Category Archives: Active Citizenship

Active Citizenship means to play an active role in the society in which we live. It is about how we treat others whilst being accepting of differences and remaining conscious of the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion. It is about acknowledging that while we, as citizens, have rights but responsibilities also. By actively participating as citizens, together we can create the society we want – at home in the family, by volunteering in our community and by voting in elections and referendums.

Active Citizenship requires leadership. Therefore, it is important we choose our representatives carefully and those which we trust. Elected representatives must carry out their role in an accountable and open manner. By taking responsibility together for our society is the best way to make Ireland the ideal place where we want to live.

Senator Daly calls on the Minister for Health to allow information sharing to help Organ Donation

Needless to say, I am disappointed that the Minister of Health is not here to discuss the issues of organ donation and organ donor awareness. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, was also unable to come to take this matter. It is a matter of life and death for some. The specific issue I raised last year has not been advanced by either Minister. I thank Mr. Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association for coming to listen to the response that will be given by the Department of Health, if not the Minister.

On 13 March I asked for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House in order that we could find out why he had not signed the statutory instrument to allow the HSE access to the driving licence registry to see the names of people who had indicated on their driving licence that they would like to be an organ donor. He cited two reasons on that occasion, one of which was related to the issue of data protection under EU law, while the other was Brexit. He was too busy in dealing with it. In May 2018 we informed him that, according to research conducted by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, he was able to share the data. The Schedule to the legislation could be amended to allow the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, under section 63 of the Finance Act, to make a regulation to make the database available. When the Minister, Deputy Ross, told us that he was not able to share the information because of EU data protection law, he was not aware that the previous Minister, Deputy Donohoe, had shared data in the driving licence registry with everybody, from car manufacturers to the Health and Safety Authority, the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland, eFlow, a private company, the Road Safety Authority, the National Transport Authority, the National Consumer Agency and the local authorities. People approved by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, commercial services and the office of the provost marshal of the military police have access to it. Tribunals of inquiry also have access to it, as do the Office of Official Assignees in Bankruptcy and the Courts Service, yet the HSE and the national transplant authority do not.

We asked the Minister to come in again and he has not shown up today but he replied on 22 March that it is not a data protection issue and the issue is the Department of Health has not requested that the national organ transplantation unit have access to information from the driver’s licence registry. A year ago, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said that he would ask the HSE to give me its views and see if progress can be made in a constructive way. Has the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport engaged with the HSE on this issue and when will he be asked to sign the statutory instrument that will allow the HSE to have access to the drivers licence registry so that people will know if their loved ones want to be an organ donor?

It should be borne in mind that figures supplied by the Irish Kidney Association to me show that when asked by a professional in organ co-ordination and transplantation if they would consider donating their loved one’s organs, the figure internationally is approximately 52%. When supplied with information that their loved one wanted to be an organ donor, the organ donor rate in families increases to 92%. The only place we currently have a registry is in National Driver Licence Service. I have outlined all of the other organisations that have access to this registry. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is clearly blaming the Minister for Health and his Department by saying that they quite simply have not asked for this information.

Will the Department of Health ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for this information in order that it will be available to healthcare professionals, organ donor co-ordinators and the families of the donors so that they can make an informed decision when considering to donate organs?

I thank the Senator for raising this issue and for the opportunity to speak on it in the Seanad on behalf of my colleague, Minister for Health.

It is appropriate that we are debating this issue during Organ Donor Awareness Week.

Organ donation is among the most selfless acts we can bestow on one another. The improvement in the quality of life for organ recipients and their families cannot be overstated. We have a duty to do everything we can to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from organ donation. Work is continuing to finalise the general scheme of a Human Tissue Bill and to deliver on the commitment in the programme for Government to provide for a soft opt-out system of consent for organ donation and an associated register.

The aim is to make organ donation the norm in Ireland in situations where the opportunity arises. Under the soft opt-out system, consent will be deemed, unless the person has, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor after death. However, it is proposed that even though consent is deemed, the next-of-kin will always be consulted prior to removing any organ. If the next-of-kin objects to the organ donation, the donation will not proceed. The best way to ensure that a person’s wish to become an organ donor is realised is to have a conversation with one’s family and to make one’s wishes clearly known to them.

The proposed opt-out register for organ donation will create a clear and easily communicable choice to individuals to either opt-out of deceased organ donation entirely, or to allow deemed consent to apply. Signing up to the opt-out register will be a definitive expression of the person’s wish not to become an organ donor after death.

The Senator’s proposal to share code 115 on a driver’s licence in respect of organ donation with the HSE’s Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland would not guarantee that the person’s wish to become an organ donor would be carried out. This is also the situation in regard to organ donor cards. The decision to donate organs in the case of a deceased person rests with the next of kin. Health service personnel will not proceed to transplant organs without the permission of family members, irrespective of whether the deceased person carried an organ donor card or had ticked code 115 on their driving licence.

