Monthly Archives: December 2013

Call for sale of Nama properties by public auction or tender

Senator plans to introduce private members’ legislation

THE IRISH TIMES

 Senator Mark Daly (centre) wants properties being sold by or on behalf of Nama, the world’s largest property management company, to be listed on a website.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Nama properties and loans should be sold by tender or public auction in the same way as State assets, the Seanad has heard.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly said the Office of Public Works (OPW) sold all State assets by tender or public auction. The banks which managed loan books on behalf of Nama should dispose of these assets in the same manner as the OPW, and that would create full confidence in Nama.
Undervaluation
Following allegations in the Seanad about undervaluation of State assets by Nama, the Kerry Senator is to introduce private members’ legislation:the Nama and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill. It provides for all properties being sold by or on behalf of the agency, the world’s largest property management company, to be listed on a website.

The Bill states that Nama should sell all assets in an open and transparent manner.

“In the past notifications have been placed in the newspapers in respect of properties that were sold. However, nobody knew that these were for sale. How is that good for the taxpayer?”said Mr Daly.

A former auctioneer, he said there were various ways to sell property. “Doing so by way of backroom deals is not really in the interests of the taxpayer.”

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins called for a review of the agency’s “draconian powers” and a possible amendment to the Nama Act to make the agency more accountable.

‘Constructive’
Ms Higgins, who made allegations against a former Nama employee, said “we need to do something constructive”.

Fine Gael Seanad whip Paul Coghlan said the Opposition did not substantiate a single allegation and claimed it was done for publicity reasons.

Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne said his party colleague Darragh O’Brien was accused of “grandstanding” in allegations against Nama. Yet Mr O’Brien had refused to be accompanied by photographers or reporters when he went to the Garda with documentation about Nama.

Marie O’Halloran

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/call-for-sale-of-nama-properties-by-public-auction-or-tender-1.1633610

Friday, December 20, 2013

 

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Filed under Active Citizenship

Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012: Committee Stage

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

We know the Minister supports the legislation. Senators Crown, Daly and I put forward the Bill and we debated it in the House in May 2012, 19 months ago. It was a constructive debate that was supported by all and I felt we were going places. We have met since and I can catalogue the meetings and the contact back and forth, but we have not made progress.

I thank the Leader for allowing us as Members time to table amendments following queries raised by other Departments through the Department of Health. We tabled amendments in an effort to progress the Bill. I believe this is a simple measure. Of course we must examine issues like the presumption of age and the rebuttable presumption. As I said to the Minister’s officials, I have prepared a paper on the issue of presumption of age. The matter can be dealt with by the inclusion of a rebuttable presumption and that is what we are trying to do. There are several instances of it in law such as section 32 of the Child Care Act 1991 and section 53(1) of the Children Act 2001. The provision exists in legislation so why can we not progress the Bill? I have questions. As Senator Crown has joined us, I offer him the floor and I will rejoin the debate later.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

We are debating section 1. Is section 1 agreed?

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I ask the House for a 90 second sos. I misread the Order of Business and thought that we were not debating the legislation. I need to have a quick chat with Senator van Turnhout. May I have one minute? Is my request in order?

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

Senator Barrett wishes to make a contribution.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

If my request is not in order, I will continue.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

The Senator can debate the section after Senator Barrett.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)

I welcome the Minister and his interest in the affairs of the Seanad is appreciated. Senator Crown is the expert on health in the House but I will make a few observations from the transport point of view. Let us examine the penalty points system and the use of mobile telephones. Mobile telephone usage is the single most important element. Quite rightly, the authorities and the Garda Síochána, view people on mobile telephones as a major transport hazard. It is a major source of penalty points and fines for those involved due to a fear that people will be distracted from driving. From the transport point of view, somebody opening a packet of cigarettes, finding matches or a lighter to light them, flicking ashes and discarding the contents, typically out of the window, is much more damaging in traffic terms than encounters with a mobile telephone. Smoking involves many extra transactions. We take seriously the use of a mobile telephone in a car because we want to prevent accidents. As a result, we have reduced the number of fatalities on Irish roads from 650 down to about 160 last year but, unfortunately, there will be more. The Minister and Senator Crown are the experts on health but I am a transport economist and think there is a strong case for the control of people smoking in cars. Smoking is more dangerous than using a mobile telephone in a vehicle, of which the Garda, the Minister for Justice and Equality and others take a dim view. Penalty points have proved successful as a preventative measure in reducing fatalities, especially the deaths of young men under 35 for whom car accidents used to be the major source of ill health and death. The number has been reduced dramatically. Is tobacco smoking in cars not a danger in terms of safety and health promotion? All Senators are keen to have more safety and health promotion.

I will hand over to Senator Crown and will allow him to speak. The transport aspects of the legislation are very good and I lend them my support.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I thank the Acting Chairman and the Minister. I apologise to the Minister for my apparent inattention. I meant no disrespect by my late arrival. I misunderstood the Order of Business and thought we would debate the health insurance Bill for longer. I had wanted to make a contribution on that legislation too, but more anon.

As sponsors of the Bill, we have taken the unusual step of bringing forward Committee Stage amendments that reflect two issues. First, we are cognisant of the public and welcome the support the Minister gave us when we debated the legislation on Second Stage. It gave us a great boost to our morale, as legislators, that the Government accepted back bench Opposition legislation on merit, a procedure that is somewhat unusual in this Parliament. I am truly very grateful to the Minister for doing so. We wanted the opportunity to debate it again with him and that is one of the reasons for advancing amendments at this stage. Our interaction with the rest of the health service has been less productive in respect of the Bill in the 20-odd months since we first proposed the legislation on First and Second Stages in the House, back in May 2012.

I could go through a turgid recitation of the various meetings that have taken place. There have been many but I will just bring one to the Minister’s attention. The most recent formal meeting took place a year ago and was with the most senior authorities in the Department of Health. At that time we were promised we would have what they called the heads of the Bill, which I believe was their way of tabling Committee Stage amendments, by the end of January 2013. That was almost one year ago and nothing has happened. Since then it has been indicated that the Minister’s very welcome plain packaging Bill has a higher priority. He will find strong support from me and I suspect across the House for his legislation. However, there was not a great degree of resources or attention put into passing our legislation. We believe the Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill is relatively simple legislation that would give the Minister a quick win in terms of passing a law to advance tobacco control.

The Minister mentioned concerns in his Second Stage speech in the House about what he described as serious flaws in the Bill, but we were delighted that he was prepared to advance the legislation to Committee Stage in order that we could avail of the expertise in the various Departments to correct, amend and strengthen the Bill and ensure it was passed. When we first met after the Second Stage in May 2012 with several of the Minister’s colleagues with responsibility for tobacco control, concerns were expressed about constitutional issues, such as whether one could smoke in a private place and things like that, although that concern seems to have been dismissed fairly quickly. There was a substantial amount of technical comment on issues related to how the Garda would enforce the Bill because, ultimately, it is its members who must enforce the legislation. Our amendments today address that by incorporating a reference to the Bill in the Road Traffic Act and allowing the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to introduce fixed charges as she or he sees fit in terms of the enforcement of the Bill. We also needed to go into some detail about fines and how they would be codified, and that is dealt with in our amendments. There was a question that perhaps the European technical standards directive would be invoked, but the opinion is that it would not. There was a feeling that the Bill, once passed, could be commenced relatively quickly.

I am not getting at the Minister about this but I want to give him a brief time line, and I will not name names.

May 3: Publication, introduction.
May 9: Second Stage.
May 18: Meeting with senior Department of Health officials.
May 25: Telephone call with senior Department of Health officials.
May 29: Meeting with senior Department of Health officials.
June 2012: Meeting with senior Department of Health officials.
E-mails sent on July 16 with proposed amendments not answered.
E-mails sent on August 22. No answer, no voice mail left.
August 22: Further e-mail sent to relevant official.
August 12: Telephone call. No answer. Left voice mail.
August 27: Telephone calls. No answer.
October 4: E-mail finally received, again with a commitment to expeditious processing.
November 1: Further e-mail from me to the Minister outlining my concern over the delays.
November 2: Response from official; still nothing happening.
November 21: E-mail from official to one of my co-sponsors; again no particular action happening.
December 12: E-mail back confirming that the Department of Justice and Equality had made observations.
December 21, almost one year ago: Meeting in Hawkins House with very senior officials of the Department of Health. Told the Bill is a priority and we would see action by 30 January 2013. Nothing.
March 26: E-mails seeking clarification. March 26: E-mail back; will reply once the AG considers it in detail.
April 8: further advice being sought from AG.
April 10: An attempt to set up another meeting. Three months after the deadline I wish we would be told that we had the guidelines available to us.
April 24: Further meeting.
June 25: E-mail sent. Telephone call to official – no answer. Left voice mail.
June 27: E-mail from official later; would contact AG’s office at some unspecified date.
July 1: E-mail from official, AG’s office. Will update her later that week.
July 17: More feedback required from AG.
September 17: At this stage we are getting up to a real-time account of it.

I believe that with a little action by the Executive the Minister has the status, clout, authority and the interest to make this happen.
We are proposing a number of amendments on Committee Stage we believe address many of the technical concerns the Minister described as constituting serious flaws with the Bill. Some of us are new to this business but we are prepared to take on board any of the advice the Minister has to offer to strengthen the Bill.It was the intent when the Bill was proposed that the summer of 2012 would be a time when children, legislatively, would have been protected during the summer holiday period from the consequences of adults smoking in cars with them. That did not happen. I then hoped it would happen in time for the summer of 2013; it has not. Let us please not delay it any further than this.

If I may I will turgidly recite some of the reasons for that because in the aftermath of last night’s events, the right wing, pseudo-libertarian, pseudo-free speech lobby are in full thunder crowing and gloating over their victory for free speech and against the nanny state. I am not a great believer in the nanny state but I will make a few comments on why the nanny state is important in this regard. It is beyond controversy that there is an increase in the incidence of asthma and bronchitis as a result of second-hand smoke. It is well understood that there is a unique peril associated with the level of tobacco smoke and its chemical constituent in the small confines of a car. The data are clear that when one cigarette is smoked the level of particulates is 30 times higher for a child in a car than the level the Environmental Protection Agency would be ringing sirens telling people to get off the streets, go into their houses and close the windows. It is 30 times higher yet it is still legally possible for a child to be subjected to that.

The exposure after one hour in a car with smokers is the same as that which a fire woman or fireman would experience in four to eight hours of fighting a bush fire. The emissions are five times higher from a cigarette smoked in the car than from the tail pipe of the car during the period in which smoking one cigarette would take place. One hour spent in a smoky car produces the same occupational exposure as eight hours in a smoky pub which, thankfully, only a few of us have memories of due to the inspired action of one of the Minister’s predecessors, the then Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, action we hope the Minister will emulate with a series of innovative anti-smoking measures.

The question has arisen as to whether this problem exists. The advocacy groups, the pseudo-civil libertarians who envelope themselves in the cloak of libertarianism, state that sensible, responsible parents will not do this anyway and therefore the nanny state does not need to legislate. The evidence is all around us that sadly, parents do it although they do not do it very often.

The real reason for this Bill is its educational value. It has had an educational value because I personally cannot recall any public debate ever taking place in this country on the scale of the Second Stage debate on the issue of smoking in cars with children. Suddenly, it was an issue people discussed, and it gives that powerful bully pulpit to children themselves because they hear the arguments and they say, “Mammy, don’t be smoking” or “Daddy, don’t be smoking”.

For all these reasons it is critically important that we deal with this small, tight, focused Bill. We have done the heavy lifting for the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality. We introduced the amendments. Can we get a commitment that we will get this Bill passed quickly? We can then join in a full embrace with the Minister in his other great anti-smoking initiatives we would like to support.

After three years of this Government the score card in terms of anti-smoking legislation – this is not a dig at anybody – is as follows: considered four Bills, rejected one last night, promise of another one – the plain packaging Bill – next year. We are still turgidly gluing the smoking in cars Bill through a treacly bureaucracy nearly two years later, and the only Bill that has been passed is the one that makes it easier to sell cheap cigarettes to children and other adults. I know that is not something the Minister wanted; it was enforced on him by inappropriate actions of external agencies from without the State that put him under judicial and commercial pressure to do this but. Sadly, however, that is the track record. Let us start by fixing it today.

I am not sure if we will have an opportunity to speak as we go through the Bill.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

Yes. I call Senator Burke.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)

I thank the Minister for coming into the House for a second time this week. I welcome the amendments tabled by the proposers of the Bill and for the work they have done in preparing them and in preparing the Bill, which is very detailed.

On the issue of banning smoking in cars with passengers under 18, in fairness, the amendments deal with the issue of producing evidence to prove someone is over 18 but would it be an easier way of dealing with the issue if smoking in cars carrying any passengers was banned completely? From a Garda implementation point of view, that may be an easier way of doing it. I put that forward as an idea to consider from the point of view of enforcement. What Senator Crown has brought forward will protect children but from the point of view of enforcement, an easier way of processing this would be to ban smoking in cars. I do not know whether that is worth looking at once the legislation is passed. The Minister might examine that issue also.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)

Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister back to the House. My Seanad colleagues have outlined the time-line on this issue but this is a more fundamental criticism of the system that has allowed it to continue for so long. In other areas where I am dealing with Departments I am told by officials that unless the Minister tells them to do it, it does not happen. We call ourselves legislators but because the officials will not let things happen, and things do not happen, we are not able or allowed to legislate. When I spoke to Senator Crown’s Bill last night I referred to the piece of paper that is in every Department on why something cannot be done.

When there are things that should be done for the most obvious reasons, such as those that Senator Crown has outlined, for example, that a child inhaling cigarette fumes in a car is the equivalent of a firefighter working for eight hours in a forest fire, one has to ask why we would not bring in legislation. Here it is, two years on, yet there are eight more Stages to go. When it is passed in this House it has to go to the other House.

Senator Quinn introduced the Construction Contracts Bill. It made sense. Of course subcontractors should not be left high and dry when the main contractor goes bust. That is not a criticism of this Government because that started under the previous Government. It is the system. This economy and this country have just gone through one of the most fundamental changes in the past five years but the system has not changed. We know this because it has taken two years to get to the third stage in a ten stage process. I hope that the Minister will put his weight behind this. I know that he is working on this issue.

