Seanad debates

Monday, 15 February 2021

Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Report and Final Stages


10:30 am

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State's amendments. Since we are dealing with amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, I want to thank the Minister of State for listening to the debate and the contributions of the Members of this House, and responding in this manner to the proposal which I made. I fully accept what the Minister of State said that it is not possible to effectively amend the requirements of an EU directive through guidelines or anything else. The more complex amendment I proposed on Committee Stage was designed to achieve the maximum of what could be achieved within that parameter.Accepting what the Minister of State said about the advices received about section 40, as well as looking at the difficulties that have arisen under this particular rubric in which we are introducing guidelines on enhanced supervision of politically exposed persons' accounts, the Minister of State should put down on the departmental agenda that when this matter comes up at the next Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting some consideration should be given to dealing with the practicalities of what it has imposed. I know the British minister expressed considerable doubts as to the extent and effect of this measure as it affected ordinary MPs in Westminster. She said she hardly could go into the tearooms in Westminster without being besieged by people horrified by the extent of this enhanced surveillance of their activities. Some real effort should be made to make it practical in its effect.

We are a small country and, therefore, the administrative council of the Labour Party might not be the same as the executive of the Labour Party in England or whatever. However, when one thinks about it, the average county councillor has far more discretion to affect people's well-being and economic existence than anything we do in this House individually and certainly anything that anybody does at the national executive or national governing body level of any political party. Accepting that the Central Bank and the other enforcement agencies for this legislation have to work within the letter of the law, will the Minister of State accept the letter of the law has been cast too wide here at the European level? Will he accept that some degree of moderation is sensible in these circumstances? It is bad enough that administrative council members of the Labour Party are subject to this regime every time they open a bank account or every time they want to continue an existing account when it is realised they have been appointed to that position. It is bizarre that one could have been paying a mortgage for donkey's years, gets elected to the Labour Party's council and suddenly gets this letter from a bank or building society asking where did one get all one's money for the past 18 years. It is bonkers by any standard.

If that is the literal interpretation of this, then there is a strong case for indicating at the Justice and Home Affairs Council that it has gone a little bit too far and asking if the Council could moderate it somewhat. If it is mad to do that to a member of a particular body. What about their parents, who to their horror find out, that their child, male or female, has been given this elevated position in the Labour Party or Sinn Féin and they suddenly get these letters requiring them, exactly on the same basis, to account for their wealth over their lifetime? That is just crazy stuff.

Without pushing the matter any further, I fully accept the position the Minister of State is in. I thank him for the reasonable approach he has taken. It should not be necessary for the Minister or the Department to issue any guidelines. Common sense should prevail in all of these matters. Common sense should actually allow a two-line letter, if such is required, from the parent of a newly appointed member of the Labour Party's administrative council stating their wealth over their lifetime of work from A, B and C. Asking them to produce audited accounts of their business and all their tax returns since the year dot, along with asking them to prove what they got in their parents' will by supplying a copy of that will, is just crazy. If common sense cannot work out how this is implemented at the level of the Central Bank and other implementing bodies, we are in a sorry place.

I do not want to elaborate any further. I said everything I needed to say - perhaps at too great a length - on the last occasion. I thank the Minister of State for giving his Department and his successors the power to actually blow the whistle, say this has got to a ridiculous stage and ask if common sense could be applied.Therefore, I support and welcome the Minister of State's amendment.


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