislation. That is the effect it has had - absolutely none.

  Then we have to take into account the medical situation, about which I will say a little more. It relates to the matter of AIDS. UN committees are coming out to state it is disastrous, while there are articles in The Lancet stating full decriminalisation would result in a 40% decrease in the number of HIV cases. That is the most senior medical authority there is. Obviously, I am concerned.

  I am even more concerned that there is no review or evaluation process of the impact. If we are told it is going to have this impact, what is the Government afraid of in assessing and evaluating its effect? There is nothing in the Bill, despite the pleas I made on Second and Committee Stages that there be this evaluation process to find out whether it is working. There has been complete silence from the Government. On the other hand, it accepted an amendment to strengthen the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to target and further criminalise sex workers on the street, some of whom are the most marginalised people in our society. If it continues to support section 20, it must decriminalise people who sell sexual services on the street, as well as people who work indoors for safety and include a two-year review of the law to assess its impact on the lives of sex workers.

  Why should we have a review of section 20? First, it would protect human rights. One of the most senior bodies concerned with human rights in this country and which is universally respected is Amnesty International. It has included a plea for the inclusion of a review in its comprehensive submission to the Minister for Justice and Equality. I do not know whether she read it. Perhaps she did, or perhaps this task was devolved to a menial in the Department. It was a submission to the Minister on the human rights concerns that criminalising the purchase of sexual services would hurt the most marginalised sex workers. It was based on Amnesty International's research in Norway, where it was introduced in 2003, and evidence from various other health and academic institutions.  I am sure the Minister is familiar with the submission of Amnesty International.

  Second, it is a question of ensuring robust, comprehensive and responsible legislating. In Sweden where this kind of material was introduced in 1998 the effect and impact are evaluated regularly. We do not do so here, although we are slavishly following the defective Swedish model. Some 20 scope interviews have been conducted by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, in its report of 2013 on hearings and submissions on the review of legislation on prostitution, also recommended regular evaluation. It states the State should commission appropriate, independent studies to increase its understanding of prostitution and trafficking. Further such studies should be undertaken at regular intervals to evaluate independently the effectiveness of legal and policy measures concerning prostitution and trafficking and to recommend changes, where required. This is the statement of the Oireachtas’s own committee. Will the Minister tell the House the problem with the evaluation of the impact of this legislation? Is she afraid that the truth will emerge when it is too late, when this legislation has been passed?

  Third, there is a lack of evidence. In the past ten years there has been no comprehensive, independent research undertaken by the Government or independent university academic institutions in the State into the situation of sex workers in the Republic of Ireland. In effect, we are attempting to change laws without knowing if and why the current laws are not working or protecting marginalised people in vulnerable situations. In addition, the Swedish Government, despite regular reviews and evaluation of this kind of legislation by different departments, has not been able to prove that the number of people paying for sexual services has fallen or that the number of people engaged in selling sexual services has decreased. Therefore, there is a complete failure of evidence, even from the Swedish model, to which we are giving such devotion.

  In 2014 in Sweden the report stated there had been a gradual increase in the number of foreign women engaged in street prostitution in the past 20 years. This is with the effective operation of this kind of legislation in Sweden. It was stated in 2014 that it was possible to note an increase over the preceding two years in the number of women coming from Romania. It is difficult to draw any conclusions other than the fact that no great changes have taken place in Sweden and that the number of individuals buying sexual services appears to be fairly stable. Let that sink in. It has had no impact. There has been an increase, yet we are making the lives of these women more difficult and exposing the population to a greater risk of infection from HIV.

  My fourth point is on assessing the impact of this kind of legislation on health and HIV. There is a wealth of evidence and research from national and international health experts that shows the detrimental impact this kind of legislation has had on the health of sex workers and wider public policy. HIV rates in Ireland are increasing, with an upward trend of new cases since 2013. HIV Ireland cites evidence that criminalisation creates circumstances that result in the spread of HIV. Again, I am not referring to middle-class spurious experts with their paternalistic view of sex workers but to people who are centrally and directly involved in dealing with HIV. They strongly support decriminalisation as the best model to prevent further increases in transmission. I ask the Minister to take that on board. We are talking not about a kind of hypocritical moral stance but about the welfare and medical well-being of citizens of the State. According to the World Health Organization, decriminalisation of sex work could "avert the largest percentage of HIV infections in sex workers and clients". There is talk of a decrease in the order of 33% to 46% during the next decade. These are facts that need to be taken into account.

  On sex workers themselves, how patronising it is to listen to people determining that all these women and men are victims, no matter what they say themselves. They may say they are not victims. Some of them say they get pleasure from their job and others say they do it to keep their families going. Despite this, they are not allowed to categorise themselves and they must be victims because these feminists and ex-nuns have decided that they are victims. How paternalistic is that? How patronising is it? The odd cackle from the backbenches on the other side of the House will not deter me from what I am saying and will not take away from the factual nature of the evidence. Not one fact that I have given so far has been challenged in this House.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik On a point of order, we have listened to Senator David Norris make yet another speech against the policy that has been endorsed unanimously by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and that is at the heart of the provision we are debating.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am still perfectly entitled to have my say on it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik No. The Senator is effectively making another Second Stage speech, having filibustered on and delayed on Committee Stage.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am talking about the insertion of a new section. This is a classic attempt by the middle classes to stifle debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Please, Senator.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I have no intention of being silenced. The Chair can throw me out of the House, but I will not be silenced.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik On a point of order, the Senator has been challenged on every point he has raised, both on Second Stage and Committee Stage, by the Minister and a number of us. He is factually inaccurate in suggesting what he said-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris should resume his seat. He is not entitled to make a Second Stage speech. He should speak to the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not making a Second Stage speech.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Senator is.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am addressing the amendments directly.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik No, the Senator is not.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes, I am.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris to continue on the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris If Senator Ivana Bacik had been listening to me, instead of gossiping and occupying herself with Twitter, she might be in a better position to know whether-----

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I have been listening to the Senator ad nauseam.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris to continue on the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am on the amendments and will stay on them.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is not nice to shout down a lady.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I beg your pardon?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris to continue on the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am sorry; I thought I heard a noise over there.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway We are hearing plenty of noise from that side.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator David Norris to continue, without interruption.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What about the position of sex workers? What I have to hand is material I have not used before. It is new material that has come to me in recent days. Sex workers do not support this legislation. The majority of sex workers in sex worker-led organisations across the world, including those in Ireland, do not support the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. Many sex workers have spoken about the dangers and risks they face when this kind of legislation is introduced. In Canada which also uses the Swedish model an increased police presence has decreased sex workers’ ability to use the police for protection. Workers have to stay out for longer hours and in more clandestine locations. For example, Violet, a female sex worker, stated:

Because of being so cold and being harassed I got into a car where I normally wouldn’t have. […] [H]e put something to my throat. And I had to do it for nothing.

This is the kind of circumstance towards which we are heading. A Norwegian female sex worker said:

If a customer is bad you need to manage it yourself to the end. You only call the police if you think you are going to die. If you call the police, you lose everything.

This is the evidence from the coalface. Research commissioned in 2014 by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice found that 98% of sex workers interviewed did not support the criminalisation of clients. Why are they not listened to?

  On the question of trafficking and organised crime, any coercion or trafficking will become more difficult to tackle under this legislation because it presents disincentives to the reporting of abuse. To avoid being under police scrutiny and, therefore, risking the loss of income and housing and the placing of children in custody, sex workers are less likely to report any abuse suffered.  In a 2011 interview a Swedish client recalled three separate occasions on which he had witnessed what he suspected was trafficking. He did not go through with the transaction and then did not report to the authorities for fear of legal consequences. This is the impact on trafficking and direct evidence from people involved in these transactions. Like Amnesty International, I am not advocating prostitution. I do not think it is an ideal way of life, but I am interested in the welfare and protection of those who are involved in it and their clients.

