Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Michael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
I will pick up on what was said by Deputy Boyd Barrett. There are draconian provisions within this Bill, particularly regarding civil liberties and the rights to assembly and liberty. I am disappointed that the Minister seems not to have accepted the amendment that, instead of it being "appropriate" to detain somebody, it must be "necessary". We talk about many of these measures being necessary and accept that laws are necessary but to detain somebody when it is deemed appropriate is a loose standard. Surely, at the very least, if a person is to be detained and deprived of his or her liberty, it ought to be necessary. I want an explanation from the Minister as to why legislation introduced in this House is outside the ambit the European Convention on Human Rights, which we are supposed to respect. Deprivation of liberty must be necessary in the interests of public health - not "appropriate", but "necessary", and there is a difference between those two things.
I do not know why "necessary" poses such a difficulty for the parliamentary draftsman.
The other thing that Deputy Boyd Barrett alluded to was necessity. We proposed an amendment that medical goods and equipment necessary to treat people with Covid-19 could be seized by the Minister for Health, if necessary, and diverted to that purpose, with compensation subsequently paid. Now, giving the Minister the power to make that order is not a charge on public funds. If the Minister subsequently makes an order, it could of course be a charge on public funds.
This was a facet of proceedings which I watched from the outside during the last Dáil. Legitimate debate was shut down in this Chamber by the use of Standing Orders. It is a big problem and it is a particular problem in the context of emergency legislation.