The problem is not the Minister or his concern for this issue. We have met with officials, gardaí, the Department of Health and civil servants but the Attorney General is like the Wizard of Oz, all-seeing and all-knowing yet we can never find out what the Attorney General is actually doing behind the curtain. The Attorney General is not the legislator. She should have a view but every now and then we hear that the Attorney General cannot give an opinion. When there was a question about recalling the Seanad, however, there was no problem circulating the Attorney General’s view on the merits and effect of the recall of the Seanad. The Attorney General should be able to talk to a legislator and identify a person from her office to liaise with the legislator. That is how legislation works. It is not cloak and dagger stuff such that Members of the Opposition or Government cannot speak to the all-seeing and all-knowing Attorney General. I do not care who speaks to the Attorney General but she should sit down and engage in the process.

It is because the process has failed that we are here now, with eight more Stages to go. Will we do it in the lifetime of this Government? I hope that the Government serves every hour of its five years so that we can say, “Yes we can and we did do it”. I do not want to see this going into the next Government as Senator Quinn’s Bill did. It is a failure of the process. I am not blaming the Minister or the Department. It is a failure of previous governments that allowed the system to drag its heels for so long that a Bill that so obviously should be ratified and implemented has sat there without moving. If we were not having this debate it could wait another five years.

Photo of Averil PowerAveril Power (Fianna Fail)

I strongly support this legislation. The last it was discussed in the House the Minister expressed several concerns about making it workable. I understand that Senators have been going back and forth – indeed Senator Crown has catalogued all the correspondence over that period – with a view to trying to reach agreement on this issue. The amendments before us today present a scheme that is workable. It is perfectly reasonable to insert provisions whereby there is a presumption that somebody is under age unless they show otherwise as Senator van Turnhout detailed earlier. The penalties scheme is also workable because it is based on a fixed charge, which we know works . All we need is leadership on this. When we discussed other smoking legislation yesterday evening Members on all sides of the House stated that nobody doubts the Minister’s bona fides on this broad issue but we need to see measures being taken rather than simply talk about them.

The Minister has been quoted in The Irish Times as saying that he is personally in favour of banning smoking in cars but he thinks that the public needs persuading on the issue. That is a chicken and egg situation. There was huge opposition to the workplace smoking ban when it was mooted. Vintners and other powerful lobby groups ran a big campaign to try to get the Government to back down but it did not because our current party leader, in his then position as Minister for Health, stuck with it and said it was right. Whether people realise it yet, or not, it is right. We have seen a huge change in mind-set on smoking in the workplace over the past few years. Most people now understand that it is completely unacceptable, and it has caused them to think more about smoking in front of other people.

It is very unfortunate that we have to debate legislation about people smoking in front of children in their cars. Personally, I think it is disgusting. It is incredibly unfair, particularly for a small child to be locked in a tiny space. Senator Crown has already detailed some of the health impacts, but the figures are far worse than a firefighter dealing with a wild fire, or 23 times more toxic than being subjected to passive smoking in a house. I cannot fathom the idea that anybody would think it is acceptable to smoke in front of their children in such a confined environment but unfortunately it does happen. It is up to us as the legislature to put in place legislation to protect the most vulnerable people in our society from such health impacts. It is our job to put in place legislation to protect children from passive smoking. We know how dangerous it is and what impact it has on their health not just in the short term but the long term too. We know the rates for respiratory problems and for asthma caused by passive smoking.

This legislation is very reasonable and deserves the Minister’s support. It works in other countries. There are several states in Australia, Canada and the United States of America that have bans on smoking in cars where children are present, and in several other countries too. I urge the Minister to show leadership on this and support and push through this legislation. If he has problems with the amendments before us, let us hear them and tease them out. If we have to adjourn Committee Stage today and come back within a set time-frame to have agreement on the final wording of the Bill then so be it. I ask the Minister please to get behind this legislation and let us all work on a cross-party basis to deal with this issue. It is one small part of the picture of protecting people from tobacco-related harm in this country but it is important because it protects people who have little choice for themselves, children. They cannot make that decision. We have talked about packaging of cigarettes and health warnings and so on, to protect adults from the harm they do to themselves with tobacco. It is our job to protect children.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)

I too welcome the Minister back to the House. Every time someone puts forward an idea here we stand up and thank and congratulate that Senator. I genuinely thank the Senators involved for bringing this forward because although this is a simple Bill it is one of the best I have seen here. We need to reform the process whereby when the Opposition comes up with a good idea, a good Bill or suggestion, we accept and study it for what it is, rather than turn it down just because it comes from the Opposition.

Thirty years ago, when I was driving my car with my father-in-law and my son, who was four at the time, my son piped up from the back seat to say, “Grandad, please stop smoking in the car. It is horrible”. Out of the mouth of babes, as they say. To this day nobody has ever smoked in our car because I decided he was right. I had not the courage to say it. From that day, however, we have had the courage to say that we do not want people smoking in the car or we do not allow it. Over 30 years ago my son realised that it was not nice to be sitting in a car with smoke in it. Today he is in the same profession as Senator Crown, albeit at a much lower level. He is a general practitioner. He cannot abide smoking. He thinks that it is one of the worst things a person can do for their health.

This is an excellent Bill. I urge the Minister not to let it sit but to move on it and pass it. Sometimes the simplest things are overlooked. We have made it compulsory to wear seat belts in cars, banned speaking on mobile telephones while driving, and introduced seats for children. Why can we not bring in this ban? It is easy enough to police. If gardaí when they stop us at night can put their heads into the car to check for the smell of alcohol they can certainly smell smoke too.

Whatever about banning it completely, which may be a good idea, at least adults can say, “Please do not smoke in my car”, whereas children sitting in the back cannot very well say that. I ask the Minister to please not leave this parked for too long and to bring forward whatever amendments he must as quickly as possible to get this Bill initiated.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

On going through my notes, I came across mention of Fionn O’Callaghan from County Wexford, whom the Minister will remember. He was seven when we started this process and he is now nine, and I hope he will not be an adult when we bring this in. He took it on himself to write to the Taoiseach, asking him to use his good offices to introduce legislation to enforce a smoking ban where children are present in a car. His belief in us, as legislators, is something we have to live up to.

The Minister challenged us to raise public awareness. I have done considerable media work in the past 19 months on this issue, particularly with local media, and I have been asked how many cases we are talking about. Since we started this process, this has got me looking at cars and, increasingly, I see people smoking in cars with children. Today in the Dáil and tomorrow in the Seanad, we are going to, appropriately, rush through legislation, the Adoption (Amendment) Bill. Just 23 families are affected by that legislation, yet we will rush it through in two days. Therefore, even if we are only talking about a handful in the case of smoking in cars, it is enough. We are talking about public education. What has been shown by this process is that where there is a will, there is a way for us to do this. However, to have taken 19 months is not acceptable.

The Bill is not unprecedented. Cyprus, for example, has banned smoking in cars with children present, various jurisdictions across North America have done so and many more jurisdictions are in the process of doing so. Several Canadian provinces, a number of Australian states and other individual jurisdictions have come down on the side of introducing legislation. This is not a civil liberties or a left versus right issue, rather it is a public health issue that garners public favour.

Children face particular additional risks associated with passive smoking as they breathe more rapidly than adults and, therefore, take more breaths per minute. As a result, they have a greater level of internal exposure to any environmental toxin in the air they breathe. Furthermore, owing to their small size and the efficiency with which gas exchange occurs in their lungs, they have a higher level of tissue exposure per molecule of poisonous chemical in the atmosphere than adults. It is beyond doubt that children who are exposed to second-hand smoke run additional risks, especially in the areas of infection, bronchitis, asthma and, very worryingly, meningitis, which is often a sequel of other respiratory infections. Sadly, there is conclusive evidence that sudden infant death syndrome is more common in infants who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

The national longitudinal study of children noted in 2009 that approximately 60% of nine year olds in Ireland travel to school by car, with an average journey time of ten minutes each way. One can imagine the damage done to those children if an adult is smoking. In addition, the British Medical Association has stated its belief, following an analysis of the data, that the incidence of childhood cancers, by which I mean not only respiratory cancers but those cancers which, sadly, occur in children, including brain tumours and lymphoma, are more common in children who are exposed environmentally to second-hand smoke. There are also some data to show that children who have early childhood exposure may have a higher risk of developing lung cancer in later life.

Within one minute of a cigarette being lit in an enclosed car, the occupational concentration of dangerous particulates in smoke is, as Senator Crown said, 30 times higher than the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States advocates that people flee the streets and close the windows in their homes to escape environmental smoke. The exposure after one hour in a car with smokers is the same as that which a firefighter experiences in four to eight hours of fighting a brush fire. Tellingly, the emissions are five times higher from a cigarette smoked in the car than from the tail pipe of the car during the period in which the driving is taking place. One hour spent in a smoky car produces the same occupational exposure as eight hours in a smoky pub.

No one has a right to expose a child to cigarette smoke. Senator Colm Burke raised the question of a complete ban on smoking in cars, but I believe we may fall foul of constitutional provisions in regard to property rights. To be fair, we did look at that but we want to stay within the remit of the Constitution.

To deal directly with the Bill, we believe it is a minor amendment but it will extend the list of specified places in the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 to include “a mechanically propelled vehicle in which a person under the age of 18 is present”. The Bill also deals with the question of locations to ensure any person who smokes in prescribed places is breaking the law. As Senator Crown said, we want this as a public education measure. It is not about acting zealously. It is not a road safety issue but, rather, a public health issue.

The figures are staggering. As I said, the Adoption (Amendment) Bill is going through the Dáil in 90 minutes or less today and through the Seanad in 90 minutes or less tomorrow. In that case, 23 families are praying and waiting, yet in this case, while nobody knows the figure, I can guarantee parents are smoking in more than 23 cars in Ireland. On that point, parents come to me in support of this because their children get lifts to school from other parents and, while they feel very comfortable saying to other parents, “Have a seat belt on my child”, they do not feel as comfortable, as Senator Moloney noted, about saying it about smoking. While we might say parents should have the courage to speak out, we all like to keep others happy and conform. By putting this into law, we will empower parents and children to say: “Do not smoke in this car. My health is at risk.”

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

I am very pleased to speak on the Bill. In reply to Senator Barrett, I always get very nervous when anybody calls me an expert on anything. I assure the House I am not opposing this and I do not intend to submit any amendments to the Bill today, although I will bring amendments at a later stage in the legislative process and I will explain these as I go through the Bill.

I want to put my position on the Bill into context. Last year, I supported the principle of the Bill but indicated that amendments were required for it to operate effectively. I went to Government on this matter and the drafting of amendments to the Bill was approved. Since then, my Department has worked in consultation with the Senators, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Garda Síochána and the Office of the Attorney General on progressing the legislation. The Senators are aware that a number of key legal issues arose during this time. I am very happy to confirm that some of these issues have been resolved, and I thank the Senators for that. Other issues, however, are still under examination and subject to ongoing communication between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General.

I acknowledge and fully understand the Senators are frustrated with the perceived lack of progress on the Bill and that the Senators decided to go ahead today in the absence of amendments drafted by the Attorney General’s office and submitted to my Department. My new tobacco policy, Tobacco Free Ireland, includes a commitment to develop and introduce legislation prohibiting smoking in cars where children are present. I would like to reassure the Senators again that I am interested in results, not ownership of those results, and I am very happy to support the Senators’ Bill. However, I want to make sure it is a Bill that will stick and there are a number of issues that still have to be addressed in it. I do not want to delay Committee Stage today in any way.

The overall aim of the Bill is the protection of children from the harm caused by second-hand smoke in an enclosed place, and I do not need to repeat what Senators Crown and van Turnhout have told us in regard to the damage that exposure to second-hand smoke causes to children.

The World Health Organization has stated that there is no safe level of second-hand smoke. Recent reviews carried out for my Department by the Health Research Board on smoking in cars underscores the extent of the harm caused. All of the evidence emphasises the importance of protecting children from such exposure. Children are most exposed to second-hand smoke in the home and thereafter in motor vehicles. On previous occasions I have drawn the image of a child strapped into a car, with no way of escaping, as the vehicle fills with smoke from the cigarette of the adult who has lit up in the front seat or, even worse, right beside the child in the back seat. That is what we are talking about here.

Senators should be assured that there is no question of any diminution in my commitment to this matter. On the contrary, I have remained committed to progressing these measures as quickly as possible in legislation and supporting the Senators in that regard. I hope we can progress our amendments when outstanding issues have been addressed and that the final Bill will be another in a series of effective legislative controls to protect children from the harm of tobacco products. I ask Senators to join me in sending a strong message to the tobacco industry that we will not weaken in our resolve to protect citizens and, in particular, our children from their killer product. Rather, we grow stronger day by day and will not rest until we have achieved our goal of a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025 at the latest, if not before.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I absolutely take the Minister at his word on this matter. However, with Senator Crown’s reference to timelines in mind, will the Minister tell us when he will be in a position to bring forward the amendments he has indicated? It would help to inform our thinking if we had that information, bearing in mind that we all know how timelines can slip. We are ready to work with the Minister, but we need to know when exactly his proposals will be brought forward.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

I would love to be able to give the Senator an answer to her question, but I cannot do so. As Harold Macmillan once said when asked about how a particular issue might progress: “Events, dear boy, events.” We have a huge amount of legislation to get through and our progress was held up to some extent by all of the troika-related legislation we had to bring through, even in the area of health. I hope Senators do not take it the wrong way when I point out that the process they have experienced in seeking to progress these particular measures highlights the general difficulties that arise in terms of bringing any Bill through the Oireachtas. It is why I opted on a range of issues in the Health Service Executive plan, which we are not discussing today, to seek progress through administrative structures, such as the proposed patient safety agency and other reform initiatives. There is no getting away from the fact that the legislative process is slow. As Senator Daly pointed out, there is a problem within our system in that it is very difficult to get legislation through in a timely fashion. Other jurisdictions seem to manage it in a much more efficient way. There are several factors which contribute to this slow progress, which I will go into in more detail as we move through the amendments. One of them is the need to engage with other Departments in terms of consultation and so on.

Senator Crown made an interesting point regarding the libertarian view and so forth. I absolutely agree that this Bill cannot be construed as representing an advance by the nanny state. In short, it is about protecting children. Adults can choose to smoke – it is their own business – but they cannot harm others when they do so, even if they choose to harm themselves.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I beg the understanding of my more experienced parliamentary colleagues and acknowledge a certain naivete on my own part when it comes to parliamentary procedures. Am I correct in understanding that the Government does not propose to oppose the amendments and will allow the Bill to pass Committee Stage?

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)

Yes, we have no objection to the amendments.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I appreciate the clarification.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)

We are all aware of the importance of seeking to lead on these issues as opposed to follow. In a survey conducted by AA Ireland in 2011, some 74.6% of respondents were in complete agreement with the idea of a ban on smoking in cars where there is a child passenger, with a further 10.5% offering a slightly less emphatic endorsement. We can be confident that the public is with us on this issue.

