Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I begin by welcoming again to Leinster House many of the women who suffered the barbaric act of symphysiotomy in Irish hospitals. They have come in such numbers that the Visitors Gallery has not been sufficient to accommodate them all. I extend greetings and good wishes to all of those who are in the audiovisual room following coverage of the debate. Fáilte romhaibh uile anseo.

More than once in the past the women concerned have left Leinster House feeling disappointed and let down by the political system. I sincerely hope that will not be the case again tomorrow night. I appeal individually to each and every Teachta Dála, regardless of where he or she sits in this Chamber, to support the women by supporting this Bill. I believe the appeal of the women is now being heard by the Government and it will allow passage of Second Stage. Such a decision would be a step towards justice and truth for the survivors of the barbaric act of symphysiotomy. It would mean the Bill would pass Second Stage in the Dáil and be referred to committee. There should be no question of shelving the Bill at this stage. I urge the Government to schedule Committee Stage as soon as possible and facilitate the Bill's passage, with amendments if required.

The Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill is brought forward in a non-partisan, non-party political way. It arises directly from the work of the all-party Oireachtas support group for victims of symphysiotomy which has cross-party and non-party support and participation. When I published it last week I acknowledged the significant and sincere contribution of Deputies and Senators of all parties and Independents in support of the campaign of the victims of symphysiotomy for justice in recent years. Having worked hard and well together, it is my earnest hope that we will see this critically important legislation safely across the line, to be fine-tuned, as required, by government in the Committee, Report and Final Stages of its passage. At a press conference last week, survivors of symphysiotomy again spoke movingly and harrowingly of their ordeal. The physical reality was put starkly and simply by Rita McCann when she stated: "If the linchpin of your body is broken, everything else falls apart." Ms McCann noted that no one in the hospital where she underwent the ordeal made any attempt to tell her about the operation she was having. "I was taken in and abused," she said. As with all the survivors, she lives to this day with the severe physical pain and discomfort and deep emotional trauma caused by this barbaric operation.

We could fill the entire three hours of this debate in Private Members' time with identical accounts and it would still not suffice to convey the enormity of what was done to the women in question. It is estimated that some 1,500 women suffered this form of abuse in Irish hospitals between the 1950s and 1980s. In many cases, years passed before the women realised or were made aware of exactly what had been done to them. They had to live with the pain and trauma without any explanation being provided. Even today, women continue to come forward, albeit in small numbers, having heard the stories of fellow victims and realising that this too is their story.

The surviving women are now advanced in years. Most of the victims, approximately 1,300 women, have passed on, some of them only in recent weeks. To their families and the families of all deceased victims of symphysiotomy, we extend our continuing sympathy and solidarity. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam. As legislators, we owe it to the deceased survivors of symphysiotomy as much as to the estimated 200 living survivors to act now to support them, as we are empowered to do, by opening the way to truth and justice.

The Bill before us is necessary because the bar created by the Statute of Limitations sets a time limit of two years for initiating actions in personal injury cases. While judges in other jurisdictions retain inherent jurisdiction to allow cases to proceed where justice demands, Irish legislation provides no discretion to the courts in determining whether cases may advance. The State's refusal to deal with this abuse has left survivors with no option but to seek redress through the courts, although it has taken them several decades or more to amass sufficient knowledge to do so. A small number have never sought legal advice. Lifting the statute bar, as unanimously recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in June 2012, would obviate procedural battles and ensure unfettered access for all to the courts. Unlike judges in other common law jurisdictions, judges here do not have discretion in respect of the statute bar.

The overwhelming majority of those subjected to symphysiotomy or pubiotomy were young women having their first child whose knowledge of childbirth was extremely limited. Many did not realise that the injuries they suffered were other than the normal effects of childbirth, nor did they understand for many years - in most cases decades passed - that these horrendous consequences were the result of childbirth operations that had been performed on them without their knowledge or consent. These were, in effect, clandestine operations which were concealed from them by sections of the medical profession. As a consequence of this lack of knowledge, some survivors have never initiated proceedings or even sought professional advice, while many others only did so decades after the wrongful acts to which they were subjected were committed.

The Bill will allow those women currently excluded from taking legal action to do so if that is their choice. It is based on the precedent of the Statute of Limitations Act 2000, which lifted the Statute of Limitations for sexual abuse victims of residential institutions. The wording of the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 2013 mirrors the wording of the 2000 Act section by section. It does not establish any new cause of action but lifts the limitation period for bringing proceedings in respect of existing wrongs, more than 75% of which were committed in private hospitals that were insured at the time and are, therefore, liable for the injuries inflicted.

This outstanding issue of truth and justice for women who were mutilated in the Irish hospital system is just as grave as the scandal of institutional child sexual abuse or the ordeal of women in Magdalen laundries. In all of these cases, the injuries and wrongs done to the women and children concerned was compounded by concealment, lies, denials and decades of silence from the State and, subsequently, inaction or long-delayed or inadequate action by the State when the reality was exposed. What was, in effect, a conspiracy of powerful and unaccountable men in the medical profession made the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy possible in Irish hospitals, with no protection afforded to the women concerned from the health system or any other arm of government. They were simply abandoned to their fate.

Let us not compound these crimes – for crimes they were – by further neglect in this Dáil. We must act as legislators first, rather than as members of the Government, Opposition or political parties. We must do so as law-makers who have a duty to represent the women in question and to ensure they have a clear path to justice and truth.

This is a test of our political system's ability to act on behalf of the people in acknowledging wrongs and putting them right. I again appeal to each and every Deputy to support this Bill. If it passes Second Stage, the Bill can go to committee and the Government can amend it - if amendment is required - and at last provide a way forward for these women.

I appeal to the Government to facilitate the passage of Second Stage by not dividing the Dáil tomorrow night. That is the least that we can do in response to the surviving women's appeal. It is the least that we can do in memory of all the deceased victims of this barbaric act. Let us show, together and proudly, that politics and politicians do care and can and sometimes do act in harmony in the interests of truth and justice.

