Senator Ivana Bacik: I join you, a Chathaoirligh, and Senator MacSharry in paying tribute to the late Deputy Nicky McFadden and expressing, on behalf of the Labour Party group, our deep regret and sympathy to her family on her untimely death. Like many other colleagues, I served with the former Senator, Nicky McFadden, in the last Seanad and she was an extremely collegiate individual, a very warm person and an effective Senator. We will have time to pay tribute to her properly in the House and I look forward to that.
Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am delighted to second the Government’s amendment to the motion. There is a great deal of confusion about this issue, notably in the text of the Sinn Féin motion, which calls for the undergrounding of electricity pylons, which gives rise to some bizarre images.
Speaking today, Senator Ivana Bacik expressed her sympathy for the family of the late Christine Buckley, whose death has just been announced, and paid tribute to the tireless campaigning work that Christine did in exposing the terrible abuses suffered by children institutionalised in residential care, in Goldenbridge in particular.
Speaking today, Deputies Jerry Buttimer (FG) and John Halligan (Independent), along with Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour Party), have commended Senator Averil Power (FF) for organising a cross-party video message in support of the inclusive ‘St. Pat’s for All’ parade in New York City to mark St. Patrick’s Day.
The three Oireachtas members said today:
“We were all delighted to participate in this video, which was a collaborative project. Each of us was given the opportunity to change the lines provisionally given to us in the draft script and some of us did indeed do so. It was made clear to us at every stage that the intention was to agree on a wording that everyone was happy with.
“We regret that no representative from Sinn Féin took part, but we know that every effort was made by Senator Power to ensure that they would participate. We understand that the Sinn Féin representative did not wish to read out a particular message, but then refused an offer to read out a different line instead and made it clear that the party’s concern was in fact with the overall message of the script.
“We believe that the video message recorded by representatives of the four largest political groupings in the Oireachtas sends out a very important message in support of an inclusive parade, which celebrates among other Irish-American groups, members of the LGBT community, a group whose contribution to Irish-American society broadly deserves to be celebrated openly and proudly, along with the many other diverse groups that make up the modern global Irish community. We commend Senator Averil Power for taking this initiative to organise a cross-party message of support for the St. Pat’s for All parade organisers, and we wish them every success with their parade, and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”
Senator Ivana Bacik: I join with Senator O'Brien in thanking the Leader for outlining the format of the debates for next week. I welcome the fact that the focus will be on jobs, because a number of Members have called for a debate on this issue, and it is good to hear that the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will be here to discuss different aspects of the jobs strategy.
Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes, to the House. As other speakers have done, I very much welcome the Bill, which fits well in a welcome general trend in criminal justice policy to try to reduce reliance on imprisonment and ensure people are not committed to prison for convictions for minor offences and cases where a fine has been imposed but not paid. Others have already mentioned the large numbers of people still being committed to prison, and there were 8,304 committals to prison for fine default in 2012, including 1,687 female committals. There is real concern because the Irish Penal Reform Trust has indicated that the large number of women committed to prison in 2012 for fine default represented a five-fold increase on the 2008 figure, when 339 women were imprisoned for fine default. As we know, there is serious overcrowding in the Dóchas Centre and we do not have an open prison for women; all convicted women are sent to the closed prisons of the Dóchas centre or the Limerick prison. It is a matter of grave concern that so many women are being committed to prison for non-payment of fines.
Others have pointed out how this builds on the Fines Act 2010, which was introduced by the previous Government. The real concern is that the 2010 legislation, which had the same admirable and welcome objective, never took effect, with significant numbers of people still being committed to prison every year for fine default. The reason for the non-implementation of the Fines Act is that the court ICT systems have not received the necessary upgrade to process payment of fines by instalment. The legislation is very welcome and the new Bill repeals Part 3 of the 2010 Act but replicates and improves it.