Seanad debates

Friday, 20 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

 

11:00 am

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent)

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, line 25, after “Government,” to insert the following: “following consultation with experts in relevant fields and advice which may be published at the request of the Oireachtas,”.

At the end of his speech, the Minister mentioned those travelling home from Toronto and Australia to serve in our medical services.There are also many highly-qualified medics within our asylum-seeking process, and it is very important we do not see qualified medical staff facing both legal stress and potential deportation at a time when they could be of such great use. I therefore urge the Minister to engage constructively with the Department of Justice and Equality on that issue. These people have an extraordinary contribution to make. I know that many of those coming from Sudan, for example, are medics because they were part of leading the revolution in Sudan. There are, therefore, some extraordinarily skilled and conscientious people in the asylum system who want to contribute.

The Minister mentioned public health advice, and I appreciate that the decisions being made are being made on foot of the best public health advice. However, in some sections of the Bill, and specifically the sections to which this amendment relates, extraordinary powers are being given. The Minister has acknowledged that they are unusual powers and beyond what we would normally ever give to a Minister. In this section the Minister allows for new orders to be made of potentially an indeterminate length of time. My amendment No. 1 inserts text in page 4, line 25. Actually, the wrong placing has been given. I was not planning to press the amendment anyway so I will speak to the point. The text was meant to be placed in a further section which provides that if the Minister were to extend powers, he would share with us the rationale. It is mentioned that Ministers will consult with one another, which is of course appropriate, and I understand and expect that the Minister will consult with experts in medical fields and, where appropriate, in seeking legal advice on any new order or extension order that might be made under the Bill. I simply ask, however, that the Minister commit to share with us insofar as possible the advice he is given, especially in situations in which the order or extension order may seem controversial. That would be important in maintaining the political co-operation and confidence of the Houses.

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