In Sweden, in 2010, the police board reported that serious organised crime, including prostitution and trafficking, had increased in strength, power and complexity in the past decade. There has simply been no concrete evidence produced in Sweden or elsewhere that criminalising the purchase of sex decreases the number of incidents of trafficking for sexual exploitation. I would like to hear that being challenged. Where is the effect of the legislation of which we are told?

Ruhama has rubbished the claim of some of these women that it involved flexible working hours in order that they could look after their children. The women believe they are protected by the constitutional protection of the family. One of the single most significant factors compelling women into sex work is the need to make adequate provision for their children not only materially but also physically, emotionally and psychologically. Even if they can find alternative work adequate to meeting the material needs of their families, they have no access to affordable child care of any kind, let alone what would meet their other equally important needs. Even a street worker can make the equivalent of the minimum wage in a single evening, which not only represents a dramatic reduction in the hours of child-minding required but also in the quality of care required to meet her children’s physical, emotional and psychological needs for such a short period of time when her children are likely to be sleeping. Many indoor sex workers are making more than the industrial wage in four or five days a month using full-time care for those days similar to respite care routinely provided for special needs children and devoting the rest of the time to their duties in their home.

Much is made in support of the amendment which is really a rejigging of the original section. Much is made of the 800 submissions received by the Government, but it does not state it was inundated with signed hard copies of the turn off the red light form letter, some of which had not even bothered to delete instructions such as "put your name here". It is laughable. It is a circular letter.

I am a member of three trade unions and they have come out in support of this, but not one of them consulted me or any of their other members before throwing their support behind this legislation and this kind of amendment, which is the principal reason I oppose the Bill. There are many excellent things in it - the protection of children, the protection of people with mental difficulties and so on and so forth - but this is a terrible amendment and a terrible situation in law. The Government which has been progressive in so many allied areas such as the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution. (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 is making this disastrous jump backwards. I know that the Bill will be forced through here tonight, either because we come to the end of the debate or because we are threatened with a guillotine, but it will then have to go to the Dáil and I strongly hope there will be voices in there that will echo my lone voice in this Chamber.

The National Police Board of Sweden stated in March 2010 that serious organised crime, including prostitution and trafficking, had increased in strength power and complexity in the past decade. It constitutes a serious social problem in Sweden and organised crime makes large amounts of money from the exploitation and trafficking of people under slave-like conditions. This is a decade and more after the legislation was passed.

A report commissioned by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland stated:

Our findings suggest that there are no easy solutions to effectively regulate prostitution and tackle sex trafficking. For example, both the Swedish (neo-abolitionism) and the Dutch (regulationism) regimes appear to record continuous sex trafficking despite shared objectives to the contrary. [In other words, it just does not work.]

Given the complexity of the social and legal realities surrounding prostitution, there are significant problems with identifying causes and effects, i.e. it is not always clear if a policy measure – or some other variable – caused a specific change. [In other words, we do not know the sequence of cause and effect.] In regard to the Swedish approach all claims about pre and post law trends are challenged by the lack of sound figures for the sex industry prior to 1999 [when the legislation was introduced].

No firm conclusions can be drawn about the relationship between the sex purchase ban and patterns of sex trafficking into Sweden.

There is also no clear evidence on the relationship between the type of prostitution regime and the impact on the number of sex workers.

There is no information. What are we doing? In the absence of information, we are introducing these amendments. Their purpose, unlike the rest of the Bill, is to criminalise the purchase of sex, one side of a transaction. It is like criminalising the purchaser of a small amount of cannabis, leaving the drug pusher to go unscathed.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout It is not.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik It is not.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The report continues:

There is, however, evidence that health and safety of those selling sex is improved in non-criminalisation regimes (New Zealand) and within the legal segments of regulationism (Netherlands).

Criminalisation of clients is not considered a useful or effective policy measure by the vast majority of sex workers.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not. I am addressing the amendments directly. The amendments amount to legislation on their own. They introduce a completely new concept into Irish law. That is why I am taking the opportunity because it is the only one I will get. I cannot speak a second time and want to put my arguments in the Official Report. It is only 3.15 p.m. and we have until 5 p.m. The report states:

Sex workers worry about a potential decrease in security, worse working conditions and increased risks if paying for sex was criminalised.

Some sex workers are concerned about the loss of decent clients and an increase of violent clients, and an increased involvement of organised crime groups and ‘pimps’.

That is who we should be going after, the pimps, not the mainly women who are involved.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik That is what we are doing.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is ridiculous. These are the people involved in the activity the Government is criminalising. Are their voices never to be heard? Even though mine is the sole voice taking this position in the House, is it to be silenced also? Is that the Government's notion of democracy and open and transparent government? I do not think it is very much like that. The report states: "The proposed law aims to criminalise the buyer but not the seller". That is the direct point of the amendments. It is this amendment to which I am objecting.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik On a point of order, the amendment simply repeats what is already in section 20. If the Senator looks carefully at amendment No. 28, he will see the only changes it makes are to penalties and the arrest power. The amendment is simply restating the provision that is already in section 20 otherwise in terms of policy. We have already heard from the Senator on Second and Committee Stages, when he made a long Second Stage speech on each occasion outlining his opposition to the policy at issue in section 20, but that is not at issue in this amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris This is restating the whole issue. It is the only section of the law where this is dealt with and I am directly addressing the words of the amendment. They are repeated here - this business about criminalising the purchase of sex. It is included in the amendment.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh The Senator is repeating himself, too.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris If it was not in the amendment, why write those words down?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is being very unfair to the other Members who want to contribute on the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Then there is nothing to stop Members from extending the time allowed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke To be honest, they cannot all make Second Stage speeches.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not making a Second Stage speech; I am addressing the amendment directly.

  The research findings from Northern Ireland continued by stating the proposed law aimed to criminalise the buyer but not the seller. It noted that the sex workers interviewed for the study felt this did not reflect the reality of selling sex and that sex workers felt criminalised under the current law that, for example, did not allow sex workers to work in the same location for safety reasons, as this could be classed as brothel-keeping. The findings continue by stating:

They do not see how criminalising clients would reduce the pressure of criminalisation on them. Our results suggest that criminalising paying for sex would be ineffective in reducing demand. Only 7% of clients said they would stop paying for sex altogether if it was criminalised.

That is the effect of it; 7% would stop. What about the remaining 93%?

Senator Marie Moloney: Information on Marie Moloney Zoom on Marie Moloney The 93% are breaking the law.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The findings continued by noting the views of service providers in Northern Ireland on the effects of a sex purchase ban varied. Some stated they supported the proposed law because it was based on their understanding that all forms of prostitution were exploitation, while others expressed concern about the negative effects such a law would have on the well-being and safety of sex workers and the effectiveness of the law in reducing demand and sex trafficking. Interviewees from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, highlighted a number of issues regarding the sex purchase ban, including the lack of sufficient resources to police effectively the proposed new law. In respect of the new amendments, will the Minister supply adequate resources to police them? Will the money be available to enforce them? The PSNI interviewees were taking into account competing demands, as well as significant problems with producing evidence and prosecuting clients. For example, they noted that some covert tactics used in Sweden and other European countries were not available in Northern Ireland. In summary, PSNI officers stated that in their opinion, a sex purchase ban would be difficult to enforce and police and would be largely ineffective. In other words, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is of the opinion such a ban would be difficult to enforce and largely ineffective. This makes one wonder and worry about the implementation of this measure.

