Parole Bill 2016: Fifth Stage

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Technically, the Bill is still in the name of Deputy O'Callaghan. In any event, the Bill is agreed.

The Minister is beginning to sound like the Minister of State, Deputy Boxer Moran.

I am following my riding instructions.

Given the questions from Deputy Connolly and others, I am sure there will be something for Deputy O'Callaghan to consider in a couple of years.

I wish to emulate other Members. I welcome the passage of the Parole Bill. It is important legislation and it will be of benefit to the criminal justice system. It will be of particular assistance to the victims of crime who now will know when persons who perpetrated crimes will be eligible for and be able to apply for parole. The victims of crime will now also be able to make submissions in respect of parole applications. I also think it is beneficial for prisoners who are applying for parole because they can now see in statutory form the process by which they can seek parole. As I indicated earlier, it is a complicated matter that involves balancing the rights of the victims of crime on the one hand with on the other hand the entitlement of people who are in prison to seek parole. The purpose of prison is twofold; punishment and rehabilitation, and both of them need to be balanced. I believe that is what a good parole board will do. I know that the Parole Board that has existed on a non-statutory basis to date has done that.

I thank my party, Fianna Fáil, for giving me permission to put forward this legislation. I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government for agreeing to accept it. I thank the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and his predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald, in respect of it. I thank Sinn Féin and the Labour Party. I also thank the Independents for their support for the Bill, in particular former Deputies, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, who are elsewhere, and Deputy Connolly. It is worthwhile legislation. It is legislation of the House not of any one person and it will be of benefit to the criminal justice system. I hope it can find its way promptly through the Seanad.

I also acknowledge the importance of this legislation. I thank everybody who made a contribution to the debate this evening on this important Bill, in particular the interesting points raised by Deputies Sherlock, Ó Laoghaire and Connolly. I acknowledge the fact that the subject matter dealt with in the Bill is somewhat complex, difficult and sensitive and the balancing act that is required is also challenging. The Bill seeks to take account both of the perspective of those who have felt the oftentimes devastating effects of crimes committed by long-sentence prisoners and of those who believe that the very worst of us deserves an opportunity to rehabilitate and have at least the prospect of returning some day to the community outside the prison walls.

I especially acknowledge the work of Deputy O'Callaghan in bringing the Bill before the House in the first instance and for his co-operation and the manner in which he has engaged with officials in my Department and getting the Bill to the point where it is now. I also acknowledge the work of the existing Parole Board, which has served us particularly well for a long time. I express my appreciation to the board for its hard work. I saw the chairman of the board, Mr. John Costello, in the precincts of the House not just this afternoon but during the course of the engagement with the Bill. In that regard, I acknowledge the co-operation of the board on the matter of bringing forward the Bill to its current state.

I further acknowledge the role of many other State organisations and NGOs who have also provided their expertise on the Bill but also on issues pertaining to parole generally. The reforms in the Parole Bill are designed to put the operation of the board on an independent statutory footing to ensure that the way the board makes its decisions is open, clear, transparent, fair and at all times is fully informed. The Bill that we have amended today, which was introduced by Deputy O'Callaghan, achieves that aim and I once again commend it to the House.

I will not be long as I am aware that there is other business before the House that requires to be done. The Bill is good legislation. It will make a significant difference. There are difficult considerations to balance in this regard and the Bill strikes the right balance.

The Bill started well and improved through amendment as it passed through the Dáil. It will now proceed to the Seanad.

I commend Deputy O'Callaghan. It is difficult to get a Private Members' Bill past Second Stage. It is particularly difficult to draft such a technical and comprehensive Bill, and doing so is extremely commendable and valuable. It is harder again to bring it through several Stages. It was very well done. I commend the Minister on engaging on the Bill and supporting it. I ask him to encourage his Cabinet colleagues to work on other Opposition Bills to take them through all Stages. We could do with a bit more of that. I am glad it happened in this instance.

I thank the Deputy very much. I will take that.

The Minister should not get carried away.

Tomorrow is another day.

I congratulate the originator of the Bill, Deputy O'Callaghan. The Bill proves how we can all work together. We come here and make our arguments, and we win some and lose some, but we all support the broad thrust of the Bill. It is a fine Bill. It is a model of how Members of the House, if they all put their minds to it, can all work together on issues on a non-partisan basis. Well done to all.

Comhghairdeas le gach duine a bhí páirteach leis an reachtaíocht seo.

I thank my officials for working to meet deadlines.

Question put and agreed to.