– Bill will allow corporate entities & state agencies to be held liable for unlawful deaths –
Fianna Fáil Senator, Mark Daly has said the Corporate Manslaughter Bill must be progressed, despite efforts from the Government to stall its progress in the Senate.
Senator Daly again spoke on this issue in the Seanad this week as the jury in the Hillsborough trial retired to consider verdict. SenatorDaly said “This is a timely reminder of the need for corporate responsibility as we have seen many times before, unfortunately through tragedy.
“This Bill is about addressing the current gap which exists within Irish law that fails to hold corporate entities and state agencies criminally liable for unlawful deaths that occurred as a result of their actions or negligence.
“A 2005 Law Reform Commission Report, on which this bill is based, identified this gap in Irish legislation, and this bill will ensure that this gap is filled with robust and clear-cut legislation.
“The uniqueness of this legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil is to be found in Section 2 where a corporation can be convicted if found guilty of gross negligence even if no one person in the corporation can be said to be responsible. The bill will also allow for prison term to be handed down if a court deems it necessary.
I believe it is time for this bill to be put on the Statute Book. I believe that the real impact of passing this legislation will be felt by a change in outlook and approach among senior management.
“If they can be held accountable for their actions or their failure to act, it may cause them to think and care more about their actions,” concluded Daly.
In the coming weeks, Fianna Fáil will propose an amendment to the Order of Business in respect of the issue of corporate manslaughter. The relevant legislation was first proposed by the Law Reform Commission in 2005 as a result of the hepatitis C scandal in which blood products which were contaminated with hepatitis C were knowingly distributed to women. Thousands of women were infected and hundreds died as a result, yet no one went to prison. The man who knew the blood products were contaminated did nothing about it. I raise this issue again because we have brought our Bill forward again. The officials in the Department of Justice and Equality have refused to meet me, despite the Minister’s pledges that they would do so. They have concerns about the Bill. The part they are concerned about is that under which people would actually go to prison as a result of corporate manslaughter. In the North, there were arrests over incidents at a nightclub. We have seen court action resulting from the Hillsborough tragedy in which nearly 100 Liverpool fans died as a result of corporate neglect on the part of the police. The person in charge is facing prosecution and possible conviction. If the hepatitis C scandal happened again, nobody would go to prison because the Government has refused to allow the legislation to move forward. I wish to ask the Leader why that is the case. I suspect it is because many senior officials in a lot of Departments are afraid that at some stage they might face prosecution under the legislation as a result of their inaction.
Under this Government, we have reached the tragic landmark of 10,000 people being homeless . I note the continuous activity masquerading as action on the part of the Minister with responsibility for homelessness. I would call him the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he was providing any, but we will just have to call it as it is. On his watch, homelessness has become an acceptable face of Government policy. We will be looking for another debate on this issue. It goes with other promises like Fine Gael’s pledge to end the trolley crisis. We need to hear what the Minister has to say for himself about this issue.
I thank my county colleague for coming before the House to take this matter on behalf of the Minister. I raised it over six months ago and I raise it again today. Two weeks ago, I tabled the matter for a Commencement debate and then received a reply by email from the Minister. He was only able to come in on that occasion. In the reply to which I refer, he explained why it is not possible for his Department to share on driver licences held by people in this country information to the effect that they want to be organ donors. A person is asked this question as part of the application process, and the response is printed on the licence in the form of a code, 115, which indicates that the person wants to be an organ donor. The Minister stated that under EU rules on data protection, we would need the permission of applicants to share their data. He also indicated that the difficulty was that people had not been asked if they were willing to have this data shared with a third party such as the HSE and that it would not be possible to share it without their consent. He was obviously unaware that he had already allowed his Department to share data from the driver licence registry with private companies such as eFlow and people who clamp vehicles. The Department had also shared the data with the Garda and the Courts Service, as it should have done. However, he stated at the time that data protection rules would not allow him to share the data with the HSE. That was not true. I have with me a copy of the statutory instrument that would allow him to share the data with the HSE. He has signed similar instruments for all the other bodies, including the courts, clamping companies and private operators such as eFlow to which I referred.
