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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005

Vol. 611 No. 5

Good Samaritan Bill 2005: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to share time with Deputies Ardagh, Nolan, Hoctor and Kirk.

I welcome my good friend and colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan. It is good the leader of the Opposition has stayed for the contributions. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. This will be an exciting day in the Dáil and I look forward to being part of it. I hope we all enjoy the day and get home early enough. I admire colleagues who introduce Private Members' Bills. It provides us with an opportunity to discuss issues of concern to us. I am very happy to do that. December is a time when we think and talk about being good samaritans and looking after our neighbours and the elderly. I make that remark as a preface to what I say about the Bill.

The Bill purports to protect from liability those who go to the assistance of others who may be ill or injured as a result of an accident. It seeks to ensure that those who offer assistance in good faith cannot be penalised or held liable as a result of their intervention, provided they are not grossly negligent. Health care professionals acting in the course of their employment are exempt from the terms of the proposed legislation.

I note the Government opposes the Bill on a number of grounds. The Government policy of reform in tackling the compensation culture is reflected in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003. Both these Acts brought about fundamental changes in the handling of personal injuries cases. The issue of the law on rescuers or good samaritans was considered in the context of the preparation of the Bill which led to the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which is as it should be. However, a decision was made not to proceed with reform with respect to rescuers but to keep the matter under review in the context of the operation of the two Acts.

There is an absence of law on rescuers or good samaritans and any change would clearly need careful consideration. I expect the Minister will take note in that regard. The subject has not come under examination, for example, by the Law Reform Commission. No reform of the common law position on rescuers has been carried out in our jurisdiction or in the United Kingdom. The United States and Canada have introduced reforms that differ widely from state to state and province to province.

I note the presence of my colleague, Deputy Ardagh, the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. I commend him on his work. In consultation and co-operation with the Minister, this committee does an enormous amount of work. Not a week goes by without several meetings of this committee taking place. I expect the committee will be as busy as ever in the context of this proposed legislation. I look forward to further discussion of the matter in the committee.

In dealing with the issues raised by the Bill, we should not undermine or downgrade the customary acts of kindness towards neighbours and being good samaritans in general. This approach has been with us since biblical times and is traditionally part of Irish life. I hope that will continue to be the case. Deputy Timmins may not have heard me compliment him on his efforts in regard to the Bill as he was consulting his party leader.

I heard Deputy O'Connor.

It is a good exercise and I hope it will lead to progress in this area. However, I will do what I have to do when the House divides at the end of the debate. That is the way it is.

I thank Deputy Timmins for bringing forward this Bill. The sentiments are excellent. The Good Samaritan Bill sounds like apple pie, motherhood or the flag. In theory, no one is against the Bill but in its present form it has been drafted deplorably. There are a number of very basic elements within the Bill that demonstrate the difficulties that present to people in drafting Bills. In addition, it contains errors and items we would not intend to include in legislation.

In particular, I am opposed to section 2(1), whereby a person working in the health care sector who fails to act at the site of an accident or other emergency would be liable for failing to act. I understand that in coming to the aid of a person, he or she would have to show gross negligence before being subject to liability. The other aspect of the proposed Bill to which I object is that doctors who are paid for services at the scene of an accident would have a different level of liability to doctors who are not paid. I know of many doctors who are called to the scenes of accidents, or to where people are ill, who do not charge a fee. They give their services for free out of the goodness of their own hearts.

The Bill, as proposed, could give rise to situations where doctors would be compromised in charging for their services. In many cases, the last thing on the mind of a doctor coming to the scene of an accident or emergency is whether he or she would charge a fee. The doctor's aim is to look after the victim or patient. However, in the event of something happening, a doctor may consider, in view of the good samaritan legislation, that he or she would be obliged to offer his or her services for free. Doctors may be put in a position that they would forgo payment or reward because of the potential liability of being sued under good samaritan legislation.

The Bill contains definite deficiencies in terms of making failure to act an offence and also the differentiation between——

That is the same misinterpretation as was made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The trouble with Bills is that one must take their contents into account.

The liability only comes into effect while services are being provided.

The Bill states that a person, other than a health care professional, acting in the course of employment who is liable for damages that result from his or her negligence in acting or failing to act——

While providing services.

The problem is that the wording is deficient. There is no clarity. Having said that, there is a need for some form of liability for good samaritans, particularly for the purpose for which Deputy Timmins originally intended the Bill, that defibrillators would be widely dispersed around GAA clubs and sport clubs and that people would use them on a voluntary basis. Again, one questions the need for a Bill at all because, as Deputy Timmins stated, there has not been a case in regard to this matter. One wonders if the introduction of legislation would invite litigation.

The Bill would be desirable in a workable form. There are a number of doctors in the House, one of whom is in the Chair, Deputy Cowley. Other doctors include Deputy Twomey, the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy O'Hanlon, Deputy Devins and Deputy Fitzpatrick.

Deputy Cowley may go to an accident, as may Deputy Fitzpatrick. If Deputy Cowley, as a doctor, takes action for the good of the patient, he is covered, but even though Deputy Fitzpatrick's medical expertise is equally competent, he is not covered if he receives reward for his intervention. An inequity therefore exists between the treatment of two equally competent and professional people in terms of the assistance they provide in emergencies.

It is welcome that Deputy Timmins introduced this matter for discussion and various parties within the House should address the matter on a less adversarial basis to ascertain whether some way exists to legislate for the sentiments expressed in the Bill.

Like previous speakers from the Government benches, I commend Fine Gael, particularly Deputy Timmins, on bringing forward this Bill. After examining it, experts in the parliamentary draftsman's office acknowledged that some deficiencies and faults exist in the Bill as drafted. The sentiments expressed on all sides of the House are that the legislation is worthy of consideration and it is proper to debate it. With some changes and, possibly, after consultation with the Minister responsible for this area, legislation which could address all the shortcomings identified in the preamble to this Bill could be accommodated. That matter might be considered by this or future Governments.

The Bill purports to protect from liability those who go to the assistance of others suffering illness or injuries as a result of an accident or other emergency. Under the law as it stands for personal injury cases, due weight is given by the courts to the social utility of the defendant's conduct. The courts fashion the duty of care and specifies its scope with the aim of accomplishing social goals. A common sense approach is taken in determining the standards of care and all circumstances are considered. However, that is not to say that a person may be foolhardy or reckless. There is no general duty to rescue a person in need and no evidence exists at present to suggest a compelling need for changes to the law or that concerns over liability discourage or prevent people from coming to the aid of others in medical emergencies. Research undertaken by the State Claims Agency suggests that there has never been a case where a person responding to a medical emergency as a good samaritan has been sued. Staff at agencies covered by the State's clinical indemnity scheme whose actions arise from bona fide emergencies are protected in cases of personal injury. This applies whether the staff member is on or off duty when rendering such assistance.