"Symphysiotomy" is a dry, clinical word. It has the duplicitous effect of hiding the enormous damage, abuse, pain, suffering, indignity and immobility that has been inflicted on a vulnerable section of society. Listening to the harrowing details that are often recounted by faint or soft voices, one is quickly jolted into realising the life-changing misery suffered by those who underwent this procedure. I have attended a few presentations in respect of this matter in Leinster House and quite a number of those present were moved to tears by what was said. I commend the women who have pursued the campaign for justice through thick and thin. It is not easy for people to discuss their personal lives, particularly those who have undergone such difficult experiences, and it takes great courage to do so. A certain level of persistence is also required to see a campaign through over a number of years. The persistence shown in this case provides an education for and an inspiration to those of my generation.

What sets symphysiotomy apart from other invasive medical procedures is not just its brutal nature but also the fact that it was completely avoidable. Alternative procedures could and should have been used. There was no justification for the use of symphysiotomy then and there is no justification for any delay in the delivery of justice now. This barbaric procedure affected approximately 1,500 women, many of whom came from my county, Meath, and attended Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. This procedure was executed on women who attended that hospital not at some period lost in the mists of history but as recently as 1992, long after other hospitals had ceased to use it. This is another important reason the clinical governance of that hospital should be examined.

Symphysiotomy operations were undertaken on foot of a desperately narrow interpretation of a religious ideology. No consideration was given to the actual medical needs of the mothers involved. No alternatives were offered and no explanations were given as to the long-term effects of the procedure. At no point was the informed consent of the women who underwent this procedure sought. These women entered State care as expectant mothers and they left it as injured victims. While these events may seem historical in nature, their outcome is still sadly being felt. There are a number of very brave women who continue to bear the scars of what was done to them. Time is a significant issue in the context of this matter. In the past, foot-dragging has only added to the suffering and injustice visited upon people. There are few matters in respect of which the phrase "justice delayed is justice denied" rings so true. There is a desperate need for the Oireachtas to do everything in its power to expedite this issue as soon as possible.

There is a great deal of scepticism with regard to politics at present and many see it has a zero-sum game which is all about posturing and positioning and which gives rise to no real change. Like many in this Chamber, I entered politics to bring about change. We are faced in this debate with one of those rare and fleeting opportunities to tackle a gross injustice and to really change people's lives. I hope the Government will indicate its support for the Bill and I will be delighted if it does so. I also hope that all of the parties represented in the Oireachtas can show that politics actually works. These women have suffered needlessly and they have lived most of their lives in pain and silence. Rejection of the Bill would literally add insult to injury.

I pay tribute to my colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, on his phenomenal efforts to progress the campaign relating to this matter. I also pay tribute to the cross-party victim support group, the members of which left their political differences aside and elevated the debate on this important matter to the level at which it deserves to be discussed. Furthermore, I pay tribute to Marie O'Connor and the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group on their tireless campaigning and work. Most of all, I applaud the inspiring women, many of whom are present in the Visitors Gallery, who have gone through thick and thin to ensure they obtain justice.

I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, on introducing the Bill and on all the hard work he has done in respect of this issue. I take this opportunity to mention Arthur Morgan, our party's representative for Louth in the previous Dáil, who, in conjunction with Deputy Ó Caoláin, also worked extremely hard on this issue. I welcome to the House the women from the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group. These women have shown incredible bravery and strength throughout their ordeal. I have the utmost respect and admiration for them. I pay tribute to Marie O'Connor who has worked with them and brought her considerable expertise to bear on their campaign.

Symphysiotomy is a cruel and dangerous childbirth operation that unhinges the pelvis, severing the symphysis joint or, in the case of pubiotomy, sundering the pubic bones. Ireland was the only country in the developed world to practise this discarded surgery in the mid to late 20th century. At least 1,500 of these 18th century operations were performed here from 1942 to 2005, mostly in Catholic hospitals. Approximately 200 women who underwent this procedure survive today, many of them permanently disabled, incontinent and in pain. Some lost their babies during the procedure. These operations were performed in preference to caesarean section, the standard treatment for difficult births. The women involved were subjected to a barbaric and cruel practice of which the State should be ashamed. Not only should the State be ashamed of how they were treated, it should also be ashamed of the length of time it has taken for them to find truth and justice. The latter, it is hoped, will be forthcoming in the very near future. The women to whom I refer were subjected to brutality many years ago and they are still being subjected to a form of it now because they are prevented from seeking redress.

A wide range of Deputies will contribute to the debate on the Bill. However, that is not enough. It is not sufficient to stand up in the Chamber and simply empathise with these women. We are legislators and we must legislate in the best interests of all the citizens of this State, including the women who have come here tonight hoping for some acknowledgement in respect of the hideous procedure to which they were subjected. That is what we are here to do and it is our duty. As justice spokesperson for Sinn Féin, I want to see justice done. After all these years and all the trauma inflicted upon them, these women must be able to seek the redress they so rightly deserve.

That which has been introduced by Deputy Ó Caoláin is a legal necessity. The bar created by the Statute of Limitations sets a two-year time limit on initiating actions in personal cases and it has blocked the efforts of many of the women affected by symphysiotomy. As most Members are aware, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recommended the lifting of the statute bar in June of 2012. These women will finally be able to take legal action, if they so desire, if that bar is removed.

Since taking my seat in this Chamber, we have engaged in numerous debates in respect of women and the way they have been treated by the State. We owe it to the women of Ireland to allow the Bill before the House to pass Second Stage tomorrow night. We must face up to our shameful record on the relationship of women with this State and begin attempting to right the wrongs to which I refer. Many of the women who were subjected to the cruel procedure of symphysiotomy have sadly passed away. The State let them down. Let us not visit a similar fate on one more survivor. This House must legislate for these women and it must do so now.

Every Deputy was deeply moved when the Taoiseach finally apologised on behalf of the State for the Magdalen laundries. We met the women afterwards. It meant a great deal to them. We must still bring the issue of redress home, as we must the issue of Bethany Home. Our people must face a number of great shames. The heroic, inspirational and wonderful women gathered above the Chamber tonight must be given the same apology by the Taoiseach on behalf of the State as well as the redress to which they are entitled. The Bill must also be passed. All of this is what they deserve, no more and no less.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this Bill. I commend my colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, on laying it before the House. I also wish to take the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to the many survivors of symphysiotomy who are present in the Visitors Gallery this evening.

