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3 Δεκ 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 11 μήνες)

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Vol. 226
No. 2
Thursday,
19 September 2013
DÍOSPÓIREACHTAÍ PARLAIMINTE
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES
SEANAD ÉIREANN
TUAIRISC OIFIGIÚIL—
Neamhc
heartaithe
(OFFICIAL REPORT—
Unrevised
)
Business of Seanad
                                                             
74
Order of Business
                                                              
74
Fourth Programme of Law Reform: Referral to Joint Committee
                              
87
Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 (Commencement) Order 2013: Motion
                                                                           
88
Directive of European Parliament on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children: Statements
           
88
Turf-cutting: Statements
                                                        
115
Adjournment Matters
                                                           
134
19/09/2013FF00200
School Accommodation
                                                         
134
Déardaoin, 19 Meán Fómhair 2013
Thursday, 19 September 2013
Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 1035 am
Machnamh agus Paidir.
Reflection and Prayer.
Business of Seanad
19/09/2013A00200
An Cathaoirleach
:
I have notice from Senator Lorraine Higgins that, on the motion for the
Adjournment of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:
The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to outline the progress being made in
the acquisition of a site for the construction of a new primary school for Gaelscoil Riabhach,
Loughrea, County Galway, and to indicate a timeframe for the delivery of a new school
I regard the matter raised by the Senator as suitable for discussion on the Adjournment and
it will be taken at the conclusion of business
Order of Business
19/09/2013A00400
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
The Order of Business is No 1, motion of referral to the
joint committee

of the fourth programme of law reform prepared by the Law Reform Commis
-
sion, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business - the motion on the
Order Paper incorrectly refers to Dáil Éireann but the correct motion has been circulated on a
supplementary Order Paper; No 2, motion regarding the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries,
Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 (Commencement) Order 2013, to be taken without debate
at the conclusion of No 1; No 3, statements on the EU directive on combating the sexual abuse
and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, to be taken at the conclusion of No
2 and to conclude not later than 115 pm, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to
exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister
to be called upon to reply to the debate not later than 110 pm; and No 4, statements on turf
cutting, to be taken at 2 pm and to conclude not later than 4 pm, with the contributions of
SEANAD ÉIREANN
74
19 September 2013
75
group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five
minutes, and the Minister to be called upon to reply to the debate not later than 350 pm
19/09/2013A00500
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
Following on from the amendment I proposed to the Order
of Business yesterday in respect of the cuts to disability services in the HSE north-east region,
I gave the example of the €1 million cut to the funding of St Michael’s House which serves
1,500 children and young people with severe disabilities The Minister for Health has made
no statement on this whatsoever Respite care is cut and people are being sent home No addi
-
tional clients are being taken on by any of these services and the cut was announced in August,
backdated to September Will the Leader inquire of the Minister for Health whether he is due
in the House in the next couple of weeks? Thereby I could raise these matters directly with him
and he could make the first public comment on these cuts to services for children with severe
physical disabilities on which he signed off I would appreciate it if the Leader could inquire of
the Minister’s office whether he is due in the Seanad If not, I intend to propose amendments
to the Order of Business every day next week until he decides to grace us with his presence
No 2 on the Order of Business relates to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges
and Procedures) Act 2013 and will be taken without debate I do not believe it is appropriate to
allow it to go through without debate A debate would afford an opportunity for people to ask
questions of the Government with regard to the banking inquiry that was announced yesterday,
an inquiry that I and my colleagues in Fianna Fáil very much welcome However, we called
for an independent inquiry From what I understand from media reports, this inquiry will stop
at the night of the guarantee, it will not deal predominantly with Anglo Irish Bank, it will not
deal with contracts for difference and the Quinn shares in Anglo Irish Bank and it will not deal
with the involvement of the European Central Bank and Mr Trichet following the night of the
guarantee What is more, it will not deal with the Fine Gael-led Government’s dealings with
the ECB in 2011 or the strong-arm approach of the ECB towards the Government in respect of
its plans to burn bank bondholders If this is true it is very much
Hamlet
without the prince
The timing is relevant How and when will the inquiry be established? How quickly will
it run? What will be the composition of the committee? All these need to be discussed The
people want the truth, and rightly so As a citizen, I want the truth as well If we want a politi
-
cal witch trial, we can have that too My party has said that we will co-operate fully and look
forward to any inquiry the Government sets up I put it to the Leader that it is imperfect, that
most independent commentators have said that an independent inquiry along the lines of the
Leveson inquiry that can be done quickly and that would have expertise available is preferable
I have another question for the Leader Will the current members of the Joint Committee on
Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, if that is where the inquiry is to sit, have the expertise
to question Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and others involved? Will they have the legal
advice with regard to not straying into Anglo Irish Bank territory? If the Government really
wanted the truth and if it cannot deal with Anglo Irish Bank, why does it not wait until those
cases are discharged? It makes no sense The inquiry will see AIB and Bank of Ireland coming
in, stating they did not ask for a guarantee and dumping all over Anglo Irish Bank The inquiry
will have no interaction with the ECB and there will be no look at the 12 month review of the
guarantee which, I believe, is particularly important On that basis I am asking the Leader to
permit a debate today on No 2 in order that we can discuss these items That would be the ap
-
propriate thing to do
19/09/2013B00200
An Cathaoirleach
:
Is that an amendment the Senator is proposing, or is he simply oppos
-
Seanad Éireann
76
ing?
19/09/2013B00300
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
I am asking the Leader I propose an amendment, that No 2
be taken with debate, that time be allowed today in order that we can tease these things out and
in order that I do not have to read about it in the newspapers or hear about it on the radio This is
still a House of the Oireachtas, regardless of what the Government wishes to do What is ironic
about the banking inquiry and what the Government is looking to set up is that it proves and will
prove, probably, that there were not enough checks and balances in our regulators This is the
same Government that wishes to remove checks and balances in the Oireachtas
19/09/2013B00400
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
I was going simply to welcome the announcement of the setting up
of the bank inquiry Everyone wishes to see an inquiry into the events, particularly leading up
to the night of the bank guarantee That is rightly the preliminary focus and it should be the
first focus of the inquiry when it is set up However, in respect of the issue about No 2, I do
not believe it is appropriate that we should have a debate It is appropriate that we would have
a debate about the shape of the inquiry but I do not believe we should be hanging it on the hook
of the commencement order for the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Proce
-
dures) Act 2013 I do not see the point of that
19/09/2013B00500
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
Why not?