We must acknowledge the steps taken by the Government to deal with the out of control claims culture through the introduction of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the relevant Act, which was passed in 2003. I commend the Government on bringing forward that legislation because, even at this early stage, we have received reports of its success. While the legal profession may not be pleased with the effect it has had on its business, the public in general are happy that the cost of insurance, whether personal, commercial or for motors, has decreased, and it will continue to decrease due to the reduction in claims.

The Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business recently met the executive and officials from PIAB, who were positive with regard to the implementation and operation of this legislation. PIAB provides independent assessments of personal injuries and compensation for victims of workplace, motor and public liability accidents. Its assessments are provided without the need for the majority of current litigation costs. During the course of our investigations into the insurance industry, evidence was brought before the committee of serious cases in which particular firms of solicitors charged exorbitant fees. These fees were additional to the settlements that were agreed and impacted on the costs of motor insurance. We heard one case in which a settlement of €10,000 was made but the legal costs involved were in the order of €50,000. This was unsustainable and reached the point where some Government had to act. I am pleased that this Government did the business by bringing in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003.

Among the statistics presented to us was that 75% of PIAB awards have been accepted by claimants, which is an extraordinary figure. PIAB has delivered the same level of awards as the litigation system without the huge costs of associated legal fees. Delivery time for PIAB awards is approximately three times faster than the former system. Obviously, that frees up some of the courts' time.

I commend Fine Gael on bringing forward this legislation. While the faults that have been identified are unfortunately such that we cannot support it, these may be addressed in the future.

Táim buíoch díot as ucht an t-am a thabhairt dom chun an tairiscint seo a phlé. I am unsure why exactly the Opposition brought this Bill before us today. While we can give it the benefit of the doubt by acknowledging that good intentions were involved, it is clear from the short summary of the Good Samaritan Bill that a lot more information must be gathered if this is to be taken seriously.

I draw Members' attention to section 2 which states:

(1) Notwithstanding the rules of common law, a person other than a health care professional acting in the course of employment who—

(a) provides emergency first aid assistance to a person who is ill, injured or unconscious as a result of an accident or other emergency,

(b) provides the assistance at the immediate scene of the accident or emergency, and

(c) has acted voluntarily and without reasonable expectation of compensation or reward for providing the services described,

is not liable for damages that result from his or her negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services, unless it is established that the damages were caused by the gross negligence of the person.

This seems to imply that people who witness an emergency of somebody suffering from cardiac arrest could be deemed liable if they do not act at the scene. I will not pretend to be a medical expert but the bystander theory suggests that where a small group gathers around such incidents, a far greater expectation exists that one member of the group will act in time to intervene, hopefully in the better interests of the victim. However, the larger the number of bystanders at such a scene, the higher the likelihood that nobody will intervene. If this is to be carried through, the people who gather at such a scene could all be deemed negligent if they do not act appropriately. I ask the Opposition to define gross negligence. How bad must the negligence be before it becomes gross negligence? That is a dangerous road to take. It could be dangerous to the health and safety of a victim to be aided by someone untrained, even someone with the best of intentions. Serious spinal and nerve injuries, for example, are often features of accidents — the Acting Chairman, Deputy Cowley, would know more about this than I would. It is the opinion of most medical doctors that good samaritan assistance in terms of moving a victim from the scene of an accident could do much more damage than the good samaritan may ever realise. For example, when a car accident occurs and the car is possibly in danger of going up in flames, and a person in the back may have potentially permanent spinal damage, what is a person to do? We must rely on people who are medically trained rather than the ordinary Joe or Josephine Soap in the street feeling obliged to act or otherwise perhaps be seen to be negligent. Such an occurrence worries me.

Reference has been made to the use of defibrillators in GAA clubs, golf clubs and other areas where people are often gathered in large numbers and where the danger of cardiac arrest might be increased. We are still awaiting the report on sudden cardiac arrest syndrome which is due to be published shortly and which, I understand, will address the issues in greater detail. It is of the greatest importance that people who are trained in the use of defibrillators are the people to act, whether on the side of the street or in GAA clubs, for example, because the use of such equipment can pose great dangers to the victims or patients if those using it are not trained in its use.

I have great reservations in this area. I accept the Opposition brought this Bill to the House in good faith but it has not been sufficiently thought through. We are talking of human life in an emergency, where the swiftest action at the time must be the correct action. We cannot have people hesitating and then perhaps diving in to assist, feeling that they could be seen to be liable or negligent in not acting. Using the words "voluntarily" and "gross negligence" in the manner the Opposition does in its proposed legislation is dangerous. I am concerned about that. I also share the concerns of my colleagues and of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, who clearly outlined in the House last night his concerns. His legal expertise must be respected.

This issue should be given more time and thought, with more detail provided. We may have an opportunity to discuss it on another occasion and give it the time it deserves.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution on this Bill, on which a discussion is timely. We all accept that society is changing in this country, with significant attitudinal change. On both sides of the House we lament the diminution if not the demise of volunteerism. From time to time it might be useful to ask ourselves why fewer people participate in community work and general voluntary work. A cursory examination of social and economic change in Ireland shows that the voluntary sector has made very significant input down the years at a time when we were less prosperous than we now are.

While the issue under debate is not directly related to a recent court case, we need to consider for example a situation where an assault is mounted on family members in their own setting. The question arises of whether people may take defensive action in those circumstances, as does the definition of just, adequate force being used to deal with intruders, or those prepared to assault people in the course of robbery or other undesirable activity. We must ask where the threshold lies in such circumstances. The law of the land must provide a clearer definition.

This debate may allow us to dwell on the issues for a short time. At the end of the day, those defending the integrity of their homes and families need some protection in the eyes of the law. I accept that it will be difficult for any Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to get a clear, standard definition for the circumstances involved. As we have seen, the levels and degree of brutality that can be visited on people vary and to adopt a broad brush approach would be difficult. The question of having a uniform position right across the EU is clearly desirable. There could be one set of standards in Ireland and another in the UK or in other EU member states, but the standards of the European Court of Human Rights in this area would be a reasonable reference point.

