Speech on Order of Business: Restoration of Labour Bills, Disability Services, O'Malley Report

23 July 2020

Ivana Bacik

I welcome the new protocol on the wearing of masks in the Chamber.

I thank the Leader and the Seanad Office for putting down the motion on conclusion of the Order of Business for the restoration of two Bills to the Order Paper. For the information of Members, those are Labour Party Bills which were both introduced and passed by the previous Seanad on Second Stage. The first is the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018 which would restore certain citizenship rights to children born in Ireland. It was passed by this House in November 2018 with support from Fianna Fáil and the Green Party and we very much hope that we will see it pass all Stages in the lifetime of this Seanad. As such we are restoring it to the Order Paper so it may go to Committee Stage.

Our second Bill is the Convictions for Certain Sexual Offences (Apology and Exoneration) Bill 2016 which likewise passed Second Stage in the House in February 2017 with unanimous support. The State has issued an apology since then, in 2018, but it has not exonerated or expunged the records of those men who were convicted of the relevant historical offences. I know the expungement is contained in the programme for Government but we wish to assist the Government by bringing forward our legislation again and restoring it to the Order Paper. I thank the Leader for that and hope all parties will support the two Bills.

I wish also to renew a call for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy O'Gorman, to come into this House after the recess but early in the September session, to have a debate with us on disability services. This debate would in particular concern the necessary legislation to be passed in the lifetime of this Government to ensure we are fully compliant with our international obligations on the rights of persons with disabilities. The Justice for Wards of Court organisation has been in contact with me and pointed out a number of different gaps in our current law. These are well-recognised but we want to hear about a timeframe for the passing of such legislation.I would also like to ask the Minister about residential services and the reopening of day services. In the meantime, I will be submitting questions to the Minister on that matter because I have been inundated by messages from people who are deeply concerned, people with Down's syndrome and others who have real difficulty with accessing residential and day care services.

Finally, I ask the Leader for information on the report by Tom O'Malley SC, the renowned academic who was commissioned in 2018 to carry out a report into necessary reform of our law on sex offences, in response to the Belfast rape trial. The report was due to be published by tomorrow, when the most recent deadline given lapses. On 3 July, The Irish Times announced that the report, which has been delayed a number of times, would be published within two or three weeks, and that deadline lapses tomorrow. We know from Rape Crisis Network Ireland and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre how much of an increase there has been in reports of rape and it is therefore important that this report is published without delay.