I feel I have to take issue with the Minister and some of his comments. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution met today and dealt with this issue at length. At that meeting I was able to elicit from the HSE - the names of the witnesses elude me - information about the so-called investigation that I called for many times in this House when the Minister was in the last Government, whereby undercover ladies attended so-called regulated clinics. The Minister supports, and is now regulating, these clinics. The advice the ladies got was that if they had an abortion and had complications when they came back to Ireland, they should lie to their general practitioners and say they had a miscarriage. I raised this with the Minister's predecessors and the former Taoiseach and I was told it was an investigation, then I was told it was downgraded to an examination, and today I was told that the file went to An Garda Síochána. The HSE official told me today that a desktop analysis of 16 of the HSE-funded agencies was done and there was a deeper investigation and audit of six agencies. Practices were changed, thankfully, as a result. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, decided in its wisdom not to prosecute.
In its presentation at today's meeting the Irish Family Planning Association, IFPA, said that gardaí were embarrassed carrying out the investigation. I questioned the official to understand how he could know the gardaí were embarrassed. I have been a member of Community Alert since 1986 and every day of the week the Garda Síochána's crime prevention officer and others are always encouraging the public to report any issues of concern, no matter how trivial. It will be investigated in total anonymity. If it is a figment of someone's imagination or a report of a strange vehicle or whatever it is, there is no issue if it is legitimate. I do not know why they would not have a cosy relationship with An Garda Síochána when they have the imprimatur of the former Minister for Health, and now the current one, with gusto, to let them do what they want to do. I do not like undercover activity, but the IFPA went undercover once on the rogue agencies that the Deputy has described and elicited the wrong information that was being given out.
Such information should not be given out, especially to a woman who is pregnant. I wholeheartedly support this.
Deputy Howlin was in government and he has since introduced a Bill to regulate one aspect. That investigation was swept under the carpet and it went from being an investigation to an examination. I discovered earlier that six groups were brought in and they had to change their practices. A number of the women who went undercover had been in when they became pregnant and got the advice. How much more honest or real could we get. They were in for advice and they did not get the options or advice on adoption, on continuing with the pregnancy or on perinatal hospice or supports. That is a fact. They were there. There is wrongdoing on both sides and we will legislate here for those the Minister believes are rogue and the other people can give out information and are paid for doing so. They are connected with organisations all over the world that are trying to push to repeal the eighth amendment and are providing funding. We discovered all of this at the committee earlier. It was one of the better days of the committee. We got good information.
I am surprised about the dishonesty relating to this debate. It is all one way. I condemn any misinformation from any side or from anywhere when a vulnerable person is pregnant and needs, above all, proper advice, rather than advice from a State-funded organisation to, in the first instance, go and have an abortion and be given assistance with that and with travel when the Constitution bans such activity. We have to deal with that. The Minister has a duty to preserve the Constitution. There is a full-time, relentless attack on the eighth amendment. We can change the eighth amendment when the public decides so but we need a reasonable and balanced debate, which we are not having. I do not for the life of me know why the Attorney General or his agents are not at the committee defending what the people voted for and what was put into the Constitution so long ago. There is total inadequacy and failure on the part of the Minister and the Government to have this going on with no one defending the status quo, which is what is contained in the Constitution. It is not something that I or anybody else dreamed up. It is in the Constitution and it has saved countless thousands of lives, thankfully. We talk about human life as if it was just confetti.