Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 15 September 2022
Committee on Public Petitions
Business of Joint Committee
Consideration of Public Petition on Saving the Services of the Owenacurra Centre in Cork: Discussion (Resumed)
I want to wish everybody a good afternoon and welcome them to our public meeting. I see that we have some members present in committee room 4. Apologies have been received from Senators Craughwell, Buttimer and Warfield at this stage. We have substitutions. Deputy Quinlivan is substituting for Senator Warfield and Senator Maria Byrne is substituting for Senator Buttimer.
The Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and the Cathaoirleach, Senator Mark Daly, have published a Covid-19 code of conduct for the parliamentary community from March 2022. Face masks should continue to be worn when people are moving around the campus and during the meeting except when speaking. This will help to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading among the parliamentary community. We ask for full co-operation on this.
First on our agenda is to approve the minutes of the private and public meetings on 6, 7 and 13 July 2022. They have already been approved at a virtual private meeting, but we must do this for procedural reasons. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the place in which Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House, in order to participate in public meetings. I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts will be asked to leave the meeting.
Our next business is the engagement with the officials from the mental health services at Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork Mental Health Services and Capital and Estates HSE South of the HSE board on Petition No. 00042/21 on saving the services of the Owenacurra Centre, Midleton, County Cork from Ms Joanna Curtis.
Before we start, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses regarding references to other persons or evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. The witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if any of their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, the witnesses will be directed to discontinue the remarks. It is imperative that the witnesses comply with such direction. Before we hear from our witnesses, I propose we publish their opening statement on the committee's website. Is that agreed? Agreed.
On a side note, we would like to remind members that we are here to tease out issues rather than individual cases at Owenacurra where the person is identifiable.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Jim Ryan, acting national director of community operations and assistant national director, head of operations of mental health services; Mr. Michael Fitzgerald, chief officer, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare; Dr. Sinead O’Brien, executive clinical director of Cork Mental Health Services; and Mr. Alan O’Connell, assistant national director of Capital and Estates HSE South. I understand that it is Mr. Michael Fitzgerald who will make the opening statement and I suggest he should make it for around ten minutes. We will then have questions and comments from members. We will give each member around ten minutes, which should allow members to come in more than once.
I now invite Mr. Fitzgerald to make his opening statement.