19/09/2013B00600
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
The motion before us, which the Leader has proposed to be taken
without debate is simply the commencement order It simply notes and approves the com
-
mencement order of the Act I do not believe we should be looking to delay the commencement
order
19/09/2013B00700
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
We can debate it until 9 pm
19/09/2013B00800
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
I agree, however, that a debate about the nature of the banking in
-
quiry would be useful and perhaps we might have that soon I understand that, as yet, it has not
been decided precisely which entity will take it, whether it would be the Joint Committee on Fi
-
nance, Public Expenditure and Reform or a sub-committee of that committee I agree that it is
important that the joint committee or sub-committee members would be resourced adequately
and would get the expertise available to enable a thorough investigation I believe the focus
is correct It is appropriate that the initial focus would be on the agreement to make or decide
upon the bank guarantee That is the right focus because so much stems from that There is
also the added difficulty that to focus on Anglo Irish Bank has the potential to jeopardise three
trials which are pending
It is timely that we saw yesterday the publication of the Director of Public Prosecutions an
-
nual report in whose foreword she specifically warns the media of the need for vigilance and
that they do not jeopardise trials with adverse pretrial publicity She referred to the risk of the
delay of trials, even indefinitely, and pointed out that this risk increases as the trial date ap
-
proaches and publicity surrounds it Were there to be an inquiry focusing on Anglo Irish Bank
in the immediate run-up to the trials of senior figures in Anglo Irish Bank, it could have a seri
-
ous effect on the progress of those trials
I have said it before in the House and I will say it again, that while everyone wishes to see
a thorough inquiry carried out, the priority for everyone is to see the criminal justice process
being brought to bear where appropriate and necessary People want to see a resolution of the
criminal justice process and we should not be doing anything that might delay or jeopardise the
19 September 2013
77
criminal justice process, where it is appropriate and has been initiated, as it has in respect of
particular people in Anglo Irish Bank We need to be careful It is not that Anglo Irish Bank
will not or should not be investigated by an Oireachtas inquiry; it should be
19/09/2013B00900
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
It will not be in this inquiry
19/09/2013B01000
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
However, the timing of that investigation is critical It is quite right
to look at postponing that particular focus or tranche of the investigation or inquiry until after
the criminal trial
19/09/2013B01100
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
It is not right at all That would leave out a sizeable part
19/09/2013B01200
An Cathaoirleach
:
Senator Bacik, without interruption
19/09/2013B01300
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
No, let me finish
19/09/2013B01400
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
That is why we need to debate this
19/09/2013B01500
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
It is very important
19/09/2013B01600
An Cathaoirleach
:
Senator Bacik, without interruption, please
19/09/2013B01700
Senator
Ivana Bacik
:
I agree with Senator O’Brien that we need to debate this but I do
not believe we need to debate the commencement order I am keen to see this Act commenced
quickly, as do most
Yesterday, Senator Mac Conghail paid an eloquent tribute to Seamus Heaney and I add my
voice to that His untimely death brought about a major national outpouring of grief and it
touched many people who had been moved by his poetry I express my sympathy to his family
19/09/2013B01800
Senator
Jillian van Turnhout
:
I support Senator O’Brien in his call for No 2 to be dis
-
cussed It is something we should do to ensure any inquiry is as we intend it and as we would
expect Perhaps it cannot be facilitated today but if there were a commitment, I would be sup
-
portive of it
I commend the French Senate, which yesterday banned beauty pageants for children under
16 years In fact, it will impose prison sentences This is about protecting childhood Beauty
pageants prematurely force children into roles of seduction that seriously harm their develop
-
ment I am most disappointed to note that this weekend for the first time in Ireland there will
be such a beauty pageant It is not a welcome development I wish to send a clear message that
it should be cancelled and that we should not be having these types of beauty pageants in our
country We should be protecting childhood
I thank the Leader for putting on the agenda for discussion today the EU directive on com
-
batting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography As colleagues are
aware, in February 2012 the Independent group put forward a comprehensive motion that dealt
with the directive, but nothing has happened since I welcome that it is on the agenda today I
have published in advance a report on effective strategies to tackle online child abuse material
We should remember that a child abuse image is a crime scene It is a digital record of some of
the most heinous crimes against children This is about protecting real children from real abuse
in the real world I have copies of the report if colleagues would like to see it in advance of
our discussion at 1145 am We should send a clear message to the Government that we need
Seanad Éireann
78
to ensure we have filtering in place to block online child abuse material I thank the Leader for
placing this matter on the agenda However, we must do more than just discuss it
19/09/2013C00200
Senator
Sean D. Barrett
:
Two matters arise on foot of yesterday’s Order of Business The
first relates to the appearance of a 20-page property supplement in one of the daily newspapers
As I informed the Leader yesterday, there is a need to ensure banking reform We have tabled
two items on the Order Paper, Nos 26 and 29, which deal with that matter The same accoun
-
tants, bankers and auctioneers who created the property bubble in the past are going to construct
another one There is a need to consider the position of Ireland after the bailout and to introduce
measures to prevent a recurrence of the crash
The second matter which arises relates to the request from the House that the Referendum
Commission investigate the position with regard to the figure of €20 million which has been
advertised as the cost of running the Seanad I would challenge that figure in any public debate
and perhaps - as the current edition of
Phoenix
magazine suggests - the Taoiseach might come
out of hiding to discuss the matter In the document it is currently circulating to every house
-
hold throughout the country, the Referendum Commission fails to mention voters in the Six
Counties or those from overseas Does the commission not believe the latter to be important?
Is it of the view that those in every household throughout the country should not know about
them? I understand that the chairperson of the Referendum Commission will be appearing on
“Morning Ireland” on Monday next and I am of the view that she should provide answers to the
questions I have posed and respond to the Oireachtas immediately, particularly as there is very
little time remaining in respect of this matter
In his book,
Reforming Political Institutions: Ireland In Comparative Perspective
, which
was published yesterday, Professor John Coakley states that the bold commitment of the Fine
Gael-Labour coalition to getting rid of the Seanad as one of three urgent parliamentary reform
issues implicitly ignored the painstaking deliberations - extending over the past 16 years - of
earlier parliamentary evaluations of the composition and role of the second Chamber and side
-
lined the Convention on the Constitution Professor Coakley also notes that in light of the
long discussion of the merits of second chambers inside and outside Ireland, the fate of Seanad
Éireann surely deserved more sustained and balanced consideration before the Dáil began to
discuss practical arrangements for consigning it to history By our estimates there are 87 coun
-
tries throughout the world which have bicameral systems of parliament All of the G10 have
such systems and 17 of the G20 have them Some 27 countries with greater GDPs than Ireland
have such systems and 58 with lower GDPs have them Why is it that everyone sees this matter
differently to the Taoiseach and why will he not debate it? In the United States, on which we
rely for foreign direct investment to an overwhelming degree, 49 of the 50 states have bicameral
systems The exception in this regard is Nebraska, which only contains 06% of the population
of the country It can be stated, therefore, that 994% of the population of the US disagree with
the Taoiseach I hope they inform him of that fact when he visits the country on St Patrick’s
Day next year
On the leaving certificate, we have discussed subjects such as mathematics and history Dr
Kevin Denny indicated yesterday that 14 of the 17 questions on this year’s leaving certificate
economics paper were faulty According to an article in the
Irish Independent
he said “the most
serious problems were with a question on trade/competitiveness/slowdown in the euro-growth
areas, which dealt with a cornerstone of economics, the law of comparative advantage” If this
is what is happening in schools, it is no wonder we have difficulties with economic policy in
society in general I informed the Minister for Education and Skills last evening that he must
19 September 2013
79
consult people such as Dr Denny who are directly involved in the classroom That to which
I refer is happening all too frequently There is no point in Ministers uttering clichés about
Europe’s youngest young people and the world’s most advanced education system when they
will not address the serious problems relating to subjects such as economics, mathematics and
history
19/09/2013C00300
Senator
Cáit Keane
:
I support Senator van Turnhout who brought to the attention of the
House that the French Senate has banned the exploitation of children via beauty pageants This
House should take the lead by ensuring that such pageants should not be tolerated in Ireland
I will be travelling to Brussels tomorrow to meet Commissioner Malmström and discuss with
her and Lord Anthony Steyn from the UK the issues of human trafficking, child trafficking and
sexual abuse This is a huge issue and it is not discussed often enough I support Senator van
Turnhout in the comments she made about it and I compliment her on the report she published
