Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Criminal Justice (Smuggling of Persons) Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Committee Stage (Resumed)


9:47 pm

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am not being disingenuous. How does such a person prove he or she is a member of such an organisation? Many people in this House will have spent some time in the Middle East and countries across other parts of the world. NGOs are small, diffuse, badly organised and badly funded. They are not like the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, where you can go online and verify who its members are. There are indeed NGOs practising in those countries where you can go online and verify who their members are. Usually they are very close to the regimes that pertain in those countries, though. How does an ordinary person prove that he or she is involved in humanitarian aid?

I remember the father and child who drowned crossing the Rio Grande a couple of years ago. There might have been a minute's silence for them in this House. Everybody was on their feet saying how awful it was. Is there a possibility that somebody who would intervene to save a drowning man trying to save his drowning daughter would face prosecution? That person would perhaps be able to satisfy the burden of proof, and the Minister of State has clarified that that would be on the balance of probabilities and would not have to be beyond reasonable doubt, but it seems to me that it would be obscene to prosecute somebody in those circumstances. To put on our Statute Book a provision whereby such a person would be prosecuted, albeit invited to satisfy the burden of proof that the assistance was given bona fide, would be a mark of a State that had lost its moral compass. The fact that that is done in the name of EU law or to implement or to transpose EU law would indicate to me that we are possibly part of a larger project. I am a supporter of the European Union and the European movement and always have been. However, I just wonder if it is losing its moral compass and we along with it.

I am happy to take back any suggestion that the Minister of State meant that people from certain countries are not to be trusted.

I am happy to accept that is not what the Minister of State meant and I withdraw that suggestion. However, I ask him to address the more serious point that somebody could be prosecuted for saving a human life. It is something we need to consider very carefully.


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