Yet again, the House is about to discuss an issue that concerns Irish women and the nature of their relationship with the State. Recently, the contours of this relationship have slowly begun to emerge. This opening up or shift can only be explained by one factor, that is, pressure. It was the act of women coming together that finally shed light on the warped, brutal and violent nature of this relationship. It is women and women's groups that have in many respects been in the vanguard in pushing the door open and in shedding light on the many dark secrets of our collective and, in this instance, recent past.

Since the foundation of the State, there have been many campaigns by women, almost all of which have sought to vindicate the rights of women and to challenge patriarchy. If there is a common thread that runs through this history of activism and unites these disparate social movements, it is the challenge to State-centred patriarchy and the secondary status that this confers on women.

A number of forces - patriarchy, the Catholic Church and the gendered nature of the State - have combined to produce a discourse about women and the female body that is State centred, conservative, domineering and male. In this hegemonic world view, women were controlled, disciplined and punished. Sexuality, childbirth and virtually everything to do with women and their bodies were subject not only to the male gaze, but more importantly to official male intervention. We should not be surprised that, in more recent times when Irish women have challenged the State and institutionalised patriarchy, the female body is the pre-eminent site of struggle.

Unlike other European states, the Irish State and its institutions and bureaucratic apparatus have never respected nor acknowledged the autonomy of adult women to control their own bodies. Unlike the European tradition, the notion of self that is embedded in the institutional fabric of the Irish State is the male self. The very fact that the survivors of symphysiotomy have needed to struggle, campaign and organise for more than ten years to get justice shows that, when it comes to issues to do with the right of a woman to the ownership and autonomy of her body, the State is often found wanting.

As a member of the all-party Oireachtas committee on symphysiotomy, however, I know that politicians from all parties and none want to do right by women on this issue. At a time when politics and politicians are the subject of much criticism and ire, it is heartening to know that we can work together constructively in an effort to right a terrible wrong when we have a common purpose and are guided by a sense of fairness and justice.

I take this opportunity to commend all of the women who worked on this campaign, in particular the action group Survivors of Symphysiotomy. It is important for people to get justice. We must acknowledge and accept that this country does not have a great record when it comes to women. While it would have been better had this procedure never been performed and that the very notion of symphysiotomy had been alien to us, it is none the less only fair to say that, in some instances, this hopefully being one of them, the political system can and does work in the interest of justice. It would be timely and most welcome for the State to have the courage to offer reparations and to vindicate finally the rights of these particular women. It would be a good day for the women of Ireland.

Here we are again discussing another terrible crime against women that occurred in the not too distant past. Here we are again discussing the pain inflicted on women by society, but mainly by men. Here we are again discussing a brutality inflicted on women because of the moral stance taken by society, mainly by men.

In recent months, Deputies have spoken of their righteous outrage at what occurred in the Magdalen laundries. They have expressed their sympathies and regrets about what was done to the women imprisoned there. Tonight presents an opportunity to discuss the hurt and pain forced on the survivors of the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy. Not only do we have a chance to discuss this crime against women, but to right the wrong perpetrated on this group.

Symphysiotomies involve the sawing of a pregnant woman's pelvis to facilitate childbirth. As we have heard from women, it results in long-term health problems, including chronic pain and incontinence. This barbaric act was carried out in the State between the 1940s and the early 1990s, long after such operations had been discontinued in other countries. The process was secretive and women who underwent the procedure had to carry the burden alone, unable to speak publicly of their pain.

Symphysiotomy was a callous attempt to push religious beliefs and values on innocent women. Many symphysiotomies were carried out illegally and doctors failed to get the consent of their female patients. It appears that the procedure was only applied to public patients in hospitals with a strong Catholic ethos. It was viewed and performed by some as an alternative to caesarean section. Some viewed the latter as a cap on the size of families, since a mother who underwent it was restricted to having four children at most. During the decades in question, the Catholic Church expected women to give birth to as many children as possible. Restricting a family to "only" four children was regarded in some church circles as unnatural and an abomination. As contraception was not available to most women, symphysiotomies were used to allow women with difficult births to continue to reproduce.

I have worked with fellow Deputies on the victims of symphysiotomy all-party support group. I have met and spoken with many victims. They were hurt by the Walsh report, which was commissioned by the Government. It concluded that 97% of symphysiotomies carried out in Ireland were in line with acceptable medical practice. The survivors were not asked for their opinions, their stories or about what they had been forced to endure.

Tonight's Private Members' business gives us the chance to right the wrongs inflicted on these women and remove this whitewash of history. They were not medical exceptions. The Bill is modelled on the 2000 legislation to allow victims of child sex abuse in residential institutions to seek compensation. It would lift the two-year statute of limitation that prevents many victims from seeking compensation in the courts.

In recent months and years, we as legislators have debated and read about women who fell victim to the State's brutality. Approximately 1,500 women underwent this brutal procedure, fewer than 200 of whom are alive today. We should hang our heads in shame. In these now elderly women's fight for justice, they met barriers when they turned for help. They have mostly been let down by men.

The women have the simplest of demands, namely, the lifting of the statute of limitations so that they can get redress and receive proper recognition for what was inflicted on them. As Mr. Michael Clifford wrote in the Irish Examiner in November 2012: "The State broke their bodies not their spirit". Tonight and tomorrow night, the men and women of this House can begin to right the wrongs inflicted on these women.

I thank Sinn Féin for the opportunity to contribute on the Bill, which Fianna Fáil supports. It took a long time for health services in this country and elsewhere across the world to evolve into the modern treatment facilities we have in many places today. In many areas of medicine the abandonment of inappropriate and outdated practices has taken time. The procedure of symphysiotomy is a very good illustration of the point. Between 1944 and 1992 it is calculated that 1,500 such operations were carried out in maternity units in this country. In many cases women suffered lifelong disability because of the procedure, often in silence.

Thankfully, the procedure is no longer practised in maternity hospitals. Since 2003 a health package has been available to approximately 100 women who suffered the ill effects of the procedure. In 2011, Dr. Una Walsh, senior research fellow in medical history at UCC, was appointed to review the practice of symphysiotomy in this country. The report was conducted in two stages. The first draft report contains information about the frequency with which symphysiotomy was carried out in this country. The second stage involved a consultation with patient groups, health professionals and, in particular, the women who had undergone symphysiotomy.