I wish to bring to the attention of the House the fact that a Galway-based charity is devel
-
oping an app to try to map every location in Ireland at which defibrillators are located The
charity to which I refer is Helping Hearts, which is seeking support from the public, the media
and everyone in politics in order to publicise this matter via Facebook, Twitter, etc We are all
aware of the value of defibrillators Every Government Department and local authority has a
role to play in the context of funding the provision of defibrillators No one knows where these
defibrillators are currently located but with the help of the mobile phone new app being devel
-
oped by Helping Hearts, people will be able to locate the nearest one and help those who are in
trouble I congratulate Helping Hearts and encourage everyone to give this charity a helping
hand in publicising the app to which I refer, which will provide a badly-needed service
19/09/2013C00400
Senator
Labhrás Ó Murchú
:
Once again Senator Barrett has put forward some very
interesting statistics with regard to the forthcoming referendum I am of the views that those
statistics are factual in nature If one compares them to the dearth of information being made
available by those who support the abolition of the Seanad, it is quite clear that - as I said yes
-
terday - there was a need for either a White Paper or a Green Paper to be brought forward in
order to guide and assist us in this debate I hope, even at this late stage, that some effort will
be made to ensure honesty in respect of this matter The figure of €20 million is now out of
court and the argument that there will be fewer politicians and other matters should have been
addressed previously
Most people will agree that there is a need for a banking inquiry I am disappointed that
people have put forward the idea that the inquiry will be used in order to damage one political
party or another The main focus of the inquiry should be to obtain answers in respect of what
caused the banking debacle which almost brought the country to economic ruin The debacle
to which I refer has also caused people to suffer I refer to those who lost investments, whose
pensions have been affected and who have been obliged to close down their businesses If the
proposed inquiry is not used for the purpose to which I refer, then we will only be rubbing salt
into the wounds of those thousands of people who have suffered Deputy Ross made a number
of comments on this matter this morning When the Deputy was a Member of this House, he
was the most focused and informed among us in respect of this issue and he wrote extensively
on it in the
Sunday Independent
 The Deputy raised the alarm with regard to the inquiry earlier
this morning when he stated that by not involving the former Anglo Irish Bank in it, all that
will happen is that people will be provided with an opportunity to grandstand The inquiry
is going to be about posturing and the people will not accept that I hope that a great deal of
consideration has been given by the Government, its advisers and anyone else who has a role to
Seanad Éireann
80
play to the form the inquiry is going to take I hope the matter has been well thought out If, as
it likely, the inquiry runs into a cul-de-sac or if it is placed on the long finger - there are some
who have suggested that it will not commence its deliberations for 12 months - I can inform
that Leader that this is not what the people are seeking What they want are real answers and a
forensic examination of everything relating to and everybody involved with this issue I stand
open to contradiction but, having listened to Deputy Ross - who seems to be so well informed -
I am somewhat concerned that the inquiry is not going to lead to where it should lead, that it is
not going to provide the necessary answers and that it is not going to bring solace to the many
thousands who have suffered as a result of the banking debacle
19/09/2013C00500
Senator
Aideen Hayden
:
Yesterday the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, noted that
in circumstances where repossession could possibly occur, the mortgage-to-rent option would
in many cases be open to people who are facing the prospect of losing their homes
11 o’clock
I am very concerned by that comment given that by August 2013, only 60 of the 1,332 dis
-
tressed borrowers who had applied for the mortgage-to-rent scheme had been successful There
is every reason to believe the banks are standing in the way of the success of the scheme as they
effectively control whether someone can access it I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for
Finance, Deputy Noonan, to the House to outline how he envisages the position of distressed
borrowers will be addressed and engage with Senators on the reasons progress on the mortgage-
to-rent scheme has been so slow
The Minister lauded split mortgages as a potential solution for many distressed borrowers
I would like to question him on the low uptake of the split mortgage option In my experience,
one of the reasons for this has been the lack of clarity about what distressed borrowers are be
-
ing offered under split mortgage arrangements Specifically, banks are permitted to engage
continuously with the borrower, for example, where he or she secures a little extra overtime or
perhaps receives a few bob from a deceased relative The strategy being adopted by the banks
is that they are entitled to take everything when someone secures a little extra income It is not
surprising, therefore, that borrowers are not prepared to engage with the split mortgage option
I note the Insolvency Service of Ireland is drawing up guidelines on split mortgages in
respect of the service it provides under the insolvency arrangements I understand this docu
-
ment is due for publication very shortly I call for a debate on the resolutions banks are offering
customers The guidelines the Insolvency Service of Ireland published on reasonable living
expenses have been very helpful for those who are engaging with banks on a first level basis
19/09/2013D00200
Senator
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
:
Ba mhaith liom i dtosach báire tagairt beag a dhéanamh
don chlár reachtaíochta a fuair muid inné ón bPríomh Aoire Táim cinnte go raibh cuid mhaith
rudaí in easnamh, ach thug mé faoi deara go raibh dhá Bhille in easnamh, Billí a bhí geallta
dúinn don fhómhar seo, ceann amháin a bhain le Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus ceann a
bhain le cúrsaí inimirce
I refer to two Bills which were promised by the autumn While they feature on the list of
proposed legislation produced yesterday, they have not yet been produced The official lan
-
guages Bill has been pushed back to next year as the heads have not yet been agreed I seek
clarification on the reasons the Bill has not yet been produced, as promised A consultation
process lasting for more than 18 months was carried out I ask that the Minister publish the
19 September 2013
81
submissions and subsequent report, as promised
I am also concerned about the promised immigration, residence and protection Bill, which
comes within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality The Minister indicated the
previous Bill was not fit for purpose and would be redrafted He also stated it would be pro
-
duced in the autumn but there is no sign of it The only Bill referred to in the list is the old
Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill from 2010, which he intends to completely rewrite
This is very important legislation
The House will hold important debates this week and next week Last year at budget time,
we agreed to hold a series of structured debates on budgetary issues prior to the budget I
am disappointed this process did not commence this week and hope it will begin next week
While Senators may jump up and down discussing the possible abolition of the Seanad, what
I am hearing on the ground is that people are much more worried about how the budget will
impact on them I note from the pre-budget submission of the Irish National Organisation of
the Unemployed, which was published yesterday, that the organisation is very concerned about
the budget We are receiving a large number of presentations on the budget from various lobby
groups and it is not good enough to have so little debate on the issue in the Houses We need
to hold specific debates on all elements of the budget, as promised before the summer recess
If the Seanad is to show it is of any value, it must debate these urgent issues, commencing now
and continuing to budget day and beyond
19/09/2013D00300
Senator
Michael Comiskey
:
I call on the Minister for the Environment, Community and
Local Government to examine the new rules governing off-road declarations for vehicles The
new system is causing great anguish and has resulted in long queues forming in county council
offices We heard on a radio programme this morning, for example, that Kerry County Council
offices are not able to deal with the queues of people seeking to tax vehicles Currently, one can
have a garda sign an RF100A form if a vehicle was off the road, after which the owner could
have the vehicle taxed, but this will no longer be possible from 1 October Senators are receiv
-
ing many telephone calls from farmers who have had tractors on their land which they may
only take onto the roads once or twice each year In many cases they do not have a tax book for
the vehicle or may have lost it It would be useful to extend the deadline by one month to give
people a chance to address this issue I have also heard of cases where local authority offices
have closed promptly at 4 pm, leaving people who have been queuing to have their motor tax
affairs sorted to return the following day
Young people who have emigrated and may have a vehicle at home should be given an op
-
portunity to tax their vehicle for one month, rather than the minimum period of three months
This would allow them to tax their vehicle when home on holidays for several weeks It is bad
enough that they have to emigrate We should not take money out of their pockets when they
return home and wish to use their vehicles for a short period I ask for a debate with the Minis
-
ter on the issues I have raised
19/09/2013D00400
Senator
Paschal Mooney
:
I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by
Senator Darragh O’Brien I concur with the Senator’s comments on the commencement order
I also share the views expressed by Senator Bacik on the need to ensure no action is taken that
would interfere with the criminal proceedings taken against individuals in the banking sector
When one discusses this issue with members of the public one finds that they speak not of what
occurred on the night of the banking guarantee but what happened afterwards, especially in the