In terms of the difficulties presented by the legislative process, I would suggest that it is not illegal for legislators and departmental officials to sit down with whomever is in possession of the file in question in the Attorney General’s office. That engagement could take place in the first week of January and should also include a representative of Garda headquarters. Getting everybody around the same table would allow us to review what has already been done and consider what changes should be introduced on Report Stage. It could all be hammered out quickly if we could meet with the person in the Office of the Attorney General with whom it has only been possible thus far to communicate via e-mail. That type of engagement would see us ready to proceed to Report Stage in the spring.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)

I received some interesting information from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which could help to illuminate our discussion today. In 2012, the Garda Síochána apprehended 240,000 motorists, 184,000 of them for speeding, 25,000 for the telephone offences to which I referred earlier and 219 for failing to heed a stop sign. Gardaí are already tackling motoring offences – the numbers involved would fill three Croke Parks – and we would only be asking them to monitor one additional practice. It might well turn out that there is very little extra work involved; the successful operation of the ban on smoking in the workplace does not require gardaí to go into pubs and restaurants on a regular basis to see whether anybody is smoking. The Minister’s leadership and advocacy on this issue may very well persuade people to comply without much need for enforcement. Gardaí are already doing a splendid job in the area of road traffic law enforcement 240,000 times a year; it would not require a huge additional different, when a motorist has been stopped, to look for evidence of smoking where there is a child passenger. All that is required is the taking on of a single additional duty.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)

Following on from Senator Barrett’s point, I see these provisions as being very much cost neutral in the sense that the policing is already taking place. In fact, if one takes into consideration the numbers of motorists who are stopped and cautioned, we can probably add another 100,000 to the Senator’s figure of 240,000. These proposals are absolutely sensible. I totally agree that when it comes to this particular issue, we have the wherewithal to set international best practice and be world leaders. In fact, I would go further and ban smoking in cars outright on the basis that a vehicle might, for example, be shared between adults, one of whom smokes. In such cases, children could be subjected to residual second-hand smoke on a regular basis, even if neither adult smokes when the children are actually in the car.

The Minister’s decision not to oppose these amendments is very positive and demonstrates the goodwill and leadership of the Government on this issue. While things did not go the way everyone would have liked yesterday, it is clear today that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet, even though we might not be singing the same verses at the same time.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

To be absolutely clear, I am 100% supportive of this Bill and of the banning of smoking in cars where children are present. There is irrefutable evidence for such a prohibition, as I have indicated. In fact, I am strongly in favour of banning it in cars altogether not only because of possible scenarios such as that referred to by Senator Conway, but because I see a health and safety issue in terms of driving with a lit cigarette in one’s hand. That cigarette could fall and cause all types of problems, as Senator Norris so colourfully described last night, and there is the distractibility aspect of lighting up and so on.

There is an argument to be made for that and there is an appetite for it, but this Bill does not address that nor should we expect it to or delay it by adding it in.

Make no mistake, I wish to have this Bill passed as quickly as possible. Like the Senator, I suffer tremendous frustration when Bills take so long to be passed. When I was in opposition I introduced a Bill on medical indemnity insurance to ensure that no doctor could be registered unless they were already insured, rather than permit them the temptation of failing to have insurance. I know some have done that. That Bill is published but it is sitting on the A list. That is due to the volume of business we must get through. There is no malign intent my part or on the part of the Department. It is due to the structure we have. Senator Daly is correct. We must review how legislation is made and passed through the Houses with a view to expediting it, because it is certainly causing problems for me and my Department. That is the reason I have looked to the administrative process for the HSE service plan to try to expedite some of the reforms which I believe are essential to get our health service to where it should be.

Question put and agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)

Amendments Nos. 1, 3 and 4 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I move amendment No. 1:

1. In page 3, before section 2, to insert the following new section:
2.—The Principal Act is amended by inserting, after section 6, the following:“6A.—(1) Summary proceedings in respect of the contravention of the requirements of section 47(8)(j) may be brought and prosecuted by a member of the Garda Síochána.
(2) In respect of prosecutions relating to the alleged contravention of the requirements of section 47(8)(j)—

(a) it shall be presumed until the contrary is shown that a child who is a passenger in a mechanically propelled vehicle at the time of the commissioning of the alleged offence has not attained 18 years of age, and
(b) evidence of the age of a child at the time of the commissioning of the alleged offence shall be discharged by the production of an original birth certificate or passport in respect of the child.

(3) A member of the Garda Síochána who suspects that a person has contravened the requirements of section 47(8)(j) may—

(a) direct the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle concerned to stop the vehicle,
(b) require the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle to—

(i) state his or her name and home address,
(ii) state the names of all passengers in the vehicle, and
(iii) produce his or her driver licence, or learner permit,

(c) require a passenger in the mechanically propelled vehicle, who the member of the Garda Síochána reasonably suspects has contravened the requirements of section 47(8)(j), to state his or her name and home address.

(4) A person who fails to comply with the direction of a member of the Garda Síochána, who is exercising powers under subsection (3), is guilty of an offence.
(5) Notwithstanding any other part of this Act, a person who is the sole occupant of a mechanically propelled vehicle shall not be in breach of the requirements of section 47(8)(j).
(6) In this section—
‘learner permit’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1961;
‘driving licence’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1961;
‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1961;
‘child’ means any person under the age of eighteen.
6B.—(1) Where a person is alleged to have acted in contravention of the a fixed charge notice, which may be declared by the Minister of Transport by regulations, stating that—

(a) the person is alleged to have committed the offence,
(b) the person may, during the period of 21 days beginning on the date of the notice, make to the Garda Síochána at the address specified in the notice a payment of the prescribed amount (‘fixed charge’) specified in the notice, and
(c) a prosecution in respect of an alleged offence will not be instituted during the period specified in the notice and, if the payment specified in the notice is made during that period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence will be instituted.

(2) Where a fixed charge notice is given under subsection (1)—

(a) the person to whom the notice applies may, during the period specified in the notice, make to the Garda Síochána at the address specified in the notice the payment specified in the notice accompanied by the notice,
(b) the Garda Síochána may receive the payment, issue a receipt for it and retain the money so paid, and any payment so received shall not be recoverable in any circumstances by the person who made it, and
(c) a prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall not be instituted in the period specified in the notice, and if the payment so specified is made during that period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall be instituted.

(3) In a prosecution for an offence referred to in subsection (1) the onus of proving that a payment pursuant to a notice under this section has been made shall lie on the defendant.
(4) The Minister for Transport may by regulations, and in consultation with the Minister for Health prescribe the amount of a fixed charge and may prescribe different amounts in relation to—

(a) the number of persons in the mechanically propelled vehicle who have acted in contravention of the requirements of section 47(8)(j),
(b) the number of passengers in the mechanically propelled vehicle, and,
(c) the ages of the passengers in the mechanically propelled vehicle.

(5) In this section, ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.”.”.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

I am not opposing the amendment. I am trying to be helpful because I want this Bill to succeed and to be implemented as quickly as possible.

The intention of the original Bill’s provisions and amendment No. 1 relates to the offence of smoking in a car where children are present. It is intended to give power to An Garda Síochána in respect of this offence. I agree with the comments made by people that the Garda is well positioned to do this and it is not a particularly onerous extra duty for gardaí. The amendment and the original Bill’s provisions on the matter are deemed unacceptable in their current form for two reasons. First, section 47 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act relates to prohibiting smoking in the workplace. The provisions relating to this are enforced by the environmental health officers of the HSE. It is not appropriate in the Department’s view, which is supported by legal advice, that the provisions to prohibit smoking in cars, which is mainly a private space although some people have work space cars, should be made in section 47, which specifically relates to the workplace. The provisions relating to banning smoking in cars where children are present should be contained in a separate provision within the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts.

In addition, as this new provision has An Garda Síochána as enforcer, it is important that there is no legal confusion regarding the roles of An Garda Síochána and the HSE in respect of tobacco control matters. Therefore, it requires a separate section of the Act. This is not an insurmountable problem, but I am simply flagging it for the Senator.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

It is good to know that.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

The ban on smoking in the workplace was a sea change. I commend Deputy Micheál Martin on introducing it.

Section 47(8) of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002, as amended, sets out the definitions of specified places, that is, a place of work, schools and so forth. These are the specified places where smoking is currently prohibited. The amendment states that An Garda Síochána can bring a prosecution in respect of section 47(8)(j), but that is just a definition provision, not a requirement provision. The Senators have amended a definition provision but have not made an explicit reference to the offence provision, that is, it does not state, in its current form, that smoking in a car with a child present is prohibited. This is a significant drafting issue but, again, it is not insurmountable. While I note the Senators have taken on board discussions between health and justice officials regarding inserting powers for An Garda Síochána, this amendment cannot be enforced for the reasons already outlined.

Amendment No. 3 relates to an offence provision under section 5 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act. The amendment provides for the addition of the provision 6A. However, this new provision refers to a contravention of section 47(8)(j), which is not a requirement provision as it only relates to the definition of a specified place.

Amendment No. 4 also incorporates this fundamental provision problem. This amendment relates to the amendment of the Road Traffic Act, which is under the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Amendment No. 1 also makes reference to the “Minister for Transport”. I understand that these provisions have not been examined by that Minister and his Department. On this basis, the amendment would require further examination. Without speaking out of turn, my colleague in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is also a doctor and GP and I have no doubt his support and co-operation would be forthcoming.

I accept the principle of amendment No. 2, which is to make the driver liable for a passenger smoking in the presence of a child. As drafted, this amendment is not acceptable as it includes drivers of a private vehicle in a list of owners and managers of workplaces. I reiterate the point that this provision relating to smoking in cars should be a stand alone provision within the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts and not included—–

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)

We are not dealing with amendment No. 2. Amendments Nos. 1, 3 and 4 are grouped together.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

My apologies.

In short, none of these problems is insurmountable. They just have to be worked on. To return to the previous point about how long it takes to get legislation through, another Bill that springs to mind is the sunbed legislation which was introduced by my predecessor in 2010. It has just come back from Europe. I fully support that legislation and see no need to alter or interfere with it. The process is the process. Senators might say the Government should examine it and I agree that we should review how legislation is dealt with and passed. It breaks everyone’s heart at times that it takes so long to get legislation through the system.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 2 deleted.

Section 3 agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I move amendment No. 2:

2. In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:
4.—The Principal Act is amended in subsection (3) of section 47, by substituting for “the occupier, manager and any other person for the time being in charge of the specified place” the following “the occupier, manager, the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle, and any other person for the time being in charge of the specified place”.”.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

As drafted, this amendment is not acceptable as it includes drivers of a private vehicle in a list of owners and managers of workplaces. The provision relating to smoking in cars should be a stand alone provision within the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts and not included in the current workplace smoking ban. In addition, the liability of the non-smoking driver is one of the issues raised by the Attorney General’s office and we have responded to it. Conclusive legal opinion on this issue has yet to be finalised. I accept the principle of it and these are not insurmountable problems.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

We would be delighted to look positively at any amendments the Minister offers on Report Stage to deal with any technical issues with either the original Bill or these amendments.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I realise the Minister cannot give a commitment on dates, but can he give a commitment that we will all work together so when we reach Report Stage we will have the Bill correct, so it could go through the Dáil quickly? If we could get a commitment that the Bill that is passed by this House should be able to go through the Dáil quickly, I would be happy with that.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)

The Minister has referred to all the problems, difficulties and frustrations. I believe his anti-smoking campaign will work. It is going well. The road safety campaign has been a spectacular success, and we compliment the Garda, the Minister, Deputy Vardkar, and all concerned. There might be a slight increase in the number of deaths this year but it is a remarkable reduction, so let us move forward. This is a good story about optimism for a healthier and safer Ireland. I commend amendment No. 4.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)

I do not wish to delay but I have a question about an outright ban on smoking in cars.

I do not want to delay the progress of the legislation but I wonder if this matter could be examined.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)

That is the very point I was about to make. I had intended to suggest that if there was a way it could be incorporated in the Bill – I am sure the Minister could discuss the matter with its promoters and with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, who is also a GP – then that should be done.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)

 

I presume the matter can be examined prior to Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 4 deleted.

NEW SECTIONS

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, before section 5, to insert the following new section:

5.—The Principal Act is amended in subsection (2) of section 5 by substituting for “section 37(13)” the following “section 6A, 7(13)”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, before section 5, to insert the following new section:

6.—Section 103(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended by section 14 of the Road Traffic Act 2006, is amended by replacing the text:

“and an offence standing so declared under paragraph (a) or (b) and each of the offences referred to in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) are referred to in this section as a fixed charge offence.”,

with the following:

“(f) an offence under section 47(8)(j), or section 6A, of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act of 2002, as amended, may be declared by the Minister by regulations, made after consultation with the Minister for Health to be fixed charge offences of a form described by section 6B of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002, as inserted by the Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke Act 2013,

and an offence standing so declared under paragraph (a) or (b) and each of the offences referred to in paragraphs (c), (d), (e) and (f) are referred to in this section as a fixed charge offence.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

SECTION 5

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, after line 10, to insert the following subsection:
“(2) This Act comes into operation on such day or days, as the Minister may by order appoint.”.

I want the record to reflect what I stated on the Order of Business this morning and what I wanted to say in respect of the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2013. In that context, I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister documentation that has recently come into my possession which corroborates a suspicion I reported to the statutory authorities 11 years ago to the effect that deliberate financial fraud took place at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and that said fraud was covered up by elements of the management and board of the hospital. Amendment agreed to.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

We would like it to be taken in January 2014.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)

It will be taken on the first sitting day in 2014.

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Filed under Active Citizenship

The NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill introduced by Senators Daly and Darragh O’Brien to be voted on in the Seanad tomorrow

Senator Mark Daly speaking in the Seanad

 

The Bill requires more transparency in the way NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation sell loans and properties

Senator Mark Daly’s and Darragh O’Brien proposal to have more transparency in the way NAMA and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) sell loans and properties was approved at the Fianna Fail meeting. The NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill 2013 provides that, in the interests of transparency, all relevant details of loans, properties, and/or other assets be offered for sale by or with the approval of NAMA or the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formally Anglo Irish Bank) be made available to the public by means of publication on a website.

Senator Darragh O’Brien has reignited  the debate on Transparency in NAMA this week by putting information on the record of the Seanad and providing information to the Garda in relation to alleged illegal activities by certain officials in NAMA.

Senator Daly’s comments

on January 29th 2011 in the Seanad attracted much media coverage. Where he stated that some developers were buying back the property they had originally borrowed money on for under the current market price.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny stated in June at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly held in Cork in 2011 that he too had concerns and “had some indications of attempts to acquire property that was taken from developers through a variety of methods,” he went on to say. “I hope that NAMA are on top of that, and that where NAMA have acquired assets that they don’t find their way back to where they were acquired from in the first place.”