The key provision in the Bill is to set aside the Statute of Limitations to enable survivors to achieve redress through the courts. The stories of survivors are deeply upsetting and distressing. Survivors and their families feel a great injustice has been visited upon them and we agree. We must address the situation immediately. I appeal to the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who are present, to take on board the points that have been made on the issue of which we have been aware for some time. Those who suffer, in many instances in silence, must have their cases addressed. The time is now. I urge the Minister to act.

The next speaker is the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly. I understand he is sharing time with Deputies Heather Humphreys, Gerald Nash, Robert Dowds and Andrew Doyle. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to address the House on this important issue. I also welcome the women who are present in the Visitors Gallery, many of whom suffered as a consequence of the procedure. I can only imagine the level of distress that symphysiotomy has caused to the women who underwent the procedure and recognise the pain and ill health they have endured as a consequence. I reassure the House and the ladies present that I and the Government are committed to dealing with the issue sensitively so that it can be brought to an appropriate and fair conclusion for all the women affected. For those reasons I have agreed to accept the Bill, although I have been advised that it contains serious flaws and also that it might not achieve the objectives intended by Deputy Ó Caoláin. To oppose the Bill would send the wrong message. I want to send a strong message to the women involved that I intend to help them get closure on the matter in the fairest and fastest way possible.

At the outset I wish to explain what symphysiotomy is and to give some background and context about its use as a surgical procedure and, specifically, its use in this country. Symphysiotomy is a medical procedure that was primarily used before the advent of safe caesarean sections. It was introduced into Irish hospitals to help women who had difficulty giving birth due to narrow or obstructed birth passages. The procedure was carried out in this country from approximately 1920 until the early 1980s, long after it had been discontinued elsewhere. It was gradually replaced by caesarean section as the preferred method of delivery in childbirth, where required. A pubiotomy involved cutting the pubic bone rather than the joint of the symphysis pubis. It is difficult to understand why the practice persisted when caesarean section was so safe in the latter half of the 20th century. As a doctor I deeply regret that.

As Minister for Health, my first priority is to make sure that the health needs of those who have had a symphysiotomy are met quickly and effectively. I have discussed the matter with my ministerial colleagues, Deputies Kathleen Lynch and Alex White, and with the Cabinet. With that in mind we are committed to ensuring that the greatest possible supports and services are made available to women who continue to suffer effects of having undergone the procedure. The women concerned continue to receive attention and care through a number of services which have been put in place by the HSE. The services include the provision of medical cards to all who request them; the availability of independent clinical advice for former patients; the organisation of individual pathways of care and the arrangement of appropriate follow-up for women, including specialist triple assessment - medical, gynaecological and orthopaedic, counselling, physiotherapy, reflexology, home help, acupuncture, osteopathy and fast-tracked hospital appointments where that is appropriate; the refund of medical expenses related to symphysiotomy in respect of medication or private treatments; a support group facilitated by a counsellor which was set up in 2004 in Dundalk and Drogheda for women living in the north-east region; and the nomination of a national lead officer for symphysiotomy in the HSE. In addition, there are five designated regional liaison officers in place across the regions of the HSE. The provision of the necessary support services for women is monitored and overseen by the HSE, which is committed to being proactive in offering help to women who underwent a symphysiotomy and who may wish to avail of the services.

We must act on the basis of the best evidence and advice that is available on the issue, as in all aspects of the health services. To that end, the chief medical officer of my Department commissioned an independent research report into the practice of symphysiotomy in Ireland in 2011. The aim of the report is to provide an accurate picture of the extent of the use of symphysiotomy in this country, and an examination of the practice here relative to other countries. It will include an assessment of the circumstances in which the procedure was carried out, what protocols or guidance existed at the time for professional practice and details of when the practice changed and why.

The specific terms of reference the researcher has been given are to document the rates of symphysiotomy and maternal mortality in Ireland from 1940 to date, by reference to available data, including annual reports and other reports; assess symphysiotomy rates against maternal mortality rates over the period; critically appraise international reviews of symphysiotomy practice in this country and associated rates in a number of comparable countries; and to review any guidelines and protocols that applied in Ireland on symphysiotomy over the time period.

The researcher was asked to write a report based on the findings of the above analysis providing an accurate picture of the extent of use of symphysiotomy in Ireland, and an examination of the Irish experience relative to other countries. The academic researcher concerned was formally appointed in June 2011. The report was conducted in two stages. The first stage was an independent academic research process that analysed available documentary evidence. The first stage did not include interviews with individuals directly involved in symphysiotomies, namely, mothers, practitioners and midwives in particular. This approach was central to the production of an independent report, compiled without influence or input from vested interests.

The second stage of the research process was a consultation process on the draft academic research report. The consultation process directly involved patient groups, health professionals and, in particular, the women who have undergone a symphysiotomy. The second stage of the research took place during mid-2012. The consultation process was advertised to the public in the national newspapers and also through the co-operation of the symphysiotomy support groups in order to reach as many interested persons as possible, particularly the women themselves. A number of consultations were held at different locations throughout the country. The sessions were conducted solely by the researcher. It was also open to interested persons to make submissions in writing or by e-mail directly to the researcher. The second stage has just been completed by the researcher and the report has been sent for peer review, in line with best practice. It is expected that the report will be finalised and submitted to me in May, at which time I will examine it and consult further with the Government.

It is intended that the finalised independent report will inform the Government's overall consideration of this matter, including any actions that may be required and also any legal implications.

The law concerning the limitation of actions is set out primarily in the Statute of Limitations Act 1957, as amended. I understand the statute provides that a plaintiff has two years from cause of action to bring a personal injuries action or two years from 'the date of knowledge within which to institute legal proceedings. Consideration of these matters raises significant policy and legal issues which have wide-ranging implications. This includes the fact that the State has an overall duty under the Constitution to provide for the administration of justice in a manner which respects the principles of due process and strikes a fair balance between the rights of plaintiffs and defendants.

All options will be actively examined within my Department in association with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Office of the Attorney General, as legal advice indicates that lifting the statute bar raises very complex issues that require broader consideration on a cross-departmental basis. I have been informed by the Department of Justice and Equality that the current limitations of actions regime is the subject of a report and recommendations published by the Law Reform Commission in December 2011 which considered the existing framework to be unnecessarily complex and in need of reform and simplification.

