Road Transport Bill 2011: Committee and Remaining Stages

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 6, subsection (1), between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(h) an offence under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008,”.

The offence proposed to be added here is on the advice of the Attorney General's office. It is an additional one in the category of serious offences and relates to trafficking for the purposes of sexual or other exploitation. Offences relating to trafficking of illegal immigrants are already included in subsection (e) but this includes human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Where any person has been convicted of this offence, this amendment will allow me to make a decision on such a person’s good repute and decide whether they should be involved in a road haulage or passenger transport business.

As with the other serious offences listed in the section, this is an important measure for public safety. Essentially, it takes account of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and allows it to be taken into account if somebody applying for a haulage licence has been involved in human trafficking in addition to the existing provision for involvement in illegal immigration.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Deputy Ellis and will be moved by Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, subsection (1), line 30, before "the operator" to insert the following:

"excluding politically motivated offences covered by the Good Friday Agreement and which predate the enactment of the agreement,".

This is an amendment in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. It has been tabled because there are people who over several decades were convicted in this and other jurisdictions, and there is recognition through the Good Friday Agreement and through the release of prisoners that there is a peace process in place and that restrictions should not be made against them. In the current form, the Bill would impose a restriction which would prevent some of those who were convicted during that period from taking up positions that are covered by the legislation.

I have discussed this type of proposal with various Ministers when they have sought to put restrictions on membership of other bodies or holding directorships at different levels. For example, in one case a person who had been convicted more than 30 years ago of an offence in the Six Counties and who was working as a community worker in the Dundalk area for nearly 15 years was being prevented from adopting a child because of the restrictions. There was no leeway or dispensation to take account of the changed circumstances on the island. If the Bill is allowed to pass in this way, it will be seen as a bit of vindictiveness against those who were convicted of political offences in that period. That is the spirt in which the amendment is put and I ask the Minister to take it on board.

I support the amendment as put by Deputy Ó Snodaigh. I outlined the reasoning behind it on the floor of the House yesterday. We are in a new situation and there are huge opportunities for those who were involved, not through any fault of their own, in the conflict we are now coming out of, or, thank God, are out of. It is a step backwards that people who worked so hard to bring about a peaceful situation could find themselves being discriminated against because of their involvement in the struggle in the Six Counties. If that same legislation was enacted 70 or 80 years ago, I doubt there would have been anybody sitting in here — let us be honest about it. In the peace process and the political process that emanated from it, including the negotiations where the British Government was prepared to accept that people involved in the conflict, even prisoners, were of a special category, the prisoners were effectively released having served two years. In the Six Counties, there is no way they are discriminated against in that way.

I ask the Minister to take the amendment on board. It would be a very positive step and positive for all of us who have worked through the years since 1998 in trying to implement the workings of the Good Friday Agreement and the Hillsborough Agreement. All of that is coming into train and we are in a totally different dispensation now. Through this amendment, the Bill should effectively protect the rights of people who found themselves in that situation.

I support the general thrust of the amendment put forward by Sinn Féin. I say that in the context of recognising that many people have committed offences in the past regardless of their motivation, whether political or otherwise, at a certain time in their lives. Everybody has to be given an opportunity to have a second chance. There have been discussions in this House about legislation in regard to the spent convictions principle. While it may not be possible to do it in this instance, the Government in general needs to look at some way of recognising that every citizen is entitled to a second chance, regardless of the nature of their criminal activity at some point in their past.

Our whole criminal justice system is about ensuring that people pay a penalty in the first instance for the crime they have committed, but very much part of imprisonment or other sanctions associated with a conviction is ensuring that people get an opportunity to change their ways, if one likes. Therefore, it is necessary for the Government to look in general terms at the way in which individuals who have been convicted in the past of some heinous crime, regardless of the motivation, are given an opportunity to change. Many do, some do not. Some clearly do not learn their lesson from the activities they have been involved in or any sanction that has been imposed on them, but some do.

It perhaps needs to be expressed to some extent in some legislative form that at least provides the Minister with the opportunity or capacity, in this case because he will sanction the licence, to take into account the fact such individuals have made good on their desire to be model citizens of the State. We must find a way to allow them to participate in a wholesome and full way by being able to provide meaningful employment for themselves, if that is the course they seek to take. In general terms, we support the amendment so that this broad principle of giving people a second chance is somehow encompassed in legislation generally.

I once again ask the Minister to consider our amendment. I know he referred to this some days ago and stated that while he was opposed to the amendment, he might talk to his Cabinet colleagues to find whether there was another way to deal with this in terms of making exceptions for people who come under the St. Andrews Agreement.