  The Norwegian Government inquiry reported the following:

The Swedish street prostitutes experience a tougher time. They are more frequently exposed to dangerous clients, while the serious clients are afraid of being arrested. Prohibition will never be able to stop the purchase and sale of sex. It could only make conditions worse for the prostitutes. They have less time to assess the client as the deal takes place very hurriedly due to fear on the part of the client. They (the prostitutes) are exposed to violence and sexually transmitted diseases. If the client demands unprotected sex, many of the prostitutes cannot afford to say no. Harassment by the police has increased and the clients no longer provide tip-offs about pimps, for fear of being arrested themselves. The social workers working on the streets have problems reaching them. They (the prostitutes) use pimps for protection.

This legislation actually increases the number of pimps involved and that is the position as reported by the Norwegian Minister for Justice. The same Norwegian Minister for Justice talks about a general problem with statistics from Sweden, since they are highly uncertain. It has been noted that the problem with claims about effectiveness from Sweden is they do not appear to be supported by the available facts or research. One study states:

As soon as the official evaluation was published, it was... criticized from several directions. In the consultation process following the publication of the evaluation, the critique was especially harsh from those referral bodies who conduct prostitution research, and those working with health and discrimination issues (when law amendments are proposed in an official inquiry the report is circulated for consultation before it undergoes further preparation). [This is the response had from those organisations involved in academic inquiry into prostitution.] The criticism has primarily been focused on the evaluation’s lack of scientific rigor: it did not have an objective starting point, since the terms of reference given were that the purchase of sex must continue to be illegal [in other words, one enshrines one's aims before having the discussion]; there was not a satisfying definition of prostitution; it did not take into account ideology, method, sources and possible confounding factors; there were inconsistencies, contradictions, haphazard referencing, irrelevant or flawed comparisons and conclusions were made without factual backup and were at times of a speculative character.

Continuing the idea of the hardships visited on the people concerned, mainly women, in these circumstances, because of the legislation in Norway, the police has actively targeted the landlords of prostitutes and rendered them homeless. In what sense could this be construed as protecting the rights of these women sex workers? The criminalisation of the purchase of sex has also had an impact in the Scandinavian countries on HIV protection and harm reduction. Condom distribution to sex workers and clients has been publicly criticised for encouraging sex work and running contrary to the law and has been scaled back in at least one area of Sweden since the passage of the law. Consequently, it is even affecting the distribution of condoms.

  I am coming towards the end and ask for the indulgence of the House because, as I stated, this is the only opportunity I will have. One key finding of a survey of the situation in the United Kingdom was that the large majority of interviewed migrant client workers in the UK sex industry were not forced or trafficked. There has been a conflation between prostitution and trafficking, but the findings of independent research have shown the majority of migrant workers are not trafficked. It also was found that immigration status was by far the most important factor restricting the migrant workers' ability to exercise their rights in their professional and private lives and that working in the sex industry often was a way for migrants to avoid the unrewarding and sometimes exploitative conditions they met in non-sexual jobs. The survey found that by working in the sex industry, many interviewees were able to maintain dignified living standards in the United Kingdom, while dramatically improving the living conditions of their families in the country of origin.

  As I stated, a report by Amnesty International has stated the criminalisation of sex work increasingly is being recognised as a human rights concern. The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health, not some fly-by-night radical, has explicitly called for decriminalisation of sex work. The final report of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent body convened by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS, UNAIDS, has made the same call. The commission deliberated over a two-year period and undertook extensive analysis and research, including seven regional dialogues on the links between legal framework, human rights and HIV. I reiterate that this is the United Nations. Are Members not prepared to listen? Is the one voice that is raising this issue in this House to be stifled? The UNAIDS advisory group on HIV and sex workers recommended that states should move away from criminalising sex work or activities associated with it. It also recommended that decriminalisation of sex work should include removing criminal penalties for the purchase and sale of sex. I reiterate that this is a recommendation by the UNAIDS advisory group on HIV. Is no one listening? As for the management of sex workers in brothels and other activities related to sex work, the group recommended that to the degree that states retain non-criminal administrative law or regulations governing sex work, these should be applied in ways that do not violate sex workers' right to dignity and that ensure their enjoyment of due process of law.

  The World Health Organization calls for all countries to work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and the elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers. The International Labour Organization, ILO, has called on governments to recognise sex work as an economic sector and a legal occupation with protection under labour law and social security and health regulations. Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations and Anti-Slavery International, among other non-governmental groups, also have called for the decriminalisation of sex work. These are a variety of extremely important organisations engaged in health and human rights around the world and they all have taken a position that is directly in contravention of what the Government proposes in the amendments.  There is not the slightest scrap of international research that the so-called Swedish model has reduced trafficking in the community. In fact, the Government in Sweden has admitted this. The Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom scored better in a recent survey, the Global Slavery Index, than Sweden, yet we do not have these provisions but Sweden does. The Swedish Forum for Human Rights confirmed the trafficking of more than 166 children between 2008 and 2011 and the loss of more than 438 immigrant children in 2011 alone.

  I will leave it at that. With the indulgence of the House and despite interruptions, I have been permitted to make a strong case to ask the Government to think again on this matter because there are serious health concerns. It is irresponsible to force through such legislation without an adequate or a balanced debate on the subject. It is surely unbalanced when one person and one person alone in a House with 60 Members is prepared to stand up and oppose these legislative proposals. I know full well why they are being enacted. A survey in the North of Ireland which looked at this situation and the response to it concluded that, while 98% of the women involved were against it, 80% of voters were in favour of it. This is like the material we had yesterday about destroying hedges, which flies in the face of all-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator is straying from the amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not. I am demonstrating a principle and coming to an end. Yesterday’s material flew in the face of the principle of environmental protection. It was just a sop to the farmers in the light of the coming general election. This similarly is a sop to the sentimental ideas of a largely middle class group of people who care nothing for the health and welfare of the women involved.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh It is welcome that the Minister has taken on board many of the points made on Committee Stage, particularly on the amendments we put forward. I note the increase in the fines. It is welcome that the Minister has taken on board the principle we put forward on the decriminalisation of women who sell sexual services. Accordingly, I will not be pressing amendments Nos. 29 to 31, inclusive. I hope we get through this legislation speedily and have it passed.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome amendment No. 28 which restates the core principle in section 20 of the original version of the Bill to criminalise the purchase of sex. It also decriminalises the sale of sex and the person, usually a woman, engaged in prostitution. Senator David Norris failed to take this on board in his polemic against the amendment and the policy at issue. The policy, so clearly outlined by the Minister and other Members on Second Stage, is that of tackling demand by decriminalising the seller but criminalising the purchaser, the client. This is a policy the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality endorsed unanimously in its 2013 report. Senator David Norris is so carried away with his own rhetoric that he missed that key point. This is very much an evidence-based legislative reform. It is based on evidence the committee heard, on a visit it made to Sweden and reports it read. It is also based on a recognition of the reality of prostitution and the exploitation involved in prostitution, rather than some romanticised or rose-tinted view of prostitution as a freely entered into contract between two equal individuals. That is very far from the reality.

  Senator David Norris made some outrageous claims about the proportionate effect of the amendment and the provision included in section 20-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I was quoting from government reports from Norway and Sweden.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik -----suggesting, for example, that women engaged in prostitution because the hours were convenient if one had children. I am sorry, but that is just ridiculous.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is what they said.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Ivana Bacik to continue, without interruption.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Ivana Bacik may consider it ridiculous, but she is just trashing the women involved.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik With respect, the Senator spoke for half an hour - I timed it - having already made extremely lengthy speeches on Committee Stage in attempts to filibuster the Bill. I am happy that we will be able to conclude Report Stage in the Seanad today.