Ireland is now one of the safest places in which to give birth to a baby. We have one of the lowest maternal and perinatal mortality rates in the world. Ireland is also one of the safest places to have a Caesarian section and we should be proud of the fact that we are recognised internationally as leaders in the field of obstetrics. Sadly, this was not always the case.

Recent legislation requires doctors to maintain and update their competence. These new requirements for doctors to maintain their professional competence are a significant step towards providing assurance that medical practitioners are appropriately qualified and competent to practise safely. The national clinical effectiveness committee last year published a framework for national endorsement of clinical guidelines and audit. The implementation of these national clinical guidelines is intended to improve health outcomes for patients, reduce variation in practice, improve the quality of clinical decisions, influence health service policy and inform service users and the public about the service they should be receiving. Indeed, had these been in place many years ago, the practices to which many of the women here were subjected would not have occurred. These and many other developments are ensuring that the health system is moving to fulfil the vision of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, that is, one where knowledgeable patients are receiving safe and effective care from skilled professionals in appropriate environments with assessed outcomes.

The new clinical programmes being developed and implemented in the HSE are one of the most important developments in this regard. They are currently led in the HSE by the directorate of clinical strategy and programmes which was established to improve and standardise patient care throughout the HSE by bringing together clinical disciplines and enabling them to share innovative solutions to deliver greater benefits to every user of the HSE's services. These programmes are a multidisciplinary initiative between the HSE and the various faculties and generally include patient representatives. Each programme, including the obstetrics and gynaecology clinical programme, is led by a senior clinician. The aim of the obstetrics and gynaecology programme is to improve health care choices for women. Its initial work aims to implement key guidelines, establish local programme implementation groups to facilitate change, develop national models of maternity care, develop a standard approach to capturing and reporting audit and performance metrics, develop solutions and guidelines to reduce the number of multiple pregnancies requiring intensive care and develop work force planning and training models and strategy.

More generally there has been considerable progress in terms of the options for maternity care available to expectant mothers in Ireland. They now have a number of choices they can make in respect of their obstetric care. Women may opt for a combined care package with their GP and a hospital, under the maternity and infant care scheme. There are also a number of midwifery-led units nationally which offer the opportunity to expectant mothers to give birth in a uniquely designed birth room, cared for by a team of experienced midwives. These units are located close to hospitals should an emergency arise that requires specialist intervention.

In February this year, I launched an important new patient safety initiative, the first national clinical guideline, the national early warning score for Ireland, known as NEWS. The early warning scores for obstetric patients have different points for escalation of care. The Irish maternity early warning scores, IMEWS, system was developed by the obstetrics and gynaecology clinical programme in the HSE. It was issued to maternity units in early April and is in the process of being implemented. In addition, the HSE has established a national group to oversee the implementation of the national recommendations arising from the investigation team's draft report into the death of Ms Savita Halappanavar.

While these developments can bring further improvements to maternity services in the future, I am committed to addressing the issues that have arisen from past practice, specifically with regard to symphysiotomy. The Government is also committed to dealing with this issue with all the sensitivity which is undoubtedly required, to do whatever is necessary to bring it to a conclusion, in so far as is possible, for those affected by it. I have outlined the supports that have been provided to the women affected and the progress in finalising the research report. I hope to bring finality to this issue as soon as possible and I firmly believe that the women who have had this procedure deserve nothing less.

The Government is not persuaded that lifting the bar on the Statute of Limitations will resolve the problems facing the women who wish to bring their cases before the courts. The statute is, in itself, a constitutionally permissible limitation on the right to litigate and the possibility of a constitutional challenge on the grounds that it unfairly prejudiced defendants and, or, was discriminatory between classes of defendants or classes of plaintiffs could not be ruled out. Women may be encouraged to bring actions which may, for various reasons, ultimately have little prospect of success while at the same time generating high litigation costs for both plaintiffs and defendants. However, to signal my intent to do whatever is possible to bring closure for these women, I will support Deputy Ó Caoláin's Bill. In addition, when I am in receipt of the facts that will be presented in the independent research report, which will of course include details of the consultation process with the women who underwent this procedure, and any recommendations in this matter, I will brief Government again on the matter, so that we may decide, in an expeditious fashion, on further action required. These actions must bring closure for the women concerned who have been harmed. We cannot give them back their lives but we can make sure that our actions ensure that the resources we have flow to them and not elsewhere and act as a signal of our good intent in this. When I say expeditious, I do not mean years. I mean this year.

I welcome the commitment given by the Minister for Health this evening not to oppose this Bill. I also welcome his intention to deal with this issue and to do whatever is necessary to bring it to a conclusion for those affected by it. I welcome the survivors of symphysiotomy who are in the Visitors Gallery. I spoke with some of them earlier and know this is an emotional day for them, their families and friends. It was a momentous occasion for the survivors when, in March 2012, the practice of symphysiotomy was debated in the Dáil for the first time. As a new Deputy, elected for the first time in 2011, that was, and remains, the most emotional and poignant debate I have heard in this House.

These women have had to endure tremendous suffering for over 40 or 50 years, due to the practice of symphysiotomy. This procedure, carried out in many cases without the permission of the patient, has left many women with permanent health issues relating to mobility, incontinence, pain and depression. I pay tribute to the women who have come forward and told their stories. They have shown enormous courage and resilience. Every time they recount their story they relive the horror of what they went through. When they speak, they are not just speaking for themselves but sadly, they are also speaking for those who are no longer with us. In the majority of cases, this procedure was carried out over 40 years ago. Some of the women are now in old age and have been campaigning for justice all of their lives. They should not have to wait any longer.

I am a mother of two children. Some of the stories I have heard, of how women were restrained, their arms pulled back and held down for this procedure to take place, made me feel physically sick. It should be a source of shame for us all that women could be treated in such a way in our country. Having a child should be a happy occasion for every family but the sad reality is that this procedure has left women mutilated for life, to the extent that it has dramatically impacted on the quality and enjoyment of their lives.