Furthermore, due to the need for medical practitioners to be informed about the medical history of the potential donor to ensure the safety of the recipient, the co-operation of the family will always be required as part of a safe organ donation process. An opt-out register will make organ donation the clear default option, and signal to citizens the move towards organ donation being the norm. The general scheme of a human tissue Bill is being finalised at present and will be submitted to Government shortly.

I do not want the Minister of State to take this personally, if that is not the worst answer I have heard to a question put in the Seanad, it is fairly close.

Some 1 million people in this country have registered that they would like to be to be organ donors. That information is available in the Government system. This will increase organ donor rates from 52% to 92% if the family are informed that their loved one wants to be an organ donor. The Government is saying it will not do this and make this information available to families, the health services or doctors and nurses so that families can be assisted in making one of the most traumatic decisions that anyone can ever make. When people sign up for a driver’s licence and indicate that they want to be an organ donor, they want to share that information.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is saying that it is available to the HSE if it asks. What the HSE, the Department of Health, the Minister for Health and the Minister of State are saying is that they do not want this information to be available to the doctors, nurses and the families.

As I stated earlier, this is not the worst reply I have ever heard in this House but it is pretty close. People are dying as they await organ transplants. It is costing the State hundreds of millions of euro in dialysis and so on with people waiting in the system and taking up beds. That is not the reason we should do it; the reason we should do it is it would save lives. If making that information available saved one life, would it not be worth doing? Yet the Department of Health is saying that it does not want this.

Has the Senator a question?

This is not the worst reply but it is pretty close.

I have no interest in engaging with the Senator in the politics that he wants to engage in on this issue. I want to distance myself from his interpretation of what I have said in suggesting that the Minister, the Department or I do not want this to proceed. He knows this is only playing politics with the issue and if he wants to do that, that is fine.

Let me be clear, I am not playing politics. This is not party politics or political—–

The Senator had an opportunity to put a supplementary question and he is being disorderly now.

—–but is about people who are waiting for organs. The Minister of State is just reading a reply—–

The Senator knows that he is not allowed to interrupt and he will have to find another way of pursuing this further. He is out of order.

—–that is prepared by the Department and I am just saying it is a terrible reply. Is that going to help somebody waiting on the transplant list?

I ask the Senator to please resume his seat and not to abuse this House.

I am not abusing this House. That reply is one of the worst I have ever heard.

I ask the Senator to resume his seat and obey the Chair. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. I call the Minister of State again, without interruption.

The Government is totally committed to increasing organ donation and transplantation rates to the benefit the patients and their families. We welcome the Senator’s support for our efforts to increase the rate of deceased organ donation. Deceased organ donation, however, cannot proceed without the support of next of kin, as I outlined in my previous contribution, even in circumstances where the deceased person had an organ donor card or had indicated his or her wish to be an organ donor on his or her driver’s licence. The Minister’s proposals to introduce a soft opt-out system of consent for deceased organ donation are one of a number of measures being taken to increase transplant rates. The Department continues to work with HSE’s Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland, intensive care units, ICUs, and the transplant hotels, which are Beaumont, the Mater and St. Vincent’s hospitals, in building upon the achievements of recent years.

Improvements to our organ procurement service will continue to be achieved through improved infrastructure in ICUs, a more robust organ retrieval service, and through transplant centres achieving high conversion rates from opportunities that are presented. The legislation will be accompanied by a publicity campaign which will aim to ensure that individuals understand the opt-out system and to encourage individuals to have the conversation and make their wishes on organ donation known to their next of kin and to other family members.

Finally, I encourage everybody to consider becoming an organ donor and to make their loved ones aware of their intention in this regard.

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Work deaths Bill ‘needs action’

corporate-manslaughter-bill

The Corporate Manslaughter Bill, which has been making its way through the Oireachtas since 2016, is designed to plug a hole in the Irish statue books in relation to corporate accountability.

Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly has insisted the Bill must be progressed and he raised the issue of corporate manslaughter in the Seanad as the jury in the Hillsborough trial retired to consider verdict.

‘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,’ said the senator.

A 2005 Law Reform Commission Report identified a gap in Irish legislation in relation to corporate manslaughter and recommended a similar Bill, the Criminal Justice (Corporate Manslaughter) Bill be introduced. But it was never progressed.

Senator Daly said the Bill currently before the Oireachtas will have the ability to hold corporations to account even in situations where no one individual is found to be responsible.

He added: ‘The Bill will also allow for prison terms to be handed down if a court deems it necessary. 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.’ In January the son of a victim of 1979’s Whiddy Island disaster accused the State of treating Irish workers as second-class citizens by failing to pass legislation on corporate manslaughter.

Attending a Mass to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the oil tanker fire disaster, in which 51 people died, Michael Kingston said that other people should not have to go through what his family had suffered.

The Government press office has not yet replied to a request for comment.

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Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Government to allow progress on the Corporate Manslaughter Bill

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.

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Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Minister for housing to explain the 10,000 homeless

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.

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Speech- Senator Daly calls on Minister Ross to allow organ donation information sharing

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.

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