Friday, 16 October 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Fintan Warfield (Sinn Fein)
I was planning to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to reflect what Senator McDowell has just outlined. Perhaps he might allow us to second his proposal to take only Committee Stage today.
I remind the Leader of what she said on Thursday, 10 September:
I hear Members very loudly and clearly. I recall how standing here some six weeks ago I told the House that we would not do all Stages of Bills again and I find myself in a very uncomfortable position this week of having to ask Members to do it today. I give my solemn word today that except in the event of an emergency, [...] I will not accede to having all Stages of a Bill on a same day sitting in future. There is a caveat, we must find an agreement this afternoon at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on how we run and order our business.
A commitment was given, however, that we would not railroad through all Stages and disrespect the process of this House. These Houses work best when the Government and Oireachtas work together and when all Stages are respected in the Seanad. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service has presented a very helpful infographic on the Stages of the legislation, laying out the process for all Members.
In my Second Stage contribution, I referred to the unprecedented engagement on this Bill with Members of House and other representatives. There is no doubt that the public is watching. It does not reflect well on this House if we concentrate all our critical examination into a few hours. Sinn Féin has submitted detailed amendments for Committee Stage and this will be the first opportunity to put them to the Minister. Many of the amendments reflect the deep alarm and concern of survivors of mother and baby homes over the direction and speed, in particular, of this Bill. I would like the Minister to have had more time to consider our amendments and determine whether he could compromise and come up with solutions of his own. The entire point of a Report Stage sitting is that Seanadóirí, the Minister and his officials can consider all amendments, even those defeated, in the period leading up to it. It has happened before that Ministers have considered Committee Stage amendments that were defeated and brought forward their own amendments. Without any period of reflection and engagement between Committee Stage and Report Stage, there is no chance at all of this happening. I appeal to Members, even those who may have supported the Bill this week, to allow time so we can fully listen and consider the concerns of the women and other survivors, who have themselves waited for so many years to get to this point. I appeal to the humanity of the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, so he may do the right thing by the women and other survivors.