It has affected women from across the country, including women in my constituency. I recently met a lady in my office who had a symphysiotomy carried out in Drogheda when she was 22. Since then she has been incontinent and battled depression. She was not told she had the procedure carried out and felt she had failed as a woman to have a normal birth and it was her fault. Nobody listened to her and she was told to get on with it and not be making a fuss. One can only imagine the effect this would have on mental health. I spoke to another lady who for 40 years has buried the experience and has not spoken about it because there is a stigma attached to mutilation.

As we are all aware, we are living in extremely difficult financial times but sometimes one must look past the economics of an issue and seek to do what is right. These women deserve justice and an adequate and fair compensation scheme. I commend my constituency colleague, Deputy Ó Caoláin, on bringing forward the Bill. He convened the all-party Oireachtas group of which I am a member and he has put much work into the issue. This matter has cross-party support and I am part of a Government that has not just listened to the concerns of these women but which is prepared and committed to doing something about it. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Although it is ten or 11 years ago, I remember as if it was yesterday sitting in the then meeting rooms of the Drogheda area women's network at Rope Walk in Drogheda, listening to up to a dozen women telling me and the then Sinn Féin Deputy, Arthur Morgan, of their horrendous experience of symphysiotomy. Until that meeting I had never heard of that barbaric procedure and I was transfixed, disturbed and upset by what I heard that night. I was distressed that this procedure was carried out in my local hospital during my lifetime and upset that many of the women who gave testimony that night were well known to me. I admired their courage, their ability to open up and the way they put on the record in front of me and others from my community and town exactly what happened to them and how it had an impact on their lives and families. I admired those women then and my admiration has only grown over the years.

I now count many of these women as personal friends and they are with us this evening in the Visitors Gallery. That night, over ten years ago, I committed to continuing to support the rights of these brave women to access justice, recognition and recompense. I promised myself and these women from Louth, Meath and throughout the country that if I were ever in a position to do something to advance their battle for justice, I would do just that. Thanks to many of these women I am now a Member of Dáil Éireann and I take that responsibility very seriously, as I do my obligations to the survivors.

I decided a long time ago that a grievous wrong was done to these women and I am not a late arrival or convert to this issue. I have always held these views. I have held the hands of women - many my mother's age and friends of mine or my family - when they have opened their hearts to me. That has had a significant impact on me and tonight I am pleased we can have a consensus on the issue before us. As a Legislature we may too often divide along party lines but it would be a tremendous gesture of our common humanity to enable, in every possible way, an unimpeded way to justice with this particularly heartbreaking issue. I look forward to the calls of justice for the survivors being heeded soon and accepted formally by this State in various forms. That day has been too long in coming but I hope this evening's debate and the work of this House and many of its Members over the years will move the call for justice a significant step forward.

I welcome the women in the Visitors Gallery and thank the Minister for his commitment to deal with the issue within the year. I also thank Deputy Ó Caoláin for putting this Bill before the House.

I knew nothing whatever about symphysiotomy until my colleague, Deputy Ann Phelan, and one or two other Deputies, drew my attention to it. I found it nauseating and quite difficult to believe that such physical damage could be done to a pregnant woman's pelvic area in order to allow a birth in the 20th century. The practice of symphysiotomy meant some survivors were left with severe and lifelong after-effects such as those outlined by Deputy Humphreys, like incontinence, impaired mobility and so on. It seems incomprehensible that 1,500 women underwent such procedures between 1944 and 1992, given that from the late 19th century it became increasingly possible to do safe caesarean sections.

When I wrote this speech, I had not been thinking of situations familiar to me but I have realised that the practice continued in Drogheda at least until 1992. My son was born in 1984 by caesarean section because my wife had a very difficult pregnancy. He was born in the Coombe hospital and my wife always had tremendous praise for all the staff there, as everything was done to see that his arrival was safe. Thank God it was so. For another eight years afterwards, this barbaric practice was continued in at least one other hospital, which I can hardly believe. That flies in the face of the experience I know my wife and many other women had in the Coombe and many other hospitals. We know the caesarean section practice was safe so why in the name of God was the symphysiotomy practice continued until 1992?

From conversations with Deputy Nash and one or two others I know that the practice seemed to persist particularly when treating women who were less well connected in society. There is no logical answer to why that is so. What was going through the minds of any medical practitioner carrying out the practice at the time? I am very pleased by the reaction of the Minister and I hope he will deliver on that promise. It is very important for the Government and the people of the country that it is delivered as rapidly as possible.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. With my colleagues, Deputies Buttimer, Regina Doherty and Heather Humphreys, I have been part of the all-party committee examining the symphysiotomy issue with colleagues across the floor of the House. I acknowledge the primary role of Deputy Ó Caoláin in trying to keep this on the agenda and the way he has worked with all of us to try to come to a resolution that does not create any difficulties in the political sense.

I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the intent of the Bill, even if he feels it may not deliver what is intended. I hope he, in conjunction with the rest of the Members here, intends to deliver tonight's objective, which is to bring about the beginning of the end of the road in the struggle for justice for the people affected.

Deputy McLellan said this was a violation of women mainly by men. The men among us have a duty to make sure we take part in this process and help to bring it to a conclusion. If we do not, we have failed. I have a son who was born in 1992 and it as hard to believe that as recently as that, when I thought we were in a modern society with best medical practice in use and archaic methods banished, there was still a mindset that would allow such a thing to happen in this country. It is scary to think this persisted as recently as 20 years ago. It says a lot about the relationship between the powers in the church hierarchy, the medical profession and the political families in this country that it was tolerated until so recently. It smacks of hypocrisy that some people are putting so much pressure on those of us in the House on other matters, which I feel strongly about and I take great umbrage when I am being told people are worried about my soul.

We must deliver justice; that is what we all want to do. I believe the commitment the Minister has given. We have seen with the recent events related to the Magdalen women that when we try to work things out collectively when we see a grave injustice, we can do it. I hope we have achieved that before the end of 2013 because it is no less than the people here and others who have suffered deserve.

I had no knowledge of symphysiotomy and I only now realise that I have neighbours and constituents who underwent this procedure. As recently as last week, a man said to his son in front of me that his mother had undergone this process when he was born. I was oblivious to this.

