Friday, 27 March 2020
An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I can tell the Senator that during normal times this is exactly the kind of provision that should be contained in legislation. I will draw an analogy to the rainy day fund, which is meant for use at times of great risk. The operation of the rainy day fund has the kind of steps and checks built in that Senator Clifford-Lee is proposing. What makes the times we are in so different is that it is entirely possible that a decision might be needed to change the guidance we are giving to various Departments and local authorities. We may need to make it quickly at a point when it is simply not possible to trigger sittings of the Houses of the Oireachtas, let alone gain their consent.
If this were not an emergency, it is likely that what Senator Clifford-Lee is looking for would already be contained in the legislation. Given the exceptional circumstance that we find ourselves in, however, it will be a decision made by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in consultation with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. This is emergency legislation and it is due to lapse. I do not believe it would become the norm for these kinds of powers to be triggered in a way that did not require the consent of the Seanad and Dáil. For these reasons I appeal to the Senator to consider not pressing the amendment with the expectation that something like this would be contained in other legislation that we will see in future.