Follow concerns on the way properties were being sold NAMA launched a new a website that has proven to be lacking in detail. Senator Daly had first proposed a website in January 2011 and in subsequent meetings with NAMA.

Details of the NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill 2013

This information shall be posted on their respective websites for a minimum of 4 weeks before accepting any offer. Details that shall be on the websites include:

(i) the date the loan, property or other asset being disposed of was first posted on the

websites;

(ii) the address of the property;

(iii) description of the loan, property, or other asset;

(iv) name of the person and/or company in who’s name the loan, property, or other assets, are being disposed of;

(v) the name of the selling agent;

(vi) the amount of each offer made on the loan, property, or other asset;

(vii) such further details as are deemed relevant by NAMA to ensure transparency in the selling process and to protect the interests of the taxpayer.

After a sale has been agreed both NAMA and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation shall post on the said websites:

(i) the price at which the loan, property, or other asset was sold.

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Protection of the Public Interest from Tobacco Lobbying Bill 2013: Second Stage

John Crown (Independent)
I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. I am delighted to have an opportunity to present this Bill this evening. I am honoured that the Minister has come to the House to deal with this legislation. I am sure the Government’s response to it will be positive. I hope the Protection of the Public Interest from Tobacco Lobbying Bill 2013 will be seen as part of the legislative process that this Oireachtas, led by the Minister, is achieving to curtail the evils of tobacco.

The best part of my job is giving cancer patients good news. Thankfully, due to improvements in treatment I get to give that news more often than I did before. Nothing sounds better than saying “I think you are cured”. The worst part of my job is giving people bad news. All too often, it is the worst news they will ever hear in their lives – the news that they have an incurable fatal illness. Every day in Ireland, five people get the news that they have incurable fatal lung cancer. In 95% of cases, their illness was caused by smoking. The dreadful news that these poor people receive is compounded by the realisation that it was all so unnecessary.

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland and other western countries. In addition to cancers of the lung, throat, tongue, mouth, oesophagus, pancreas and bladder, it is a major cause of the other two leading causes of death in Ireland – heart disease and stroke. It is also a leading contributor to gangrene and peripheral vascular disease. Emphysema and other forms of chronic lung disease kill 1,500 Irish patients annually and condemn others to a life of misery and curtailed physical function, in which they are fixed to oxygen apparatuses and unable to move.

Tobacco kills approximately 100 times more Irish people annually than illegal drugs. If it was discovered tomorrow, it would surely be illegal. Everyone knows smoking is bad for one. Everyone has heard the message about smoking and cancer. Most smokers want to quit. Is there a quorum in the House, a Chathaoirleach?

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

John Crown (Independent)

Why do otherwise rational people continue to smoke when it is contrary to their own self-interest? To put it simply, it is addiction. Tobacco companies must recruit 50 new tobacco addicts daily just to replace the deaths that are caused by their own products. In 80% of cases, these novice smokers are children. Big tobacco will deny the reality that its business plan can be summed up in four words: “addict children to carcinogens”. Big tobacco wants more people to start smoking and wants existing smokers to keep smoking, whereas public health policy is aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating tobacco use and putting the tobacco industry out of business in the process. For these reasons, the goals of public health and those of big tobacco are fundamentally incompatible. Their relationship must be perpetually adversarial and unremittingly hostile. How else could a responsible Government react to an industry that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of its citizens?

Big tobacco is not and cannot be the Government’s partner in any sort of enterprise. Big tobacco has just one agenda: it wants to sell tobacco. It is incredibly rich and terrifyingly powerful. Its worldwide sales of 350 billion cigarettes translate into profits of €35 billion. It is not surprising that big tobacco does everything in its power to thwart the tobacco control policies of democratic Governments. Historically, its weapons were the denial of health risks and spurious pseudo-research. For many years, and in the face of a crushing weight of evidence, it absurdly contended that smoking does not cause cancer. When an increasingly sophisticated population began to reject big tobacco’s lies, it turned to more subtle weapons, including lobbying, legal intimidation and bribery.

During Ireland’s EU Presidency, the Minister for Health’s innovative pan-European anti-smoking proposals were watered down following intense lobbying of parliamentarians. The New York Times reported recently that American tobacco companies, cognisant of the fact that their traditional markets in western countries are continuing to shrink, are actively attempting to undermine efforts to introduce anti-smoking legislation in developing countries. Uruguay and Namibia have found themselves facing multi-billion euro lawsuits and years of litigation. The reach of big tobacco is such that it has managed to enlist some very strange allies. The US Chamber of Commerce has campaigned against the Minister’s plain packaging laws. It is rumoured that officials from the US Government have expressed displeasure with the Minister’s innovative proposal to introduce plain packaging.

The World Health Organization of the United Nations has passed a directive to provide an appropriately transparent framework for the conduct of meetings between Governments and the industry in situations where such meetings are felt to be unavoidable. Ireland is a signatory. The directive strongly discourages such meetings, stating that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and those of public policy. It stipulates that where interactions with the tobacco industry are necessary, they should be conducted transparently, preferably in public. Ireland has signed up to this convention, but I fear that it has not always lived up to it.

Senators will recall that the heads of the leading tobacco companies, as represented by the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee, managed to get a 45-minute private audience with the Taoiseach and the Ministers for Finance and Justice and Equality earlier this year. I refer specifically to Steven Donaldson, Andrew Meagher and John Freda, who are the chiefs of PJ Carroll, John Player and Japan Tobacco International, respectively. The Minister for Health wisely and correctly declined to attend. I commend him for his wisdom in this regard. This meeting was ostensibly an opportunity for these businessmen to inform the Government of their concerns regarding tobacco smuggling. It was described by a spokesman for the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee as “very positive”. Worryingly, it was reported that other matters were discussed, including the industry’s opposition to the Minister for Health’s proposals to tighten the anti-smoking regulations, for example by banning menthol roll-ups. These issues, rather than the issue of smuggling, are the ones that are close to the industry’s heart and constitute its real agenda.

How did this meddling cartel of drug dealers get access to senior Fine Gael Ministers? Which lobbyists could pull off a stunt like this? The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee’s public relations activities are handled by Hall Communications and its anti-smuggling campaign is managed by O’Herlihy Communications, which was founded by Bill O’Herlihy. Mr. O’Herlihy, who has extensive Fine Gael connections and who acted as public relations adviser to my personal hero in Irish politics, the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald, also attended this meeting. In two years in Leinster House, I have succeeded in scheduling exactly one 20-minute formal meeting with the Minister for Health to discuss cancer research. I tried to lobby the Minister for Finance to remove VAT from cancer-preventing sunblock in a rushed whispered conversation in the Dáil Visitors’ Gallery. I would kill to get 45 minutes of facetime with the Taoiseach and other senior Ministers.

Given that the Taoiseach and these Ministers are good men who would support tobacco control, how did this meeting happen? The smuggling explanation just does not wash. After all, the principal commercial victims of tobacco smuggling are retailers, not manufacturers.

Smuggling does not hurt big tobacco. Big tobacco likes and benefits from smuggling. How does this happen? In the majority of cases, the smuggled products are the companies’ own products ultimately purchased at full price from them. The purpose of smuggling is not to deny the companies their commercial profit but to deny the Exchequer tax revenue. Furthermore, the availability of cheap cigarettes sold in an unregulated environment facilitates the recruitment of new under age child and teenage smokers. I would go further. If the Government genuinely thought this meeting was about smuggling, it was duped. I believe this is what happened. There was also likely a degree of social pressure, doing a good turn for a lobbyist who was a loyal party activist in his day.

This legislation, which directly translates into law an international agreement to which we signed up, would have the effect of clarifying any ambiguity over any contacts of this type. It would eliminate the ambiguity which facilitated the Government meeting the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee. It is simple and should be supported. This Bill does not ban meetings. That would be unconstitutional but the process is made transparent. There must be two weeks’ notice and the attendees must be known in advance. The Minister for Health must nominate the chairperson of the meeting. The agenda of the meeting must be published in advance. Any deviation results in prosecution, which can result in fines and imprisonment. How could anyone oppose this Bill?

In this context, what is the track record of this Government, which has a campaigning and committed anti-tobacco Minister for Health, in respect of anti-smoking legislation? If this Bill is rejected, we will have a very strange league table for tobacco legislation in the lifetime of this Government by the end of 2013. After nearly three years in office, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition will have had the opportunity to deal with four pieces of tobacco control legislation. Two of these have been Private Members’ Bills which I have introduced, one of which is today’s Bill. The other Bill would have banned smoking in cars with children and was supported by Senators van Turnhout and Daly. I should mention that Senators Barrett and van Turnhout are my supporters and I am grateful to them for their support for today’s Bill. The other two Bills have been Government Bills, only one of which has been passed into law. I understand how this has happened. It has not been the Minister’s wish. I suspect he has done it through clenched teeth and with seething rage. The only Bill that has been passed has been one that has made it easier to sell cheap tobacco to kids. It was forced on us by the European authorities and the commercial authorities. Shame on them for making us do this.

I completely support the Minister’s other Bill, which would introduce mandatory plain packaging with explicit health warnings. It is still working its way through the bureaucracy but it will not be law until 2014 at the earliest. Let us take a minute to talk about the proposal on smoking in cars containing children. That Bill was kindly agreed to by the Minister a year and a half ago and it is still terminally glued up in the bureaucracy. For that reason, I and Senators Daly and van Turnhout will be advancing it again tomorrow on Committee Stage.

The Minister has the opportunity to cement Ireland’s reputation as an innovative country in tobacco control. The message from this Chamber will go out tonight because the forces of evil are looking at Ireland. We have had spurious pseudo-libertarian and pseudo-civil rights groups setting up meetings in this country and pressure is mounting from all sides from the lobbying groups because they realise that if we bring in really draconian and restrictive legislation, others will follow our precedent. I have a business card here. The name on it is Cheryl Cullen, who is corporate affairs manager at JTI Ireland Limited whose headquarters are on the Old Belgard Road in Tallaght. The phone number and e-mail address are available. This was found in the Seanad Chamber.

I commend this Bill. I earnestly implore the Minster to accept it. We have been very careful in framing the Bill legally to ensure it is within our Constitution. It is nothing we have not signed up to. All it does is enforce regulation and transparency in an area where very dark – literally smoke-filled room – activities take place.

Sean Barrett (Independent)

I welcome the Minister. He is one of the most regular Ministers attending here. We have all shared his dedication to the cause of preventing the damage tobacco does to society. He wishes to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025 and launched his strategy document on that in October.

The Bill before us incorporates a United Nations convention on tobacco control into Irish law. I worry about lobbying but I worry about tobacco even more. In the opinion of the Surgeon General in the US in 1964, “cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action”. The Surgeon General’s report of 1964 was endorsed in a 1992 court case because the tobacco industry had not lived up to what was expected after a Supreme Court judgement in 1964 and still sold the products in the intervening 28 years and did not disclose the evil that was in those products about which the Minister has told us in case anyone was naive enough to think they were smoking a plant that grew in their garden. It was toxic, addictive and seriously damaging to people’s health and that is why people in the US succeeded in court actions against tobacco companies for the damage they had done.

What is public opinion on this issue? The Minister enquired for us in chapter 6 of Tobacco Free Ireland, which was issued by the Department of Health in October 2013. A total of 82% of people supported banning flavours that make tobacco products more attractive, 90% support the introduction of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products and 73% are in favour of introducing a fee on manufacturers to cover the health costs of tobacco. If we are concerned about what our constituents might think about this activity, the Minister has answered those questions in the document. A public health foundation study, entitled Public health foundations and the tobacco industry: lessons from Minnesota, stated that:

It is not possible to avoid attacks by the tobacco industry or its political allies. Like programmes administered by government agencies, tobacco control foundations must be prepared for these attacks, including a proactive plan to educate the public about the principles of community based tobacco control. Public health advocates also need to be willing to take prompt action to defend these programmes and hold public officials who attack tobacco control programmes accountable for their actions.

There is a record of bribery in the US legislature. One econometric study stated that Democrats who voted for less control on smoking were paid an average of $40,000. Republicans were easier – they were paid an average of $20,000. We know from the European example in the very recent past that serious lobbying took place at the European Parliament and delayed from September to October measures to control tobacco products. Even then, they were watered down. We have mass lobbying by tobacco companies as MEPs vote on anti-smoking legislation. That was on 7 October. Europe has a bad track record on tobacco, in particular lobbying by the Poles and Czechs to protect their indigenous tobacco industries. As the Minister knows, the industry has gone to Third World countries to recruit new people, as campaigns by the Minister and Senator Crown persuade people in this part of this world not to smoke anymore. Ireland aims to be tobacco free by 2025. An article in The Independent on 8 October, entitled “EU’s ‘shame’ as it caves in to lobbying by tobacco giants over the sale and advertising of cigarettes”, read:

They also backed away from proposals to increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packs to cover 75 per cent of the box – agreeing instead to the 65 per cent figure suggested by the industry. The current requirement for health warnings is for 30 per cent minimum coverage on one side and 40 per cent on the other. The moves will be seen as a victory for the tobacco industry, which has spent more than €1m lobbying MEPs to reject the more stringent safety proposals agreed by European governments. The differences must now be resolved before May 2014, when there are new MEP elections. There will be intense lobbying in Europe ahead of the key vote.

 

This is a toxic and damaging product as the Minister has told us so eloquently on many occasions. The tobacco industry engages in political lobbying. The Government is concerned about all kinds of lobbying and this is welcome because it has been an unattractive feature of Irish politics. I refer to the strange circumstances of the resignation of the Maltese Commissioner who was dealing with this area and it is rumoured that the tobacco industry lobbied against him. The question of freedom of speech is an old refrain with regard to lobbying. One cannot shout, “Fire” in a crowded theatre, so speech is curtailed. We have to know what these firms are doing. There is a very strong countervailing case to be made. We should not give people access to Parliament to make their case without the opportunity to make a rebuttal.

The right of free speech is an individual right but these are corporate actors and they do not act as individuals. They have engaged in this activity for 50 years since the report of the US Surgeon General exposed the damage done by tobacco. It is not a normal product. I ask the Minister to bear those factors in mind and to support Senator Crown’s Bill. This is an activity which seriously damages people. The industry engages in serious lobbying and it is in the public interest that we should make a stand against it.

Colm Burke (Fine Gael)

I welcome the Minister to the House. I thank Senator Crown for his work in presenting this Bill. This subject needs to be discussed. I have carefully studied the Bill as presented and I do not think it would stand up to constitutional challenge. This must be the test for any legislation coming before the House. The tobacco industry is a very powerful lobby group and it would not miss the opportunity to take such a challenge should this Bill be enacted.

