Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

Amendment No. 3 in the name of Deputy McNamara is out of order.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Section 14 agreed to.
Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
SECTION 17

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 14, lines 31 to 34, to delete all words from and including ", unless" in line 31 down to and including "resolution" in line 34.

I was not aware that my amendment No. 3 was ruled out of order. The purpose of that amendment was to amend the Health Act 1947. I draw the Ceann Comhairle's attention to the Long Title of the Bill:

Bill entitled an Act to make exceptional provision, in the public interest and having regard to the manifest and grave risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of the disease known as Covid-19 and in order to mitigate, where practicable, the effect of the spread of that disease, to provide for additional enforcement measures in respect of certain premises where intoxicating liquor is sold or supplied for consumption on the premises to ensure compliance with certain requirements, imposed by or under the Health Act 1947, breaches of which constitute criminal offences; to provide for additional bases for objection on the ground of good character to renewal of licences for certain premises; to provide for additional bases for objection on the ground of character to renewal of certificates of registration for clubs; to amend the Health Act 1947; and to provide for related matters.

I refer in particular to the reference therein to amending the 1947 Act. On that basis, I question why my amendment No. 3 was ruled out of order and, if it is in order to do so, I request an explanation in that regard. If it is not in order to do so, I will of course abide by the ruling.

Given the short length of time remaining to us to complete the Bill, the Deputy might be better addressing his amendment No. 4, which is in order.

I will address that amendment presently but I am asking whether it is in order to question why my previous amendment was ruled out of order.

It was ruled out of order because it is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill.

I understand that the provisions of a Bill are determined by its Long Title, which, in this case, clearly includes a reference to amending the Health Act 1947. If the purpose of the Bill includes amending that Act and my amendment concerns an amendment to the Act, it would seem to me to be in order.

It is not a question of how the amendment might apply to the Long Title. It is a question of how it applies or does not apply, as the case may be, to the sections of the Bill. The amendment is not relevant to the sections of the Bill as set out. I will happily arrange for someone to engage with the Deputy with a view to giving him a satisfactory explanation as to why his amendment was ruled out of order. In the meantime, I ask that we move on to amendment No. 4.

Yes, I will move on. The purpose of this Bill, as almost everybody accepts, is to introduce certain draconian provisions. The Minister said it would be impracticable to have to bring in new legislation repeatedly in the circumstances of a global pandemic. However, her party leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, has pointed out that Ireland is completely out of kilter with every other European state. My question is how the pandemic is different in Ireland from how it is in every other country. In fact, it is only different insofar as we have been more draconian with our restrictions and, frankly, those draconian restrictions have failed. At the end of it all, our detection figures are the same as the figures in Sweden. I am not saying that Sweden is the perfect model but I am pointing out that there were no closures of bars there and no lockdown. In fact, at this point in time, there are no closures of bars in any other country in Europe.

We have really draconian measures in place in this country and they have manifestly failed. If one is to claim that they have not failed, then the only other explanation is that the figures being provided by NPHET on a daily basis are incorrect. I do not for a moment believe that is the case. I believe NPHET's figures are correct and I believe those figures are higher than those in other countries because the strategy we have pursued has failed and is failing. I do not say that with any joy. It is quite sad given the sacrifices people made in good faith, including cancelling foreign holidays after they were told that to go on such a holiday would be the great evil and must be avoided. Yet, in countries where that type of restriction was not applied, they are not seeing the same detection figures we are seeing here. These really draconian restrictions serve no apparent purpose because our transmission figures are now higher than they are in other countries. At the same time, we have failed to deal with the clusters of infections that are the real cause for concern. I understand there was a discussion in NPHET about direct provision centres but the advice that came out from senior figures in NPHET to others was that it would be politically sensitive to raise the issue. This means we cannot look at the direct provision centres. We will not look at meat plants because, apparently, they keep the whole show rolling. God knows what they finance but they clearly finance something or they would not have been left to do their own thing while bar owners were being hammered.

Even the bar owners themselves now seem to have bought into this policy that the beatings will continue until morale improves, which is, in effect, what this Bill is about. The policy is to introduce more and more draconian legislation and make things harder and harder for people. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, has expressed reservations about this legislation. Ordinary rank-and-file gardaí throughout the State do not want it and have said it will bring An Garda Síochána into disrepute. They have a job to do and it is not exclusively to focus on bars, as the Government would have them do because somebody must be scapegoated for the failure of Government policy.

We are told that the Bill is a temporary measure but it includes a provision to have the measures it contains rolled over. Does anybody in this House believe the Bill will not be rolled over after November? Does the Minister really believe that she will not be putting down an amendment in a few weeks' time to roll it over?

I know it will be rolled over. That is the nature of giving powers to organisations. It is the nature of draconian legislation brought in with sunset clauses that are not really sunset clauses that it stays on the books forever. We had a long debate on the matter in Leinster House.

Before the House rose for the summer recess, I stated that it sets a terrible example for the Dáil to be sitting in the Convention Centre. There are 20 Deputies present - at what cost - and we are asking teachers to go back into schools. Thankfully, they are going back into schools. It is a significant credit to the Government and, in particular, to teachers, boards of management and parents that we have got the schools open again. However, this situation is not an example to set for anybody. That is why I do not think we should state that we will roll over this legislation.