The role of the good samaritan is also relevant in sport. I have some personal experience of sports injury. The various sporting organisations need to have available to them qualified personnel to deal with emergencies at every level, not just for example at the intensive inter-county Gaelic football or hurling, League of Ireland soccer or provincial rugby. That is obvious. I have seen matches where tongue-swallowing has occurred in a clash between individuals, and the Acting Chairman, Deputy Cowley, will know that this is a dangerous type of injury or condition, with only a limited amount of time to recover the situation. It is vitally important that there are people available who can deal with such circumstances. It worries me that the day will come when individuals who might suffer in such circumstances might feel there was an obligation on the club or sporting organisation involved to have qualified personnel available at matches to cover those circumstances.

Another issue is the operation of the protocols for ambulance personnel. In my area in the north east of the country, those who man our ambulance services must make rapid decisions as to where a patient should go, whether to Louth County Hospital or Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, or perhaps further afield to Beaumont or the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Those ambulance personnel take decisions on the roadside perhaps at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and deal with what may very often be life and death.

Those are the types of circumstances where there are obligations for the State and the personnel involved to the individuals who unfortunately find themselves vulnerable and injured. We need a clear position on that. Some of the briefing notes indicate that the State Claims Agency has not yet identified any claims coming through the system to suggest that someone responding in a medical emergency, such as a good samaritan, has been sued. However, we must be entirely realistic in this area, as such a situation will inevitably arise.

I propose to share time with Deputies Ó Caoláin, Connolly, McHugh and Catherine Murphy.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I pay tribute to Deputy Timmins for bringing forward this draft legislation. I understand his primary motivation relates to the issue of sudden cardiac arrest. I am very much aware of his work in trying to provide defibrillators in the community. My mother is trying to set up a charity in the Lucan area and has spoken to a number of individuals who praise Deputy Timmins's contribution in this area. Whatever happens to this Bill, and it seems the Government is intent on voting it down rather than amending it, there is a need for some form of State funding to enable sports clubs and community groups throughout the State to provide defibrillators. It should not be the case that people must organise charitable events to ensure the issue of sudden cardiac arrest is dealt with to some degree.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, should examine this issue carefully. As Deputy Timmins mentioned, sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anybody, including young and elderly people, those who may have a genetic predisposition, persons who suffer a blow while playing sport, or as a consequence of many other environmental conditions. This is the original motivation for the Bill. However, it includes a number of other pertinent issues.

In the context of my education portfolio, for example, it has come to my attention that even those qualified in first aid skills within schools are now advised not to come to the aid of children for insurance reasons. The example is often given of little Johnny who cuts his knee while at school. Most teachers in the majority of schools will apply some cotton wool and water and that usually suffices. If the wound is a little deeper, however, but not so much as requires stitches, the average teacher will not apply a plaster because of the risk of being sued by parents and others. This is a dangerous situation.

Whatever happens to this legislation, something must be done to ensure teachers qualified in first aid are able to come to the assistance of pupils without the fear of being sued. Another example is where a child is choking. If a teacher performs the Heimlich manoeuvre on a child and gets him or her to eject the offending object, the child's teeth may break or he or she may suffer strain or crack a rib. We can bet our bottom dollar that certain unscrupulous parents would take advantage of that and try to sue the teacher for what he or she has done to save their child's life. A Bill such as this is necessary to ensure that the good samaritans in society, those who try to help out of the kindness of their hearts rather than the other good people, such as doctors, who work for fees, do not suffer any liability.

I wish to speak about the comments made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. Amid the pedantic buffoonery of his contribution, he gave four or five examples of one doctor having a particular responsibility and another who is off-duty and comes onto the case having a separate responsibility. He created quite a few fatuous and — I would contend, although I am not a legal expert — possibly inaccurate statements. He said that the Bill in effect creates an obligation to act to save somebody unless it would be grossly negligent not to do so. I cannot see where that comes from or upon what advice it may be based. Has he consulted the Attorney General on the Bill or is he merely talking about previous conversations?

The Minister said he had considered introducing differential negligence tests in the past but, following consultation with the Attorney General, had decided the issue was so complicated it might be better to leave matters as they are. This is a fair comment. However, arguments about a doctor on duty in a hospital who encounters an injured person who has been brought to the hospital in the back of a car and a doctor who is off duty and on the way home when he or she encounters a different scene blur the waters to some degree. If the Minister is serious about tackling the legal issues involved, why will he not amend the Bill, bring it through the various Stages and put forward what he considers a correct wording?

The sentiments of the Bill relate chiefly to the importance of ensuring that people in the community who operate defibrillators and teachers who try to ensure children are not left with lasting scars have protection in doing what they believe is best to save a person's life or prevent him or her developing a serious illness. I commend the Bill and urge the Minister and his colleagues to bring it forward at least and deal with any inaccuracies that may be contained therein.

I welcome this Bill and the opportunity it affords to address a number of issues. It is right that there should be legal protection for those who, in good faith, try to assist people in danger or in the wake of accidents. In proposing the legislation, Deputy Timmins stated that the primary motivation is to assist in encouraging the availability of defibrillators in the community through sporting clubs, commercial outlets, schools and any location where large crowds are likely to gather. He also referred to mountain rescue services and voluntary searchers for missing persons.

The Bill is clearly designed to protect people from litigation that may arise from such situations. It is often remarked that this country has a very high level of civil litigation in terms of what is often known as the claim culture. This culture has a damaging effect on other aspects of life. Community and sporting groups have been forced to curtail or even cease many activities because they cannot afford the exorbitant insurance costs. This claim culture is driven by the insurance industry and the legal profession which take no account of the wider damaging effects. The area must be revisited and we should consider what legislation or other measures are needed.

It is often people in more disadvantaged communities who lose out because of high insurance costs. Already meagre sporting and leisure opportunities are curtailed. The Government must examine how sporting and community organisations can be assisted with the cost of insurance, both through price control of that industry and any financial assistance that can be afforded.

On the insurance issue, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated last night that he had consulted the Attorney General about possible legislation but "decided it was such a complicated point and the way in which it was phrased would have to be so carefully done that I could do more damage than good by altering the common law position that exists now". This is most unconvincing. When was complexity and the need for careful wording a barrier to legislation? If such were the case, we would have no legislation. Has the Minister published the Attorney General's advice? If not, I encourage him to do so. The matter should be teased out. Many people, and I count myself among them, would not agree that this matter cannot be dealt with through legislation.