  There is a fundamental contradiction in the Senator’s arguments because he disparages and insults, as well as belittles, those of us who are supporting the Bill as being in some way unrepresentative, yet he points out he cannot get anyone to support him in his opposition to it. Perhaps all of us in this House who support this provision have been persuaded by the evidence. Perhaps we are not just a minority of feminists and ex-nuns as he suggested.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris They are supporting it because they are afraid.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The provision is evidence-based. We have challenged every assertion the Senator has made on Second and Committee Stages. The 2013 Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality report unanimously endorsed on a cross-party basis also debunks the arguments he made. We looked at the 2010 Swedish evaluation of the law and visited Sweden in 2012. We looked subsequently at the Northern Ireland report which was based on interviews with 18 individuals.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It was wrong.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I note also that legislators in Northern Ireland, Canada, Norway and Iceland have followed suit in adopting the Swedish approach, while it is under consideration in Britain and France, as it is elsewhere. The reality is that our model of law enforcement in prostitution is not working. A model which approaches it instead from the point of view of tackling demand, decriminalising the sellers and criminalising the purchasers is a better way in which to tackle exploitation. That is why I strongly support amendment No. 28. It restates the key provisions in section 20 of the original legislation. By changing the definition of "soliciting" or "importuning" in section 1 of the 1993 Act, it clearly decriminalises the seller of sex, which is welcome. It also increases the penalties for the offences of soliciting or importuning from the client’s point of view and the organisation of prostitution, living off the earnings from prostitution and brothel keeping. I particularly welcome the amendment of section 13 of the 1993 Act which allows for power of arrest for the new offence in section 7A. That is the provision I specifically sought on Committee Stage. I am glad to see it included as it will make the legislation clearly workable and enforceable by the Garda.

  On Committee Stage I expressed a concern about an amendment made to insert section 21 which will make it an offence to fail to comply with a Garda direction where a person is offering their services as a prostitute while loitering. This might lead to harassment of the people who we are decriminalising, namely, those engaged in selling sexual services. I accept that it is not criminalising, but it enables the use of Garda powers against them. Will the Minister look at the wording of this provision? There is a technical point about the wording, too. Section 8(1) of the Act currently has an "a" or a "b”. Section 21 would insert a “c” but there is no “or” before it. It is a relatively minor drafting point which might be worth looking at again.

  The important policy provision is really deserving of all our support, namely, decriminalising the seller and criminalising the purchaser or client. I cannot see the principled objection to this when anyone recognises the reality involved in the exploitation of prostitution. Any Senator who disagrees with that should find out a little more for himself or herself in looking at the research, meeting the women engaged in prostitution and talking to those engaged in front-line services such as Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland which has conducted important research into migrant women who are strongly exploited here. I welcome all those in the Visitors Gallery who have been involved in the Turn Off the Red Light campaign to end demand.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I, too, support amendment No. 28. I had not formed my opinion on this issue when I first entered the Seanad. It is something I have researched on my own and then met others to form my opinion. The reality is that the 2009 Kelleher report stated 11% of those trafficked into Ireland for sexual exploitation were under 18 years of age. We know from the Ekberg report of 2004 that the majority of women who enter prostitution first do so as minors. I am not going to get into selective quotes and going back and forth. I want the record to clearly show that I formed my own opinion and looked at the evidence. With the greatest respect, I listened to Senator David Norris on Second and Committee Stages. I re-read the research to ensure I felt a similar strength of opinion on my views. That is why it is good to have a debate and hear dissenting voices.   The Senator has the idea he is in a minority of one and that the rest of the House has come together to ram through this legislation. We are not here to do that. This legislation has been debated considerably in the House. I am part of a group of colleagues which tabled two motions on the issue. It went to the justice committee and a range of submissions were received, the majority of which were in support of the policy approach being taken.

  I have listened carefully to the comments made, but I am confirmed in my opinion. I support the amendment and agree with Senator Ivana Bacik who is correct about this matter. I support the proposals to criminalise the purchase of sex, but it is also welcome to see proposals for decriminalising of the sale of sex. This does address some of the issues raised. I would like to make it clear to the House - I am sure it is clear to many of my colleagues - that we can read the evidence and make up our own minds. I like to read the full evidence. I have met people who work in law enforcement in Sweden who have told me a different story from the one presented by Senator David Norris. However, I will not get involved in a back and forth as we have formed our own opinions. I respect Senator David Norris's opinions and ask that he respect-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I respect the Senator's opinions, but there are those in this House who are bullied into supporting the legislation.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I wanted to make the record absolutely clear.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is important to state the provisions in the Bill which criminalise the purchase of sexual services have been very much informed by data and evidence. I have read around the issue and met those on different sides of the debate. I refer Senators, Senator David Norris in particular, to the Oireachtas joint committee's report on the matter to see the wide range of research which was presented and submitted to the committee. All of the research, in support of and against criminalisation, was referenced in the report and formed part of the committee's deliberations. The research has formed part of the work we have done in the Department of Justice and Equality on this issue. As this had been worked on since 2012, there was time to look at the various reports and see what was being done in other countries. Northern Ireland has recently taken the same approach we are suggesting.

  It is important to look at precisely what is being done in the legislation. Sections 20 and 22 provide two offences for the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services. The first provision is a general offence of paying to engage in sexual activity with a prostitute. The second is the more serious offence of paying to engage in sexual activity with a trafficked person. I have already outlined to the House the very serious issues and the worldwide increase in the trafficking of vulnerable people, including women, for the purposes of prostitution. Ireland is no exception as we know from the experience of so many of the front-line organisations who work directly with the women concerned and who have been doing so for many years. We know this also from the investigative work. I praise RTE and "Prime Time" for its investigative work and the work of other documentary makers in examining the experiences of trafficked women into Ireland who are brought to various towns around the State and exploited sexually. These trafficked persons often do not even know what country they are in and certainly do not know what town they are in. As Senator Jillian van Turnhout said, there are very disturbing reports of young girls being exploited sexually and who have been trafficked into Ireland. That is the reality we are confronting.

  The Council of Europe and the European Parliament have recognised the effectiveness of the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services as a tool in the fight against human trafficking. It is important to say this. Equally, there is much wider evidence of the exploitation of persons involved in prostitution outside of those who are trafficked such as those who have been coerced or otherwise forced, through circumstances, to engage in that activity. That also needs to be said, including the fact there is a huge amount of exploitation in prostitution and the exploitation takes so many forms. The evidence is strongly emerging that there are very serious criminal gangs involved in both trafficking and the delivery of prostitution services. There is very little control for many of the women who are involved. I have listened to Sex Workers Alliance Ireland and what it has had to say. I have also met the rapporteur on trafficking and exploitation from Sweden who visited Ireland last year and who gave me the up-to-date experience of Sweden. I would like to outline some of it as a response to the debate on the amendments.

  First, I will turn to the Norwegian experience and its Government report from August 2015 on evaluations of the law. I will now outline the main findings from that publication. The ban on purchasing sexual services has reduced demand for prostitution and thus contributed to reducing the extent of prostitution in Norway. The enforcement of the law, in combination with the laws against trafficking and pimping, makes Norway a less attractive country for prostitution based trafficking. The report does not find any evidence of more violence against prostitutes after the ban on buying sex entered into force. Young men in Norway - I believe this is an extremely important point - have changed their attitudes towards buying sex. This is an important normative effect given the ambivalence we have seen over decades regarding prostitution. Interviews with police forces indicate that the law has had a normative effect on people's behaviour. Despite a lack of accurate data on the size of the market for prostitution, either before or after 2010, estimates of the current market show a decline in the demand for prostitution after the law was introduced. The reduced market size and an increase in police enforcement have made Norway a less attractive place for human traffickers. That is a report from August 2015.