This is very important. There has been too much rowing back on issues concerning the St. Andrews Agreement, and the A5 is another example. The Government made a commitment to be part of that process of building the road in the north west. The wrong message is going out to people who have given an awful lot of commitment and had an awful lot of faith in the whole agreement. The agreement is working. People are doing their best but some are being penalised as a result of supporting this agreement. I once again plead with the Minister not to penalise these people who have supported the St. Andrews Agreement. It is important the message goes out that they will not be left aside and that there is a mechanism to look after them and not to discriminate against them in terms of jobs. We have seen this happen with adoptions here where people who were former prisoners, and who have come under the St. Andrews Agreement, were discriminated against. This would send out the wrong signal. I once again plead with the Minister to support the amendment.

I also support the amendment. Any healthy functioning society will always look for an opportunity to welcome people back into the fold. All corrective action, all forms of discipline and punishment must be geared towards bringing people back in rather than excluding them forever. On the basic principle involved, I definitely support the amendment.

The amendment applies to politically motivated offences which are covered by and occurred before the Good Friday Agreement. I point out that in the context of this Road Transport Bill we are talking about very serious offences. We are not talking about membership of the IRA. Somebody convicted for membership of the IRA is not precluded from holding a haulage licence nor is somebody who threw stones or petrol bombs at the RUC or somebody who defended his or her community. The kinds of offences we are talking about here are very serious ones. They are offences like rape, money laundering, drug smuggling, murder and armed robbery. I am not sure if one could ever describe those kinds of offences as being politically motivated ones.

The principle that has been established to date is that people convicted of these offences who were members of paramilitary organisations whose campaign is at an end can be put on early release. They are put on early release under licence, there is no amnesty, convictions are not expunged and they are still convicted criminals. That is the current legal situation. It is possible, under this legislation, for somebody to go to the District Court and make his or her case as to why he or she should still have a licence.

I appreciate where Deputies are coming from. There is a case for saying that what is in the past is in the past and the time has now come to draw a line under what occurred in the past. If there is an appropriate way to do that, it should be done perhaps by a spent convictions Bill. We have a Bill already enacted that states that convictions that were made a certain period ago, particularly minor convictions, are considered to be spent so that somebody's record is clear, or perhaps there could be an amnesty Bill. If this issue is to be pursued, it should be pursued in that way perhaps in the form of a Private Members' Bill that would give an amnesty or consider these convictions to be spent. This is a Road Transport Bill and I do not believe this is the place to address that issue. If that issue was addressed, it would only be addressed in this Bill. It would not apply, for example, to taxi licences or other areas the likes of which were raised yesterday.

A Private Members' Bill on this area was produced by the former Deputy Barry Andrews while in government prior to he becoming a Minister of State and it only got as far as being taken in committee. Another Bill has now been produced but it only deals with minor offences. The Minister has turned the very argument he made on its head when he said IRA membership was not regarded as a serious offence and that this Bill only deals with convictions for serious offences.

A look back on the history of this State and convictions in the Special Criminal Court in particular would show that most of the convictions were not just for IRA membership. Quite a number of them were for what were regarded by the State as serious offences. It was all part of the same process that happened in the Six Counties and in Britain where the struggle for Irish freedom was criminalised, specifically to try to label those who were challenging British occupation in Ireland as criminal. The very same policy was implemented by the British in this State in the 1920s. There are people who sat on the Government benches who were convicted of very serious offences and went on to become Ministers. History shows us that those who were involved at various stages of Ireland's fight for freedom were awarded medals and pensions by the then Government. There was positive discrimination by various Governments in the past, not only by Cumann na nGaedheal but also by Fianna Fáil which ensured that those who were active were given selective jobs or fast promotion in recognition of the sacrifice they had made, the fact that they had been criminalised and brutalised and that their families had been also.

When the spent convictions Bill produced by the former Deputy Barry Andrews was introduced I spoke on it and I argued the case with that former Deputy, as I have argued in regard to the latest Bill that it does not go far enough because it does not address the legacy of the most recent conflict. The only way to deal with it properly, and the Minister is right in what he said, is to introduce a proper Bill that would expunge those convictions, or something to that effect, which are related to political offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement. It comes down to their being political will to do this. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions in regard to taxis and other issues and have appealed to Ministers to examine it and on every occasion the Minister concerned has said that he or she understands the position but that it is a matter for another Bill and it is always the case that it is a matter for another Bill.