This Bill also raises the issue of the inadequacy of our emergency services. As a Border Deputy, I recently observed in the House that many parts of the Border region are blind spots as far as ambulance and other emergency services are concerned. I have recent experience in this regard, having come upon an accident scene just across the Border in County Fermanagh and rendered assistance. It was almost two hours before an ambulance arrived at the scene and, in this instance, only by chance. We do not have enough ambulances and emergency crews, even here in the capital city. The situation is much worse in rural areas. I also raise again the need for helicopter ambulance service, something the Acting Chairman, Deputy Cowley, has championed. I commend him on doing so. It is an issue I and other Deputies have also raised repeatedly. There is a clear need for such a service and I urge the Government to act on it.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in his usual way, was dismissive and contemptuous of this Bill when he spoke. I have no doubt it has flaws, as Deputy Timmins would acknowledge, possibly even basic flaws. However, it deserves consideration on Committee Stage.

It is a pity the Minister did not exercise his alleged concern for legal exactitude and due process yesterday when he used a reply to a written question to make a scurrilous, malicious and unsubstantiated allegation against a private citizen. The Minister abused all privilege to pursue a personal and political grudge against the Centre for Public Inquiry and those who work for it. He should be ashamed of himself and should expunge his allegations from the Dáil record.

I heartily welcome and endorse the Good Samaritan Bill 2005, which seeks to give some protection from litigation to those who intervene to assist in cases of accidents or emergencies. I assure those who question the need for this legislation on the basis that no claims have been made to date that it is a matter of time before such claims are made. I assume that Deputy Kirk's reference to the need to protect ambulance staff was inspired by the recent case of an ambulance driver whose decision on whether to take a patient to Louth County Hospital in Dundalk was a matter of life or death. The life of the patient in question was saved as a result of the decision that was made by the emergency medical technician, but what would have been the consequences if the life had been lost? People who make decisions in such circumstances should be commended.

This legislation will protect members of the public and off-duty health care professionals who may witness an accident or come across an accident victim and intervene to give assistance. It will remove the liability of emergency medical staff, such as ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses, in any medical malpractice or personal injury actions which occur.

There are numerous instances of good samaritan legislation in the United States, protecting not only health care professionals but also volunteers who distribute food donations, for example. Such legislation ensures that citizens who volunteer their time and resources to feed hungry people are not placed at legal risk or liability arising from the nature, age, packaging or condition of the apparently wholesome food they distribute. It is hard to believe that such a case could be brought in the first instance. In such circumstances, citizens are protected from civil or criminal liability other than in cases of gross negligence, as is the case under section 2 of this Bill. Volunteers will be liable only if their actions are clearly unreasonable and aggravate the plight of sufferers.

It has already been mentioned that teachers in our schools are afraid to assist students, for example by taking children to hospital when it is obviously the correct thing to do. It is clearly wrong that people who wish to act in the best interests of children are not allowed to use common sense. It is ridiculous that legislation of this nature is needed in such circumstances, but that is how things have gone. Parents with certain religious beliefs may not want their children to be given blood transfusions, for example. Such a case was reported in the media last week.

The basic principle that should be followed should be that any person who renders emergency medical care or assistance in good faith to an injured person at the scene of an accident, or in the case of some other emergency, without expecting or intending to receive compensation from the injured person for providing such a service, should not be liable in civil damages for any act or omission not constituting gross negligence in the course of such care or assistance. That is how it should be. The case of a person who had a knife stuck in his chest, and then pulled the knife out and tried to attack those who came to his assistance, was highlighted by Joe Duffy on "Liveline" last week. Such events are taking place to an increasing extent. The US Congress had to pass the Katrina Volunteer Protection Act 2005, following the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster in that country, to ensure that volunteers and professionals were able to focus on providing aid to the victims of the hurricane, rather than worrying about the threat of litigation.

I thank Deputy Timmins for introducing the Good Samaritan Bill 2005. When I first became aware of the legislation, I thought it was a good idea. Having listened to the Minister's speech yesterday evening, however, I am of the view that the Bill needs serious consideration and analysis as it progresses if it is to proceed further. That a Bill of this nature has seen the light of day is an indication of the changes in Irish society. I note the Minister's statement yesterday evening that the circumstances which this legislation sets out to prevent have not yet been encountered in this jurisdiction, but there is no point in waiting for the horse to bolt before closing the door.

This Bill has its genesis in occurrences in parts of the world other than Ireland. The claims-conscious society in the United States is so daft at times that it is to be hoped that the development of Irish society does not replicate what is happening there. I recently heard of a case in the US of a person who became entangled in a window as he attempted to gain access to a house with the intention of burgling it. He was awarded damages of $1.3 million because he was stuck in the window for 11 days, while the house was unoccupied. Such a nonsensical form of justice has no basis in reality.

In his speech yesterday evening, the Minister, Deputy McDowell, said: "Volunteerism is under stress and I contemplated introducing a differential negligence test for those who provided facilities such as children's playgrounds" and those who run sports events. It is regrettable that the Minister, in consultation with the Attorney General, concluded that the idea should be dropped because the issues involved were too complicated. The Minister, who is an eminent lawyer, benefits from the full resources of the State's legal machinery. Surely it is not beyond the might of those combined legal brains to reach a solution to this problem, which affects the community and voluntary sectors. Volunteerism is under threat in Ireland for a variety of reasons. Those who are suffering as a result are the young and the old, unfortunately. I urge the Minister to reconsider the extent of the liability of volunteers, to address the high cost of insurance for voluntary, sporting and community groups and to solve a problem that is faced by many people who are acting for the good of society, without greed or seeking any personal good.

While the Good Samaritan Bill 2005, which I welcome, seems to have some technical flaws, the motivation for it is good. It is difficult to see how this issue can be raised in a serious manner without the introduction of legislation. If our common law in this regard does not reflect natural justice, we should intervene by producing such legislation. The Bill is refreshing because it appeals to the highest common denominator. I try to live my life while seeing the glass as half full. We should always try to bring the best out in people, rather than focusing on sanctions to curb or modify behaviour.