We have learned a lot in the last two years since the committee was set up. I welcome the Minister's commitment that we will see this matter concluded by the end of 2013, with due recognition and compensation for these women and their families.

It is just over a year since an all-party motion was passed in this House on the issue of symphysiotomy. Like other speakers, prior to that I was not aware of the procedure. I have attended maternity hospitals in recent years and while I found the experience daunting, it was patient-focused and centred, with the patient at the heart of all decision-making processes. To be informed by the survivors of symphysiotomy of their harrowing experiences was very disturbing. Those meetings in the audio-visual room, where the women outlined in detail their personal stories, which were intimate and tragic, resonated with everyone who attended. The all-party motion put before the House to call for action to put right what was done to these women was passed unanimously.

I welcome the fact that the Minister is not dividing the House on this legislation. I am no constitutional expert and I do not know if the Bill is flawed or not, but its purpose is to keep this issue to the fore to ensure justice will be done and that the women will get the opportunity to tell their stories and seek redress and compensation for the damage done many years ago. It is in that context that although the Bill might not achieve all it sets out to achieve, it is important we keep the issue of symphysiotomy and what was done to these women at the top of the agenda.

I welcome not only the fact the House will not be dividing on the issue, but the remark made by the Minister in his speech that he hopes to bring finality to the issues as soon as possible and that he firmly believes the women who underwent this procedure deserve nothing less. That is a very important statement of intent on behalf of the Government. It is in that context that we must be honest. This Bill, if it passes Second Stage tomorrow night, must still go through Committee Stage and all the other debates in the Dáil and Seanad. It could take some time for the legislation to reach the Statute Book, even with the support of the Government. Even then, do we then expect every woman to go to the Four Courts to seek vindication? I do not believe that is what the Oireachtas wants to happen. We want a redress scheme to be put in place for women to tell their stories and see that we believe them and that we will arrange compensation for them accordingly. That is critical. We cannot ask these women, even if the Bill is passed, to go before the courts with a plethora of lawyers and solicitors to prepare cases. They do not deserve that. I urge the Minister to act in that light.

Politics works at times. We have had major discussions at all-party committees on this issue and the House has never divided on the issue. The fact it is not dividing tomorrow night is symbolic of the importance all Members and all parties attach to this. I was part of a Government that should have acted on this issue. There were at the time the issues of child sex abuse and scandals in the institutions of the church. We will have many more areas of society that must be unearthed and opened up in order that we can accept major wrongs were done to sections of our society.

Tonight, however, I want to focus on the fact that we have, as the Minister pointed out, excellent maternity services. There is the issue in Galway surrounding Savita Halappanavar, and that investigation and inquest is ongoing. In general, however, and going by my experience as someone who has attended a maternity hospital on a few occasions in recent years, these are wonderful places with great quality of service and staff. They work under enormous pressure and deliver an exceptional service, always ensuring the patient is at the heart of every decision. That is a key change in service delivery. The customer, or in this case the patient, is always consulted. Some of these women did not know the procedure had been carried out on them, they were under anaesthetic, and sometimes left hospital without having been informed that this had happened. I cannot even comprehend this could have happened in this State as recently as 1992.

We must learn lessons from this. We must address the central issue, which is to ensure these women have all the medical support possible, that they receive compensation and redress, that they are believed and that we do all in our power to demonstrate that. In the meantime, we should also learn from their experience. I was concerned to discover there seemed to be no peer reviewing of how obstetrics was being carried out in some hospitals. As we embrace modern technologies and advances in medicine and health care delivery, we should also ensure peer reviewing takes place regularly. It is the norm now and there are huge bodies of support internationally for such practice, and we should ensure that is a major component of Irish medicine. We must continually look for new procedures and improved ways to deliver services. In the context of obstetrics, I hope we have learned from this sad story that we have been told by the survivors of symphysiotomy.

As I stated, we must also ensure that we put procedures in place, learn from that and other mistakes, and deliver a maternity service in which all women will have confidence knowing, when they go to have what should be an enjoyable, if painful, experience in the context of delivering a child and bringing life into the world, that they will have exceptional care and that fellows like myself can have the confidence to hold their hand and assist, and sometimes, as can be the case, even pass out.

I say to the women here tonight that this is an important step. We need not maintain pressure on Government because I believe it is anxious to resolve this as well, but we must keep to the fore the telling and relaying of these women's story so that they know they have the support of those who represent them in Dáil Éireann and that we will continuously advocate on their behalf until such time as we can look every one of them in the eye and say that their story is believed and they have received vindication through whatever means possible. I hope that we do not face the situation where there is the unfolding and sorry sight of women continuously having to seek justice through the courts when we ourselves have the ability to deliver it here in some form of redress.

I welcome the independent review being carried out by Dr. Oonagh Walsh from UCC at the request of the chief medical officer of the Department of Health. In itself, the second stage of talking to the survivors of symphysiotomy and the medical professionals, such as midwives and obstetricians, will allow women to detail and document what happened to them, why it happened to them and allow them a platform to discuss the issue. I presume this has been done in private. I still think that if women want an opportunity to discuss and outline what happened to them and if they want a public forum for that, such a forum should be afforded to them to discuss this issue and outline what happened to them at the hands of the State given that they were victimised and brutalised in public hospitals.

There were some 1,500 symphysiotomies performed since 1944. That is quite a large number of these appalling brutal procedures. It is worth investigating the reason the procedure was carried on for so much longer in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Mrs. Olivia Kearney took a case to the Supreme Court and was vindicated. She won her case. The judge was explicit in his views in his findings, that it was a procedure that was unnecessary in Mrs. Kearney's case. All the medical and documentary evidence that was presented to the court proved that to be the case. That Supreme Court judgment would lead me to believe that there needs to be some unearthing of what was happening in that hospital and in other hospitals that were performing symphysiotomies over and above what was considered normal in the context of international practice.

I cannot understand that this practice was continued here while across Europe these procedures were not being used at all. We were embracing caesarean sections for difficult deliveries, and that is why I come back to the importance of learning lessons in the context of peer reviews.