  I will now turn to the official Swedish Government's report. I met the Swedish rapporteur on trafficking, Kajsa Wahlberg, who has extensive first-hand experience in these matters. She represented the views of the Swedish Government to me and her own direct experience. We also have reference to the evaluation made in Sweden, headed by a judge of the Supreme Court, which evaluated how the ban on the purchase of sexual services was working in practice. The starting point for that inquiry was that the purchase of sexual services would continue to be criminalised. The report which was submitted to the Swedish Government statedstreet, indoor or online prostitution had not increased since the introduction of the ban and that the ban on the purchase of sexual services acted as a barrier to the establishment of organised criminal networks involved in such crimes in Sweden. This is very important as we do not want to see criminal gangs coming in to Ireland and establishing criminal networks supporting the development of prostitution.

  The Swedish report also found that the ban had strong support in Sweden and a deterrent effect on sex purchasers. The inquiry finally concluded that criminalisation had not adversely affected persons being exploited in prostitution. Clearly there is a role for supporting those organisations who work with women involved in prostitution, in making sure they can reach out to these women and the women can avail of the services. These services have been offered for many years by organisations such as Ruhama when there was little support for that type of service. The Swedish inquiry indicated that the ban on the purchase of sexual services had the intended effect and that it was an important instrument-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Minister is just making assertions.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Minister is to speak, without interruption, please.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am quoting from the research I have available. Senator David Norris also quoted research.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Miniser is just quoting assertions.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Please, Senator. The Minister did not interrupt you.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is important. I am not sure how to describe what the Senator was quoting, but I am quoting from the research I have looked at and that has been made available to me. The ban on the purchase of sexual services has been an important instrument in preventing and combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes.  That is in two of the countries where this approach was taken some years ago and where there has been time to evaluate the impact. That was precisely the point the Senator was making - the impact ought to be evaluated. We have some very strong research; this is a cutting edge approach and the right thing to do. The proposals have been developed following extensive consultation, dating back to 2012. The new offences implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality which called for the introduction of an offence criminalising the purchase of sexual services. I ask the House to support thee amendments.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the amendment agreed to?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No. Vótáil.

  Amendment put.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke As there is only one Teller on the Níl side, the division cannot proceed. I declare the amendment carried.

  Amendment declared carried.

  Amendments Nos. 29 to 38, inclusive, not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Leader wishes to propose a suspension.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I propose a suspension of the sitting for ten minutes until 4.15 p.m.

  Sitting suspended at 4.05 p.m. and resumed at 4.15 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Amendments Nos. 39 to 41, inclusive, will be discussed together.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I move amendment No. 39:

In page 26, to delete lines 12 to 14 and substitute the following:
"(17)(a) This section and section 19B do not apply where a complainant or witness has expressly waived his or her right to non-disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court.

(b) No complainant or witness shall be deemed to have expressly waived his or her right to non-disclosure unless he or she has been offered a reasonable opportunity to obtain independent legal advice on the issue of disclosure rights before he or she is asked to sign any document purporting to waive his or her right to non-disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court.

(18) In addition to the provisions of this section, section 19B shall apply to a relevant record relating to a child.
19B.(1) In this section and in section 19A(18) 'relevant record relating to a child' means a relevant record (or part of such record) relating to a sexual offence or sexual offences alleged to have been committed in respect of a person who was, at the time of the offence, under the age of 18.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of section 19A, the content of a relevant record relating to a child shall not be disclosed to the accused and shall not be admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings save by order of the court and in compliance with the provisions of this section and section 19A.

(3) In determining an application for disclosure of a relevant record relating to a child, subject to the rules of the relevant court and in addition to the criteria set out in section 19A(9), the court shall take the following factors, in particular, into account:
(a) the extent to which the evidence contained in the relevant record relating to a child has substantial probative value;

(b) whether there is other evidence available to the accused that renders it substantially unnecessary to have regard to the relevant record relating to a child; and

(c) whether the public interest in disclosure or the constitutional and other rights of the accused person or both together outweigh the potential harm to the complainant.”.”.

I wish to raise an issue on third-party disclosures and want to be clear from the outset that I welcome section 34. In June 2013 I tabled amendments to the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill concerning the disclosure of third-party records, namely, the counselling and therapy notes of child complainants in sexual offence trials. At the time I expressed my deep concern about the issue of the court ordered disclosure of complainants' confidential records by medical, psychiatric or therapeutic personnel, be the complainant an adult or a child, in the absence of any legislative guidelines. I am delighted to see the issue being addressed in the Bill and support the approach taken to provide standards and guidance for the courts in determining whether to grant an order for the disclosure of a record in dispute.

  I agree that an adequate balance has been struck between an adult complainant's right to privacy and the right of the accused person to procedural fairness. However, on further reflection in this regard, I have tabled an additional amendment - amendment No. 40 - which includes the same changes to sections 34(17)(a) and (b) as proposed in amendment No. 39, whereby the provisions of a new section 19A of the Act of 1992 would not apply where complainants or witnesses expressly waive their right to disclosure of a relevant record without leave of the court. I am sure the Minister fully acknowledges and sympathises with the vulnerability of a complainant or a witness during this time. My concern is that the right of a complainant or witness to advice or representation by the Legal Aid Board only kicks in where a decision has been made to prosecute. However, the point at which a complainant or witness is invited to waive his or her rights concerning disclosure often arises at a Garda station when a formal witness statement has been given. I suspect this happens without any real understanding of the implications should the matter proceed to trial. The amendment provides that any express waiver be made subject to independent legal advice or the offer of such advice. I know that the board, with its ample experience on the ground, is very supportive of the safeguard.

  The purpose of the new section 19B is to act as an additional layer of protection for child complainants or witnesses in sexual offence trials who are uniquely vulnerable by virtue of their age and the heinousness of the abuse perpetrated against them. To understand the difficulty thrown up by an increasing number of blanket requests from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for disclosure of details of children's private and confidential counselling sessions, it is important to understand the therapeutic process happens in two distinct phases. The first phase is the compilation of an assessment report which records the baseline account - the who, what, where and when - of the abuse the child is alleging. It is clearly material evidence relevant to a criminal investigation in a trial and is rightly subject to disclosure.

  The second phase is the therapy. The therapy notes are concerned with documenting the child's feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. If any information arises in the course of the therapy phase which substantively alters the account given in the assessment report, the practitioner will update the assessment report accordingly and make it available to the relevant parties. In effect, any information or material evidence relevant to a criminal investigation or trial for child sexual abuse is often disclosed as a matter of course. The remaining information contained in counselling records and therapeutic notes has no material relevance but it reflects the heart and soul of a damaged child and should not be subject to disclosure. There is a strongly held view on the part of many practitioners who specialise in assessment and therapy services for children who have been sexually abused that therapy notes should be privileged outright on the basis they are neither material evidence nor information relevant to legal proceedings. When one examines the purpose of therapy for children who have been sexually abused, what the therapy involves and, moreover, the arrangements the services have in place to manage the process, the rationale for affording such privilege is very strong. Therapy as a whole is not concerned with making judgments or assessing the veracity of what is shared in sessions. Rather, it is simply a particular type of human engagement where the exploration of a child's thoughts and feelings at a particular point in time are facilitated. Therapy notes, in turn, are context specific. They derive out of a therapeutic encounter and as such are concerned with documenting feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. They are not absolute facts. They are not material evidence.

  Ultimately, the aim of therapy is to assist a child in getting back to a life that is not dominated by the sexual abuse he or she experienced and to equip the child to build trusting relationships. In doing so the therapist will address patterns of behaviour or responses which have become unhelpful, burdensome or troubling in the child's living experience. Therapy can also draw attention to healthy responses and coping strategies shown by the child in and out of sessions. This can involve the use of fantasy and therapeutic play scenarios, especially for younger children where the child can try out different roles in order to make sense of the abuse experienced. However helpful the process may be to the child, therapists are becoming increasingly concerned about how notes describing such a scene might be interpreted in a legal arena and taken out of context.