I was impressed by the response to the appeal of Mr. Niall Mellon for assistance with the construction of homes in South Africa. Many Irish citizens, including film stars who gave up their time and prisoners who made flags for the Croke Park event, made voluntary contributions as part of the enormous community involvement in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2003. The Irish soccer supporters, who act as a unit, are another example of a particular genus that can be called on if we appeal to the highest common denominator. We should strive to remove impediments to that motivation. There have been times in the past when good people have decided not to volunteer because things like insurance have stood in their way, as Deputies mentioned earlier. A significant opportunity has been lost in that regard.

The sorrow of individuals and families when their loved ones are involved in accidents or are injured is compounded when they do not receive assistance. The failure of people to help is often the aspect that is focused on when the media pay attention to particular incidents. In recent weeks, a teenage girl was sexually assaulted on the No. 39 bus in broad daylight while people sat nearby without intervening. It is important that we approach this matter in a way that reverses many people's attitudes to ensure that they are confident they will not be penalised if they intervene. While there may be flaws in this Bill, the Minister should accept its principle and amend it, if necessary, on Committee and Report Stages. It is interesting that the Minister introduced the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 without many of its most serious and controversial sections, relating to anti-social behaviour orders, for example. Given that he plans to deal with such matters on Committee Stage of that Bill, what is wrong with making changes to this legislation on Committee Stage, if he feels it needs to be amended? I welcome the Bill because it reinforces the positive rather than governs by sanction.

When I was canvassing in County Kildare, which I do not imagine to be very different from any other place, during last year's local elections and this year's by-election, I sensed that people were thinking much more collectively than they had done in the recent past. That is something we can use. Many people are frustrated that our healthy economy has not delivered a better society. We have to intervene if we are to build such a society. This type of legislation is the kind of intervention we need.

I propose to share time with Deputies McCormack, Ring and Naughten.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The speech of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last night reflected a number of attitudes which highlight why the people of Ireland are growing tired of the Government. It is amazing the Progressive Democrats Party, which represents 4% of this country's electorate, is dictating Government policy. The Minister's obsession with reward and money when it comes to providing a duty of care to sick patients in an emergency was sickening to say the least. His speech last night was peppered with references to money and reward. He missed the point of this legislation and his views mirror the ongoing privatisation of the health care service, which in its present form will only benefit consultants and investors. It will not benefit the patients or taxpayers. Fianna Fáil has long lost interest in what happens to patients and what happens with taxpayers' money. The Progressive Democrats Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in some regards mirrors the attitude of the Progressive Democrats Minister for Health and Children in how we treat the people, for whom Fianna Fáil have given up all respect.

The Minister's attempt to portray himself as having some sort of "Kavanagh QC" like intellect was laughable. His nit picking was unbelievable. Most doctors do not need this legislation because they have separate good samaritan cover from their medical insurance providers. This legislation would only come into play for doctors after they retire. The Government has acknowledged that Deputy Timmins is correct, as it has forwarded the legislation to the Law Reform Commission to have it brought into play. The Government is finally waking up to the realisation that things need to be done here. I am sure Ireland is the only jurisdiction in the world not to have good samaritan cover to protect those who come to the assistance of people in an emergency. We need good samaritan cover and do not need a sneering Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform cocking his nose in the air, laughing at everybody who wants to help people in an emergency.

It is more in the Government's interest to wake up to what it should do to protect sick people. This is not to protect doctors or paramedics, who are covered already, even when they are off-duty. This legislation is to cover people who want to come to the assistance of people at the scene of an accident. However, society has changed and people have the perception that they might be sued after coming to the assistance of someone in an accident. This legislation is not to protect the person from being sued, but to encourage people to get involved in helping out.

The attitude in the country, in some respects driven by Government policy, is to isolate and individualise people and give up on communities. All the fine words about volunteerism and helping voluntary groups are nonsense unless legislation or actions by Ministers shows the Government believes in it. This legislation is about showing that we are interested in our communities and that people can get protection from the State if the person they assisted later feels that assistance provider did some harm and wishes to sue. This legislation would protect those people who offer assistance.

The Bill is not about the silly nonsense the Minister came out with regarding people being stuck up in a tree or hanging off the edge of a cliff. How many times has anybody in this House pulled somebody from the edge of a cliff? People hanging over the edge of a cliff or up in a tree are perfectly healthy and just want someone to pull them up. That has nothing to do with good samaritan acts. They apply when some form of medical assistance is brought to somebody in a serious situation. That is the basis of this very short legislation. If the Minister has a difficulty with it he should let it proceed to Committee Stage. We would then not need to worry about the fine mind of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, being tested to come up with a solution. The Law Reform Commission would do that for him by making proposals. On Committee Stage we can amend the Bill and bring it back to the House for Report Stage. We might for once show ourselves to have a progressive system of government that can introduce legislation that matters to people. Instead, however, we will see the same old nonsense coming from the Government side focusing on what might be wrong with the legislation. The Government has the opportunity and the resources. The Cabinet can refer this legislation directly to the Law Reform Commission. The Government should agree to allow the Bill to go to Committee Stage, where we can deal with the details.

I compliment Deputy Timmins on introducing the legislation at this time. Very few Members ever introduce a Bill. What better time to introduce such a Bill than in the Christmas season when many of our citizens will be involved in good samaritan work, for example looking after neighbours living alone or visiting the sick. Many organisations are involved in voluntary work like meals on wheels. The Rotary Club, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and several other voluntary organisations will operate as good samaritans during Christmas. In the past all of us were good samaritans. It might have been as simple as giving someone a lift in a car or looking after a neighbour if the slates had blown off his roof or if he was injured in some other manner. That was all good samaritan work and that was how we lived at that time.

At one time in rural areas when there might have been only one car in a district the owner drove his or her neighbours to Mass and often made two runs in doing so. That was all good samaritan work which has now disappeared because of the fear people have. When I first got a car I would never pass anybody on the road. It might have been a young person hitching home at the weekend, or an old man or woman going to the village or town to do shopping. However, I now pass people on the road because, like everybody else, I fear that if the person received an injury in my car, I might be liable for that injury. The nature of our society has changed now.

I was very taken aback by the response of the Minister to the Bill last night. He does not seem to know what the parable of the good Samaritan was about. That parable was about a traveller who fell among thieves, was beaten up, robbed and thrown on the wayside. After his own people passed him by, along came a Samaritan, who was a man from a different race and culture. He helped the poor man, washed him, cleaned his cuts, put him in an inn and paid the innkeeper to keep him for a number of days in the inn. That is what a good samaritan does. Last night the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, had a golden opportunity to act as a good samaritan, as a Minister from a different party and a different culture from us. However, he did not act as the good samaritan. He failed miserably in his attempt and acted more like the robbers who beat up poor Deputy Timmins and threw him on the wayside and said his Bill was useless.