banks The views expressed in this regard are sustainable and valid
Seanad Éireann
82
I am concerned by today’s media reports which indicate the Government is already engag
-
ing in spin with regard to the terms of the banking inquiry It seems the inquiry’s remit will not
extend beyond the night the bank guarantee was introduced and it will not take into account
the findings of two reports, the Regling-Nyberg and Honohan reports, which have already been
published Both reports, which are based on interviews with economists and others, conclude
there is no smoking gun or information that is not already in the public domain, whether pub
-
lished in book form or broadcast in the media The question one must ask, therefore, is whether
the Government is indulging in a political witch-hunt? Is the purpose of the inquiry to attack
Fianna Fáil rather than finding out the truth? It is notable, for example, that the media are re
-
porting that the inquiry will start in the months immediately preceding the local and European
elections
We must have an open and transparent debate on what will be the precise terms of reference
of the inquiry, what it will investigate and who will be called before it It is vital that the im
-
mediate aftermath of the banking guarantee is also investigated As previous speakers noted,
people suffered as a result of the banking collapse Notwithstanding the political decisions that
were taken, the pertinent issue is the collapse of the banks What happened in the banks and
what were they doing? On the night of the banking guarantee and the days preceding it, the
banks lied through their teeth to the Government of the day in respect of what they were seek
-
ing Anglo Irish Bank, in particular, published public relations documents a week or two weeks
before the bank guarantee in which it encouraged people to buy shares in what was already a
discredited bank
19/09/2013D00500
Senator
Jimmy Harte
:
I agree with most previous speakers on the tone of the debate on
the forthcoming referendum I refer in particular to posters stating that fewer politicians will
be good for the country and will save €20 million If we do not have respect for ourselves, we
cannot expect members of the public to have respect for us The posters in question should be
removed as they are an insult to every current and former Member of Seanad and Dáil Éireann
and all those who serve on county and town councils The implication of the message they por
-
tray is that fewer politicians will result in greater democracy The Arab spring was the result of
people seeking to rid their countries of dictators and increase democracy The West, including
Ireland, is encouraging greater democracy in these countries However, we seem to be doing
the opposite in the referendum campaign We seem to be putting out a narrative that we are
getting rid of more politicians The end-game there is that only one politician would be left in
the country, which would be dangerous
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to ex
-
plain why on 30 August the Insolvency Service of Ireland advised people it would charge them
€500 to apply for a personal insolvency certificate This did not come through the Houses of
the Oireachtas I spoke to a personal insolvency practitioner yesterday, who advised me that
before the process can start the client must pay €500 to the Insolvency Service of Ireland, which
is separate from the fees, VAT and any other costs I have a copy of the document if Members
wish to view it It was signed by the Minister on 30 August Many people considering personal
insolvency are unaware that they must give a cheque for €500 to the Insolvency Service of
Ireland before they can progress to the next stage The Minister should come to the House to
explain why this has happened Deputy Spring will also raise the matter today in the Dáil It
was done during August when we were all away It was also done under the radar because there
have been no media reports on it This €500 is in addition to the other costs It was not advised
to us or discussed in any forum
19 September 2013
83
19/09/2013E00200
Senator
Terry Brennan
:
At the risk of being accused of being personal or parochial, as a
former ESB employee, I am very concerned over how my former colleagues are being treated
by this and the previous Government with regard to their defined-benefit pension scheme Like
all ESB employees, I paid almost 7% of gross wages for 40 years to the scheme Sadly many of
my colleagues have not reached retirement age having contributed that amount of their salaries
for many years
19/09/2013E00300
An Cathaoirleach
:
That matter might be suitable as a matter on the Adjournment
19/09/2013E00400
Senator
Terry Brennan
:
It is not suitable
We are told by the Government that there are increasing funding difficulties with pension
schemes owing to people living longer and the financial downturn It is no fault of any of those
who contributed for many years A contribution of 7% was and still is a significant amount to
pay towards a retirement scheme I call on the Leader to have an urgent debate with the Minis
-
ter for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte
19/09/2013E00500
Senator
Paul Coghlan
:
With the greatest respect to the leader of the Opposition, Senator
Darragh O’Brien, I would say that we are
ad idem
on the banking inquiry Everybody wants
to get to the unvarnished truth and nothing must be excluded As we all agree, no one in these
Houses would wish to prejudice cases that are in the pipeline I do not believe representatives
of that bank were present on the night of the bank guarantee - it was primarily the two pillar
banks If it is to proceed prior to those cases being concluded, obviously it cannot deal with
them However, nothing is agreed yet and this is only a commencement order With respect,
we do not need a debate on what is before us today on the Order Paper which is just a com
-
mencement order
No one wishes that anything be excluded and of course we all want to get at the full truth
To hell with spin - excuse my French We do not need to go down that road We can debate this
fully when we know more, but there is no final decision at the moment and we are somewhat in
the dark I would urge caution and we should whisht for a while We can proceed as soon as
we know and then have the debate
19/09/2013E00600
Senator
Catherine Noone
:
I support Senator van Turnhout on the issue of child pageants
We should follow the lead of the French Senate on this; they are hideous competitions and
should not be encouraged
This morning the Irish Cancer Society has highlighted research into the attitude of teenagers
towards smoking There are some interesting findings especially on plain packaging, for which
we intend to legislate The research found that cigarette brands encourage teens to start smok
-
ing, which is no great surprise However, it also found that non-smokers would be discouraged
from even trying them and current smokers would quit if cigarettes were in plain packets The
research highlighted that young people are the primary target for marketing by the tobacco in
-
dustry, which, according to the HSE’s national office of tobacco control, needs to recruit 50 new
smokers a day to replace those who die or those who manage to quit
More than any other tobacco control measure to date the removal of branding from ciga
-
rettes would threaten the business model that has enabled tobacco companies to increase prof
-
itability by recruiting new young smokers The research follows the recent introduction of
plain olive-coloured packaging in Australia It is not completely plain, because it also contains
horrendous pictures of the illnesses that can ensue from smoking Introduced in January, it has
Seanad Éireann
84
been shown to be very effective especially with younger people While this has worked, some
in the tobacco industry have raised concern about the potential for a higher incidence of coun
-
terfeiting We need to stand up to the tobacco industry which manages to lobby under all sorts
of headings to persuade us that certain measures, which we might try to introduce and which
would ultimately decrease their profits, are a bad idea We need to be really strong when the
legislation comes before the Houses
If done properly as has been done in Australia, plain packaging can also incorporate greater
security and anti-counterfeiting measures Yesterday we had a very good debate on the report
of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee One of its key recommendations was plain
packaging for cigarettes and now is the time to push ahead with it We need to stand up to the
tobacco industry and the various headings under which it lobbies
19/09/2013E00700
Senator
Michael Mullins
:
I ask the Leader to organise a debate on mental health services
with the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, with particular reference to the implementa
-
tion of A Vision for Change Members will be aware of the great concern in east County Gal
-
way and Ballinasloe in particular following the HSE’s recent decision to close 22 acute beds in
St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe Last night all the public representatives from Galway and
Roscommon had an open and frank discussion with the Minister of State and HSE management
in Galway and Roscommon and nationally I call on the Minister of State to ensure that HSE
management in Galway and Roscommon now enter into an extensive period of discussion with
all stakeholders - employees, unions, service users and their families, public representatives,
and community leaders - to ensure that all community-based mental health services are put in
place before any acute beds are taken out of the system
There has been considerable concern in the community mainly because of an information
deficit The HSE is doing a particularly poor job in communicating its very ambitious plans to
implement A Vision for Change At last night’s meeting there was total unanimity over the need
to implement all aspects of A Vision for Change I want a frank discussion with the Minister of
State on the progress we are making on the implementation of A Vision for Change, particularly
in Galway and Roscommon
On a sporting note, I wish you, a Chathaoirligh, and the Mayo footballers well at the week
-
end I hope they emulate the wonderful achievement of the Galway camogie team last week
-
end-----
19/09/2013F00100
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
I wish to disassociate myself from those remarks
19/09/2013F00200
Senator
Michael Mullins
:
----- when two fine young ladies, namely, Lorraine Ryan and
Sinead Keane-----
19/09/2013F00300
An Cathaoirleach
:
This is not relevant to the Order of Business
19/09/2013F00400
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
It will not be relevant next week either, when the Dubs win
19/09/2013F00500
Senator
Michael Mullins
:
----- under manager Tony Ward brought two trophies to the
west and gave us a great lift I hope the Mayo people do the same on Sunday
19/09/2013F00600
An Cathaoirleach
:
While this is not relevant to the Order of Business, all tickets that can
be given to the Cathaoirleach will be greatly appreciated
19/09/2013F00700
Senator
Jim D’Arcy
:
Senator Mullins has referred to mental health issues and I welcome
19 September 2013
85
the putting in place by Fine Gael of counselling services for Deputies and Senators who may
be experiencing difficulties in their professional or personal lives in the wake of the tragic
death last year of the Minister of State, Shane McEntee This is a welcome development that
should be extended to everyone in the Houses It is particularly welcome in a week in which
the Dundalk football manager, Stephen Kenny, has become patron of the SOSAD organisation,
involving those whose sons and daughters have committed suicide Its founder, Peter Moroney,
stated he was absolutely thrilled when the Dundalk manager accepted an invitation to become
patron of the body He pointed out that suicide is a leading cause of death among young people
and increasingly is being reported among the elderly, who often are dealing with issues of lone
-
liness and isolation
However, to revert to Deputies and Senators, I refer to the protests that took place yesterday
I went out only to be abused by a person from Dundalk who I knew by sight Had I met him
in Haggardstown, I would have done a John Prescott on him; no problem However, Members
are under pressure and in that context, I ask all Members to support the See the Light political
walk in aid of mental health wellness and Aware, which is being organised by Oireachtas staff
and by Miriam McLoughlin, from Dublin to Navan next weekend, that is, on 27 and 28 Sep
-
tember Incidentally, I have to hand a sponsorship card if anyone wishes to give me a few bob
for it While I acknowledge such debates have taken place previously, such issues are coming
on-stream and good mental health is now part of daily parlance, albeit more needs to be done,
and I would welcome a debate on mental health
19/09/2013F00800
Senator
Michael D’Arcy
:
I wish to raise the issue of the VAT rate within the hospitality
sector and it is particularly relevant to so do before the budget Figures that are being quoted
suggest that an additional 9,000 jobs have been created in the hospitality sector While they
cannot all be due to the benefits the sector has experienced following the reduction of its VAT
rate, some of them certainly are There is a concern that jobs would be lost in that sector were
the rate to revert to 135% in this budget and Members should take the opportunity next week
to have that conversation with the Minister for Finance
In a brief point on mental health services being reconfigured in other areas, I can only give
Members the experience of County Wexford on foot of the reconfiguration of its mental health
services and the closure of St Senan’s hospital, which was the mental health acute admissions
unit which, with the A Vision for Change strategy, has been excellent Moreover, I advise Dep
-
uties, Senators and councillors to take on board the A Vision for Change viewpoint regarding
the new areas that can be introduced and the reconfiguring of the services into the community
In this context, the services now being provided in Wexford are superior to what had been in
place prior to the changes There always will be concerns and if issues are being communicated
poorly by the Health Service Executive, it should deal with that However, I can only give an
honest appraisal of what I have seen in the constituency in which I live
19/09/2013F00900
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
Senator Darragh O’Brien has raised the question of disabil
-
ity services in the north east As the Minister is not due to come into the House in the next two
weeks to the best of my knowledge, I suggest the Senator should table an Adjournment motion
on the matter to get an adequate response As for No 2 on the agenda, it is a replacement order
for the one that was moved yesterday and which contained only a typographical error Conse
-
quently, I am surprised-----
19/09/2013F01000
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
While the Government did not announce the banking inquiry
the night before last, it did so yesterday
Seanad Éireann
86
19/09/2013F01100
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
While I am surprised that it was not raised at that time, I
certainly will accede to the request to have a debate on the matter I have arranged it for next
Tuesday evening at 7 pm
19/09/2013F01200
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
I thank the Leader
19/09/2013F01300
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
I note Senator Bacik’s points on the banking inquiry and
the criminal justice process Senator van Turnhout and a number of other Members - I believe
Senators Keane and Noone also raised the point - spoke on the subject of beauty pageants for
children, which must be noted The European Union directive in respect of child abuse and
related matters will be debated in the Chamber later today and I compliment Senator van Turn
-
hout on the excellent report she has prepared It would be helpful for everyone involved to have
to hand a copy of Senator van Turnhout’s report in this regard I note Senator Barrett’s points
regarding the Seanad referendum In particular, I note the points made to the Minister yesterday
on consulting with people in the classroom and I hope the Minister will take up the points made
during the aforementioned debate
Senator Keane spoke on defibrillators and the development of a new app on locations for de
-
fibrillators I join with the Senator in congratulating Helping Hearts on this excellent initiative
Senator Ó Murchú made reference to the banking inquiry and as I have indicated, Members
will have a debate on No 2 next week Like him, however, I hope there will not be any grand
-
standing or posturing on a banking inquiry and that such activity will not be tolerated Senator
Hayden spoke on the lack of progress with regard to the mortgage-to-rent scheme and the low
take-up of split mortgages The insolvency arrangements report mentioned by the Senator will
be published soon and I will try to get the Minister for Finance to come in to discuss that report
on its publication
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the delays in respect of the official languages Bill and the
reason it is not being introduced in the autumn session He also inquired as to the status of the
promised immigration, residence and protection Bill While I will find out the reason for the
delays in respect of both Bills for the Senators, I point out the Government has published 30
legislative items on the A list alone for the autumn session This is a highly significant volume
of legislation for the session and it is very important that one gets the correct legislation and
that it is proper before it comes before either of the Houses However, I will find out the status
of the two Bills mentioned
Senator Comiskey raised the issue of off-road taxation of vehicles Members debated the
Bill on that matter several months ago There is always a last-minute rush with regard to people
getting their taxation in order I am unsure whether there is a plan to extend the deadline on
these vehicles but I certainly will take up the matter with the Minister Again, I note Senator
Mooney’s comments on the banking inquiry and Members will have a debate on that legislation
next week Senator Harte referred to fees for the personal insolvency service and again, I sug
-
gest the Senator might table an Adjournment motion on the subject to get the reasons from the
Minister Senator Brennan mentioned the ESB and defined benefit pensions There have been
many problems with defined benefit pensions Many people have commented on the problems
of the Waterford Crystal workers’ scheme where people who had paid into it for 30 and 40 years
found they could get only about 20% of their pension That will be rectified The workers won
their case in the European courts and the courts must now decide the actual percentage they will
receive I hope they will get their benefits sooner rather than later, some percentage of them
even before going to court As to the ESB situation, I am not sure whether the Minister for
19 September 2013
87
Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, is the Minister concerned
- it may be the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton I will get the details from the
Senator after the Order of Business
I noted Senator Coghlan’s points on the banking inquiry to the effect that we must not preju
-
dice cases that may come before the courts
Senator Noone spoke about the marketing campaign of the tobacco industry; we all know
the strength of that lobby She made relevant points about having plain packaging on tobacco
products There was an excellent debate in the Chamber yesterday on the Seanad Public Con
-
sultation Committee’s report and I hope the Government will take on board the action plan that
committee has set out in its report I was glad the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, com
-
mented very favourably on the report and that he indicated action would be taken on several of
the recommendations made by the Seanad committee
Senator Mullins and others spoke about mental health services and the Vision for Change
programme I agree with the Senator that the HSE should have greater consultation with com
-
munities before it implements any actions in that regard I also noted Senator Michael D’Arcy’s
comments on mental health services in Wexford, which have improved significantly However,
there is a need for further debate The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has been very
helpful, and has attended the House on many occasions I am sure she will come to the House
again to discuss the question of progress on A Vision for Change and I will try to arrange that
debate
Senator Jim D’Arcy made a number of points on counselling services for Members and the
SOSAD Foundation set up in Dundalk He asked people to support the See the Light walk,
which is also for a very good cause The Senator also mentioned the reduced VAT rate of 9%
which the hospitality sector enjoys and the creation of more than 9,000 jobs It will be very dif
-
ficult for the Minister for Finance to decide whether this rate will remain in the budget The cost
to the taxpayer of reducing that VAT rate to 9% is more than €300 million annually so obviously
the Minister must weigh up the benefits and see whether the rate can be retained
19/09/2013G00200
An Cathaoirleach
:
Senator Darragh O’Brien has proposed an amendment to the Order of
Business “That No 2 be debated today” Is the amendment being pressed?