We are considering producing legislation which will provide for what I have sought. However, usually when legislation is produced on this side of the House, that is where it rests. It might be passed but it tends not to be taken in committee. The only true way to ensure that legislation is passed is for Deputies and the Government to take this matter on as a project. Given the history of some of those in government, they might also be happy for some of their former comrades to be covered by such legislation.

I appeal, through the Minister, to the Government and the Tánaiste in particular to examine producing legislation to cover this matter and not to discriminate, legislation that would protect those people and not allow them to be discriminated in the way that this legislation does. For politics to work the message must go out that the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement are intact and are not being shredded piecemeal as seems to happen — reference was made to the A5 and there are other matters in respect of which the full delivery of the Good Friday Agreement still has not happened in this State. The Human Rights Commission is being amalgamated rather than promoted and properly resourced. There is also a range of other issues that have not been addressed.

Apart from those who were convicted of political offences, when somebody has been convicted and has served his or her time, he or she should not be penalised a second time. The judge in deciding whether to hand down a sentence to a person for a serious offence such as one of those that was listed needs to be aware that there are consequences because Minister after Minister is putting increasingly more restrictions on people who have committed serious offences. Some of these people have served ten or 20 years in prison. They have been penalised and now they will be further penalised by having major restrictions imposed on their ability to rebuild their lives and, hopefully, be good, proper and upstanding citizens. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment and to put pressure on Government to accept my proposal and that of my party to introduce legislation to deal with the legacy of political prisoners in this State.

I am disappointed that the Minister has not accepted this amendment and I would like him to reconsider it. What the legislation is doing is discriminating in an institutional way against people who are former political prisoners. In the Twenty-six Counties at present, even without the legislation, ex-republican prisoners involved in the conflict and released under the Good Friday Agreement, who played a huge role in convincing many who were very sceptical about the process that it was the way forward and worked tirelessly around the clock to ensure the contents of the Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement and the Hillsborough Agreement became a reality, cannot get a job as a taxi or lorry driver. With this omission the Bill allows this situation to continue.

If the amendment were accepted it would send a tremendous message across the spectrum. It would show political understanding and acceptance by the Dáil that what was done by people who were involved in the conflict and who are working for peace and justice throughout the island is different from other types of offences mentioned by the Minister. The people themselves have no doubt that what they were involved in was politically motivated. This is no different from generations who went before them from the first Dáil through to the present day. If the people involved in military action against the Crown forces of occupation in the Twenty-six Counties were here today, they would find themselves in the same position as this generation of republican activists.

This is an opportunity and I hope the Minister will not miss it. It would send a clear message that people conforming to, accepting and helping to implement the Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement and the Hillsborough Agreement are proactively promoting and advancing the peace process and creating a political process whereby all of us with the desire to see the ultimate objective of what Irish republicanism stands for can achieve our aim. I would hate to see the Minister miss this opportunity. Whatever difficulties he has can be overcome in the context of universal acceptance in the political sphere on the island of Ireland with regard to people involved in the conflict at that time and who were motivated politically and not by selfish greed or violence.

The Minister made reference to the various offences and I found some of those references very insulting in many ways. It is within his remit to accept the amendment which is very specific with regard to political prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement. This is perfectly acceptable, and should be acceptable not only to those in the Minister's party but also in the Labour Party because it also affects them. It affects some people in the Minister's party and in the Labour Party. I do not know how they will vote on not accepting that people covered by the Good Friday Agreement should be exempt under this legislation. I do not know how in conscience they could say it was all right for them in the past but it is not all right now. This is avolte-face by people with a history in republicanism who were part of the struggle that took place on the island.

It is not only the prisoners who served time who are affected. Their families, friends and children are also being penalised. This has happened and continues to do so. The message has come out not only in the South but also in the North and it is a bad message. We are all working very hard to support the St. Andrews Agreement. There seems to be incremental erosion of the Good Friday Agreement and we need to put our foot down. We cannot keep eroding the rights of people who took part in a struggle, many of whom were forced into it through circumstances. I once again plead with the Minister to re-examine this, speak to his colleagues and not make a rash decision. This is very important.

I should clarify the provisions of the Bill. There is an obligation to notify the Minister that convictions exist for these offences. It does not automatically preclude somebody from being given a licence. Having been notified, the Minister can consider particular convictions that affect good repute. If he or she decides to refuse or withdraw a licence, applicants must be notified, at which point they have 21 days to appeal to the District Court. I am sure it may well be the case that this Minister or future Ministers may take the view that such offences occurred long ago in a particular context and as a result would not preclude somebody from getting a licence. It is not a ban on holding a licence. It is a requirement that the Minister be notified of any such convictions.