He wanted to get paid for it.

He spoke for 30 minutes in a very arrogant, agitated and ignorant manner. He could have spoken for 30 seconds and been a good samaritan by thanking Deputy Timmins for introducing his Bill. He could have pointed out some mistakes and invited Deputy Timmins to his office to work through the details with Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform officials. This would allow them to ensure that the legislation could be corrected to suit everybody. Although the Minister had a script he did not speak to it but instead lacerated Deputy Timmins and the good work he was trying to do.

We are now in such a state through not having this kind of legislation that if a young boy is hurt in the school yard the teacher is afraid to put him in the car and take him to a doctor. In the event of an accident at sea, if one puts an arm around a person's neck to try to bring him or her ashore and the person is hurt, one is liable instead of being thanked for saving that person. That is the issue Deputy Timmins is trying to resolve. The Minister was not a good enough samaritan to see that and I am ashamed of him.

I am delighted to speak on this Bill, the contents of which are good. It is a pity there are so many gods in Ireland. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, thinks he is God because he never does anything wrong, knows everything and is such a wonderful man. He should never have left the Four Courts because he would be right in every single case he would bring before the courts. When he was Attorney General he made mistakes that in all probability will eventually cost taxpayers large amounts of money. While it might be wonderful to be God, the Minister is not a good samaritan.

I watched the Fianna Fáil Members speaking on this debate come in to the Chamber with their scripts. They are like vultures. They are doing everything they possibly can to impress the Taoiseach and the Government because they think there may be a vacancy soon.

I should not really be surprised by the actions of Fianna Fáil Members because their party has been polluted by the Progressive Democrats. The latter know nothing about good samaritans. The party members' policy and philosophy is to ensure they make as much money as possible because they can bring it to Heaven with them — the first people to do so. Although not many of them will go to Heaven, they think they can take their money with them in the coffin. The problem is they think there is no other world and that they should not help people. Their attitude in this life is to get paid and to get as much as possible out of the country because they will take it all with them.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, should have accepted the principle of the Bill. Last Christmas the Government brought a Bill to the House in the name of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and shortly after Christmas it had to bring forward further legislation to address the mistake. The Minister could have accepted the Bill and whatever amendments were necessary could have been made on Committee Stage.

Deputy Timmins was correct in what he said on the Bill. We are in a position where it is difficult to get people to work in a voluntary capacity in communities. We would have been better off had the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, who was once Attorney General, not lectured us in his speech. If a robber cuts or hurts himself in a person's home, he can sue the householder and the insurance company. That is the type of legislation that is in operation. Many who work in a voluntary capacity are concerned that some day something will go wrong, they will be sued and there will be nobody to pick up the tab but themselves. It is hard enough to get people involved in the community sector because they are busier. That arises from the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats policy which ensures both partners must work.

We will listen later to the budget contributions and hear about our wonderful economy and country. People were never as unhappy. They would prefer to be able to spend more time at home to look after their loved ones. Instead, they depend on good samaritans to keep an eye on them because if they want something done by the State, it cannot do it for them. In my county one cannot get a nursing home bed in the Sacred Heart Home or public hospital. When a person goes into hospital, he or she is given a form for subvention with a view to getting him or her into a private nursing home, far away from home if needs be. I am sure many Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil supporters have been placed in nursing homes. There is nothing wrong with it but the State would be better off if more was done for the elderly and to assist people.

There are some very good points in Deputy Timmins's Bill. The Minister got carried away in his speech but that is not the first time that has happened. I am surprised by the way in which the Fianna Fáil Members, one after the other, are lecturing us on the Fine Gael benches. The people are sick and tired of the lecturing of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and of Fianna Fáil and they are waiting for them. The people have had enough of their arrogance and of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats telling them they are better than everybody else. The Government thinks it knows better than the people.

That was the approach of the Minister in his speech. He is the Lord and one must heed the Lord because whatever he says is right because he is the greatest. He reminded me of Muhammad Ali in his prime but he is not a Muhammad Ali. The problem is he is being followed by the Fianna Fáil Party which is afraid to take him on. However, the people will not be afraid to do so in a few months' time. They are waiting for the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil. The message I have for them is that we in Fine Gael do not want them either because we will not need them.

The purpose of the Good Samaritan Bill is to protect from liability those who go to the assistance of others who may be ill or injured as a result of an accident or other emergency. The reality is that we have a litigation culture and people are afraid to get involved in day-to-day situations. This is a simple practical Bill which affords protection to all citizens who wish to render assistance to their neighbour in danger.

I wanted to speak on this Bill because I was involved in an incident where my father was killed in a road traffic accident. The driver of that car would not have made the six miles to the Portiuncula Hospital on the evening of that accident had it not been for the fact that a general practitioner came on the scene who happened to have a drip and gave it to the driver of that car. That driver would not be alive today had it not been for that good samaritan. I acknowledge the role of that individual, and every other individual who does that type of work daily without any recognition. That said, there is an issue of liability that needs to be addressed.

I listened to the Minister's comments which were deliberately misleading. He focused on one phrase, "failing to act", which was taken out of context and used it to misrepresent the principle of the Bill. If the Minister has a difficulty with any particular wording in the legislation, he has the opportunity to amend it on Committee Stage and should do so rather than reject the proposal.

Every year 6,000 to 7,000 people die in Ireland as a result of sudden cardiac arrest, for which there are many causes, such as genetic illness and so on. For a person who has a heart attack, time is critical. The survival rates drop by 10% for every minute they do not get emergency treatment. In rural areas, such as County Roscommon where ambulances must travel great distances, portable defibrillators could be used to administer medical assistance by trained persons while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance.

The first responder scheme where trained local volunteers assist with the ambulance services where a person suffers a heart attack or a threatened heart attack has been successfully run by Deputy Timmins in County Wicklow. This scheme should be expanded to isolated rural communities. Such a scheme would be of particular benefit to the people of County Roscommon who must wait for an ambulance to come from either Roscommon town, Boyle or Ballinasloe or in some cases from Castlebar, depending on the particular location. In many cases it takes more than an hour to get to a patient. That is unacceptable.