David Norris (Independent)

Can Senator Burke give us the grounds for his opinion?

Paddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)

Senator Burke, without interruption.

Colm Burke (Fine Gael)

On 30 April the Government approved the drafting of the lobbying Bill 2013. It is appropriate to examine the issue of lobbying. The objective of the lobbying Bill is to introduce a register of lobbyists, to place on the register information on the identity of those communicating on specific policy, legislative matters or prospective decisions with designated public officials or officeholders in the public domain, as well as providing a framework for holding those engaged in lobbying accountable for the manner in which they conduct the activity. This will allow the wider public to reach informed evidence-based judgment about the extent to which different interest groups are able to access and perhaps influence decision-making. It will allow for a code of practice for lobbyists to be introduced and provide for restrictions and conditions to be placed on certain designated public officials and officeholders when taking up employment involving lobbying which may involve a conflict of interest with their previous public service role. Head four of the Bill provides for the definition of lobbying and the exemptions to the regulatory requirements set out in the Bill. It defines the communications which constitute lobbying and those that are excluded. It provides that the register can issue guidelines on indirect lobbying. It also determines that normal citizen interaction with public representatives in private and non-commercial capacities or micro-enterprises acting in a commercial capacity will not be included in the register unless the communication is in respect of land rezoning or development. This head of the Bill establishes that public bodies—–

David Norris (Independent)

On a point of order. Without being rude to the other Senator Burke, I ask why is he talking about a different Bill.

Colm Burke (Fine Gael)

I am explaining that the Government is setting out clear guidelines on lobbying—–

David Norris (Independent)

That Bill is not before the House.

Paddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)

Senator Burke has six minutes and he should continue.

Colm Burke (Fine Gael)

The lobbying Bill establishes that public bodies will publish on their websites an up-to-date list of the name and grade of its designated public officials and officeholders. The Bill sets out the Government’s policy on the regulation of lobbying. It does not prevent lobbying but rather it provides clear guidelines for its management. The Government’s intention is clear. The heads of the Bill have been published and there is a timeframe for dealing with the Bill. The public service reform programme published on 17 November 2011 referred to the establishment of a statutory register of lobbyists.

Any legislation must be examined to ensure it is in accordance with the Constitution. In my view, this Bill being debated today is not in accordance with the current constitutional position. This is the reason I oppose the Bill. I agree we need to debate the issue of tobacco use and also identify the extent and power of the tobacco lobby. This week I was lobbied about the business of the health committee which will deal with this issue in the new year, including the proposal to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. Submissions will be accepted from those working in the health sector. The committee has decided that the tobacco industry will be permitted to make a submission which will afford the committee members the opportunity to cross-examine the representatives of the industry. This will highlight that the industry’s arguments about the protection of jobs do not stand up in real terms when the overall cost to the State of cancer care is taken into account. Senator Crown has correctly stated that the biggest contributing factor in cancer is tobacco smoking. The Government has explained the long-term plan for dealing with the sale and distribution of tobacco products. This Bill does not contribute to the long-term plan. We need to be realistic that the tobacco industry is contributing to health problems in this country but we need to deal with it in a manner that does not present a constitutional challenge. I do not believe this Bill will assist the programme for dealing with this issue.

Paschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister. I applaud my friend and colleague, Senator Crown, on his initiative and on his continuing efforts to thwart the multifaceted efforts of the tobacco industry to deny that this is a health issue. Senator Crown, who is working at the heart of this tragedy, referred to statistics. I have some statistics of my own which I hope are complementary to his. Fourteen people died yesterday because of smoking; another 14 will die today for the same reason. Tomorrow, another 14 will die, and so it goes on.

This Bill strictly limits the possible interactions which may occur between public officials, any member of the Government, their employees or advisers and members of the tobacco industry, their professional agents or the people they fund. Offences will be prosecuted by the Garda Síochána. The directors of bodies corporate will be held accountable for the actions of their organisations.

The background to this Bill is the World Health Organization framework convention on tobacco control, the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO. It was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic. Other factors such as global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes have also contributed to the explosive increase in tobacco use.

The treaty, which is now closed for signature, had 168 signatories, including the European Community which makes it one of the most widely embraced treaties in UN history. The convention entered into force in February 2005, just 90 days after it had been acceded to, ratified, accepted or approved by 40 States, an unprecedented development in the history of the UN treaties. It shows that the vast majority of countries want to do something serious about the tobacco epidemic.

In this country the tobacco industry cost the State €1 billion more in health costs than the Exchequer collects in taxes annually. I repeat, it costs the State €1 billion more in health care costs than the Exchequer collects in taxes annually. In Ireland the tobacco industry must attract 50 new smokers a day to replace those who die or quit. Most of these are children who go on to be lifetime smokers and half of whom will later die from their addiction.

It is indisputable that there is a fundamental and reconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. The Irish Cancer Society tells us that the tobacco industry is trying everything it can to derail efforts designed to stop Irish people dying from smoking. The tobacco industry has been so successful at marketing its product to young people here that children start smoking at a younger age than in any other country in Europe.

Five months after his meeting with big tobacco players, the Minister for Finance imposed a derisory 10 cent increase on the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes. However, in the same budget he made health insurance more expensive. Increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to encourage people to quit but it is unlikely that many smokers will consider a 10 cent increase to be a deterrent. There must be concern that such a pathetic increase in tobacco tax was driven by big tobacco’s argument that high prices lead to smuggling. As Senator Crown pointed out, smuggling is not the result of high prices. Some countries where legal cigarettes are low in price also have a very high smuggling rate.

What about the tobacco lobby itself? Senator Barrett made reference to the voting and intensive efforts surrounding the vote on 8 October that came about as a result of the initiatives put forward by the Minister present, as President of Council, in the first half of this year. An Irish official, on the Friday before the vote, briefed journalists on condition of anonymity. He said:

There is an unprecedentedly intense lobbying campaign from the industry going on inside the European Parliament with the express intention of trying to frustrate this legislation. This is completely on a scale way beyond lobbying that normally goes on.

He said officials had been surprised to discover that cigarette manufacturers and their lobbyists had knowledge of precise elements of the law barely 24 hours after they were agreed behind closed doors. He continued: “The level of lobbying at the moment exceeds any campaign that has gone on in the parliament in recent years”. The aim of the legislation is to combat smoking among the young and cut down on the estimated 700,000 EU citizens who die of tobacco-related causes each year. In an unusual move, of which the Minister was part of, a joint statement was issued on the same Friday that urged the European Parliament to begin negotiating with EU governments on the legislation as quickly as possible in order to finalise the law by the end of the year. 

I shall give an indication of just how strong and powerful the tobacco lobby is in the United Stated. In 2010, which is the last year I could find figures for, the tobacco industry spent a whopping $16.6 million on lobbyists to represent the industry to Congress. In Alberta, more than 20 people, including several former government staffers, are registered in the Province of Alberta as official lobbyists for tobacco companies or affiliated organisations. At least half of the registrations have been made within the past ten months after the US Government announced that it was working on new legislation.

In the US, the tobacco industry’s success at winning from Congress what it wanted while still providing law makers with an opportunity to appear to be all in favour of health was a brilliant stroke. The industry brought it off because the tobacco lobby employed an unusually skilled and well-organised strategy; because it hired some of the best legal brains and best-connected people in Washington to help with the fight; and because it successfully grafted onto its built-in congressional strength from tobacco-producing states a sufficient number of congressmen to whom the issue was not surprisingly one of health, or even of the tobacco industry, but one of curbing the powers of regulatory agencies. In other words, they decided to go after big government and to forget about all the people who are dying as a result of smoking. They managed to succeed in throwing a heavy smokescreen around the health issue.

If ever there was a need to ensure accountability and transparency in the relationship, that inevitably arises between any outside body and government, it has to be the one between the insidious tobacco industry and Government at the highest level in this country. It is for that reason I applaud and, on behalf of my party, commend the Bill to the House.

John Gilroy (Labour)

I welcome the Minister to the House. Nobody here can deny or argue with the fact that the Minister for Health has done more to restrict and temporarily restrict tobacco products than any of his predecessors. All of the combined efforts by his predecessors do not amount to the amount he has achieved in the area.

The Bill attempts to address an issue that nobody here can have difficulty with, that is ways to reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of tobacco. As Members have said here during a previous debate, the tobacco industry is the only industry that is required to find new customers because it kills half of its old customers. That is a striking comment to make.

As legislators we must examine the Bill and we are confined to doing so. Senator Crown has eloquently outlined the harms and dangers associated with tobacco products which I agree with and acknowledge. However, we are still constrained to dealing with the legislation that is directly before us.

I have difficulty in accepting the Private Members’ Bill. I hope that Senator Crown does not mind me saying that the Bill has been constructed in a way that I find unacceptable. I shall talk about that in detail in a moment.

The Bill seeks to codify in Irish law the requirements of the United Nations framework convention on tobacco control. I have read the Bill in great detail. One section recognises the need to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts and the need to be informed of activities of the tobacco industry that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts. Section 10 deals with tobacco advertising and promotion. Apart from this I cannot see how the Bill relates to anything contained in the 45-page tobacco control framework or codifies it into Irish law. There are elements of the Bill that work around certain parts of the tobacco control framework but they do not address, in the Bill, what it purports to do.

Let us examine the legislation in a little more detail. In section 1, the interpretation section, the definition of an official is clearly laid out which is right that it should be. However, section 2(1) to (5), inclusive, seem to add a level of ambiguity by referring to “a person”. They do not distinguish whether the official referred to in the interpretation is the person referred to in section 2. This is a technical matter. We are legislators and it is necessary to deal with the legislation that is before us. That is the first part of the Bill that I found confusing.

Section 2(3), (4) and (5) use the words “present at a meeting”. At first glance that seems an uncontroversial statement but no interpretation has been offered on what the phrase means. We all know of precedence and that present at a meeting can mean active participation or just in attendance. The phrase has a different interpretation according to other standing orders, rules and laws. I have given two examples of how the construction of the Bill has failed to be clear.

Senator Colm Burke referred to the power of the tobacco industry and how quickly it lights on ambiguity in the law to give itself a day in court. Even if it loses it hardly matters because its resources are such that it is viewed as another way of promoting its product.

Subsections 2(1) to (9) lay out the offences within the Bill, yet subsection 2(12) states: “A person guilty of an offence under this act shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €30,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months,”. There is a difficulty in that subsection because, for example, a junior clerk who takes minutes at the meeting incurs the same penalty as a senior official who deliberately goes about subverting the provisions of the Bill. That cannot by any means be accepted in a Bill.

The construction of the Bill precludes my support. I spent most of today in contact with my party members to find a way to support this Bill if its construction allowed us do so. Senator Burke pointed out its possible unconstitutionality. That is a problem. All things considered, I support the thrust of the Bill. At the risk of being too colloquial, it is over-egging it a bit to say that it is trying to codify in Irish law the provisions of the framework because I cannot see instances where the sections relate to Irish law. Control of lobbying must be welcomed and lauded but the provisions of this Bill preclude me and the Labour Party from supporting it.

Jillian van Turnhout (Independent)

I welcome the Minister to the House and welcome his commitment to this issue, in particular his aim to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025. A few weeks ago, the Minister said that we have a duty to our children and that the tobacco industry was terrified by the move to plain packaging because it knows that it will make an impact. I support the Bill that Senators Crown and Barrett have put forward because it involves a principle. Over the past few days in this House we discussed a Bill that had been through the Dáil but to which the Government tabled numerous amendments. The idea that we cannot allow this Bill to go to Committee Stage is highly questionable. This is a matter of our voting on a principle. I can pick up any Bill and show where I have difficulties. This is a clear principle.

Ireland ratified, and was a party to, the World Health Organization, WHO, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. I refer to the guidelines for implementation produced by the WHO, according to which the framework convention recognises that parties, of which Ireland is one, “need to be alert to any efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control efforts and the need to be informed of activities of the tobacco industry that have a negative impact on tobacco control efforts”. If Members of this House or the other House, or officials, have meetings behind closed doors there is no way that people can be informed of the activities of the tobacco industry.

Under Article 5.3 of the convention, “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”. That is what we are trying to do with this Bill, namely, to ensure that it is in our national law. We have ratified the framework convention and have been told to limit interactions with the tobacco industry to the extent strictly necessary to regulate the industry and tobacco products effectively. Any of these interactions need to be as public and transparent as possible.

We are all very aware of the reach and influence of the tobacco industry. Anyone who is a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children knows the type of organisations, individuals and companies from which we have received correspondence. It takes very little research to discover the funding behind them from the tobacco industry. The front of house might look quite clean and respectable but with very little probing one can see the industry’s insidious funding.

Suzanne Lynch wrote recently in The Irish Times about how fans of the cult TV series “Mad Men”, which shows the murky world of tobacco lobbying, are familiar with Don Draper and his team of advertising executives who make their way in the cut-throat world of 1960s advertising and are bolstered by the patronage of their top tobacco client. When one watches that series one realises that the hard-drinking culture and casual sexism of the 1960s have all gone but the practice of tobacco lobbying is alive and well. We have not made a dint in it. The reason behind this legislation is to send out a clear message that we will not accept tobacco lobbying.

Senator Mooney spoke about the EU regulations that were being discussed. The Minister was on the other side of the debate and defended it too. Documents obtained by The Observer show that Philip Morris International employed 161 people to combat the EU tobacco products directive and spent €1.25 million lobbying, with lunches, dinners, etc., to influence Members of the European Parliament. It was one of the darkest days of tobacco lobbying. It is insidious and we need to ensure that we have a clear framework.

This could be done through ethics legislation. I was very surprised when I became a Member of this House that I did not receive a clear outline of the fact that we have signed up to, and ratified, the WHO convention. The obligation is on us as parliamentarians to implement it. Is it clearly outlined in the books given to Ministers when they are appointed? We need to ensure that there are no meetings behind closed doors. Oireachtas Members have told me that they have received representations directly from the tobacco industry and some have had meetings with it. Is that okay? I believe that goes against the framework convention. How are they to know that, unless we put it into law and make it absolutely clear so that we all know this industry is insidious?

We are trying to work on public health issues. We do not need the heavily financed, insidious tobacco industry interfering in our work on behalf of the people of Ireland, and particularly targeting children and damaging children’s health. People start smoking here at an earlier age than anywhere else in Europe. The Minister is driving a measure through to introduce plain packaging. The tobacco industry at EU level is focusing on Ireland. It will put all its resources in here because it needs to block this move. If it succeeds here the measure will not filter through to the whole of the EU. We are the focus of huge might and power. I could find ways to change or amend this Bill. That is what Committee Stage is for. We should vote tonight on the principle and I ask Members to do that.

James Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

I thank Senator Crown for raising this issue. I am always thankful for any opportunity to talk about tobacco and the harm that it causes in our society. I specifically thank Senator Crown for all the work he does on the protection of public health from the harms of tobacco. He is a strong advocate for the elimination of smoking related diseases and deaths in this country. He does, after all, spend most of his professional life dealing with the consequences of tobacco smoking. He has been a public and strong voice against the tobacco industry and its influence on our health and our policies.

I recognise and acknowledge the principles behind this Bill. The World Health Organization has indicated something we already know – that there is a large body of evidence demonstrating that the tobacco industry uses a wide range of tactics to interfere with tobacco control.

These tactics include direct and indirect political lobbying, which is the topic of the Private Members’ Bill today.

I have experienced at first hand the intense tobacco industry lobbying in Europe to which Senator van Turnout alludes, most particularly during Ireland’s recent EU Presidency. The revision of the tobacco products directive was the main health related priority for Ireland during our Presidency, and I am very proud of the great progress we made while chairing the negotiations. I agree with Senator van Turnhout about Philip Morris and its 161 lobbyists for 700 MEPs, and that is before one counts the lobbyists that British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco put into the field.

Tobacco lobbying made our task very difficult, but none the less I am delighted to hear that agreement has been reached on the revised directive. I put on record my congratulations to all those involved, particularly the European Parliament, the Commission and the Lithuanian Presidency. I must make specific mention of Commissioner Tonio Borg, who has worked tirelessly on progressing this directive since his appointment. While I understand that compromises had to be made, the directive is important legislation in the task of protecting people from the harm of tobacco. It was agreed despite the heavy lobbying of the tobacco industry. The announcement of the agreement this morning has made this a very good day for the future health of our children and is probably the best Christmas present we could ever give them. Having just come into the job, Commissioner Borg found himself subject to lobbying by me, because I was deeply concerned that the previous Commissioner had been unseated in a manner which left many question marks, fear and a sense that the tobacco industry might be at work behind the scenes.

Let us look at some of the other tactics the tobacco industry uses. A report published by the World Health Organization describes in detail the methods used by the industry to “block, nullify, modify or delay pending legislation”. These strategies include the following: subverting the legislation and exploiting legislative loopholes; challenging and stretching Government timetables for implementing laws; attempting to bribe legislators, as Senator Barrett mentioned; gaining favour by financing Government initiatives on other health issues; shaping opinion by manipulating the media and the public; undermining public confidence on the validity of research showing the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke; and defending trade benefits at the expense of health. Well beyond that, the industry uses delaying tactics by incorporating thousands of individuals to lodge complaints and objections, which ties up departments and the relevant legislatures in answering all of these. Every year the industry delays the directive and delays our initiatives, it makes a few billion more. As has been pointed out, whatever we take in taxes from that industry costs us much more in terms of what we have to spend on health, but the real cost is to the health and well-being of our people.

Senator Crown raised the issue of letters from other jurisdictions and their public representatives. I have seen those letters. Let me reiterate the comments I made at the health committee some weeks back. This nation determines its future. Our people – us – and no one else, will determine our policy. We will not be intimidated and I can guarantee that this Minister will not be intimidated by the tobacco industry or any of its agents, elected or otherwise. We must protect our children.

I have been asked not to call the tobacco industry “evil” but how else can I describe an industry that seeks to entrap our children and to have them addicted before they reach the age of 18 so they cannot make the decision which they surely would make otherwise? Research shows that one in every two children who try smoking take it up, and one in every two of those who smoke regularly die prematurely – at least ten years early on average – from a tobacco related illness. That is the death sentence from which we are trying to protect our children. I have made it clear that stamping out smoking is an issue close to my heart. I have said many times that my priority, while not forgetting current smokers, is to prevent children from starting to smoke. It is damning, in my view, that a European study shows that, as was pointed out, Ireland has the lowest age of children starting to smoke among all the EU member states. Despite this, thankfully, the prevalence of children smoking is falling. The majority of smokers become addicted in their childhood and teenage years. Almost four out of every five – 78% – started to smoke before the age of 18 years. It is clear it is children the industry is recruiting to replace the smokers who have died or quit.

In October this year, I launched Ireland’s latest policy on smoking, Tobacco Free Ireland. It is the first policy document to be launched under the Healthy Ireland framework. Lifestyle trends and inequalities in health outcomes are leading us towards a dangerously unhealthy and unaffordable future. Healthy Ireland is a Government framework which sets out a vision that will improve the health and well-being of all the population of Ireland over the next 12 years. It puts forward a whole-of-society approach and outlines new arrangements to ensure more effective co-operation to achieve better outcomes for all. There is a new HSE directorate on health and well-being. As I continually point out, prevention is better than cure. I often feel I am the Minister for ill health because all we ever talk about is disease instead of prevention. We must stop paying lip service to prevention and pay for it.

The main aim of Tobacco Free Ireland is to make Ireland tobacco free, that is, to have a smoking rate of less than 5% of the population by 2025. The strategy targets the protection of children in particular and the denormalisation of smoking. Everybody in this country finds is extraordinary when we are abroad to see people smoking in a restaurant, a pub or an office. Tobacco Free Ireland builds on many successful past initiatives. The ground-breaking workplace smoking ban in 2004 had a huge impact and many other worthwhile, and effective measures have been introduced in recent years, including the graphic images on packs. Most recently, Government approval has been received for the publication of the general scheme of a new public health (standardised packaging of tobacco) Bill 2013 and to proceed with the drafting of the legislation. I am convinced this legislation will make a significant contribution to our efforts to reduce tobacco consumption.

The strongly negative reaction of the industry to our proposals has only confirmed my views. This industry invests vast sums of money in developing its packaging based on market research. We have seen the advertisements on television, where young children are playing with nice shiny cigarette packets that make them feel good and look nice. The Irish Cancer Society repeated that study and demonstrated the same effect, and then produced the new plain packages. I had meant to bring some with me but had to race from a meeting to be here.

David Norris (Independent)

The Minister had them during the previous debate.

James Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)

They recoil at the sight of the gangrenous foot or the wasted man who is dying from lung cancer, and they ask why anyone would ever smoke. That is the difference between reality and advertising. Advertising seeks to ensnare and entrap our children. The reality, our children are wise enough to know, is something to be avoided.

The industry argues that the main reason it opposes standardised packaging is that packs will be easier to counterfeit and illicit trade will increase. My colleagues in the Revenue Commissioners have poured cold water on this, stating that the tax stamp is the key way to determine whether something is legal or illegal. Let us think about this. If plain packs are used in this country and other countries are still producing shiny packs, it would be very easy to spot what is contraband. In any event, 90% of contraband is through illegal imports and only 10% is counterfeit. There is a theory the industry is afraid of standardised packaging because there will be no perceived difference between their premium, more expensive brands and their cheaper brands. As a result, their profits will reduce.

While a legal challenge to the proposed legislation cannot be ruled out, and in fact I would be astonished if there was not a legal challenge, I am confident the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and is a proportionate and justified measure. It would be an extraordinary society that would put the intellectual property rights of the tobacco industry, whose product kills one in two of those who use it regularly, above the lives and well-being of our citizens, in particular our children.

I am determined that the threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies. It is one of several methods the tobacco industry has used to stymie and intimidate authorities in other jurisdictions. It has been said to me by counterparts in other countries that they are holding on to see how we get on with these provisions in Ireland. I am pleased that Britain and New Zealand are now moving in the same direction. There are always obstacles – legal, lobbying or otherwise – to any move for change, but we must do what is right, not what is easiest. There is a case to be made for asking all public relations companies to confirm whether their client lists include tobacco companies. In fact, I am issuing an open call from this House to that effect, a call to which I see Senators assent.

We need to remind ourselves why we are debating any issues relating to tobacco. It is because tobacco use is one of the most preventable public health threats, with almost 6 million people dying globally from smoking each year. On a human level, that amounts to 6 million lives needlessly cut short and 6 million families destroyed. On an economic level, it accounts for a substantial section of the health care budget which might be saved or redirected to other areas in need of funding. Governments must take strong action to tackle this global problem.

This Government has ambitious plans and a strong appetite for radical and far-reaching tobacco control measures. However, we cannot support the proposals we are discussing today, for the reasons I will outline. Ireland is a strong supporter of and a party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The convention recognises the issue of tobacco industry interference in Article 5.3:

In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.

To assist countries in implementing this article, the WHO developed guidelines that are comprehensive in nature and set out recommendations on steps to be taken if and when there is interaction with the tobacco industry. The guidelines allow interaction with the industry by governments “when and to the extent strictly necessary to enable them to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products.” In these circumstances, the WHO recommends, interactions should be conducted publicly where possible and with disclosure of all relevant records. In 2012 and 2013, I wrote to all Ministers and separately to the Secretaries General of their Departments enclosing the guidelines and requesting adherence thereto in respect of any interactions with the tobacco industry. 

Regarding the meeting to which Senator Crown alluded, the minutes of that meeting are already in the public domain through the freedom of information process and are open to any journalist or anybody else who wishes to see them. Within a couple of weeks of that meeting, the Government of which I am proud to be part offered me unanimous backing to bring in standardised packaging. That was noted around the world and by the tobacco companies in particular. Furthermore, the Taoiseach joined me in writing a letter to MEPs seeking their support for the tobacco directive. This Government is 100% committed to creating a tobacco-free Ireland, protecting our children from tobacco and helping smokers quit their habit. We are not anti-smokers; we are anti-smoking.

One of the recommendations in our Tobacco Free Ireland policy document specifically addresses this area:

Take steps to ensure that all government officials, employees of state agencies and members of any government branch (executive, legislative and judiciary) responsible for setting and implementing tobacco control policies and for protecting those policies against tobacco industry interests are aware of their obligations under Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and are aware of the Guidelines developed to assist in meeting these obligations.

In order to implement this recommendation, I am exploring further options on how best to protect public health policy on tobacco from lobbyists. 

A number of legal and constitutional considerations arise in respect of Senator Crown’s proposals. The constitutional issues include serious concerns in regard to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. Neither I nor my officials are aware of any free world jurisdiction in which criminal offences such as those envisaged in this Bill apply. There are freedoms enshrined in our Constitution which make it unconstitutional for us to implement the Bill. There are also problems of vagueness in respect of the criminal provisions contained therein, which make them likely to be challenged successfully. The offences provisions are, in the view of the Attorney General, unworkable.

I am anxious that Senator Crown and those who support his proposals in this Bill do not misunderstand my position. We are on the same page when it comes to the scourge of tobacco. Indeed, we are leading the charge in Europe in regard to standardised packaging, a provision which I fully expect to be challenged on the grounds of interference with intellectual property rights. As we know, our Constitution is very strong on property rights. Our defence, as the tobacco industry knows, will be that this is a proportionate measure to protect public health. All of the research supports that and any reasonable-minded person will consider it such. On the other hand, introducing legislation such as the Senator has proposed would be very disproportionate and might only serve to undermine our efforts in this area. To criminalise meetings with representatives of the tobacco industry would be untenable. Smoking is not illegal in this country and the tobacco industry is not outlawed, although some people might be of the view that both should be the case. As it stands, we have a Constitution and people have rights under that Constitution.

The Bill also cites An Garda Síochána as the enforcers of this legislation. It is likely that these provisions would prove unenforceable on a practical level, which would have the effect of taking from the credibility of the principles behind the legislation. Such an enforcement obligation might also be considered an ineffective use of Garda resources. While adherence to the previously mentioned guidelines is important, I reiterate that the manufacture and sale of tobacco are not illegal activities. To criminalise persons for engaging with the industry would therefore be excessive and disproportionate, particularly when to do so might damage the credibility of other key policies and legislative tobacco control measures.

The Bill is unnecessary given that the programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists and rules concerning the practice of lobbying. The public service reform programme launched by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 17 November 2011 contains a commitment to prepare legislation to meet this objective. On 30 April this year, the Government approved the drafting of the regulation of lobbying Bill, the purpose of which is to ensure greater openness and transparency on public policy formulation and facilitate valuable input to the decision-making process. The intention is to continue to encourage such participation while ensuring it is done in a fully open manner.

I conclude by reiterating my appreciation of the work Senator Crown has done in bringing forward this legislation and his bona fides in terms of what he is seeking to achieve. His proposals, however, are very problematic. As I said, the regulation of lobbying Bill will assist in the issue he seeks to address. I certainly am not complacent in this matter and will continue to explore actions we can take in line with our Tobacco Free Ireland policy. However, to legislate as set out in this Private Members’ Bill would be unnecessary and inappropriate. For all of the reasons I have outlined, the Government cannot support the legislation. I thank the Senator once again for raising this issue on the floor of the House. The more light we throw on these matters the better. The tobacco industry promotes, advertises and sells a product that kills one in two of those who become addicted to it. That amounts to 5,200 Irish people and 700,000 Europeans every single year. I am determined that we will succeed in tackling this scourge.

David Norris (Independent)

I very much hope this Bill will pass Second Stage. I recall that Senator Burke brought forward a Bill relating to medical insurance which was acceptable almost in its entirety to the Government. I argued on that occasion that it should be allowed to go through Second Stage, after which the Minister could amend it as required.

I recall thinking on that occasion that the Government should let it pass Second Stage and then amend it. That is the way this Parliament should work.

There is no doubt that this is a savage Bill. However, we are dealing with a savage and unscrupulous conspiracy. The Minister, on the first page of his speech, puts forward seven accusations against the industry. They amount to a statement of criminal conspiracy. It is a criminal conspiracy to kill people for profit. This is not about the freedom of the individual or curtailing the rights of citizens, but curtailing the licence of multinational corporations which do not have the welfare of the Irish people or anybody else at heart. The motivation is money.

Let us consider the question of the Constitution. I noted that Senator Colm Burke scrupulously avoided my challenge to him to offer constitutional reasons, in probably the weakest speech he has made because he is always very good. The Minister gave them, but they are quite vague. They include freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, but we must have more than that. We must see the Attorney General’s advice, although attorneys general can be wrong. The over-riding principle of the Constitution is the public good. I cannot quote the exact Article, but it is in the Constitution. I am astonished that no Government has ever found the guts to use it, because I believe it would persuade a court.

