Friday, 14 July 2017
Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014: From the Seanad
I am delighted this legislation has passed both Houses of the Oireachtas and now goes to the President for his signature. As has been mentioned, it is major step forward in consumer protection. We hear a lot about new politics. It is important to note it is the first Bill initiated by an Opposition Member to pass the Dáil. More important is the fact that thousands of people each year are denied access to justice because of the six-year rule. We have figures from the ombudsman's office that tells us that in certain years up to 1,000 people were denied having their case heard because of the six-year rule. We know that many others do not even make the complaint because they are not aware of the six-year rule. This legislation will open the doors of justice to many individuals who believe there has been wrongdoing carried out against them by large financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies in the sale of long-term financial products. Many consumers have contacted my office down through the years, particularly in recent months as this legislation was passing through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill is retrospective in nature. Individuals who have made a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman which it was not able to hear because of the six-year rule will be able to resubmit their application as soon as the President signs this legislation into law. They will be able to have their case heard and they will be able to access justice once and for all.
I am delighted this Bill has passed both Houses of the Oireachtas. It would be wrong for me not to point out the work that the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, has done on this legislation, in particular by researcher and analyst, Paul Joyce. FLAC produced a report a number of years ago, entitled Redressing the Imbalance. It has provided a huge service to the State down through the years. This legislation comes from its report so I welcome the work of FLAC and its senior policy analyst, Paul Joyce. There has been great co-operation across the political divide and support from the departmental officials to bring this Bill to the point where it can pass into law. Without that assistance, it would not have been possible. I thank everyone for their help during this process, including the staff in my office, especially Declan O'Farrell.
I put on the record our support for the legislation and commend Deputy Doherty. This Bill has been in the making for quite some time. There was also a Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill which we withdrew because there were essentially three Bills proposing to do the same thing. It is very fine work by Deputy Doherty and his staff and team. I commend them on that work and acknowledge the support and co-operation of the Minister, the staff in the Department and the Oireachtas finance committee. It is an example of how the system can work. It is slow and tedious and it takes too long at times but it is fine work. It will help individuals to get access to the ombudsman and hopefully get the justice they deserve.
I commend everyone attached to the Bill. I said when I took up office that I would do the best I could to facilitate the passage of legislation I thought to be good legislation. It was improved upon and we discussed matters on each occasion and did not go beating each other up. We improved on this Bill and the Government one time and time again. As Deputy McGrath said, the Fianna Fáil Bill was withdrawn. It is an example of how the process has worked better. It is the first Opposition Bill that has gone through in this way. I thank Deputy Doherty and his staff, Deputy McGrath and Department officials. There was a lot of toing and froing and getting it back. To some extent we were breaking new ground. We have broken new ground and we have brought forward good legislation. On this occasion the political structures have worked. It is retrospective, dating back to 2002. The six years will now apply and if people had cases, they will now have the opportunity to present them. I thank everyone concerned, including the Bills Office, Department staff, Deputy McGrath and, in particular, Deputy Doherty.