Members will recall last night that we were debating a large group of amendments, many of which were optional, many of which were alternatives, some of which were contradictory and some of which were consequential. A large number of amendments sought to change the composition of the commission to increase the membership of the commission, while at the same time maintaining a lay majority.
It is worth reminding Members as to what took place because there seems to be a difference of views here. I sought, by way of Government amendment, to have the two lower court presidents, the President of the District Court and the President of the Circuit Court, as full members of the commission and to reinstate the Attorney General for the reasons I outlined, not only on this Stage, but also in some detail on Committee Stage. My amendment No. 10 achieved that. I sought to replace the chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission with a nominee of that body who would be a layperson and my amendment No. 12 achieved that.
I also sought to increase the number of laypersons by one from six to seven. This was in the context of our debate where everyone was in agreement that we should have a broadly based commission. However, my amendment No. 14 would have achieved that if passed. I acknowledge now what the Ceann Comhairle has said. I fully accept his ruling that the discrepancy or contradiction - it is no more than that - which arises from the defeat of my amendment No. 8 would have changed section 10 to provide for a commission of 17 in place of a commission of 13 and the subsequent passing of amendment No. 10 relating to the addition of three members. Therefore, the effect of the defeat of amendment No. 8 and the passing of amendment No. 10 is what was agreed to in the House. It is inconsistent, but it was voted upon. I do not intend to withdraw the Bill because I believe we have a pathway forward, as outlined by the Ceann Comhairle at the commencement of this evening's debate.
I accept that it is not ideal, but I acknowledge the will and wishes of Members of this House as manifest in the vote. I listened with great detail to everyone's contributions and I now believe that the object of our exercise must be to move forward now with a view to addressing the inconsistency, and I believe we can do it. I welcome the positive disposition of Members who agreed that should be our priority. However, other Members have different views.
I wish to respond to a number of serious questions raised here. I welcome the contribution of Deputy Curran, a former Government Whip with some experience of the practice and procedure of the House. He made a point about the operational and set-up costs. He rightly referred to the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. However, he omitted to say that on Committee Stage we changed the architecture from how it appeared when the Bill was originally submitted. At the behest of the committee - again by way of lawful democratic vote - we removed much of the architecture that was going to consume some of the projected cost. The Department of Justice and Equality estimate it to be a little more than half of the amount to which Deputy Curran adverted. It will be in the region of €500,000 to €600,000. It is obviously very difficult to put an exact figure on it, but it is important for us to be familiar with the parameters.
There is no veto on the appointment of judges, nor should there be, nor can there be as far as Government is concerned with particular reference to the constitutional role and function of Government in this regard.
I might add, for the information of Members, that there is no change to the constitutional position on the appointment of judges. This advisory commission will recommend a number of names to Government but the constitutional and legal position will not change in regard to the obligation, power and authority on the part of Government to nominate, for appointment by the President, members of the Judiciary. There is no veto and there is no freezing, which is evidenced by a number of recent appointments that were well received in this House. I acknowledge the positive contribution of Members in that regard.
I agree with much of what Deputy Darragh O'Brien said. I do not agree with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in many of the comments he has made. I put that on the record last week when he was sitting beside me, lest there be any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of my comments. We agree to differ. We are members of different parties. We are together in a partnership arrangement and we have agreed a programme for Government. While I very much respect the entitlement of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to hold an opinion, I do not agree with that opinion and I do not share his view. I acknowledge, of course, that this reforming legislation is in the programme for Government and, of course, the priority of any Government is to proceed with the implementation of its programme.
This is a Bill produced by the Department of Justice and Equality in accordance with the commitment given in the programme for Government. While I am pleased that we have made some progress, I am disappointed that we have not made the type of progress I and many other Members would have wished. However, I do not see the need for any rush. In fact, anyone who read the Committee Stage proceedings would be of the view that there are not too many items of legislation enacted here in the past couple of years that have been given such detailed consideration. That is testament to the authority of the justice committee, which I welcome. I am a democrat. I also welcome the fact we are operating in a minority Government situation.
This is important, reforming legislation. I urge Members to continue to work on it with a view towards improving it. Of course, I acknowledge that there is now an inconsistency but that inconsistency was a result of a democratic vote in the House last night. I voted in a particular way but a majority of Members in the House did not agree with that and, of course, I accept that. I agree with the Ceann Comhairle when he says there are now a considerable number of amendments that he feels should not, in the circumstances, be put. I believe that to be the correct course of action because the amendments that will not be put are the amendments deemed out of order. All of that is as a direct consequence of the actions we took last night.
In the normal course of events, that would occur in any event. However, the difficulty arises due to the fact we are left with an inconsistency. I believe there is a way in which that can be dealt with. I acknowledge what has been said in that regard by Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Laoghaire, both of whom have been involved in the detail of this legislation since its publication. I am of the view that we can move forward on the matter of these amendments. Of course, I will accept the democratic wishes of the House as far as the endorsement, or otherwise, of these amendments is concerned, and we will then proceed to the Seanad. However, this will not be done in any rush or with any undue haste, but only having given the matter careful and due consideration. That is my obligation. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have an obligation to ensure there is a duty of care, to quote Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and I take that role and function seriously. My duty of care is to enact a piece of legislation that is legally sound, constitutionally robust and workable, and I think we can do that.