There are organisations such as Forest Éireann, which always claims it is not paid by anybody but I do not know whether I can accept that, and there is a great deal of bland blather, like the rubbish that is spouted by Drinkaware about drinking responsibly. How does one smoke responsibly? Does one just not inhale, like President Clinton? I started smoking when I was in short trousers and my age was a single figure. The reason I did it was that it was so bloody glamorous. Everybody did it. Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn smoked, marvellously glamorous women with their long cigarette holders, as well as all those wonderful masculine hunks, including the Marlboro Man. What the industry did not tell us about the Marlboro Man was that he died a skeletal ruin from the products he advertised.

Not only was it glamorous when I started smoking, but the medical professionals did not know much about it. Some of them actually recommended it to relax people who were nervous. I remember that. The tobacco companies bought and suppressed scientific information and did everything they could to suppress the evidence that smoking was not just addictive, but also lethal. The lobbying in the US is an absolute affront to democracy. Votes were for sale. Other colleagues have said that, but I consider it deeply offensive. The targeting of young people is also deeply offensive. However, at least they have people such as Professor Crown and this Minister, who I believe are singing from the same page, to support them. The Minister should be prepared to let this Bill pass Second Stage, let the industry challenge it and use the public good provision in the Constitution.

There are also the lies about smuggling. Some of the tobacco companies were convicted in New York state of being involved in a conspiracy with the smugglers. I received a glossy document which mentioned nothing about the smoking industry or the tobacco companies, but I found out eventually, after some digging, that it was from those companies. It was circulated to every Member of the House. This type of thing is absolutely disingenuous. They are vengeful people. In America, they deliberately protracted legal cases so the unfortunate people who were suing them would die of the disease which they had caused during the trial. Every rotten, dirty, bullying trick has been used by this international conspiracy. There is the targeting of young people, lies about smuggling and the dumping in Africa and other countries, where people do not have access to the information we have.

In America, one comedian, Bob Newhart, was able to make a laugh of it. I do not know if Members of the House will remember it. The comedian rang up Sir Walter Raleigh and said, “Hello, Walt, what is new?” Walter says, “I have got this great new stuff.” The comedian continues, “It is what, Walt? Leaves? You roll it up in a tube and you what, Walt? Then you put it in your mouth and what? You light it and inhale the smoke.” The comedian bursts out laughing. It is a completely mad thing to do.

Senator Gilroy made some interesting points. An official is a person, but a person is not necessarily an official. That must be taken into account when referring to persons who were present at a meeting. I said it is a savage Bill, but one must be savage with these beasts because they are savages. With regard to the €30,000 fine or imprisonment for six months, nobody in their right mind thinks that a judge would impose that on a secretary. There is still judicial room for manoeuvre.

Martin Conway (Fine Gael)

I agree with Senator Norris that one must be savage when one is dealing with these people. Their behaviour in this country, internationally and in the European Parliament in recent years has been appalling. I commend Senator Crown. We have had discussions on this issue on numerous occasions and I have tabled a number of Adjournment matters regarding the little things I have seen tobacco companies doing in the retail sector.

I commend the Minister. He is a pioneering Minister who is determined to make a tangible difference. We will see that in 2014 with the plain packaging which shows the awful results of smoking cigarettes. Obviously, every Member of the House is singing from the same hymn sheet. We might have different ways of singing, but we are using the same sheet. I hope there will not be a division on this issue. Smoking is a political issue, but it is not and should not be a party political issue. We have a responsibility to the next generation to ensure that we do the right thing. Any fair-minded person would acknowledge that the Minister, when he chaired the Council of Ministers for Health and over the last two years, has taken significant steps to deal with these cigarette companies and the curse of smoking in our society. That is also recognised internationally, so we are starting from a solid base.

I also acknowledge the action of Deputy Micheál Martin. He does not do much very well, but he introduced the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants.

David Cullinane (Sinn Fein)

Hear, hear.

Martin Conway (Fine Gael)

It was a brave action at the time. I recall the publicans saying on the television, “We run Ireland. The meetings are held in our establishments. We say what happens.” Thankfully, Deputy Martin had the courage of his convictions to stand up to that and lead the way. Many countries in Europe followed by imposing a ban on smoking, and rightly so. In fact, if I had my way, there would be no place on the campus of Leinster House where people could smoke. If they wish to smoke, let them go outside the gate. I have no hesitation about saying that. Smoking should be banned on the campuses of all hospitals, inside or outside, and it should also be banned on all university campuses. If one goes in the main gate, whether the university is open or closed, it should be banned.

It breaks my heart to see adults who are over 18 years of age, but who would still be considered young people, buying and smoking cigarettes knowing the consequences. Whatever about when Senator Norris was a young fellow and people did not know the consequences, most intelligent young people who get 400 or 500 points to go to college now know the consequences. I do not know how we can deal with this situation. Perhaps we need the Youth Defence shock jock approach and show images of the effects of cigarettes in primary schools. It will be tough medicine, but it will be for young people’s own good.

In our small shop in County Clare, the cigarette companies have employed insidious efforts to try to peddle their dangerous wares. For example, they introduced 23-cigarette packs for €9.99. The implicit meaning is that the unit cost per cigarette is less than it would be for a 20-cigarette pack. This is appalling. They now have 25-cigarette packs. Behind retailers’ backs, they offer shop staff gift vouchers if they can increase sales of particular brands by certain percentages. Unfortunately, retail is under such pressure that many people do not have the courage of their convictions. Thankfully, some do. Perhaps my determination on this issue is becoming known. I have received veiled threats from third parties because I have not hesitated in saying that smoking should be illegal. I buy into the principle of a smoke-free Ireland by 2025.

I have suggested to colleagues that the Seanad should set up an all-party committee to consider ways to reduce smoking, similar to the direct provision committee set up by Senators Ó Clochartaigh and van Turnhout and others. The House’s passion will inform and assist the Minister in his campaign. Perhaps people are not interested in my idea, but I hope they will be. My office would facilitate the establishment and administration of such a committee if people felt it was a worthwhile endeavour.

Labhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)

I wish to share two minutes with Senator Healy Eames.

Michael Comiskey (Fine Gael)

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Labhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Gabhaim buíochas leis as ucht an méid a chuir sé os ár gcomhair anseo anocht. My opinion is simple – this is not just a good Bill, but also an honest and important one. A few subliminal messages are coming across strongly in this debate. For example, no one has stood up to speak about the civil rights of smokers. This is an important point. Only a vague peripheral mention was made of the economic benefits of tobacco to the Exchequer. If anyone argued this point, it would be akin to snatching a body from a grave, it would be that serious.

One of the most powerful contributions in favour of the Bill was that of the Minister.

Sean Barrett (Independent)

Hear, hear.

Labhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)

That is worth considering. We must keep reminding ourselves that tobacco is a weapon. Were we discussing the arms trade and the type of legislation, savage or otherwise, we would have no difficulty with introducing legislation on lobbying.

However, it is important that we consider the main argument against the Bill. It echoes another era. It reads:

A number of legal and constitutional considerations arise in respect of Senator Crown’s proposals. The constitutional issues include serious concerns in regard to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

I remember exactly the same words coming from the platform that opposed Deputy Martin’s legislation on smoking in public areas. We were told that the sky was going to fall down. Dire threats were made. Supposedly, people would not abide by the law. However, that did not happen. The same can apply in this instance. 

Consider the next paragraph, which reads:

The Bill also cites An Garda Síochána as the enforcers of this legislation. It is likely that these provisions would prove unenforceable on a practical level…

This is interesting. I heard the same argument against Deputy Martin’s legislation. 

Not for one moment do I believe that this Bill is repugnant to the Constitution. Let the strong lobby contest it in the courts. It is the best publicity that we could get for what is one of the most serious matters. We held a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad. Why not have a referendum on people’s lives, particularly those of the young generation, so that we might save them and give them a future? Why are we afraid to be to the fore as legislators? This Bill gives us an opportunity to release ourselves from the shackles of hypocrisy and cosmetic caution. The latter is precisely what is happening in this debate.

Senator Crown is at the coalface. He knows the situation. If Senators had family members on the operating table, or if they themselves were on the table, because of the issues central to this debate, I guarantee that all of them would stand up and fly the colours for this Bill. That is what legislators do – we look after our citizens’ lives and welfare.

Fidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)

I am grateful to Senator Ó Murchú for giving me some of his time. The Minister is welcome and I am delighted to hear of his ambition to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025. It is laudable, but unrealistic unless we do much more. For example, Ireland does not even have a university campus that is smoke free. As the Minister will recall, I wrote to him during Ireland’s European Presidency. Compared with America, Europe has no smoke-free campuses.

While the Minister’s intention is good, I support the Bill for two reasons. First, smoking kills. Second, the Bill gets to the root of the problem. For that, I commend Senator Crown. The 2007 Slán survey showed that smoking was related to 40 diseases. According to the 2008 CSO statistics, 5,200 people die of smoking-related diseases per year. This is 100 people per week. These are epidemic proportions.

I have a particular interest in this issue. In the mid-1990s, I was seconded to Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and the Mid-Western Health Board to design a programme, what is now known as social, personal and health education, SPHE, as a subject for primary and secondary schools with a team of others. One of the programme’s components was smoking cessation and education. When we wrote the programme, it was called Bí Folláin, which means “Fulfil your health potential”. In the course of the work, I learned that smoking thrived on and addicted the poorest, youngest, least educated and weakest. Smoking is a gateway, and illicit, drug for children aged between nine and 13 years. These are primary school pupils. Young girls find it particularly difficult to stop. As Senator Norris stated, there is also peer pressure to be seen as cool. We had to work hard on the question of how to make smoking unattractive to people when they felt good and believed they looked good.

Bad breath had one of the biggest effects on young girls. We also considered the fact that one neat drop of nicotine killed a bird instantly.

In 2000, I visited Romania where the tobacco industry sells cigarettes at low prices to get people addicted. The same approach was used in South America.

I am asking the Minister to let this legislation go through to Committee Stage and, as Senator van Turnhout said, accept the Bill in principle. Let us amend it and make it constitutionally acceptable on Committee Stage, but the Minister should not stop the Bill. Smoking kills so let us not play politics here. The House should unite on this measure. I commend Senator Crown who is working at the coalface and can see the effects. One hundred of our citizens die every week from smoking, so let us act now.

Michael Mullins (Fine Gael)

I support the general thrust of the Bill. Like the Minister, I wish to acknowledge the major contribution that Senator Crown is making to the protection of public health by highlighting the dangerous impact of smoking on the lives of so many people in this country. I also commend the Minister for his proactive approach and his ambitious plan to have the country smoke-free by 2025.

Some years ago, the smoking ban in public places was successfully steered through the Oireachtas by the former Minister for Health, Deputy Martin. When that ban was mooted, people said it could not be done and would not be accepted. However, there is now a growing awareness of the harm being caused to so many people by the tobacco industry.

Senator Healy Eames said that over 5,000 people per annum are losing their lives due to tobacco-related illnesses. In addition, the financial impact on the health service is enormous. Although it is difficult to quantify, it must run into several billions of euro per annum. That money could be used to the benefit of many sections of our society if it was available.

In the first place, the matter should be brought to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges so that, with immediate effect in the new year, smoking on the Leinster House campus should be totally outlawed. That would send out a clear message that those who work here, both legislators and staff, are anti-smoking and wish to do something practical about it. Such a decision would send out a significant signal.

As other speakers have said, any educational campuses around the country that are not yet smoke-free should be encouraged to become so. The management and student unions in those educational institutions should take on board what we are attempting to do here in making Ireland smoke-free by 2025.

I can understand and appreciate that the Minister has a difficulty if he has been advised that the Bill is possibly unconstitutional. I have no doubt, however, that in time we can ensure that the Bill will be constitutional and will therefore contribute significantly to what Senator Crown and all other Members of this House want to achieve, which is a smoke-free Ireland by 2025.

Close friends and relatives of mine have gone to their eternal reward much younger than they should have as a result of tobacco abuse. I am concerned, however, that if we eliminate tobacco totally, hard drugs will replace it. We must also deal with the appalling abuse of alcohol in this country. I hope that over the Christmas period people will be responsible in this regard. We are facing many health challenges, including the abuse of substances both legal and illegal.

As has been rightly said, we have legalised drug taking in this country in the form of tobacco usage. The sooner we grasp this particular nettle the better. I commend Senator Crown for bringing this Bill before the House. He should not be disheartened if the Bill is not accepted, but should continue to do that good work. He has the support of every Member of this House in wanting the Minister to ban smoking by 2025.

David Cullinane (Sinn Fein)

I commend Senator Crown for bringing this Bill before us and using Private Members’ time to raise again the issue of smoking and the tobacco industry generally. He has been a pioneer in this area since his election to Seanad Éireann. I welcome the Minister, Deputy Reilly, to the House. On the Order of Business in recent months, much has been said – not all of it good – about his performance as Minister for Health. On this issue especially, however, we must acknowledge his pioneering work and thank him for it. Tackling smoking is an important issue, as is reducing alcohol consumption. We all support the tobacco control issue and any measures the Minister can take to reduce smoking will be supported by Sinn Féin and, I believe, all Senators in the House. I thank the Minister for his work in this area.

I support the intent of the Bill which attempts to expose and combat the lavishly funded lobbying of public representatives and officials by the tobacco industry. As previous speakers have said, the tobacco industry is responsible for widespread misery in terms of damage to people’s health from smoking. Much has been done in recent years in this area, including advertising restrictions and the smoking ban in public premises, which was introduced by the previous Minister for Health, Deputy Martin. In addition, there is now a greater public awareness of and social responsibility concerning smoking.

However, to use that phrase “A lot done, more to do”, I think we do have much more to do in this respect. Every year, smoking places huge additional costs on our health services and is responsible for deaths from heart and lung disease, severe respiratory problems and other illnesses also. At some point in the new year, we will have a debate on the HSE’s national service plan whereby a lot of money was taken out of health care. As we know, however, we can save money if we can convince people to smoke and drink less. Senator Crown has been very vocal about reducing drinking and has brought sensible proposals both here and at the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

If we can change people’s habits, culture and mindset in these two critical areas, we will be able to save money thus freeing it up for the health services. It would be better spent on providing increased treatment for illnesses.

The lobbying of elected representatives and the Oireachtas generally should be more open, transparent and accountable. I think we would all accept that. The development of the Oireachtas committee system has helped in that regard because we can bring organisations in for consultation. Senator Crown sits on the Joint Committee on Health and Children, of which I was a member for my first two years in the Oireachtas. When the previous Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Shortall, was developing policy in this area, the joint committee invited in all stakeholders, including the drinks industry and those campaigning to reduce the availability of alcohol. That was the way to do it. In that regard the committee system has offered opportunities to consider this and other issues.

While I support the intent of the Bill and in no way question its motivation, I do have concerns about it which are similar to those expressed by Senator Colm Burke. There could be wider implications and unintended consequences if this Bill was passed, including possible constitutional implications.