19/09/2013G00300
Senator
Darragh O’Brien
:
No I thank the Leader for acceding to the request for a debate
next Tuesday, so I withdraw the amendment
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn
Order of Business agreed to
Fourth Programme of Law Reform: Referral to Joint Committee
19/09/2013G00700
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
I move:
That Dáil Éireann request the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, or a
sub-committee thereof, to consider the Fourth Programme of Law Reform prepared by the
Seanad Éireann
88
Law Reform Commission, and to report back to Dáil Éireann on or before 1st October,
2013”
Question put and agreed to
Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 (Commence
-
ment) Order 2013: Motion
19/09/2013G01000
An Cathaoirleach
:
I ask the Leader to move No 2, without debate
19/09/2013G01100
Senator
Maurice Cummins
:
I move:
That Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Houses of the Oireachtas (lnquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 (Commence
-
ment) Order 2013,
copies of which have been laid in draft form before Seanad Eireann on 31st July, 2013”
This motion is not being moved without debate because we will have statements on it next
Tuesday
Question put and agreed to
Directive of European Parliament on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children: State
-
ments
19/09/2013G01600
An Cathaoirleach
:
This debate concerns Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament
and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation
of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA
Spokespersons have eight minutes; other Members have five minutes
19/09/2013G01700
Acting Chairman
(Senator
Paschal Mooney
):
I welcome the former Senator, now the
Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to the
House for his first presentation in this Chamber I congratulate him and wish him well in his
new position I hope the fact that yet another talented politician has come from this House onto
the world stage may influence people
19/09/2013G01800
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
(Deputy
Paschal
Donohoe
):
I was wondering how long I would have to wait for that reference to be mentioned
so I thank the Acting Chairman for getting it in quickly during my first appearance before the
Seanad I am delighted to be present today, taking this issue on behalf of the Minister for Jus
-
tice and Law Reform, Deputy Alan Shatter
19 September 2013
89
Like many Senators who will speak on this topic I wish we were handling a directive on
legislation in respect of an issue that was lighter and less evil than this one Members may
have taken a moment to look through the directive we are discussing, the full title of which is,
“On combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography”,
and the replacement of a particular Council framework decision When one looks through the
detail the directive is obliged to contain, and the kind of evil it refers to, it brings into sharp
focus the need for effective legislation in this area and having a strong approach from national
parliaments and the European Union in order to respond to the targeting and treatment of our
most vulnerable people
The Minister, Deputy Shatter, asked me to send his apologies to Members for not being able
to handle this issue with them I will pass on to him all the comments Senators will make in
respect of this directive and the more general issue of the sexual and other abuse of children
This is a crime of the most vile nature To target our youngest and most vulnerable people in the
way many of us are aware of is the worst kind of crime to which a human being can stoop This
directive is about putting in place a co-ordinated, effective and cohesive response to this crime
It looks to putting in place a multifaceted approach to deal with the evil of sexual abuse and
the sexual exploitation of children Members may be aware that in recent years the Minister,
Deputy Shatter, has steered two very important pieces of legislation through the Houses of the
Oireachtas on this issue The first of these - the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information
on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill - was enacted in August, 2012 and
introduced very important measures designed to deal with the issue of abuse not being reported
and the consequences of same The second - the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulner
-
able Persons) Bill - was enacted in December, 2012 and provided for the mandatory vetting of
persons working with children or vulnerable adults During the course of the debate I will come
back to both of these in more detail later
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has also launched
revised child protection guidance titled Children First: National Guidance for the Protection
and Welfare of Children and has received Government approval to put the guidelines on a statu
-
tory footing This is a key commitment in the programme for Government The Children First
Bill is viewed as a part of a wider package of measures, along with the vetting and withholding
Acts, to which I have referred, further ensure the protection of children and vulnerable persons
from sexual abuse and exploitation
The Minister is also pressing forward with arrangements to ensure the effective implemen
-
tation of the Children First guidelines across all Departments, agencies and sectors that have
contact with children, and with the reform of child and family services in the Health Service
Executive leading to the establishment of a new Child and Family Agency The draft direc
-
tive was tabled by the European Commission in March, 2010 In June of that year, following
approval by the Dáil and Seanad, the Government exercised its option under the Lisbon treaty
to take part in the adoption and application of the measure The directive was adopted by the
Council and the European Parliament in December 2011 and the member states are required to
bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with
the directive by 18 December 2013
The directive seeks to establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offenc
-
es and sanctions in the area of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, child pornogra
-
phy and solicitation of children for sexual purposes It also contains measures to strengthen the
prevention of such crime and, most important, the protection of its victims Many of the mini
-
Seanad Éireann
90
mum rules in terms of offences are already in place in Ireland and sanctions, in many cases, far
exceed the requirements of the directive This is due to our generally high penalty regime and
is best illustrated by example Article 34 of the directive requires the member states to punish
engaging in sexual activities with a child who has not reached the age of consent by a maximum
term of imprisonment of at least five years Under section 2 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Of
-
fences) Act 2006, a person who engages in a sexual act with a child who is under the age of 15
years is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life
The maximum penalty in section 3 of the 2006 Act for the offence of defilement of a child under
the age of 17 is five years imprisonment and that maximum penalty increases to ten years where
the offender is a person in authority In another example, article 54 of the directive requires the
member states to punish the distribution, dissemination or transmission of child pornography
by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least two years In this jurisdiction, a person found
guilty of producing or distributing child pornography is liable, if convicted on indictment, to
imprisonment for up to 14 years Many of the measures included in this directive have already
been transposed into domestic law and in the small number of areas that we do not the Govern
-
ment has a clear plan in place regarding implementation This leads on the legislation that will
come before the House in the near future
The first and most crucial legislation in this area is the forthcoming sexual offences Bill
The legislation will be broad and wide-ranging As well as implementing outstanding criminal
law measures in a number of international legal instruments, including the EU directive, it will
implement the recommendations of two Oireachtas committees, amend the Sex Offenders’ Act
2001 and reform the law on incest That is a key point I draw to the attention of Members Most
of those areas that we currently do not have transposed into domestic law will be dealt with in
the sexual offences Bill in the near future
The other international instruments to which I referred include the Council of Europe Con
-
vention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and the
Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography The criminal law provisions of the EU, Council of Europe
and UN instruments overlap to a significant degree
I wish to highlight a selection of measures in this area which should be of particular interest
to the House Article 162 of the directive provides that member states shall take all the nec
-
essary measures to encourage any person who knows about or suspects that an offence in the
directive has been committed to report this knowledge or suspicion to the competent services
The primary purpose of the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against
Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 was to close a loophole in the law Under the Of
-
fences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 it was an offence to withhold information in
respect of a serious criminal offence However, that provision excluded sexual offences The
withholding of information legislation was enacted to ensure there is an obligation on persons
who have knowledge of any serious offence, including sexual offences against children or vul
-
nerable adults, to inform the Garda
Article 10 of the directive contains measures relating to disqualification from employment
of persons convicted of sexual offences The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulner
-
able Persons) Act 2012 provides the necessary statutory basis for the use of the Garda criminal
records database to conduct vetting of persons applying for employment which entails working
with children or vulnerable adults The schedule to the Act lists in detail the types of work or
activity that require vetting These include child care services; schools; hospitals and health
19 September 2013
91
services; residential services or accommodation for children or vulnerable persons; treatment,
therapy or counselling services for children or vulnerable persons; provision of leisure, sport
-
ing or physical activities to children or vulnerable persons; and promotion of religious beliefs
The Act also provides for the use of “soft” information in regard to vetting This is referred
to as “specified information” Specified information is information other than a court deter
-
mined criminal record For example, it includes conclusions from investigations of child abuse
or neglect conducted by the HSE, where such investigations have concluded that a person poses
a threat to children or vulnerable persons Specified information also includes similar conclu
-
sions arising from fitness to practice inquiries by statutory bodies, such as those conducted by
the Medical Council, the Nursing Council or the Teaching Council In addition, it includes
a bona fide concern that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons, where this
arises from a Garda investigation of a criminal offence Members may be aware of some of
the difficulties that can occur in respect of the time required to complete the vetting process