I do not want to get involved in history lessons but there is a big difference between the struggle of 1918 to 1921 and that in the period to which the Deputies refer. The earlier struggle had democratic legitimacy whereas the struggle which occurred in recent times did not have the support of the majority of the people——

1916 may not have but the struggle from 1918 to 1922 did. What is absolutely certain is that the violence — or armed struggle as it is called — which occurred more recently never had the democratic legitimacy of the people of the North or South of the island.

One has only to look at the number of people voting for republicans.

Ultimately, unlike the struggle of the 1920s it was unsuccessful. Partition is now a fact and Stormont is back in operation, which makes a very big difference.

The 1920s struggle was unsuccessful as well; it partitioned Ireland.

I draw the Deputies' attention to some of the offences about which we are speaking. They include rape——

We are not talking about rape. The Minister knows that well. Why does he keep saying it?

The Deputy's amendment would actually do so. It refers to offences such as drug smuggling.

No, rape is not covered by the Good Friday Agreement. Nobody convicted of rape came under the Good Friday Agreement.

What about drug smuggling, money laundering and human trafficking?

Drug smuggling is not covered by the Agreement.

Money laundering——

That is the Minister's definition.

All he has to do is look at his own side of the House.

Look at the Labour Party.

They were printing money and they are in government.

I stated earlier there may well be a case for drawing a line under the events of the past, stating they were in the past, and having an amnesty Bill or a spent convictions Bill. One of the problems that prevents us from doing this is the failure of the party opposite to admit to the crimes that occurred in the past. I was really shocked during the presidential campaign by the behaviour of the Deputy First Minister. A lady with eight or nine children was killed by the IRA because she assisted a soldier; I do not recall her name.

Quite a number of people were killed during that conflict on all sides.

There were, but that was an appalling offence and it was a murder, but it was still the view of very senior people in Sinn Féin that it was not a murder. If I remember correctly the Deputy First Minister stated the family may think it was a murder and he would not disagree with them but he would not call it a murder.

If we want to move on from this period in the past, what we need is an admission from Sinn Féin that these people are not heroes and the offences of which they were convicted were wrong and that they recognise these murders as murders. If we had this type of statement it might be possible for me to reconsider my position on the amendment. However, if the Deputies still pretend these offences were justified, or entirely politically motivated, or were not even murders, I do not think it is possible to draw a line under them.

As we have had a sort of revisionist presentation from the Minister, I could take him to my county, to Ballyseedy or Beathacha, Caherciveen, or to Countess Bridge in Killarney where 17 prisoners were taken out in one week by the Minister's predecessors, tied to a mine and blown to bits in the name of this State, but I will not go down that road. I am just making the point that in the 1918 to 1923 period there was a war in this State. People were involved in that war on the island of Ireland. The partition of Ireland was agreed by the Minister's predecessors.

We are simply asking that people should be exempt, those who were involved in the conflict, who were part of a credible and verifiable ceasefire as part of the Good Friday Agreement, who were imprisoned as a result of that conflict and who were viewed by the British government and the Dublin government at that point in time as special category prisoners. They were brought to special courts and to interrogation centres that were set up especially for people who were involved in the political struggle. Therefore they are absolutely different. The Minister can pick special incidents here and there, and so can I concerning the foundation of his party, but I will not go down that road. We want to amend the legislation so that it does not discriminate against them because of their involvement in the conflict. All we are seeking is that because they were involved in the conflict, they should not be discriminated against. The Minister has an opportunity to send a powerful message to people who have come out of prison after spending long periods there. Deputy Dessie Ellis spent 12 or 13 years in prison and I spent 13 years in prison, although I am no criminal. I was never involved in criminal activity. I know nobody who was in prison with me as a republican prisoner who was involved in criminal activity. I did not want to go to prison or be involved in an armed campaign, but the conditions that were there in my time shaped my future, in the very same way as the future of people born in the Bogside was shaped — those who were 15, 16 or 17 years of age when British paratroopers came in a killed 14 people in 1972. The consequences of repression and a sectarian one-party state created the situation that followed. It was inevitable. In the same way, in the 1918 to 1921 period, the consequences of the brutality of the British presence in this part of the country created the conditions where people — the forefathers of the Minister's party — were involved in terrible things.

We need to work forwards from where we are now. The Minister has an opportunity to try to ensure that we have equality of treatment for people who were caught up in something, not of their own making, but due to the circumstances prevailing on the ground at that point in time. A huge job of work has been done by people like Mr. Martin McGuinness, Mr. Peter Robinson, Dr. Ian Paisley, Mr. David Trimble, previous governments here, Mr. George Mitchell, President Bill Clinton, Mr. Tony Blair and Mr. Gordon Brown.

