Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010: Second Stage
Pat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
For longer than a decade the need a landmark statute to govern migration into the State has been generally acknowledged. Few people disagreed with a Minister for State in a previous Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government, Liz O'Donnell, when she described her own Government's policy on asylum as a shambles, yet all these years later we still have not managed to put a rational, comprehensive consistent immigration Act in place. The Bill is the third incarnation of such legislation in more than eight years. Against that background the Labour Party is not minded to obstruct the early passage of this Bill. We intend on this occasion to focus on a small number of important issues in respect of which we will endeavour to change the Minister's mind.
In our consideration of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008, Deputy Naughten and I devoted many hours to hearing from interested non-governmental and civil society organisations. Perhaps it is a defect of our committee system that it is only Opposition spokespersons who entertain such submissions. The relevant Minister is not present at these meetings. In this instance, the organisations at the coalface devoted a great deal of painstaking effort to an analysis of the 2008 Bill and made not only criticisms, but also recommendations for improvement. Other than the infrequent prospect of a direct meeting with a Minister's officials, the opportunity for interested parties to argue the detail and rationale for their cases is not afforded to them.
The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is a reheat of the similarly titled Bill published in January 2008. After some 18 sessions in committee, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform felt that the 2008 Bill warranted such extensive amendment that it would be more appropriate to publish a new Bill. The Opposition spokespersons agreed, since so much had been covered in committee and so many new amendments were anticipated that processing of the old Bill would be administratively confusing. Unfortunately, that has meant some additional weeks of delay. The Minister in his customary conciliatory and co-operative manner has suggested that the Bill has been delayed because there were so many Opposition amendments.