The Bill is unnecessary. The only possible basis for it is if it is a promise to the people that if they can swallow this one more piece of medicine, the Government will open the pubs. This is not about pubs, it is about society. It is about rural Ireland, which is dying on its feet. Young people cannot meet anywhere. They cannot meet in bars or nightclubs or at weddings. They cannot even go to matches. Where will they meet? Of course, they meet in places where we think they should not meet. They do so because they are social animals. We are all social animals. We need to meet. We need a sense of community. A colleague of mine who is from County Kerry but lives in Dublin went down to Kerry recently. It was the first time he had been there for many months because of Covid, etc.. He could not believe the sense of isolation, desolation and desperation in the county. What is being done is destroying communities. It is destroying the sense of community and society and is doing untold damage to people's physical and mental health and their sense of well-being and optimism. It must come to an end at some point. The logical point for it to come to an end is when the powers given to the Minister for Health in the emergency legislation for which I voted - I do not regret voting for it - lapse. The powers have been slightly abused, but I expected that might happen. Unfortunately, I was not disappointed in that regard. I know the Minister for Health will table a motion to carry on these powers because that is what Departments do. They never relinquish power. I know the Minister for Justice will seek to roll over this legislation. I do not believe that we can continue to roll over draconian legislation which is having such a significant effect.

I am not a Covid denier. It is a very serious virus. It has killed people in this country and it will kill more people. Everybody needs to be careful and cautious, but at some point we, as legislators in this House, will have to trust people and say to them to be responsible and, for God's sake, look after themselves, their family members and those with whom they come in contact. However, we cannot continue to do that through coercive criminal legislation without destroying society and individuals. It cannot continue indefinitely. On that basis, I urge the Minister to put a proper sunset clause in place, a date after which these powers will not continue, especially given that any closure order made cannot be challenged.

The Minister fudged the issue of how one can challenge a decision to order a pub to close for a day. As I stated, this is about a lot more than pubs, but it is also about pubs, in accordance with the Long Title. How does one challenge a decision to order a pub to close for a day? One challenges it by way of judicial review. Is the Minister seriously telling me that the 6,000 or so publicans who are shut down and on their knees, some of whom are having their payment reduced, are going to take a judicial review, hire a solicitor, junior counsel and senior counsel and go to the High Court and pay the tens of thousands of euro necessary to challenge their closure for a day? Of course, they are not. However, that closure for a day will be used against the publican when he or seeks to renew the liquor licence. These are draconian powers that are having an effect on people and society and they must come to an end at some point.

I thank the Deputy. I am very conscious of the fact that we are rapidly running out of time. Can we hear two very brief contributions from Deputies Mattie McGrath and Catherine Murphy, please?

I wish to support the amendment tabled by Deputy McNamara. I reiterate that I do not believe this legislation has anything to do with reopening the pubs or a roadmap for the pubs. It is just giving more power to the State to do what it likes. The sunset clause is not adequate. As I stated earlier, a lot can happen before the sun goes down. We do not know when the sun will go down on this because, as night follows day, the Minister will roll over this power and keep it. As Deputy McNamara stated, the State loves the power.

We have all been good citizens and bought into this but people are tired and weary of it. This legislation will backfire spectacularly on the Minister. It is the first time the House has voted on such a matter since Covid broke out. It will happen more and more because people are awakening to what is going on. There is something going on besides trying to flatten the curve, which has been well flattened. We must all keep safe and respect the virus, but we need to live as well. The Government is not allowing the people to live. It is Big Brother watching over everything. It is diabolical, disgraceful, and disgusting. These are grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented, GUBU, days. I totally object to the Bill and resent the kind of smug way the Government is doing this. It is sickening.

I ask the Minister to facilitate, on or before 9 November, a debate on this matter or what mechanism is envisaged in terms of the sunset clause.

With regard to sentiment, as I stated earlier, one of the things we need in all of this is hope. People need to feel that they are being listened to. They need to feel that the Government is charting how we live with this virus and will bring people with it. There is much validity in the criticisms that were made in the House yesterday and that have been made today with regard to the Bill being a case of warning people that if they do not do certain things, these will be consequences. If a person has a house party or does not wear a mask, the State will take action. That kind of messaging does not appeal to people's better nature. Rather, it erodes hope. It is very valid to ask what kind of society we will have at the end of this. In many ways, it is like the valley of the squinting windows. That attitude is being encouraged. We need to stop and think about exactly what damage is being done in addition to Covid.

I will speak specifically to the amendment because the pros and cons of the legislation and the reasons for it have been well debated. Deputy McNamara is proposing that the House, rather than me as Minister, will decide whether to roll over the measures. It is this House and the Seanad that will make that decision. He asked me whether we will do so on 9 November. He asked me what the Covid situation in this country will be on that date. I simply do not know. The fact is that none of us knows. This has been a very difficult and challenging period for everybody because of that uncertainty and the fact that we do not know how this will continue to permeate throughout society or whether the numbers will go up or down. It is important that we have a clause that allows us to extend these measures if needed.

Deputy Murphy asked that there be a debate on any extension of the powers. I have no problem facilitating that. What we would be debating, obviously, would be the extension of the legislation and not the measures therein. I have no problem having a debate if that is what people need. No one can pre-empt what the country will look like or the status of the pandemic on 9 November. We need to include a provision in the Bill that allows us, if necessary, and I hope it will not be necessary, to extend these powers beyond a certain date. I gave a commitment to Deputy Howlin or Deputy Martin Kenny that at no stage will these powers be extended for a long period. Any extension will be for a short period and we will come back to the Dáil if such further extension is required.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 17 agreed to.
TITLE
Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

For the reason already explained regarding amendment No. 3 and the Title, we are opposing the Title.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 127; Níl, 12; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, James.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Pringle, Thomas.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Question declared carried.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass".
Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 126; Níl, 12; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, James.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Pringle, Thomas.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Question declared carried.