However, some of the Minister's commentary is insulting to say the very least. I do not come in here to insult or downgrade him. I ask him, as a legislator, to amend this legislation as part of conflict resolution, advancing the Good Friday Agreement, creating a circumstance, and sending a message out that we have drawn a line in the sand and have moved on from where we were. That is the opportunity that is before the Minister.

It should not be left in the gift of the Minister whether to grant this exemption when somebody has made the Minister aware of a previous conviction. Not all Ministers would have the same attitude as the current one in terms of saying that something is in the past, because there are no criteria and one could have a vindictive Minister in office. There have been many in the past who would refuse point-blank to do so, by virtue of a person's history. Rather than leaving it in a Minister's gift, it should be changed so that those who would qualify under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as political prisoners should not have to inform the Minister. If they inform the Minister, however, they can state that they would qualify. The Minister can ring the Minister for Justice and Equality and say "Can you check this file? Would this person, or has this person, come under the criteria that are set out?" The criteria are very easy because the vast majority, if not all, of those who would qualify were in fact political prisoners who were convicted in Green Street courthouse in this State. In the Six Counties they were convicted under the Diplock court system. Both court systems were political and dealt specifically with those who were involved in offences that the state believed were political. That is why they created a separate court and justice system, which allowed them in many ways to be railroaded into prison.

Some of these people who were convicted were never involved in the activity for which they were convicted. They may have been republicans or IRA members but the circumstances of the decision taken by the IRA in those years was, at times, not to recognise the court. That meant that a defence was not even put up in some cases, and in many cases they were wrongfully convicted. We have seen what wrongful convictions have done in key cases in England, such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. Those are the cases we know of but there are quite a number of others.

They were convicted of serious offences which, under this Bill, would mean that they would not qualify for exemption but would have to depend on a Minister having the cop-on or the political wit, or at least not being opposed to them, and saying "Yes, I understand".

For instance, a member of the Labour Party, Mr. Nicky Kelly — although I do not know where his political allegiance is now — contested an election. He was convicted in this State of a very serious offence. If he had been elected to this House he would be in the same position of supporting me in my call for this amendment to be accepted, given what he went through and how long it took for him to be pardoned. We could run a whole list of people and seek presidential pardons for quite a range of republican prisoners who were convicted of serious offences in the past 30 or 40 years, who would be discriminated against by this legislation. That is not being sought, but we will pursue the issue of expunging the convictions in some legislation to be introduced in the near future. In the meantime, however, the easy way of addressing the matter in these circumstances is that people who qualify under the terms of the prisoner release scheme under the Good Friday Agreement would also qualify under this Bill.

In moving this amendment I did not really want to make political arguments. However, some of the things the Minister said have put me in a position where I need to say certain things. There was a conflict on this island and many things happened in that conflict. Not all of us are happy, and are finding it very difficult, to stand by many of the things that happened, but they happened. It was a very prolonged campaign and as a movement, as a party, we are in favour of a truth commission. We want to see the truth come out in general. Over the years the Government of this State stood by and allowed many things to happen. I will give an example of where the Government in this State failed the people in the North and in the whole island. The intelligence services in this State worked closely, hand-in-glove, with the intelligence services in the North, whether it was through the Garda, the Army or otherwise. Much of the information passed over to the Northern security services ended up in the hands of loyalists.

The Government knew this was going on and we had the examples of the Littlejohns operating down here. The British intelligence system was operating in the South unhindered, with no action taken against it. The information sent across the Border to the Northern authorities ended, without doubt, in the deaths of civilians in the Northern part of our State and possibly in the South.

I could go through many examples. On the night of the attack on the Widow Scallan's pub, 300 people were nearly murdered and gardaí were sitting at the door. They happened to move off and the loyalist death squad came in. There are very serious questions to be answered about the role of this State in what happened over the years. The Minister should not tell me that his Government and past Governments do not have to answer for something. There is much to answer for. I find some of the remarks deeply insulting. They are revisionist, which is what has been going on in this State for so long. It is time for the truth to come out. My party and I are up for the truth and we will do our best to take part in that process. Our leaders have indicated that.

We are dealing with this amendment and it is important to send out a message that people and their families are not being abandoned. They were dragged into a conflict that went on for a long time. I am once again pleading with the Minister's party and people in the Labour Party who were involved in the conflict at an earlier stage. I do not know how, in conscience, they can vote against an amendment like this.

