Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection
General Scheme of Gender Recognition Bill 2013: Discussion (Resumed)
Apologies have been received from Deputy McConalogue. I draw the attention of the witnesses to the fact that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if you are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and you continue to so do, you are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of your evidence.
Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice that where possible they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. The opening statements that witnesses have submitted to the committee will be published on the committee's website after this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that I have just outlined.
The general scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013 was published last July by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, following Cabinet approval and was referred to this committee for its consideration. In order to assist us in our deliberations we sought the views of interested individuals and organisations and received ten written submissions. To enable us to develop an understanding of the key issues identified in the process, we decided to hear evidence from key individuals and groups on the matter. Yesterday, we heard from the Department of Social Protection and five groups and individuals. Today is the second of these hearings and we will hear from the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, represented by Noeline Blackwell and Yvonne Woods; the Equality Authority represented by Brian Merriman, Dr. Fergus Ryan and Dr. Tanya Ní Mhuirthile; and Amnesty International represented by Marco Perolini. Dr. Philip Crowley of the HSE will be available to respond to relevant issues. I welcome the witnesses to this meeting and ask them to keep their submissions as close to five minutes as possible. I invite Ms Noeline Blackwell to make the presentation on behalf of FLAC.