I want to share time with Deputies Ó Snodaigh, Connolly and Catherine Murphy.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in opening today's debate, sought to construct a big tent as regards the fiasco that is this legislation. He welcomed the draft legislation produced by the Labour Party. He incorporated the Private Members' Bill produced by Fine Gael, although not without questioning the ability of the draftsman to produce a correct Bill. He sought solace from the fact that officers of the State who appeared before committees of the Oireachtas failed to spot the omission he detected, and then sought to apportion responsibility for the legislation and the omission collectively on this House.
He called for consolidated legislation in this area, with which there is no disagreement on this side of the House. However, it is the Minister's role in producing legislation in the manner he has that has given rise to the problem we are now facing, because he is a prince of "ad hocery". We are going through the motions to repair the damage of emergency legislation. What makes this Bill even more poignant is its subject matter and the fact it deals with the protection of children in circumstances where they are most vulnerable and where most damage can be inflicted upon them. This does not reflect well on this House. It reflects less well on the manner in which we are expected to do our business when legislation is presented to us.
This Minister, more than most in this Government, has been guilty of presenting legislation to the House in a haphazard way. Rather than trying to seek collective responsibility for the legislative mess we find ourselves in, it would be better if the Government took that collective responsibility. That, after all, is its constitutional responsibility.
This brings us no closer to the fact we have a loophole to address. There are grey areas to be filled in. The Bill is being taken on trust in circumstances where we have accepted similar legislation on trust from the same Minister and brought ourselves to exactly the same situation. I share the fear expressed by Deputy Howlin in his contribution that because we are dealing with a Bill the House has just been presented with, the way the debate has been structured and the lack of subsequent scrutiny it will receive as well as the Minister's track record, there is no guarantee we will not have to revisit it. This will probably not be in the life of the 29th Dáil, but the whole area will almost certainly have to be addressed again within a few months. In the event, perhaps we may then start to consolidate this entire important area of legislation.
We should go beyond this House. The Green Party, for example, supports the Barnardos call for a national child protection summit. This is a debate that requires the full involvement of civil society. We cannot go hopping from one crisis to another in this House in trying to produce legislation in this important area. We can no longer produce legislation on the basis of the most recent newspaper headline. We can no longer produce legislation on the basis of trying to deal with the most pertinent political crisis. We have a more considered role to undertake in this House. We have to look to the long term and put in place, after proper consideration, legislation that will survive long after us.
It is ironic that last week in the House we were dealing with the Statute Law Revision Bill 2007, which meant asking whether we should keep legislation dating from the 13th century. Here we are in the 29th Dáil trying to repair Bills that we cannot get right over a six-month interval. If anything testifies to the way this House is not working effectively, and how the Government is failing in its role to produce a proper legislative programme, this in particular speaks volumes.
The Bill will not receive any objection from the Green Party. It is obvious the loopholes need to be filled. Can we be confident, however, that the issue is being dealt with in its entirety? Even though the House is obliged to the Labour Party and Deputy Rabbitte for pointing out this omission, it is something that should have been detected during the legislative process and talked about on Second and subsequent stages.
I was taken by Deputy Howlin's contribution when he outlined the history of this legislation and talked about how the previous guillotines had worked. Guillotines are very pernicious instruments. The Government decides and votes through on a majority that time is not available to deal with a Bill. This means the elements that have not been examined, debated or voted upon in any proper sense in the House, become part of the Statute Book. Omissions that arise as a result eventually become obvious and glaring. I hope that if any lesson is capable of being learned by this Minister and Government, it is that we will not return to this situation again. I suspect that in the 29th Dáil the amount of emergency legislation probably rates as an historical high, outside the state of emergency during the Second World War. I would urge that an analysis be carried out in this regard. It is a damning indictment of this Administration's inability to govern that in peace time, given such a prosperous economic period and the stability of governance, it has been forced to come back to this House with such a large amount of emergency legislation. This is illustrated all the more in an issue of this type where the protection of our children is paramount. While the Government will get the support it needs, it does not enjoy the House's confidence that it is dealing adequately with the issue.