  Trust in the therapeutic relationship and the creation of a safe space are paramount to the effectiveness and success of the therapeutic process. It is difficult to envisage how this can be achieved if the privacy and confidentiality of these therapy sessions are not sacrosanct. I argue that the effectiveness and success of the therapeutic process is an important part of the public interest consideration in restoring the child's well-being and ability to function in society. The amendment is an added layer of protection to reflect the unique vulnerability of the child and the nature and type of information which comes through in the therapy process, as distinct from the material facts. Any additional relevant information is added as a matter of course to the assessment report.

  I am acutely aware of the need to strike the proper and appropriate balance between the right of the accused to procedural fairness in a child sexual abuse case, the right of a child witness to privacy, as well as the right not to be revictimised or unduly traumatised by the criminal justice system, and the public interest. The amendment is wholly compatible with Irish constitutional law, Ireland's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the best interests of the child in the context of providing in law that the disclosure of sexual assault counselling communications of children will only be granted by a trial court where the evidence sought has substantive probative value, where there is no other evidence which could prove the disputed facts and where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the potential harm to the child.  As I stated, I would prefer to make these notes privileged and sacrosanct, but what I have done in the amendment in strive to strike the balance needed in law. I hope the Minister will look favourably on the amendments.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney I second the amendment.

  The Cathaoirleach will forgive me for welcoming a group who are here from counties Westmeath and Offaly, including some personal friends-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson And Longford.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney -----and from Longford also of course. I am thinking of the Longford-Westmeath constituency perhaps more than anything else. As I say, we know some of the visitors in the Visitors Gallery and hope they are enjoying their tour.

  On my party's amendment on disclosure, amendment No. 41, as I interpret it this goes fundamentally to the protection of a complainant. If one can envisage a scenario where somebody has been sexually assaulted and is disoriented and traumatised and goes to the local Garda station to make a complaint, I would like to clarify whether the Minister is aware of the operational procedures in these circumstances. In terms of the person's legal rights, for example, would the gardaí who - it is a given - would be very sympathetic to the individual, advise her that she should seek legal advice or might they, as seems to be suggested, persuade the victim at that early stage in the proceedings prior to a judicial proceedings to waive her rights to disclosure?

  I am leaping a little further ahead. Let us say, for example, it was a high profile individual. My initial reaction would have been that, of course, one would seek legal advice and if one were going to complain, one would go with a solicitor to the local Garda station, but there are those who might not. Perhaps, because it might be in the immediate aftermath of this traumatic experience, it might not be a considered judgment after a number of days. Also, perhaps the individual was high profile or known. Then there is the possibility - I am treading carefully because, sadly, it has happened - that the complaint might be leaked to the media and that they would give the name of the individual because the right to non-disclosure might have been waived. I am only positing these scenarios. I am not saying they will happen, but they might.

  Clearly, the Minister is careful to ensure that in drafting legislation, particularly this specific aspect, it will ultimately protect the complainant from further trauma. It is in that context that we have tabled this amendment, that there should be at a minimum a legal requirement that when a complainant goes to make a complaint to local gardaí or whatever other process is used to make the complaint, that it lead to judicial proceedings and that the complainant's anonymity be legally protected, if she so wished. As Senators will be aware - again, I am treading carefully - there are those who, despite the trauma, which I, as a man, cannot comprehend or imagine, have allowed their name to go into the public domain in order to ensure the person who raped them will not get away with it and that it might encourage other women to come forward, many of whom, although I do not have the statistics, sadly, do not.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Amendment No. 41 is similar to amendment No. 39. Senator Jillian van Turnhout so eloquently outlined her reasoning for tabling it. This amendment stipulates that a victim's consent to a waiver would only count if he or she had had an opportunity to seek and consider independent legal advice first. Otherwise, it is not consent that is properly informed.

  On behalf of my colleague, Senator Denis O'Donovan, for whom I am taking this debate and who is, unfortunately, indisposed at present, I thank Ms Caroline Counihan, the legal policy director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, for the information she gave us on this amendment. If the Cathaoirleach does not mind, I will refer to what she has stated about it. She states there is no statutory entitlement to legal advice for complainants before a prosecution starts, as Senator Jillian van Turnhout has already alluded to. She states, for example, and most importantly, that at the critical and, for many, traumatic stage when a victim gives his or her formal statement of complaint to An Garda Síochána, it routinely happens that the investigating member of An Garda Síochána will put a form of consent to the disclosure of all personal documents, including medical reports and notes, as well as counselling notes, in front of the complainant for signing. Ms Counihan adds that if the complainant has not taken legal advice at her or his own expense or contacted a rape crisis centre and asked for legal advice pro bono through the centre, or is not accompanied by a support person, she or he is unlikely to provide the consent at this stage which is fully informed as to the consequences of each option. While it is entirely fair and correct to state most gardaí go to great lengths to ensure the complainant understands each set of consequences, it is the view of Ms Counihan that such advice is not and cannot of its nature be entirely independent. Therefore, when down the line the man comes in for the counselling notes, the complainant generally finds that this consent is used as justification for the hand-over of confidential counselling notes, although it was signed in a situation where the attention of the complainant was entirely elsewhere, which is understandable, and where she or he might not have been given to understand that it was possible to ask for time to reflect and seek independent legal advice on whether to sign the consent forms.

  I ask the Minister to look favourably on this amendment and amendment No. 39 in the name of my colleague, Senator Jillian van Turnhout, for the reasons I outlined.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris These are two very good amendments which I strongly support. The wording of the Fianna Fáil amendment is word for word exactly the same as subsection (17)(b) of Senator Jillian van Turnhout's amendment and I assume that they shared a common source of some kind, but they are reasonable amendments. It seems that the case has been made that in most circumstances this material should not be subject to disclosure. It could be very damaging to children. It should be a matter of privilege. As Senator Jillian van Turnhout so wisely stated, these items of evidence of counselling, etc., deal with the mindset, dreams, wishes and feelings of the victim. They are not objective facts and should not be regarded as such in a court of law. The most important principle is the matter of trust that a child who is a vulnerable person should have in the operation of the law and the fairness and concern of the judicial system with which he or she is involved.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I commend colleagues for tabling these amendments. There has been a broad welcome for section 34. It has been hugely important to see for the first time in statute these very important provisions on the disclosure of third party records. This has been such an important issue for so many complainants and their legal teams and rape crisis centres which have been working with them for some time. I commend the Minister for the provision in section 34.

  There is a concern about the issue of non-disclosure and in what context complainants and witnesses waive the right to non-disclosure. That is at the heart of the amendments and an issue worthy of further consideration.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As has been said, section 34 regulates the disclosure of the content of third party counselling or therapy records in sexual offence trials. The disclosure of counselling or therapy records in the context of criminal proceedings, especially in relation to sexual violence, touches on a number of sensitive issues and a "balancing of rights", a phrase I will be using quite a bit in responding to the amendments. Clearly, the right to a fair trial for an accused must be respected. However, so too must the right of the victim not to feel further violated in the criminal justice process.  It has been of huge concern during the years that that has actually happened. It is really important to have clear law on the disclosure of records. I am very pleased that we have been able to include it in the legislation.

  Since the Bill was published I have received many submissions proposing various changes. I thank, in particular, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, CARI and the child sexual assault units at Temple Street hospital and Crumlin children's hospital which have made very extensive submissions on this section. They will influence the approach I am taking to the issue. I have also gone back to the Attorney General on the proposed changes. It is an exercise in balancing competing rights and we need to get that right from a constitutional point of view. There is also an important constitutional point.

