Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Impact of Covid-19 on Human Rights and Mental Health: Discussion

Photo of Annie HoeyAnnie Hoey (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I agree that it is really disappointing that there has been so little time for debate on this. I feel it has been designed so that we just have statements in the Seanad with no time for proper analysis. I am watching Committee Stage proceedings on the screen above me. I am pushed on my multitasking but we only have an hour to debate the amendments. This is designed to not even let us get through them, which is a disgrace. It is undemocratic and is designed to stifle any form of meaningful scrutiny or engagement. I raised my concerns yesterday about the running order, with amendments being due before briefings and us not seeing the amendments until after Second Stage. This committee then chased its tail to try to speak to both organisations today. I am literally looking at the amendments on the screen above me. I am very unhappy about this process. While I accept that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, I do not think there are many Deputies or Senators who would not be willing to give this issue the time we think it deserves.

Do the witnesses think it was wrong to disband the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response? Ever since it was disbanded, we have been trying to play catch-up with an awful lot of issues and things are falling through the cracks. The ICCL website contains a timeline showing the events that have happened and the actions it has taken. It is a great timeline. A Bill that could significantly impinge on our fundamental rights requires thorough effective scrutiny and a valid proportionality assessment, as required by our Constitution and human rights law. Would the witnesses say that what the Government has done has been a breach of our Constitution and, if so, could they elaborate on how or in the context of which provisions it has been breached?

At the briefing, when we asked whether we could take out the requirement that a tribunal could have just one person, we were told that we could not nitpick legislation. I would have thought that, as legislators, we are supposed to nitpick. What are the witnesses' thoughts on that? It relates to the concern that we have to take everything in blanket form and cannot analyse things piece by piece. Do the witnesses think the Government should be required to carry out a review of the proportionality of these restrictions and their subsequent impact on mental health?


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