Constituents who are seeking to take up positions that require vetting under the legislation
have come to me Sometimes the vetting processes takes a longer time than they would wish
and this can sometimes cause difficulties for them in respect of the employment they wish to
take up The Department of Justice and Equality is doing all it can to ensure the processing
times for these applications is appropriate and is dealt with as promptly as possible I am aware
when talking to constituents on this matter that we are all agreed that for this work to be done
properly, it takes time to do it It is important that anybody who is moving into a role in which
he or she will be dealing with children or vulnerable persons in the agencies referred to would
undergo the appropriate supervision and checking to ensure he or she has the correct qualifica
-
tions, character and record for dealing with our most vulnerable
About 300,000 vetting applications are processed by the Garda vetting unit each year and
the primary purpose of the

National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act
2012 is to put into clear law the procedures that have been developed to vet these applications
More important, the Act makes it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable
adults to be vetted where this was previously done on the basis of a voluntary code The Act
also includes offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with its provisions In ad
-
dition to the vetting legislation, under the Sex Offenders Act 2001, a person who is on the sex
offenders register commits an offence if he or she fails to disclose to an employer or a prospec
-
tive employer a conviction for sexual offence specified in the Schedule to the 2001 Act
The directive also refers specifically to websites containing or disseminating child pornog
-
raphy, and I want to refer to some of the articles in the directive on this area Article 25, in
particular, provides for measures against websites containing or disseminating child pornogra
-
phy Paragraph 1 provides for the removal of websites containing such material In Ireland, a
hotline.ie
service already provides for the removal of illegal material It has performed very
well and has had some notable successes in fighting this scourge I acknowledge the significant
expertise and prowess of the Garda Síochána and particular sections within the force that are
charged with dealing with these terrible websites I stress the importance of international co-
operation and working effectively with the right international organisations in these areas This
crime, as we are only too sadly aware, stretches across borders, and one of the most effective
ways to deal with it is by a response that also goes across borders To do that, international co-
operation is essential
Paragraph 2 of Article 25 is concerned with blocking access to sites containing or dissemi
-
nating child pornography Discussions on the establishment of structured arrangement for the
Seanad Éireann
92
blocking of access to websites containing child pornography are at an advanced stage between
the Garda and Internet service providers This will provide us with a mechanism that fulfils
the requirements of the second part of Article 25 I urge Internet service providers, ISPs, the
people charged with the provision of Internet service in our State, to continue to live up to their
responsibilities in dealing with this area I repeat that co-operation with other law detection
and law enforcement agencies is essential The only way of preventing the development and
spread of these websites is by the ISPs and the companies associated with them working effec
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tively and coherently with the Garda and other bodies The arrangement being discussed will
involve close co-operation between the Garda and Internet service providers It will be based
on a written arrangement and clearly laid out procedures between the different bodies Under
the proposed arrangements, the Garda will identify sites and, when satisfied that the material is
child pornography and therefore illegal, will notify the ISP of the site or sites in question The
ISP will then act in accordance with the agreed arrangements to block access to the site or sites
The Garda will have the benefit of its links with other police forces and international policing
organisations, such as Interpol and Europol, in seeking out and identifying sites
Other key provisions in the directive concern the sensitive handling of police investiga
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tions into alleged sexual abuse and exploitation One requirement is that interviews with child
victims take place, where necessary, in premises designed and adapted for this purpose The
investigation of sexual offences against children requires an especially sensitive and thoroughly
professional approach There have been considerable advances in recent years in the way in
which the criminal justice system deals with cases of child sexual abuse The Garda Síochána
puts a particular emphasis on tackling sexual crime and other crimes against children, as well
as proactive co-operation with all relevant Departments, organisations and agencies to improve
the safety of children
In April 2010, the Garda Síochána published a comprehensive policy on the investigation
of sexual crime, crimes against children and child welfare, the aim of which was to combine
professionalism with sensitivity and compassion in the investigation of sexual crimes Children
First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 has been adopted as
Garda policy, and interaction with the HSE and children and family services is an integral part
of that policy in relation to all investigations of child abuse A strategic committee has been
established within the Garda Síochána, chaired at assistant commissioner level, to liaise with
the HSE’s national director of children and family services to ensure that all matters of strategy
and policy in the field of inter-agency working receive proper direction
A sexual crime management unit has been established within the Garda domestic violence
and sexual assault investigation unit, which is part of the National Bureau of Criminal Investi
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gation The unit is responsible for evaluating and monitoring the number of investigations each
year into child sexual abuse, child neglect and other sexual offences to ensure they are receiving
appropriate attention It is also responsible for advising on the investigation of such crimes and
promoting best investigative practice
Members of the Garda Síochána and HSE personnel have undergone joint and intensive
training in the specialised skills necessary for interviewing children Staff of the Garda college,
together with their HSE colleagues, regularly review the training to ensure it is in accordance
with best international practice In addition, given the need for sensitivity and confidentiality
surrounding sexual crimes, there is a clear advantage from an investigative perspective, both for
victims and the Garda Síochána, in conducting relevant interviews away from Garda stations
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A network of dedicated interview suites has been established by the Minister’s Department
and the Garda Síochána in six strategically chosen locations throughout the State These are
used by the Garda authorities to record interviews with child victims The roll-out and utilisa
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tion of these interview suites is a huge step forward in terms of how child victims of sexual
abuse are dealt with by the criminal justice system
Following the original publication of the Murphy report, Garda policy and practice in this
field was the subject of review and recommendations by the Garda Inspectorate, whose report,
Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, was published in February 2012 The bulk of the inspec
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torate’s recommendations have been implemented and, in line with a proposal contained in the
report, the Minister wrote recently to the inspectorate requesting a follow-up review be carried
out focusing on current initiatives and progress in implementing the report’s recommendations
I should also mention, in so far as the investigation of sexual offences generally is con
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cerned, that the Minister for Justice and Equality was delighted last week to be able to publish
a Bill to establish the long-awaited DNA database I have no doubt that, when established, this
facility will be of invaluable assistance to the Garda in the investigation of sexual offences and
other serious crimes
With regard to criminal proceedings and Article 20 of the directive, the Minister, Depu
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ty Shatter was very pleased that, in the recently enacted Criminal Law (Human Trafficking)
(Amendment) Act 2013, he was able to extend rules relating to the out-of-court video recording
of child evidence to new categories of child witness For human trafficking offences, the upper
age threshold for such video recordings was increased from 14 to 18 years, and this facility was
also extended to child witnesses, other than accused persons, who are minors The same exten
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sion of child evidence rules for sexual offences will feature in the sexual offences Bill
12 o’clock
The Criminal Evidence Act 1992 already makes provision for a person under the age of 18
years, being a person other than the accused, to give evidence in court proceedings through a
live television link
Finally, I would like to say a few words about education and raising awareness These
are requirements in Article 23 of the directive that address the prevention of sexual abuse and
exploitation The national strategy on the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based
violence contains a number of actions in relation to education Under action 32 of the strategy,
the Department of Education and Skills has developed personal safety materials for the junior
cycle social, personal and health education, SPHE, modules The national steering committee
on violence against women was consulted on the materials The lessons are expected to be
rolled out in schools this academic year following the training of teachers and it is anticipated
that materials for senior cycle students will be finalised following the roll-out at junior level
Over the past number of years and pending the development of these materials, the Na
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tional Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence has provided
funding to a number of organisations to provide programmes in schools or to specially train
teachers to do so While most university students are aged 18 or over, some enter third level
education before the age of 18 The Union of Students in Ireland represents students across
the country Recently it undertook a research study which was the first of its kind in Ireland
The State funded the study as part of its work to increase awareness of domestic and sexual
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94
violence The study also focused on unwanted sexual experience It is a significant milestone
to fill the gap of empirical evidence relevant to the lived experience of the Irish population in
general and for third level students in particular
I wish to make a number of concluding points on the legislation and give a general policy
overview My first comment is on the transposition of directives and legislation in the area
