Wednesday, 14 October 2020
Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records, and another Matter, Bill 2020: Order for Second Stage
I want to put on the record of the House that I and other Members of the House have tabled an amendment which states:
"To delete all words after "That" and to substitute the following: "the Bill be read a Second Time on 21st October, 2020, to allow for a further consultation on certain provisions of the Bill, including the insertion of the words 'another matter' into the title of the Bill and the insertion of section 6 into the Bill, noting the power of the Minister to further amend the Terms of Reference of the Commission to provide for a later date for the delivery of its final report.
I understand Senator Boyhan will second the amendment.
The point I am making is that, as I understand it, the vote will be taken at the end of Second Stage as an amendment to the Government's motion that the Bill be read a Second Time. I want to reiterate the point that, as far as I know, no Member, other than a Government Member – and I do not even know about them – was warned about section 6 and the other matter. There has been no informal consultation of any kind whatsoever with my group. This is an instance where we are being asked to legislate on something without any pre-legislative scrutiny or prior discussion. It has appeared out of nowhere in a Bill that is scheduled to be run through in two days. It is not acceptable to my group or, I believe, the great majority of the people who are not members of Government parties.
I want to second Senator McDowell's proposal. I know Senator Boyhan's name is also on it as a seconder. If needs be, I am happy to second it on the basis that, as Senator McDowell has said, we are very concerned about the way in which the Bill is being rushed through and the projected ordering of Committee and Report Stages for Friday. I know that has not yet been ordered by the House. That will be put by the Leader on Friday morning.
The many thousands of emails we have all received in recent days shows the level of concern about the Bill and the need for further consultation. I want to support Senator McDowell on this reasonable proposal to delay somewhat the taking of Second Stage. Given the Order of Business for today, am I right in saying that if we are seeking to amend the Government order, any division we propose at the end of Second Stage at 12.30 p.m. today - or before if we finish before that - will be postponed until Friday? I think I am right about that.
I welcome any time legislation is either debated in this House or begins its journey here, but I am concerned that this Bill is due to be considered in one week and that we have three hours after the debate today to submit amendments. It is unacceptable for that to happen in the context of legislation that will have such a profound impact on the lives of so many people who have been badly let down by the State already. It is right out of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil playbook to - particularly this coming Friday - stifle debate in this fashion.
It was ordered last week that the House would take Second Stage today. The Minister is here to hear all the views of Members and it is right and proper that, rather than postponing anything, we have the debate and that Members on all sides put across the points they want to make and the Minister can respond. We will have plenty of time for debate on Second Stage and, again, subject to the order of the House, on Committee and Report Stages on Friday.