Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions
Public Petitions: Discussion
We are in public session to record the decisions of the committee. We have had an opportunity to deliberate on the petitions received. I will detail the proposals and recommendations on those petitions.
Petition No. 28-12, from Mr. Michael O'Flanagan is to save Kilmainham Mill. The committee considered this petition and referred it to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, which is the appropriate committee but which decided not to deal with it. It is proposed to close the petition. It is proposed that the petitioner be advised to contact the built heritage and architectural policy unit of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which is responsible for the development, promotion and implementation of policies and legislation for the protection of architectural heritage and to promote best practice in modern architecture. Is that agreed? Agreed.
If I may make a point about petitions, the petitions committee is not in a position, per se, to lend support to something. While I am the only person to have ever made a documentary about the historic mills of Ireland, I would have a particular interest in Kilmainham Mill as something that ought to be saved. Unfortunately, the purpose of this committee is not to lend support to endeavours in that way but rather its purpose is an oversight one. Perhaps we should make that clear to prospective petitioners so that they are not under the misconception that we can offer such support when that is not our role.
Is it agreed to update the section of the website dealing with frequently asked questions? Agreed. This petition is closed and we will correspond with the petitioner.
Petition No. 33-12, from Mr. Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh, is on the application of the Freedom of Information Acts and the Ombudsman Acts to the Central Bank of Ireland. The recommendation of the committee is that this has also been referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. In the context of the committee's pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft heads of the general scheme of the Freedom of Information Bill, it has recommended that it should apply to the Central Bank of Ireland. Therefore, Mr. Ó Dálaigh's petition has been dealt with by that committee's recommendation. Is it agreed that the petition be closed and that a copy of the letter from the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform be forwarded to the petitioner for information? Agreed. I think he has achieved what he has set out to do.
I suggest that we send the petitioner information on the OECD observations about Ireland's freedom of information legislation and citing it as one of the most robust examples of legislation. This might afford Mr. Ó Dálaigh some further comfort and advice as to policy in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and that the matter is being taken very seriously, to the extent that the OECD has remarked on that legislation.
The Freedom of Information Bill 2013 will be dealt with in committee on Tuesday, 12 November 2013 at 4.15 p.m. and on Wednesday, 13 November 2013. I am sure the petitioner will be pleased with the outcome of his petition.
Petition No. 25-13, from Mr. Alan Jackman, is on the strict professional secrecy provisions in the Central Bank Act 1942.
Mr. Jackman raises a very interesting but obscure point. The professional secrecy provisions in the Central Bank Act 1942 do not comprise a subject one with which would be familiar. That said, this petition is a prime example of the work of this committee. It transpires that Mr. Jackman's observations are that if the Financial Regulator is investigating a matter, he or she cannot provide any information about the wrongdoing being investigated or the outcome of the investigation. These only become public if a sanction has been declared. Mr. Jackman has raised a point of which we would otherwise not be aware. The recommendation should be that we accept this as a petition and that we invite the petitioner, Mr. Jackman, to come to this committee in order that we can further examine the observations with a view to inviting the Minister for Finance to come to the committee to explain. This is a legislative matter and, ultimately, the Minister is the person who can defend, explain or offer an amendment to the legislation.
Is that recommendation agreed? Agreed. Petition No. 52-12, from Mr. David Garvey, relates to the alleged theft, fraud and illegal sale of the assets of dissolved companies vested in the Minister for Finance. The committee has assessed this petition and it has been deemed inadmissible as it has come through the courts system. We will write to the petitioner to make him aware of the recommendations of the committee about hedges. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Petition No. 78-12, from Mr. Pat Brady, concerns the closure of the carpentry joinery at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown.
The position pertaining to the issue of apprenticeships is currently subject to a review and is very pertinent. The committee has reviewed this matter and recommends that the committee contact the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority requesting replies to a number of individual queries we raised.
Perhaps they could address some of the issues that Mr. Brady has brought to the attention of the committee and clarify several aspects of the issue concerning the particular institute that is the subject of this query. We might directly contact the institute to get a report on the issues and what courses are available and which are being filled. We should explore it in that fashion as set out in the committee's recommendation.
I thank Deputy Penrose. We have agreed to submit several questions to the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority. They are on the system. We will report to the committee when we get responses to them. Is that agreed? Agreed.
We have surrendered our room for the hearing on the Freedom of Information Bill about which we spoke. I propose that the joint committee stand adjourned until Wednesday, 20 November when we will meet the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. Is that agreed? Agreed.