This provision is about notifying the Minister of offences committed. At the time it is of course possible to notify the Minister that the persons involved are covered by the Good Friday Agreement. That does not require legislative provision. The Minister is obliged to take any representations into account. Somebody can notify the Minister that he or she has a conviction for manslaughter, for example, but also say that he or she was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The Minister would then have to take that into account. That provision is already there.

What the Deputies opposite are saying is that now is the time to draw a line in the sand and say what is in the past is in the past. To do that one must come to terms with the past and one's own history. Deputy Ferris raised the issue of Ballyseedy, for example, and I have been there. I can say, in clear conscience and without any doubt in my mind, that the events Ballyseedy constituted an atrocity. I can also say that people who were murdered, or executed, without trial by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were murdered. It was an atrocity and those people killed without a trial by the first Government were murdered. That is my view.

What the Members opposite need to be able to say is that Mrs. McConville was murdered and that the bombing at Enniskillen was an atrocity. If they can say it in this House this afternoon, I will accept their amendment.

How stands the amendment? Is Sinn Féin pressing it?

Do the Members wish to reply?

Do we want to reply?

I am only the Chairman.

Was the bombing at Enniskillen an atrocity and was Mrs. McConville murdered?

We are dealing with a transport Bill.

Exactly, and I will be brief. We have called for a truth commission and I hope——

The Deputy does not need a truth commission——

Let me finish what I have to say. We need a truth commission because one of the problems is that in this State, the legacy of the conflict has not been addressed properly by those who are victims and those who carried out many of those actions which led to the death of people and which were absolutely and utterly wrong. That should never have happened. That includes actions such as Enniskillen and the killing of a mother of so many children. There is a number of these and I can give a list. Can we get the same type of response from the British Government and this State? The issue is not just about Ballyseedy and much was carried out by this State against people. There was the torture of people in Garda stations around the country and people were battered. Some people were jailed in the wrong and there has been persecution in this State as well. That is why we need a truth commission.

It should involve our side and that of the Government. There should be an acceptance that wrong was done and the heavy gangs should never have been set up and directed to brutalise republicans. There were consequences for families and views against the State were entrenched. That confirmed the history of republicanism versus the State since the foundation of the State. There is a significant history lesson to be learned and as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle said, this is not necessarily the place for it.

I do not believe I said that. I said I was independent.

I mean the discussion of this Bill is not the right forum. We are trying to correct an issue before it causes a problem. The Minister is correct in that a Minister has an obligation to take these factors into account but we do not want it to be an obligation. It should not exist and the Minister should not have to deal with these people. There should not be any form of restriction for the people we are talking about. A Minister might take these issues into account and disregard them because of political views. We do not want that position to emerge.

The Minister challenged me and my colleagues when he said that he would accept this amendment if we said X, Y and Z. That is a disgraceful statement. If he thinks he can blackmail me to say what he wants, he has another thing coming. I could come in here and ask the Minister if the events at Abbeylara constituted murder or if the killing of Tom Smith in Portlaoise jail was murder. What about the brutality against Colm Maguire, who died in the Dundrum mental hospital as a result of treatment in Portlaoise Prison? His body was cremated so there would be no further autopsies. I could nitpick many issues from the conflict but I will not go down that road. We have the Good Friday Agreement, St. Andrews Agreement and the Hillsborough accord, all of which were achieved through negotiation.

I know several people who had members of their family killed in very questionable circumstances but in the interests of peace and justice, I am prepared to accept people from every side in order to move forward. Deputy Stagg sits in this House but the Government buried his brother in ten feet of concrete. I remember it as if it was yesterday, as his body was hijacked at Shannon Airport and buried in concrete against the wishes of many members of his family.

The Minister has indicated that he would accept the amendment if we said X, Y or Z. It is a very shallow argument if the Minister is prepared to make that throwaway remark across the floor. Things happened in war that are very hard to stand over. There were issues with how the State dealt with republican prisoners in inhuman and degrading ways. We are moving forward to bring about a lasting peace in this country for the first time and I am very honoured to be part of a movement that worked on this, along with elected representatives from the Government of the South, the British and American Governments and people of good will throughout the world. If we all kept nitpicking, we would be absolutely nowhere. There would be no Good Friday Agreement, St. Andrews Agreement or Hillsborough accord. There was enough nitpicking at the time but we had to overcome it, put it behind us and move on.

That is the challenge for all of us and the challenge for the Minister is on the merit of the argument for the amendment. Is the Minister prepared to accept the amendment? That is what the Minister has to tell this House.