  Unfortunately, I am not in a position to introduce amendments today, but I will do so during the later passage of the Bill. I wish to outline some of the amendments I hope to table at a later point, at which time we will discuss them again. I want to remove the references to the "competence of the complainant or witness to testify" from the section, as I am persuaded by the submissions that counselling records are not relevant to competence.

  As we are not discussing amendments Nos. 34 and 35, I will move on to look at a number of other changes I am proposing. For the purposes of clarity and on foot of legal advice, I propose to rename the records-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a matter of information, why are we not discussing amendments Nos. 34 and 35?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald They were not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke They were not moved.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I beg the Minister's pardon.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is my intention, for the purposes of clarity and on foot of legal advice received, to rename the records falling within the scope of this section as "counselling records" rather than "relevant records" but otherwise to retain the existing definition of the records. The point of the definition is to ensure any "counselling record" of which the prosecutor is aware and which the accused seeks to have disclosed is protected by the statutory disclosure regime.

  I will be proposing the deletion of subsection (4). This will be one of a number of amendments with the aim of clarifying and simplifying the scheme in general and, in particular, the test in subsections (9) and (10) under which a counselling record may be disclosed.

  As currently drafted, the test is twofold within subsections (9) and (10). The list of factors that must be considered make it clear that the pertinent issues are not merely relevance but rather the probative value of the record and the extent to which the record is necessary for the accused to defend himself or herself. This is a much higher threshold than relevance and is only confused by the inclusion of relevance as a determinative part of the test. These factors must be weighed against the complainant's right to privacy and the public interest in encouraging victims to come forward to seek counselling and report sexual offences. I intend to add to these factors the risk of harm to the complainant, as was proposed in amendments Nos. 38 and 39.

  Under this simplified procedure, the court will be required to consider the factors set out in subsection (9) and on that basis to disclose the records only where it is in the interests of justice to do so. As an additional safeguard, to ensure the constitutionality of the scheme and protect convictions from challenge, a record must be disclosed if failure to do would result in a real risk of an unfair trial. I am hopeful a stronger, clearer procedure, along the lines I have outlined, will better protect the rights of victims, while respecting the fundamental right of an accused person to defend himself or herself. It is clear that considerable thought has gone into the submissions I have received and I will take a number of them on board.

  Amendment No. 39, about which Senator Jillian van Turnhout in particular spoke, proposes a separate disclosure regime to apply to children. I appreciate the aim of the Senator's amendment which is to provide an enhanced level of protection for child victims of sexual offences when it comes to the disclosure of their personal records. However, I am not convinced that the amendment is necessary.

  The amendment would add three additional criteria to the factors in subsection (9) which the court must take into account in determining whether to disclose a record. When weighing the relevance of various factors, I do not think it is necessary to differentiate between "probative value" and "substantial probative value," as weighing the extent of the probative value is inherent in the exercise.

  The second additional factor relates to the availability of other evidence rendering the record unnecessary, which, as I see it, is already covered by subsection (9)(a), which refers to "the extent to which the record is necessary for the accused to defend the charges against him or her".

  The third additional factor proposed by the Senator relates to the risk of harm to the complainant. As I have said, I intend to include this factor for all complainants. For these reasons, I do not believe the proposed amendment is necessary to meet the objective she described. The existing provision, when amended, will establish this level of protection for all complainants, which obviously includes children.

  Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 refer to legal advice. I have referred this issue to advisory counsel and will consider it further when I get that advice. A complainant has the right to have his or her own independent agency respected and recognised. The waiver provision in subsection (17) is supportive of a victim who has no difficulty with the disclosure of his or her records. There will obviously be people in that situation. This provision prevents a victim from having to attend an additional hearing on the disclosure of records which he or she is willing to disclose.

  A requirement to offer free legal advice to a complainant before he or she can consent to disclose could be seen as an unnecessary intervention in the right of a person to disclose a record relating to them if they wish to do so. If a complainant has no objection to certain of his or her records being disclosed, for expediency or any other reason, the complainant should have the right to do so. They are some caveats I enter in response to the Senator's point about obtaining legal advice before the disclosure of records.

  I am not convinced that including a requirement to offer legal advice before these rights could be waived would materially alter a person's right to consent to disclose the record. A victim could still disclose the record himself or herself in the absence of legal advice, or agree at any court hearing to the disclosure. I have referred this issue to advisory counsel.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney It is only proposed as an added protection.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I understand that.

Senator Paschal Mooney: Information on Paschal Mooney Zoom on Paschal Mooney It would be an optional added protection.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have referred it for further advice. I will return to the issue.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of order, will the Cathaoirleach reassure me that there is a quorum in the House for the debate on this most important Bill?

  Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I very much welcome the Minister's response and her commitment to make these amendments. I was seeking to provide an additional layer of protection, as she advised, for children. I have heard all too often, particularly from parents of affected children, that because of the potential for counselling notes to be disclosed, they have not sought to bring charges for sexual offences. In balancing the rights, the Minister also needs to balance the public interest and the right to justice in order that people will bring forward cases. If I, as a parent, put my child through counselling and felt all these notes could potentially be forwarded to the person who allegedly committed the crime, that would be horrendous.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I totally agree.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout We must ensure our law copperfastens this. I ask the Minister to take this on board in her further deliberations. I have heard all too often about that fear. I tried to balance rights in my amendments. I have heard from children who have been in counselling where they talk about their hopes, dreams and fears. This is not factual evidence. Children will say things they are repeating because it is part of the therapeutic process and that process must be allowed to happen. An assessment report is carried out and that needs to be distinguished from the therapeutic process. If anything comes out of that process that contradicts the assessment report, it must be ensured the report is immediately updated and that the relevant individual is advised of that information because everyone has a right to his or her good name. I fully appreciate this, but a protection has to be provided to prevent just anybody looking at the counselling notes, particularly a person who is charged with a crime. I welcome the Minister's commitment to do this and will track the Bill as it goes through the Dáil.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Amendment No. 40 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is amendment No. 41 being pressed?

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson No. I thank the Minister for her reply. I take on board what she said and ask her to take on board what we said. I hope that when she revisits this issue, she will deal with the entitlement to legal advice.

  Amendment No. 41 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are related and will be discussed together.

  Government amendment No. 42:

In page 29, to delete line 39, and in page 30, to delete lines 1 to 5 and substitute the following:
"(9) A harassment order shall take effect on notification of its making being given to the respondent.

(10) Oral communication to the respondent by or on behalf of the applicant of the fact that a harassment order has been made, together with production of a copy of the order, shall, without prejudice to the sufficiency of any other form of notification, be taken to be sufficient notification to the respondent of the making of the order.

(11) If the respondent is present at the sitting of the court at which the harassment order is made, he or she shall be taken for the purposes of subsection (9) to have been notified of its making.

(12) An order varying a harassment order shall take effect on notification of its making being given to the respondent and for this purpose subsections (10) and (11) shall apply with any necessary modifications.".

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Amendment No. 42 clarifies the way in which the order takes effect and is notified to the person against whom it is made. Amendment No. 43 provides for the hearing of an application for a harassment order to take place in private.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the amendment agreed to?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No. Vótáil.

  Amendment put.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke As there is only Teller on the Níl side, the division cannot proceed. Therefore, I declare the amendment carried.

  Amendment declared carried.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of order, in that case, may I ask for a walk-through vote?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke There is no vote.

  Government amendment No: 43:

In page 30, to delete line 12 and substitute the following:
"(11) Proceedings for a harassment order shall be civil proceedings and shall be heard otherwise than in public.".

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the amendment agreed to?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No. Vótáil.

  Amendment put.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke As there is only one Teller on the Níl side, the division cannot proceed. Therefore, I declare the amendment carried.

  Amendment declared carried.

  Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 not moved.

  Question, "That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration," put and declared carried.

