Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

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


10:07 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

The Minister of State said that apart from 19 countries only seven countries have brought in the exemption. The Minister of State has not brought in an exemption; he has brought in a defence. That is the whole issue. I mentioned France but France has not brought in this measure in a perfect way at all. There are issues around it, but it has brought it in. Some parts of it are good.

I agree with what Deputy McNamara said. I am aware of the Minister of State's bona fides on this, and I am not attacking him personally, but the result is a State that sets up to criminalise a humanitarian organisation. The humanitarian organisation will be charged. It may not be charged but the provision allows for it to be charged, and the burden is on that organisation or the person who acted in a humanitarian way for humanitarian purposes, to prove that. It has reversed the difficulty. The Minister of State is nodding in agreement with that. In conscience I cannot agree with that. With regard to teasing it out, I welcome the Minister of State's support on the last occasion where he agreed to an adjournment of the debate. I acknowledge the Minister of State's bona fides but the nuance of this should have been done on Committee Stage. I am not sure what submissions were submitted in person when these issues were teased out. I have seen a letter from the chairperson. I am not finding fault here and I believe that the Minister of State was under pressure, but the letter states that the committee agreed to commence pre-legislative scrutiny by requesting an oral briefing from the Department officials, which happened on 29 June. The letter, which went back and which was signed on 29 June, stated that the committee was happy with that. I am not sure where this issue was teased out at that level. Of course it is being teased out back and forth now but the Minister of State indicated that he will not be agreeing with the amendment, even though he has to try to tease it out with us. I am pressing the amendment.


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