How stands the amendment?

We are going to put the amendment. The Minister indicated that he would lay conditions and he would accept the amendment, so it is within his remit to accept the amendment. He has made that clear. We want to put the amendment to a vote.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 93.

  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Donovan, Patrick.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl; Níl, Deputies John Lyons and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 3 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 9

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 10, subsection (5)(a), line 39, after “licence” to insert “in respect of that service”.

This is a technical amendment to clarify that not only must a consigner ensure that any operator he or she engages has an operator's licence but that it must be the right kind of operator's licence for the service intended to be carried out. I propose that this amendment be accepted.

There will now be some obligation on the consigner, who is the customer of the haulier, to ensure that the operator has the correct licence. We were concerned that someone might argue in court, on a technicality, that they had a licence even though it was not the correct licence.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 10, subsection (5)(b), line 41, after “required” to insert “under subsection (7) or otherwise”.

This is a technical amendment suggested by the Attorney General's office, to clarify that where any carriage of goods or persons is exempted under subsection (7) if a consigner engages someone to carry out such a carriage that person is not committing an offence.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Section 10 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 4a:

In page 11, before section 11, to insert the following new section:

11.—(1) Where a vehicle is about to be used for the purposes of the road transport business of an operator under an operator's licence or a Community licence, the operator shall give to the person who is to act as driver of the vehicle while it is being so used a true copy of the licence or a certified copy of a Community licence, as the case may be, showing the vehicle to be authorised, and where appropriate a driver attestation, and those documents shall be kept in the vehicle.

(2) A member of the Garda Síochána or a transport officer may demand of any person driving a vehicle which the member or transport officer believes to be engaging in road transport operations the production for inspection of a copy of the operator's licence or a certified copy of a Community licence showing the vehicle to be authorised and, where appropriate, a driver attestation.

(3) Where any person driving a vehicle which the member or transport officer believes to be engaging in road transport operations—

(a) fails or refuses to produce for inspection of a copy of the operator’s licence or a certified copy of a Community licence showing the vehicle to be authorised and, where appropriate, a driver attestation to a member of the Garda Síochána upon request, or

(b) refuses or fails to permit such member or officer to read a copy of the operator’s licence or a certified copy of a Community licence showing the vehicle to be authorised and, where appropriate, the member or transport officer shall serve, or cause to be served, personally or by post, on the operator a notice under this section.

(4) A transport disc shall be displayed on or affixed to the vehicle to which it relates in a visual manner so that it may be inspected by a transport officer or member of the Garda Síochána.

(5) Where an inspection takes place by a transport officer or member of the Garda Síochána and transport disc is not displayed on or affixed to the vehicle to which it relates in accordance with subsection (4), the member or transport officer shall serve, or cause to be served, personally or by post, on the operator a notice under this section.".

This amendment is somewhat technical in nature. The desire is to take away the necessity to penalise drivers for not displaying licences. Taking into account the small number of vehicles concerned, relative to the number of vehicles on the road, and recognising that the licence register is accessible on the Internet, the necessity to display a licence is not great and it is not necessary to levy a fine for not displaying a licence. That is what the amendment seeks to address.

I thank the Deputy for the amendment. The intention of section 11, as originally proposed, is to support enforcement by the Garda and transport officers in relation to licensed and unlicensed operators and vehicles which are not authorised on licence. This requires that the appropriate documentation be carried in the vehicle for this purpose. Penalties for not doing so act as a deterrent. It is essential that people carry documentation in their vehicles. If they did not it would make enforcement more difficult. On that basis, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I will not push the matter to a vote. The provision in the Bill hankers back to a bygone era when if one was presented with something one carried it as a token of its existence. With the advent of the Internet, online access makes the question of who is licensed abundantly clear. Other road transport legislation requires that people display their NCT certificates, insurance discs and tax discs, but we can move away from this regulatory burden and paper processing at some point, given that most, if not all, of the data are contained in electronic format. It will not be long before law enforcement officers will have access to the Internet from their vehicles to determine whether someone has insurance. This is already the case in other jurisdictions.

There is a necessity to present an insurance disc or other item of motor vehicle "jewellery", as it is called, but many of the documents in question are forged to a high standard. Therefore, the mere presentation of them by the driver or their presence on the dashboard does not ensure that the driver is a bona fide operator. I will not object to this provision's presence in the legislation, but the Department needs to examine the regulatory regime and recognise that, where many of the documents are concerned, the potential for forgery is real. The requirement that an individual carry a licence or face a fine is unnecessary and moves us away from the resolution to the matter, namely, faster access to the back-end database maintained by the Department or a regulatory authority. This access would make it easier for law enforcement agents to decide at an early stage whether someone was compliant.