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

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I thank Senators for their contributions during the passage of the Bill. On the question raised by Senator Jillian van Turnhout on Committee Stage about section 15 and whether civil partners and cohabitants are included in the definition of "person in authority", civil partners and cohabitants fall under subparagraph (d) of the definition which provides for partners of a parent of a child who live in an enduring family relationship to fall under the definition of "person in authority".

  This is the most comprehensive sexual offences legislation to be brought forward in almost a decade. It strengthens existing law to combat child pornography, the sexual grooming of children, incest, exposure and other offensive conduct of a sexual nature. It also recognises the particular trauma experienced by victims of sexual crimes. As I said earlier, I believe the provisions relating to the disclosure of counselling records will benefit from further clarification. This has been reinforced by a number of submissions which I have received. It is extremely important that we get this right because we want to ensure people will go for counselling and also that they can take cases in court without fear. There must be certainty in this area. I again thank those who made submissions on the issue.

  The necessity for greater focus on the needs and rights of victims is strengthened in the Bill. As a result of the putting in place of the new EU victims directive, work has commenced on legislation to ensure we meet the objectives of the directive. Many of our criminal agencies are already implementing the victims directive effectively through their services, by way of new procedures and practices. The second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender based violence which was launched yesterday is the result of extensive consultation with State agencies and the voluntary sector. One of the three main goals of the strategy is the provision of services for victims and holding perpetrators to account. What is clear from all of this and the discussions we have had is the commitment of all of us to recognising the rights of victims and the need to protect to the greatest extent possible these rights, be it through recognition in law or other services.

  Obviously not everybody agrees with every section of the Bill. The most controversial provisions are those concerning the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services. Having listened to both sides of the debate, I am convinced that the exploitation associated with prostitution, in particular, through the trafficking and sexual exploitation of persons, justifies the introduction of these provisions.

  I again thank Senators and members of the NGO community, many of whom are present, for their involvement in the development of this legislation. I also thank the members of the various committees, particularly the justice committee, for their work on the Bill.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout I welcome the passage of the Bill by the Seanad. As stated by the Minister, it concerns many aspects, on which several of us have been working for many years, including the sexual exploitation of children, the purchase of sexual services, incest and the disclosure of third parties, which are some of the key aspects in which I have been involved. While I have not been successful in having all of my amendments accepted, I hope they will be included in some form or other in the legislation as it progresses through the Dáil or in future legislation.

  I thank the Minister and her officials for their engagement on the Bill and facilitating me in providing clarification on certain issues. I also thank the Minister for providing the clarification I sought on Committee Stage on section 15. I also thank the civil society organisations which are too numerous to mention individually for their work on the Bill. On each of its aspects I have had extensive engagement with civil society organisations.  I pay tribute to them for representing the views, experiences and practice they are experiencing and helping us, as legislators, to shape the law to address the concerns and issues that arise and to make the legislation what we all hope it will be. I say "Well done" to the Minister on passing the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I add my voice to that of Senator Jillian van Turnhout and others to say how delighted I am to see the Bill pass Report Stage in the Seanad. I am also delighted that the Minister introduced it as a Seanad Bill. I thank her and commend her for her great work on the Bill and bringing forward such a comprehensive and ground-breaking reform. In particular, I thank her hard-working officials who have been so patient with us during the long process of the Bill. They helped us so much with numerous queries. I thank them all very much.

  The Bill is ground-breaking in many ways. It provides for comprehensive reform of the law on the sexual exploitation of children, incest and prostitution, and also introduces some very important evidential changes which will provide great support for victims and complainants, particularly for child witnesses in sex offence trials. Many of the measures contained in section 31 are going to be really significant and important in practice, especially for child witnesses, in addition to the provisions on disclosure that we debated so much also.

  In terms of the change to prostitution law in section 20, it has had a long journey from when the Independent Senators tabled the original motion in this House in 2012, through our work on the justice committee and our report in 2013, in addition to all the public debate on it. I commend the Minister for her introduction of the Bill. It will make a real difference in terms of the law on prostitution to see for the first time the decriminalisation of sellers and the criminalisation of buyers of sex. I welcome the considerable work of civil society groups on that law reform, in particular - groups such as Ruhama, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Turn off the Red Light campaign. I also commend the many other groups who worked on that reform and the important reforms for victims and complainants, particularly the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and various groups of counsellors who all helped us so much and gave their input on the Bill.

  All of us who support the Bill will very much hope it will pass through the Dáil in the limited time available to the Government. I know that the Minister will do all she can and we will do anything we can to help secure the Bill's passage because the reforms for which it provides are so important. As the Minister said, the Bill is ground-breaking, comprehensive and of such significance that it is vital that we see it passed in the next week or so.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Minister for her courtesy and goodwill through what was sometimes a tendentious and argumentative passage of the Bill. I do not agree with Senator Ivana Bacik. I sincerely hope the Bill will lapse in the Dáil and that the urgencies of the general election will ensure it fails to pass Dáil Éireann. I hope there will be at least some few voices there that will oppose it. I note that the Minister's quotation of the Swedish report was a series of assertions unsupported by scientific fact, but we will just have to continue our disagreements.

  I did say I was a lone voice, but I am not the only person here who thinks the way I do. There are Members on this and the other side of the House - I know this because I was told during some of the votes - who are seriously concerned about this situation and believe it will drive matters underground, cause great difficulties and lead to the increased involvement of organised crime. That worries me, but this is a democracy and the Bill has passed. I compliment the Minister and her advisers on the very courteous way in which they dealt with the Bill.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson On behalf of my colleague, Senator Denis O'Donovan, my party's spokesperson on justice, and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I very much welcome the passage of this very important Bill through the House. I commend the Minister, her officials and all of the draftspersons who were involved in putting the Bill together. I thank all of the organisations that advised Members on both sides of the House. In particular, I thank Rape Crisis Network Ireland, including Ms Counihan and her colleagues, for their input and the information they gave to my party in that regard. There have been differing views and opinions but, bar one or two, we are all in agreement that this is a very important Bill. I am glad that it has been passed with almost unanimous support in this House and hope it will have a speedy passage through the Dáil, whenever that might be.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Like my colleagues, I thank the Minister, her officials who are present and those who are not here for their work on the Bill. I thank all of the groups that have engaged in this process. In particular, I pay tribute to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality which did a significant amount of work on the Bill. It received submissions, held oral hearings, travelled to Sweden to look at the model in place there and made significant recommendations to the Minister whom I commend for being open-minded in her deliberations and on the development of the legislation. I also pay tribute to the Members on the other side of the House - those in Fianna Fáil, the Independents and Sinn Féin - for their significant engagement in this process. This legislation will protect women and criminalise the people who should be criminalised. It is a very significant Bill with provisions that have been tried and tested in other jurisdictions. I also thank the Leader of the House, Senator Maurice Cummins, for his support and co-operation and that of his office also.

Senator Máiría Cahill: Information on Máiría Cahill Zoom on Máiría Cahill I thank the Minister and her officials for this Bill which is very comprehensive, well researched and well thought-out. It is clear that the consultative process has been wide-ranging and that the Minister has listened to all sides of the argument. The lone voice against the Bill is potentially out of step with every other Member who has voiced support for it. As a victim of sexual abuse, it is hugely important legislation that will protect not only children but also women. I express my support for the Bill in its entirety and hope it will be passed quickly before the Government falls.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I briefly thank the Minister and her officials for bringing this very comprehensive Bill to the House. We cannot say it has not been challenged and debated sufficiently, as it certainly has been discussed for quite an amount of time. I thank the Minister for her forbearance and courtesy at all times during the debate. I hope the legislation will have a speedy passage through the other House before the general election.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins At 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday next.

  The Seanad adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 January 2016.


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