Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Order of Business
I will raise two issues, the first of which relates to the District Court. I am conscious and mindful of the separation of powers, but I do not know if many of my colleagues saw the "RTÉ Investigates" programme on Monday night, in which we heard about a litany of issues, specifically in the District Court, the element about which I want to talk. I want to make it clear before I say anything further, as I have always made it my business as a public representative to visit the District Court in various locations, I am not directing my concerns at any specific District Court. I was in three the week before last and on each occasion I witnessed judges being downright rude in conducting cases. Last week I visited another District Court in which I witnessed rudeness, aggression and a negative attitude being taken, with no opportunity being given to the litigants, counsel or solicitors to make representations. People were put down and not listened to. What I heard on Monday night on the "RTÉ Investigates" programme all resonated with me. What was rehearsed was exactly what I had seen for years. I took the time yesterday to contact a number of solicitors. I rang them from my office and they all said the description on the programme matched their experiences in some courts. It is a difficult issue to manage, but it is not right that health service staff, probation officers, social workers, solicitors, counsel, litigants and people before the courts are put down and subject to an abusive attitude and downright rudeness.The time has come to intervene because the people in question cannot complain or, feel that if they do, it will affect the outcome of their cases. Will the Minister for Justice and Equality have a root-and-branch examination of the District Courts to find out to whom these judges are accountable? Nobody should treat people in a disrespectful, aggressive or rude manner and attempt to undermine them, be they legal professionals or litigants. This is my personal experience and it is a matter which needs to be dealt with.
Since the day I came into the Seanad, I have raised the issue of services at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, based in Dún Laoghaire, time and again. On 1 January 2017, 12 beds were shut at the hospital. We were promised in various statements in the House, as well as through questions and correspondence, that they would be reopened by mid-June. However, nothing has happened. After much pressure, two were reopened. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, met me at the hospital when they were turning the sod for a new development phase which has started there. They assured me then that it would receive the utmost attention.
Today, eight beds remain closed at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. It is nothing short of a disgrace. Those eight patients affected are not sitting in their homes. Instead, they are sitting in acute essential hospital beds waiting for treatment at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Will the Leader raise the matter again on my behalf? I will certainly write to the Minister myself. I would like a debate early in the new year on national rehabilitation services.