I appreciate the intent of the amendment and I understand where the Deputy is coming from, but the measure would be premature. This legislation is the first time the information in question will be allowed to be published online. To the best of my knowledge, gardaí and transport officers do not have access to the Internet in their cars. Access can be poor on some of our roads. I am not ready to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 11 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 16

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 14, subsection (3)(a), line 22, before “(in” to insert the following:

", including the engagement or use by a person in the premises or place of the services of an undertaking for the carriage by road for reward of goods or persons in a vehicle".

This is another technical amendment to include an existing provision that a transport officer of the Road Safety Authority, RSA, can enter the premises of a consignor to inspect a haulier's vehicle therein for the purpose of inspecting vehicles, tachograph machines or documents. As this section is based on section 16 of the 1986 Act, it repeats an amendment made to the latter section by section 14 of the 1999 Act. It allows transport officers employed by the RSA to enforce this legislation.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 16, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 17 to 23, inclusive, agreed to.
SCHEDULE
Question proposed: "That the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill."

On Second Stage, the Minister was helpful in identifying the exemptions provided for in statutory instruments or other legislation that are not included in this Schedule. Does he intend to codify in a Schedule all of the pursuits that do not require licences?

It is probably too early to answer the question, but the intention in next year's road transport Bill will be to update and consolidate existing legislation. Perhaps that will be the opportunity to have a revised Schedule of exempted businesses. Suffice it to say that those listed by the Deputy yesterday remain exempt.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Section 2 provides that passenger transport operators must notify the Minister of any potential conflict in respect of drivers, but the same provision does not apply to road hauliers. On Second Stage, I sought the Minister's guidance as to why this was the case. I can understand the importance of a driver who carries passengers being of good and sound repute, but the same requirement should apply to drivers in the road haulage sector. The example I supplied was of someone who had been convicted of drug trafficking being a director, owner, operator or other category of person in respect of whom notification must be made for the purpose of issuing a licence. It is clear that someone could cease to be a director of an undertaking and become a driver instead. Surely the legislation should provide the Minister with the ability to refuse or remove an operator's licence where that operator employs or contracts a driver convicted of the crimes in question.

My apologies for not addressing this matter in my closing remarks yesterday. I am advised that passenger drivers are covered because they have unaccompanied access to children, old people and vulnerable people who they could harm. This is not the case with haulage drivers, who chiefly drive trucks on their own and are accompanied by their goods, not passengers.

I would understand it if we were just discussing the potential to cause harm or a conviction for inappropriate sexual activity, for example, sex with a minor, but drug trafficking is also one of the serious offences laid out in the Bill. I do not understand why the Minister has decided that a driver's conviction for a drug offence, such as the importation of drugs, would cause harm to passengers on a bus. It would have greater implications for people driving for international hauliers, given the potential for them to carry on their illicit practices of old. I do not intend to push the matter by way of amendment, but the Minister should consider it ahead of next year's proposed transport Bill. There is no great difference. Indeed, it is probably of greater importance in the case of the carriage of goods, particularly given that the offence might relate to a conviction for drug trafficking.

I must give that matter some consideration. It is an argument I have not heard before and I must confer with my officials on it. If there is a lacuna or an anomaly, perhaps we can address it in the Seanad by means of a Government amendment or in legislation next year.

Is it possible to refer to something the Minister said yesterday evening?

As long as it was said in the House, not in the bar.

If it refers to a matter in the Bill, it is appropriate.

The Minister stated: "The problem I face is that a large number of interest groups, including local authorities, county managers, Deputies, Senators and councillors, all want me to continue to spend lots of money on planning for projects that we cannot afford to build for perhaps ten or 20 years." The Minister noted a good suggestion from a Deputy that towns in need of bypasses that we can no longer afford should try to develop interim plans for traffic management through those towns. For future reference, I refer to the case of Ross, where under no circumstances can we afford to build a bypass. A relief bridge in the town would be a cheaper option and would suffice, given that the bypass is unlikely to be built in the next ten or 20 years.

I take it that by Ross, Deputy Wallace means New Ross.

The Enniscorthy to New Ross bypass is a public private partnership and I hope we will get it started in the next ten years, although maybe not in the next five years. The Department and the NRA are open to proposals on how things could be done more cheaply. Even where interim and cheaper options are presented, they tend to cost a few million euro. We do not even have this.

Question put and agreed to.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,