More than 8% of accidents in County Roscommon are road traffic accidents and more than 12% are cardiac emergencies. The scientific evidence clearly states that critical patients who fail to receive accident and emergency treatment within one hour run a 30% greater probability of death. The use of defibrillators and this legislation which would facilitate their use would help reduce the response times.

UK research shows that in respect of dead on arrival rates, when comparing rural and urban areas, 24% in rural areas survive compared with 78% in urban areas. It clearly shows that the distance to hospital has a direct impact on the survival rates in communities in rural areas.

One night recently in County Roscommon, both the Boyle and Ballinasloe ambulances were in Ballinasloe with patients and the Roscommon ambulance was involved in a call in the Ballinasloe area. No ambulance was covering County Roscommon, the main national primary routes, the N4, N5, N6 and N17, Knock Airport and all the other national secondary roads in the county. It is critically important that we take three immediate steps in County Roscommon, one being the development of a network of defibrillators across the county. This legislation is key to facilitating that. We need an ambulance base in west Roscommon. It has been promised for the past five years. A report has been gathering dust on Deputy Brian Lenihan's desk, in his capacity as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, for five years. We also need a dedicated emergency helicopter service in this country, another report on which is lying on a desk in the Department of Health and Children for the past number of years. It could help to address the issues, particularly regarding road traffic accidents.

It is critically important that we provide proper cover for rural communities throughout the country. It is not provided at the moment. The Government wants to get rid of accident and emergency units yet it is not prepared to provide emergency services. The least that could be done is to support local communities by putting in place this legislation so they can act in their own interests. The Government does not even allow that to happen. I commend the Bill to the House.

I congratulate Deputy Timmins for introducing this Bill. It raises important issues of principle. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, explained last night that the Government is not in a position to support this Bill. The introduction of the Bill has given an opportunity to examine the issue of what is known in legal and popular discourse as "the good samaritan" and voluntary work afresh.

I want to reiterate the stated intention of the Minister to arrange for the Law Reform Commission to be asked to examine the issue of voluntarism in its widest context. Any such examination must encompass an examination of the issues raised by Deputy Timmins's Bill. Deputy Timmins explained last night that the underlying reason for the introduction of the Bill was to ensure that those who intervene to give help to others and who offer the assistance in good faith could not then be penalised or held liable for personal injuries suffered as a result of their intervention. In particular, he referred to the use of defibrillators by community and voluntary groups, such as the first responder scheme.

I acknowledge the efforts made by schemes such as first responder, which provide training and emergency equipment to residents in remote areas. The policy of the Government regarding tackling the compensation culture is well reflected in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003. Both Acts brought about fundamental changes in the handling of personal injuries cases. It is wise to wait to see the full effects of the introduction of these Acts before considering further amendments to our civil liability code.

The question of the law on rescuers and good samaritans was considered in the context of the preparation of the Bill leading to the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. A decision was made not to proceed with any reform in respect to this question in the Bill, but to keep the matter under review in the context of the operation of the legislation.

The law of negligence encompasses a number of matters, including a duty of care, a breach of that standard of care and consequential actual loss or damage to the plaintiff. A close causal connection must be demonstrated between the conduct of the defendant and the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. These matters have been elaborated by judges in court decisions through the centuries. Each case must be considered on its merits by the courts. The courts must examine each case, and the circumstances of each case, to establish whether a legal duty of care exists and whether, on the facts disclosed in that case, a breach of the standard of care has been established.

Under the law as it stands on personal injury litigation, our courts give due weight to the social utility of the conduct of any particular defendant. They take a common sense approach in determining the standard of care, taking into account all of the circumstances. That is not to say a person can be foolhardy or reckless. It must be remembered there is no general duty in our law to go to the assistance of a person in need. We never imposed that duty, and that is why, of course, the subject was debated in this House yesterday and this morning in the context of the good samaritan. The good samaritan or rescuer, which is the other phrase often used in legal discourse, is a person not under any legal duty to do as they do but views himself or herself as being under a moral duty to so behave.

No Irish judicial decision exists on rescuers and good samaritans in the context of them being sued for the conduct in which they engage. A number of Irish legal decisions have been made on the question of whether the good samaritan or rescuer can sue where people suffer injuries in the course of their rescue mission, if I can characterise their conduct in that way. A number of established Irish authorities on that exist, and the authoritative Irish textbook in this area suggests that once upon a time the law treated the rescuer or good samaritan as a "Cinderella plaintiff" but now takes a far more sympathetic view to such a party. No Irish judicial authority exists on the position of the good samaritan who is sued in respect of his or her conduct. No reform on the common law position on rescuers has been carried out in our neighbouring jurisdiction. It is true that some jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have introduced legal and legislative changes in this area. These laws differ widely from state to state and province to province.

From the information available to the Department, it appears evidence does not exist to show a compelling need to change the law as it stands. Research undertaken by the State claims agency found a case has never been taken in the Irish courts wherein a person acting as a good samaritan has been sued for personal injuries. I acknowledge that Deputy Lynch was aware of one such case which was unsuccessful. There is no firm evidence to suggest that concerns about the possibility of liability has discouraged or prevented persons from coming to the aid of others in an emergency.

I wish to share time with Deputies Neville and Timmins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The concept of this Bill is to give some comfort and security to people whose natural instinct is to help a fellow human being in trouble. Nobody doubts that as a society, we are prone to litigation. An increasing minority see litigation as a way of making a fast buck. Unfortunately, a growing number of people involved in the legal profession stand to make a great deal of money by encouraging this approach.

I wish to deal with one specific issue, the perception, or in some cases the reality, whereby people feel that getting involved in a humanitarian situation may leave them vulnerable to claims by the person they are trying to help. Doctors and nurses are in the front line of this dilemma. If they decide to help someone taken ill at a match, on the side of the street, on a plane or on a train they run the risk of being sued by that person. The conditions in which they might have to work or the equipment available may not be ideal. In these circumstances they are vulnerable to being sued. It boils down to the fact that while there may not be cases at this time, there are situations whereby people might not get involved because of the fear of being taken to court.

Apart from this, another situation is evolving throughout rural Ireland. In my constituency, the South Doc and Shannon Doc systems were introduced. For a large part of the weekend many people in the area do not have emergency doctor cover. Crises have occurred at weekends since the introduction of these systems. Now that volunteers are prepared to take part in schemes such as the one which Deputy Timmins initiated in County Wicklow, we should make it clear that legislation protects them and they can participate without fear of putting their own careers in jeopardy.