I do not know whether this Bill will answer these women's questions. It will give them an opportunity. What I do know is that in the context of this particular Dáil, and my involvement in it, we will continuously pursue this matter in a consensual, all-party way and hope that the Government can come forward with a mechanism that allows these women to seek compensation, redress and all the supports that they deserve. Recently the Taoiseach, in the context of issuing an apology on behalf of the Government, Dáil and State to the Magdalen survivors, mentioned this issue as well. It is incumbent on everyone here to ensure that this is kept to the fore because these women deserve it and, in many cases, they need it.

I welcome the statement by the Minister, Deputy Reilly. I also welcome Deputy Ó Caoláin's significant involvement, not only in the context of the legislation but in promoting an all-party consensual atmosphere here to deal with this tragic case in terms of what was perpetrated on these women. I welcome the fact that the House is not being divided on this legislation and, more importantly, that as the report is published and presented to the Minister he will move expeditiously and carry out the commitments he made to allow these women to get on with their lives, seek justice, vindication and, above all, the truth so that they can live out their lives knowing that a wrong was done to them and that the State apologised and tried to put it right. As to whether the State will put it right for every individual, we must seek to ensure that it makes every effort to do so.

I understand Deputy Finian McGrath is sharing time with Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity of speaking in this important Private Members' debate on the survivors of symphysiotomy.

I thank and commend all of the survivors for their great work, dedication, perseverance and courage in bringing forward this issue after many years of hard suffering and pain. In the past I have supported these women and I support the Bill. I also thank and commend all of my colleagues in the Dáil from all political parties and my Independent colleagues for sticking together and supporting these women.

Today, at 4 p.m., I listened to the women again make their case for justice and fairness. I agree with Dr. Andrew Rynne when he stated that their trust was betrayed and there was no justification for what happened, except a ridiculous morality or a weird view of family planning. They were like lambs to the slaughter and there was no justification for this practice. At today's meeting, Catherine from Ballyfermot described in detail the horrific experience, the significant pain for three days at the age of 29, and then that it was six weeks before she came out of the hospital. Catherine has suffered since. It was inhuman and it was a grave injustice. Rita from Monaghan described in detail her harrowing experience and how nobody told her husband what they were going to do. It was barbaric and she did not see her baby for two days. That was the reality for these women.

It is up to all Members of the Dáil and Seanad to support these women. That is what I am doing here tonight, I am joining my colleagues in supporting this legislation. The decision to lift the Statute of Limitations for survivors now firmly rests with us all. A large number of Deputies, as the women will be aware, have been most supportive. The all-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, of which I have the honour of being a member, unanimously supported this initiative.

Returning to the core issue, I listened to the plight of the women. The breaking of the pelvis generally left women disabled, in pain, incontinent, their lives damaged, their babies occasionally injured - sometimes fatally. Ireland was the only country in the developed world to practice these high-risk operations in the mid-to-late 20th century in preference to caesarian section. Doctors hostile to birth control used a scalpel or saw to control women's reproductive behaviour. These were involuntary surgeries, performed in all but a clandestine manner. Patient consent was never sought and almost every women left hospital not knowing her pelvis had been broken.

The demand by survivors for truth and justice has been stonewalled since 2002. Instead of an independent inquiry, there was a whitewash report which stands over surgeries that were condemned last year by the Supreme Court, which found that it was not a generally approved practice.

There is significant international support for these women and it is important that they know that is the case. Some 22,222 people in 68 countries have supported this group, including 490 doctors. Tonight, historically, all Members of the Dáil have united to support the women in their efforts.

I usually have a go at the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister of State on other issues, but I commend them on and thank them for their efforts on this issue and also for not dividing the House. I pay tribute to and thank Deputy Ó Caoláin for the magnificent work he has done on this issue, rallying us all together on it. I thank and commend all the women present in the Visitors Gallery tonight and I promise them my total support.

Tá sé tábhachtach aitheantas a thabhairt don Teachta Ó Caoláin de réir an obair a rinne sé chun tacú leis na mná agus chun an ábhar seo a chur chun cinn. Lean sé ar aghaidh nuair a bhuail sé le fadhbanna agus le deacrachtaí. Tá sé uafásach scéalta na mban seo agus sonraí an ghnáthaimh seo a léamh.

Deputy Ó Caoláin has been relentless in pursuing justice for the women. In spite of the many difficulties and frustrations he has experienced over the years, he never gave up. Having read the women's stories, I find it horrifying to imagine the procedure. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have gone through it. The one word to describe the procedure is barbaric. It is very difficult to reconcile that barbarism with what we associate with the medical profession. Doctors swear the hippocratic oath, which is basically about practising medicine ethically and honestly. While there are variations of the oath, I read today a comment that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug. Warmth, sympathy and understanding were very sadly lacking for the women involved. I join others in acknowledging the women present in the Visitors Gallery who suffered that cruelty. I acknowledge their pain - for many of them their acute continuing pain. They have got on with their lives throughout all that pain through perseverance and the great support they give each other.

Deputy Ó Caoláin mentioned mutilation, which is also an apt word for a procedure that unhinged the pelvis, severed joints and sundered pubic bones. Some women ended up permanently disabled, incontinent and in pain. Very sadly, some women lost their babies following the procedure. It was an operation that was undertaken with no explanation given to the women as to what was happening - never mind why it was happening.

The last time we discussed the matter the Minister made certain statements about this being a standard operation, mostly used as emergency surgery and safer than a caesarean section. He did not accept then that this was a barbaric act. However, all of that was refuted by Ms Marie O'Connor, who made very detailed comments about each of those points. I listened to the Minister's speech from my office after I had to leave the Chamber. I acknowledge that he made a commitment to deal with the issue sensitively and fairly, which is why he is accepting the Bill. It is a major achievement to have this agreement. It is a tribute to the women that this support has been agreed.

The Minister said Deputy Ó Caoláin's Bill contains some flaws. Regardless of the flaws, the Bill must achieve its objectives, which starts with lifting the current Statute of Limitations. However, there is an urgency about this - I say this with no disrespect to the women - given that the women are of advancing ages and cannot continue in the limbo they have been in for so long. Health services must be provided to meet their health needs. I read a comment from a medical person who stated he felt this was a stain on Irish medicine. This is an opportunity to get rid of that stain from Irish medicine. Overall, Irish medicine does not deserve that stain. It beggars belief that it ever went down the road of symphysiotomy.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 April 2013.