Business of Joint Committee

I remind members, staff, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones. I wish to inform witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

On behalf of the committee I welcome Mr. Jim Connolly, a concerned member of the public who has called for a change to the law regulating abandoned safety deposits in banks. We are also joined by Mr. Kenneth Jordan, principal officer and Mr. Stephen Brady, assistant principal officer in the finance and evaluation unit at the Department of Rural and Community Development. We are also joined by officials from the Department of Finance, namely, Mr. Eoin Dorgan, principal officer with responsibilities for Central Bank, National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, and financial stability policy and Ms Fidelma Cotter, assistant principal, banking division. I thank the individuals and bodies who wrote to the committee with advice and observations on this issue, including the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, who formerly served in the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, BPFI.

It is proposed that any opening statements, submissions or other documents supplied by witnesses or other bodies to the committee relating to the subject matter of this meeting will be published on the committee's website. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I now invite Mr. Jim Connolly to make his opening statement.