The litigation system and the cost of insurance for professional people such as doctors and nurses mean they might hesitate in circumstances where they could be of help to a person in trouble. I am aware of a recent case where a person in Charleville suffered a heart attack and the only person available during that weekend was a doctor who was at least an hour and a half away in Fermoy. On the other side of the border in Kerry, a person collapsed at a wedding. The nearest doctor to him was at the far end of the Dingle Peninsula. The situation is changing and we must examine the possibility of off duty nurses, chemists, first aid fire officers and ambulance drivers having the equipment, authority and protection to intervene in a crisis. There is no point in stating that litigation has not been taken in the past. The fact that it has not been taken does not indicate people avoided getting involved because of fear of litigation.

I thank the Members who spoke in favour of the Bill. I also thank Members from the opposite side of the House who made positive comments. This Bill is a matter of life and death and I regret the Government side does not accept it. For a former Attorney General and a serving Minister in Cabinet to be so ill-prepared, to engage in a futile frolic in the words of his colleagues and to pose hypothetical questions without dealing with the substantive question demonstrates a lack of understanding of and empathy with the substantive issue in this Bill. I am amazed so many Government patsies followed the same line as the Minister.

The Minister's pronouncements on what is right or wrong are not always correct. As Deputy Catherine Murphy stated, he tabled some 200 amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill. This does not indicate he is competent in the field in which he purports to be an expert.

The Minister focussed on a number of areas of the Bill, with which I will deal presently. There are three main areas of the legal concept of the good samaritan open to consideration: there is the legal duty of a citizen to assist someone in need, the compensation for loss or injury on the rights of a good samaritan, and the liability or risk assumed by a good samaritan. This Bill deals with the last one of these but the Minister knowingly misrepresented the Bill. He focussed on section 2(c) which states a person: “is not liable for damages that result from his or her negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services”.

Extrapolating from the phrase "failing to act", the Minister superimposed it on the scenario of someone driving by the scene of an accident and refusing to act and suggested such a person would be liable for compensation. He clearly took this out of context because the full context refers to "acting or failing to act while providing the services". I am surprised the Minister did that and that so many Fianna Fáil backbenchers followed him down that road. I am surprised The Irish Times and other media outlets take the Minister’s statements at face value and I suggest they analyse what he states in future.

The Minister also referred to the differential level of liability between two doctors, or between a specialist and an ambulance driver, suggesting the specialist would know much more than the ambulance driver and that accordingly the legislation was unfair to the ambulance driver. This legislation does not deal with ambulance staff, whose duty of care is not diminished or increased, and whose protection is not increased or decreased. Rather, the legislation deals with the volunteer, whether it is a medical professional or a member of the public.

I referred to the Pamberton v. Dharmani case in the United States in 1994, which found that a physician in a hospital called in to assist during a procedure had less of a duty of care than the doctor dealing with the patient full-time. I also referred to the difference between the French and American systems. In France there is an obligation to intervene and I provided an example of this, stating that photographers at the fatal car crash of Princess Diana were investigated and questioned on their failure to act. I contrasted this with the Kitty Genovese case in America, where people stood by and did not act. I stated we had a long way to go before arriving at either system.

I know there is a need for this Bill because I interact with the community and I am involved in the first responder scheme. First responders are covered by clinical indemnity insurance and the Department of Health and Children. Encouraging targeted defibrillation in clubs and societies is hindered by the lack of legislation. The issue of insurance is raised consistently. I understand no case has been taken although Deputy Lynch referred to a case where gardaí in a patrol car intervened and one garda was sued but not found liable. I am not aware of this case and I must follow it up with Deputy Lynch.

The Minister is aware that no authority can state that a previously unknown tort cannot take place. I used the example of the breach of duty of contract in the mid-19th century, negligence in the Donoghue v. Stevenson case in the 1930s in England and the tort of intimidation, which took root in law in England in the 1960s. The fact it has not happened in the past has no bearing on the future. This is simple legislation that costs nothing but the Government intends to vote against it.

The concept of encouraging the use of defibrillators is one aspect of this Bill and the Minister is correct in characterising this as broad brush legislation. Unlike the Minister's response, much time, energy and research was devoted to this Bill. A Fianna Fáil Deputy referred to a report that has been prepared for the Government into sudden cardiac death. I am reasonably confident the report will recommend good samaritan laws. The people who wrote the report meet the same communities I meet, understand what is happening and understand the barriers to volunteering, unlike our Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I do not wish to be personal but I am surprised so many Fianna Fáil backbenchers followed his lead.

I take some consolation from the decision of the Cabinet to refer the issue to the Law Reform Commission. Perhaps some members of Cabinet have more sense than the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform although I cannot figure out who they may be. Perhaps the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was acting Whip for the day.

In May 2004 I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about local communities putting defibrillators in Garda stations and gardaí assisting the process. I received the standard Pontius Pilate reply from the Minister, stating it had nothing to do with him. He stated it was a public health matter and possibly one with which his colleague, the Minister of Health and Children, should deal. On 21 October 2005, one and a half years later, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is on the front page of the Kilkenny People, launching a pilot scheme of defibrillators in Garda cars in Kilkenny. In May 2004 it had nothing to do with him but he was happy to turn up at the launch of a pilot scheme in Kilkenny and sanction the launch of a pilot scheme in Blanchardstown. Within a couple of years defibrillators will be in every Garda patrol car and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will look for kudos.

I am confident a Bill similar to this will be introduced in the near future. I hope it will not be the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform introducing the Bill but someone from this side of the House. Perhaps he is not as enlightened as I gave him credit for but I believe the measures in this Bill will be introduced.

Last night the Minister asked how the IMO might look at such legislation. I challenge him now to send the legislation and the scripts of the debate to the various medical organisations to see their response. I believe their response will be very strongly in favour of this Bill.

In a few hours' time the benches on the Government side will be full. We will have the hurrahs and the claps. It is easy to spend the public's money but it is not so easy to be innovative. What was the slogan — radical or redundant? The Government is very clearly redundant. It is easy for it to spend money but not so easy for it to take on board a progressive idea that is not its own.

I commend this Bill to the House and deeply regret that the Government, in its wisdom, has chosen not to accept it. It is not flawed and even if the Bill did need amendments, for a Government to reject it on that basis while supporting legislation on Second Stage, with more than 200 amendments signalled, is a little hypocritical.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 62; Níl, 72.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.


  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Curran.
Question declared lost.
Sitting suspended at 1.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.