I hope I have been able to underscore to colleagues that many measures in the directive have
already been implemented and brought into national law through the introduction of legislation,
and of those that have not, most, if not all of them, will be dealt with in the forthcoming sexual
offences Bill referred to in my contribution
Many of us have been exposed and involved with these tragic cases through work in our
constituencies and communities Therefore, one of the areas that I mentioned at the conclu
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sion of my contribution is of great importance I am referring to what happens in our schools
and what happens with our young people in terms of the education that we give them in terms
of their awareness of their own bodies, the clear boundaries regarding unacceptable behaviour
and giving them the confidence to articulate that to the people that they trust Tragically, if that
does not happen in their families then we must allow them to understand that there are people
in their school, community and other authorities that can be approached and spoken to about the
behaviour that they may be subjected to
Third, I wish to underscore one of the more practical aspects of my contribution I refer
to the recent developments that have taken place to provide appropriate facilities and locations
for interviews, discussions and conversations with young people Those of us who have had
occasion to be in Garda stations either due to constituency and pubic representative work or
for other reasons, will know what I mean by the following Regardless of whatever work the
gardaí do in terms of presenting an environment and trying to make sure that it is appropriate,
we know that it is not the right environment for vulnerable young people who may already be
acutely stressed or feel acutely threatened to have a discussion We know that it is not the right
environment within which this kind of discussion needs to take place I welcome the fact that
great work has taken place to provide locations where highly-skilled and trained members of
the HSE, the social services and members of the Garda Síochána can treat these alleged issues
with the necessary sensitivity and skill
I am a parent and I am also involved in a school Therefore, I am aware now of the increase
in regulation and domestic legislation regarding how to deal with this issue We all know, as is
the case for any other area of law, no matter how strong and well designed legislation is if it is
not implemented effectively and appropriately then it will fail in the intention that prompted its
drafting in the first place That is why the enhanced training that has taken place of many of our
professionals who work in the area is welcome I also want to underscore the importance of the
development to provide appropriate locations in order for these discussions and investigations
to take place with our children and vulnerable people
I shall finish on that note and thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to address the
House on the legislation I am privileged to return here as Minister of State in order to address
the Chamber given the numbers of years I spent here I look forward to hearing contributions
on the legislation from all of my colleagues and shall do my best to respond to the points raised
at the end of the debate Members can be assured that the officials and I will convey their com
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ments to the Minister and that the forthcoming legislation on sexual offences will deal with
some of the outstanding areas I hope that the legislation will provide a vehicle for continued
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95
focus on the area and respond to the concerns, observations and ideas expressed by Members
19/09/2013K00200
Senator
Terry Leyden
:
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Donohoe, back to the
House and the senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality He played an
important role here when he was a Senator I am rather amazed by his warm endorsement of
the Government’s wish to abolish the Seanad and noticed that he has participated in numerous
television programmes supporting the Government’s view I am surprised by that because he
played an important role here and the Seanad played an important role during his period as
Senator However, life moves on and I wish him well in the future
Fianna Fáil supports the full and speedy implementation of the European Union directives
on combatting sexual abuse and child pornography The scourge of such predatory sexual ac
-
tivity needs to be tackled with a strong legal framework and an adequately resourced Garda
The gross misuse of the Internet for such disturbing criminal acts needs to be addressed on an
international scale thus recognising the global nature of the problem
I commend the document produced by Senator van Turnhout on online child abuse material
entitled Effective Strategies to Tackle Online Child Abuse Material The Department’s officials
are aware of her document and will use it when working on the Bill The document has been
extraordinarily well researched and is extremely good I compliment the Senator on her docu
-
ment If ever there was proof positive that the Seanad comprises people of very diverse views
and knowledge then the document is a clear indication of the work of Senator van Turnhout and
her colleagues The Seanad has given her and her organisation a unique platform to convey
the information direct to the senior officials in the Department of Justice and Equality If the
Seanad is abolished that opportunity will be lost
The EU directive is due to be transposed by December 2013 but, unfortunately, it has taken
time to reach that point It is critical that the directive is placed into Irish law as soon as possible
and adequate resources are given to the Garda to ensure its effective implementation I do not
believe that the directive was scrutinised by either House of the Oireachtas Perhaps the Min
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ister of State can elaborate on that position Far too many directives are not being scrutinised
here and 164 directives have been transposed into Irish law without any debate in either House
With regard to reform, the Dáil will allocate some days in April and October to scrutinise
European legislation I am sure it will be generous and effective for the amount of legislation
that will reach the Houses of the Oireachtas There is a definite commitment in the Lisbon
treaty, both the first and second treaties, that the Houses of the Oireachtas would scrutinise all
European legislation No European directive should be transposed into Irish law without it
being scrutinised by either House of the Oireachtas The committees spend some time on them,
but it is a very time-consuming arrangement We could also have an input from our MEPs
The issue of sexual abuse and child pornography is an acute sensitive one, given the vul
-
nerability of the young victims involved It is a heinous crime The grave exploitation of this
vulnerability and the use of the Internet to bypass national laws demands a co-ordinated global
response The European Union has rightly played a leading role in developing a pan-continen
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tal response to this problem These are particularly serious crimes against children, who need
special protection and care, and they produce long-lasting and serious harm to child victims
However, fighting these crimes is very difficult Children are vulnerable, and are often ashamed
and too afraid to report what has happened to them
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96
To implement the directive effectively, real resources have to be given to the Garda Síochá
-
na to pursue and convict the criminals involved in these horrendous activities We cannot refer
to any case pending at the moment, but I hope the necessary action is taken by the Government
to co-operate in respect of a person who is facing charges in another jurisdiction Very serious
allegations are being made about a particular individual at the moment The directive includes
provision not only for the prosecution of offenders but also for the prevention of offences and
the protection of child victims It provides for the right of employers to ask for information
on criminal records and for awareness-raising campaigns and the training of professionals as
preventative measures
The new directive will make it easier to fight crimes against children by acting on different
fronts On criminal law, a wide range of situations of sexual abuse and exploitation will be
criminalised, covering new phenomena helped by the Internet like child grooming and web cam
or web viewing of child pornography More detailed provisions outline six levels of penalties
from one to ten years of imprisonment This will ensure greater consistency in classifications
of the severity of the offence and will reduce the difference between the legislation of member
states To combat offences by travelling sex offenders and so-called child sex tourism, national
authorities will be able to prosecute nationals abusing children abroad and organising travel
to abuse children, and advertising sex abuse opportunities will be prohibited To facilitate the
criminal prosecution of offenders, it will now be possible to initiate a case in all member states
up to and until the time child victims reach the age of majority Confidentiality rules will no
longer be an obstacle to preventing professionals working with children from reporting of
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fences, and the police will be obliged to set up special units to identify child victims of child
pornography with effective investigative tools Child victims will enjoy more protection in the
form of extensive assistance and support following an individual assessment of each child, as
well as measures to facilitate access to legal remedies and avoid the trauma of participating in
criminal proceedings
To prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, convicted offenders will be individually assessed
and will have access to special programmes to prevent them from committing new offences
Background checks for candidates applying to work with children will be easier and more com
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prehensive, and education awareness campaigns and training to detect child sexual exploitation
will be deployed To disrupt the distribution of child pornography on the Internet, member
states will be obliged to ensure child pornography pages hosted in their territory are removed
and to take action to have them removed if hosted abroad They may also set up procedures
to block access from their territories if they wish, but while that can be controlled in the EU,
sites can be located in third countries There must be, therefore, an international arrangement
to prevent the distribution of child pornography or any other kind of pornography
The danger associated with the access to pornography through the Internet is in the exploita
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tion of young people There was a recent case which occurred at an event here in Dublin and
which was sent around the Internet That was damaging for all involved, and the future of the
person involved could be destroyed I do not know if it was taken down, but those films can
never be removed They are out there somewhere and it is just so dangerous
The Government is giving this priority I know that from its work during the Presidency
and I commend the Minister’s report on the issue and wish him well in proceeding with this as
quickly as possible
19/09/2013L00200
Senator