I believe the way to test this would be for the Minister to allow the Bill to progress to Committee Stage. When members of the Opposition utilise Private Members’ time to bring forward Bills, the Government, rather than knock them back because there is a problem with them, should allow them to progress to Committee Stage where they could be shaped, moulded and improved. That would be a much better way of doing things.

I support the Bill on the basis that if allowed to progress to Committee Stage any issues arising, including constitutional issues, can be addressed. However, I believe the Bill may set a dangerous precedent in terms of whom elected representatives are permitted to meet and what are defined as permitted meetings. If we are to go down this road, there are a number of issues that need to be properly teased out. I strongly believe that allowing the Bill to progress to Committee Stage would provide us with an opportunity to tease out those issues and improve the Bill if necessary. I hope that the Minister will accept the Bill, which can then be improved on Committee Stage.

I again commend Senator Crown and the Minister on their pioneering work in this area. Long may it continue.

Marie Moloney (Labour)

I will be brief. I am a non-smoker. When it was first proposed many years ago that smoking on hospital grounds be banned I spoke against that proposal. However, when I reviewed my decision in the context of the work of hospitals in caring for the health of our people I changed my mind.

I had not intended to contribute to this debate because while I agree with what is proposed in the Bill as I am subject to the party Whip, I will have to vote against it. At the outset of his contribution Senator Crown, an eminent consultant oncologist in Ireland, said he had over the past few years spoken for about 20 minutes to the Minister for Health about this issue and that he would, to use his words, “kill for more time” with the Minister to discuss this issue. I am sure that the Minister and Senator Crown have taken legal advice on this matter. There must be some middle ground on this issue. I ask that the Minister sit down with Senator Crown to thrash out the constitutional issues and try to reach some agreement on this worthwhile legislation. If we could reduce the number of people smoking, we would reduce health costs. What is being collected in terms of taxation on tobacco is being spent on the medical cost of curing or fighting cancer and other pulmonary diseases. I ask that the Minister afford Senator Crown the time he requires, following which, perhaps, the Bill can be reintroduced at a later stage when a middle ground on this issue has been found.

Feargal Quinn (Independent)

Like other speakers, I welcome this Bill introduced by Senator Crown and thank the Minister for his efforts in the battle against smoking. I urge the Minister to accept this Bill, which is, as stated by Senator Cullinane, worthy of progressing to Second Stage following which, if there are difficulties, they can be addressed on Committee Stage.

The Minister in the context of his concerns in regard to the constitutionality of the Bill spoke about the right to freedom of association, expression and assembly. This is not threatened in the Bill in that it provides only that a permitted meeting is a meeting in respect of which the agenda has been published and released to the public not less than two weeks in advance of that meeting. It could not be regarded as unconstitutional that two weeks notice be given of any meeting. It cannot be claimed that this is unconstitutional owing to the right to freedom of association, expression or assembly. If there is doubt about this, let it be discussed and resolved on Committee Stage.

David Norris (Independent)

Hear, hear. No more about the IRA.

Michael Comiskey (Fine Gael)

Senator Quinn without interruption please.

Feargal Quinn (Independent)

This is an important issue. Like many Members, I am a non-smoker. However, as Senator Crown has accused anybody who sells tobacco or alcohol of being a drug dealer, I was a drug dealer for many years in that through my business I sold cigarettes for approximately 45 years. On the other hand, I was aware there were things which those of us in business could do even though we could not stop selling alcohol or tobacco. In 1984, Superquinn was the first supermarket to ban cigarette smoking in store. This was not only for safety reasons but to ensure that customers could shop in a better environment.

The Minister stated earlier that as a result of smoking 5,200 Irish people and 700,000 people in Europe die each year and that Ireland ranks highest in terms of the youngest age at which people take up smoking. These are horrific statistics. Therefore, this debate has been well worthwhile. Early in April this year the Minister introduced the Regulation of Lobbying Bill. However, it has not yet been enacted. Let us ensure that when it becomes law – which I gather will be very soon – this issue is addressed in it. Why does it take so long for legislation to come through? I have introduced a number of Bills in this House, in particular the Construction Contracts Bill. It took three years to get it introduced. I do not understand that. I believe we could progress this particular Bill very quickly. Debates on legislation such as the Regulation of Lobbying Bill should be much more open than on any other piece of legislation so that everybody knows exactly what is proposed.

In the context of the report of Seanad reform in 2004 I proposed in a paper that all lobbying would take place in the open and in this House. I believe that was and is worthy of consideration. I hope that the Regulation of Lobbying Bill will enable this practice. It is one of the steps open to us to take. Senator Crown has in the context of the introduction of this Bill addressed two pet hates of mine, namely, tobacco and behind the scenes lobbying. Let us by all means allow lobbying but let us ensure it is open. Let us by all means allow people who wish to smoke to do so but let us not encourage smoking. I believe the Minister is taking the right steps and that his heart is in the right place. I believe one important step would be acceptance by the Minister of this Bill this evening, which can then be improved upon on Committee Stage. I am sure if this happens it will be legislation of which the Minister, too, will be proud.

Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister to the House. Like others, I thank him for his work on this issue. I also thank my colleague, Senator Crown, on the introduction of this important Bill. The Seanad has engaged in public consultation on the issue of cancer and how lifestyle is causing one third of all cancers. The Minister will be aware of the serious cost in this regard in terms of human lives and the Exchequer.

Like Senator van Turnhout, I support the principle of the Bill. The issue of transparency is relevant this week when one considers the issues that have arisen in relation to NAMA.

Transparency is important in an organisation whose sole motivation is profit and is spending billions to ensure that legislation restricting its activities is not enacted, using every means both legal and, in some cases, illegal in order to achieve its ends to frustrate and delay, as the Minister has pointed out, the enacting of any legislation that would prevent it making far greater profits. Any such organisation should be held up to the highest scrutiny in terms of its transparency and interaction with the Government.

We need to consider what tobacco companies did in Europe in their efforts to frustrate the European Union’s efforts. That is not the most transparent organisation in terms of the number of moving parts in it and the number of people who were being wined and dined in order to prevent and frustrate legislation that would stop the tobacco industry selling more of its products.

As the Minister is aware, that industry is successful in Ireland in marketing to young people because more people take up smoking at a young age here than in any other European country. The Irish Cancer Society advises us that the tobacco industry is trying to derail efforts to stop Irish people from dying from smoking. The more cigarettes the tobacco companies sell, the more people will die, which is of great concern. Some 700,000 people in Europe die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, which is a shocking figure. If that was gun-related crime, obviously we would ban them in the morning. However, this is self-inflicted. Not only is it a cost to the family in terms of the loss of a loved-one but also the cost to the taxpayer in terms of the health care expenditure necessary to look after people who are dying as a result of the sale of tobacco. If we were doing it now, we would not allow it at all and yet it persists and prevails. To a large degree the tobacco industry continues to prevail on the back of spending money on lobbying – not of Deputies and Senators – but in backroom meetings. The purpose of the Bill is to prevent backroom meetings and have them out in public.

We have all been here for debates on Private Members’ Bills. There must be a standard issue text in every Department which is shoved in for such debates stating that it is unconstitutional. It was done in our time so it is the same text.

John Gilroy (Labour)

Fianna Fáil did it.

Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)

I said that.

John Gilroy (Labour)

We put a bit of thought and work into ours.

Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)

It is in every Department. It did not change with the change in Government; it is still there. There is always a reason to change a Bill, which is why we have Committee Stage. Certain Bills introduced this week will be amended on Committee Stage because no Bill on inception is perfect. I am aware of Bills that were written by professional draftspeople, who have worked for all parties, and were accepted by Ministers when they were in opposition. Now that they are in government, the same legislation, written by the same people with the same competencies and who know what is constitutional and what is not, is being rejected not by the Government, but by the permanent government, which does not like change. They do not like this legislation because departmental officials will be scrutinised more than anybody else under this legislation.

Why do we not have whistleblowing legislation? In 2004, the Irish Bank Officials Association asked for whistleblowing legislation. The reply given here was that we needed more comprehensive whistleblowing legislation. Almost ten years later what whistleblowing legislation do we have? We have none because the officials always give their Ministers reasons for not doing something. It is easy to find a reason to do nothing, but 14 people a day in Ireland will continue to die.

John Gilroy (Labour)

Is the Senator suggesting the officials destroyed the country?

Susan O’Keefe (Labour)

The Senator has just accused the Minister of doing nothing.

Michael Comiskey (Fine Gael)

Senator Daly is almost out of time.

Susan O’Keefe (Labour)

That is effectively what he said. Why does he not just try to talk sense?

Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)

The Senators should have listened to the entire speech and take it in its context. The Minister is doing enormous work in this regard. My problem is that every Private Members’ Bill gets shot down for the same reason.

Susan O’Keeffe (Labour)

The Minister is doing great work.

John Crown (Independent)

I ask the Acting Chairman to inform me when my time is up as I am pressing for a vote. I thank the Minister. I do not like to be cast in an adversarial role with him vis-à-vis any tobacco control issue, as I know his heart is absolutely in the right place. I wish to thank two other people tonight. I pay very special thanks to Senator White for coming in tonight – I am very grateful to her. I also acknowledge the work Senator O’Donnell did earlier in highlighting other problems relating to lobbying, which helped to put the lobbying question on the agenda.

The Minister’s arguments against the Bill seem to fall along four main lines: it is unprecedented and we would be the first; we are disproportionately criminalising; it is unconstitutional; and he plans to introduce similar reforms anyway. Being first is good. Prior to 1964 no government had ever stated as government policy that smoking caused cancer or acknowledged a link. The US Surgeon General was the first person to do so in 1964; he was not the last. In 2004, Deputy Martin was the first Minister for Health and Children to have an entire country rendered smoke-free in the workplace. He was the first – there was no precedent – but he was not the last. This is now the norm throughout the world. In 2013, Australia was the first country to state it would introduce a blanket ban on pictorial logo depictions on cigarettes and to introduce mandatory plain packaging; it will not be the last. I am very happy and proud that Ireland, under the Minister’s leadership, will be the second and we will not be the last. This will be the policy in many countries around the world.

Similarly with lobbying, let us be the first; I promise we will not be the last. If we pass this Bill, it will ring around the world as another onslaught in the worldwide battle against tobacco and recognition of the problem lobbying causes in Washington, Brussels, Strasbourg, London, Tokyo, Dublin and elsewhere.

On criminality, we have already criminalised certain aspects of smoking-related behaviour. We have criminalised advertising. A company cannot advertise tobacco products in the broadcast media. We have criminalised the sale of tobacco to children. We have criminalised smoking in the workplace. We have done all this before. There is nothing unprecedented about us criminalising illicit contacts between Government officials and the tobacco industry. On the disproportionality of the criminality, let us be blunt; the tobacco industry imposed the death penalty on our citizens. There is nothing disproportionate about us criminalising any part of its activities.

What about the constitutionality? Is it wrong or illicit for us to ban assembly or speech? We do it all the time. We do not allow politicians to discuss criminal cases with judges. We sequester juries completely to keep them away. There are plenty of precedents for limiting for society’s benefit what would otherwise be untrammelled freedom of speech.

The last part of this is the most painful part and I ask the Minister not to take it personally. I, better than most, have some understanding of how difficult it is to get health reforms to work through that gluey, treacly bureaucracy that is our health system. The Minister has told us he opposes the Bill because he will introduce something else. Sadly, the track record is not great in this regard. It is nearly two years since we initiated the Protection of Children’s Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill. I just do not trust the bureaucracy to let this thing happen quickly enough.

In addition, people have talked about smoke-free campuses. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children voted against making the Houses of the Oireachtas a smoke-free campus. That committee had another vote recently – I will not go into who voted which way – to invite representatives of the tobacco to address the committee, which I very much oppose. If we buy into the line that we cannot do this because we might face a subsequent legal challenge, we are laying ourselves down prostrate in the face of legal intimidation by the tobacco companies. When their arguments that smoking does not cause cancer and that nicotine is not addictive were shown to be spurious, they then resorted to all these legal challenges.

Let a message ring out from Seanad Éireann, from Oireachtas Éireann, from Dublin, from our democracy that we are going to tackle the problem of tobacco lobbying and introduce a strategy which I know will be copied and emulated around the world. I commend the Bill to the House.

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HSE service plan inclusion of organ donor coordinators gives hope to the 650 people awaiting organ transplants

Hope given to 650 awaiting organ transplants by Organ donor coordinators inclusion in the HSE service plan

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There are currently 650 people who are waiting on the various organ transplant lists of which 500 are awaiting life saving and life transforming kidney transplants. If those awaiting a Kidney Transplant were to receive on the resulting saving to the taxpayer would be 325,000,000 million euro. There are also 1,800 people on Kidney dialysis at a cost to the tax payer over a decade of 1.2 billion.

Senator Mark Daly commented “I believe that the employment of organ donor coordinators will lead to enormous advances in transforming Ireland’s organ donations system allowing many more lives to be saved ‘

For the first time in the history of the state organ donor coordinators are included in the HSE service plan. Organ Donor Coordinators are specialists who would discuss with families the option of donating their loved ones organs. These coordinators are the key reason for the high rate of organ donation in Spain, double Ireland’s donation rate, making them Europe’s most successful country when it comes to organ donation for transplantation.

During the debate this summer surrounding Ireland’s organ donation systems, triggered because of the Seanad recall on 20th August, the head of the Spanish transplant authority Rafael Matesanz. said that Ireland’s organs donation system is ‘Costing lives’.

Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association said ‘ I am glad to report that another result of the publicity and public awareness surrounding the Seanad recall and debate, for the first time Organ donor coordinators and associated management are included in the HSE service plan’.

Senator Mark Daly who led the recall of the Seanad on August 20th welcomed the news ‘having organ donor coordinators as part of the service plan is the most important thing that the government could do to increase the organ donation rates in Ireland ‘.

Senator Daly secured the signatures of 20 Senate colleagues and invoked the previously unused powers of the Seanad to have it recalled to debate and vote on the first ever law on Organ Donation in the history of the State.

As direct result of the publicity surrounding the Seanad recall the HSE decided the week the Seanad was recalled to debate the organ donation law to add extra senior staff and provide office facilities to the National organ donation and transplant office. The service plan provides funding for €2.92 million for the 6 intensive care nurses, 6 link nurses,5 procurement coordinators,4 quality manager requested by the national organ transplant office.

The government also promised to publish the long awaited Human Tissue Bill before the end of the year, this however did not happen.

During the Seanad debate the key issue continually raised was the need for Organ Donor Coordinators, specialists who would discuss organ donation with bereaving families.

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