We have discovered from the Irish Kidney Association that sharing these data with healthcare professionals is important because of their ability to share the data with the families of loved ones who are potential donors. Only approximately 300 families find themselves in this situation in any given year. If specialist nurses are not involved in talking to families, only 22% will offer their loved ones’ organs to be donated. If, however, a specialist nurse who is a transplant co-ordinator asks a family, the figure increases to 52%. Furthermore, if the family is informed, and it is shown, that their loved one wanted to be an organ donor, this increases to 92%. We would therefore go from about 50-50 to 92% if the Minister would only sign the statutory instrument to allow the HSE access to this information. Since we have highlighted this issue in the media, the change in the Minister’s response has been interesting. At first he stated that because of European rules, he cannot share the data. Then it was pointed out that actually he had shared the data already. He has now come back with a new reply stating it is up to the Department of Health to ask for the data.
Our request, and I hope the Cathaoirleach will allow it, is that during Organ Donor Awareness Week, which is next week, the Minister for Health come in and indicate why he has not requested the information from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Perhaps the Minister of State might use his good offices to ask that this simple process whereby the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport would share the data and the Department of Health would ask for the data be followed in order that when families are faced with the traumatic situation whereby they lose a loved one, they would have the information at hand to the effect that their loved one wanted to be an organ donor. The number of people who have indicated on their driver licences that they want to be organ donors is reaching 1 million. This information is available to everyone else – clampers, the courts and the Garda – but it is not available to the families of the loved ones facing a decision that is traumatic and extreme but that can transform and save the lives of many people.
I thank the Tánaiste for coming to the House and taking this important debate. I know the case of Patsy Kelly has been raised already. That is only one of the many legacy issues. They are referred to as legacy issues but they are still murders. They are simply uninvestigated murders in many cases. A historical inquiries team was set up to investigate many of these but they really should be murder inquiries. We saw recently the decision by the British Government to only prosecute one of the paratroopers involved in Bloody Sunday. It is amazing that the British justice system could convict the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven with no evidence when, with 14 dead bodies, the same system was unable to convict paratroopers involved in Bloody Sunday.
Along with my colleagues I was up in Belfast for the Ballymurphy inquest. It is amazing that an inquest would take so long to be carried out after people were murdered. We will no doubt see a similar farcical process of alleged British justice when it comes to prosecutions in that case. Prosecutions for murder in Northern Ireland seem to depend on whether the person involved was wearing a British uniform.
We also see other legacy issues, including a request from the loyalist side for the Taoiseach to support Raymond McCord. The point is that the Government would not be seen to be partisan in respect of who it seeks justice for because there are people who were murdered in the loyalist community too. Raymond McCord wants the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to seek a full independent public inquiry into the murder of Raymond McCord Jr., who was killed on the instructions of a paid informer of the RUC special branch. This was done under Operation Ballast, which was a major inquiry by Nuala O’Loan, the then Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. As we all know, it found widespread collusion between the UVF and UDA and the British security services and RUC special branch.
That collusion went all the way to the top. When we are looking for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, we should also seek public inquiries into events such as the murder of Raymond McCord. It is clear that he was murdered. There was a dead body. Everybody knows who carried out the instructions and the murder, yet nothing is happening. Justice is constantly denied to both communities by a system that seems incapable of addressing the most fundamental right of any family which has lost a loved one, namely, that they would get justice and the truth. However, the truth is being denied, as we see in the case of Patsy Kelly, where evidence uncovered in recent years has been withheld from families to ensure that justice is not done.
We need the Government to ensure that there are inquiries into the cases with which we are all familiar such as the Ballymurphy massacre and the murders of Patsy Kelly, Pat Finucane and others. It should also ensure that other families, such as that of Raymond McCord, get the justice they deserve in regard to these issues. We often discuss legacy issues, but these are murders that have never been investigated properly and for which, as a result, there has been a failure to prosecute. This is due to a systematic process within the British Government whereby it is waiting for people who should be prosecuted or who have evidence and would be able to assist in prosecutions to die, with the effect that justice will be denied to the families who are so entitled to it after all these years.