I welcome viewers who may be watching our proceedings on Oireachtas television to this meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
I wish to raise a number of issues about the workings of this committee, in particular a couple of difficulties that have become apparent as we have gone through our public sessions. I want this to be a committee at which everybody feels they can say what they wish to say without feeling any sense of nervousness or other feelings to witnesses or otherwise. It is quite reasonable for members of this committee to leave the room for a variety of reasons. It has already been indicated in private session that a couple of members must speak in the Dáil presently and there is no doubt certain members will have to speak in the Seanad on occasion. People must leave the room for a variety of reasons. The nature of our business in politics ensures that there is a very busy environment in Leinster House. The message must go out that this is a very important committee that has a very high attendance rate by members and it does happen, on occasion, that people need to leave for a variety of reasons. I just wanted to put that on the record.
If members have concerns, it is better to indicate. If a member has a concern about something another member has said please indicate and I will come to that person at the appropriate time. I do not want members interrupted, which is really important to note. Everybody has a certain amount of time with the witnesses. It is very important that we respect that space for the individual member within the confines of the rules of the Houses of the Oireachtas. When somebody has the floor I want everybody to respect that in so far as is possible. If members have concerns I would appreciate if they could be raised in the committee. If there is an issue that they do not wish to raise in the committee, publicly, I can be approached at any time for a chat if there is something a member wants to discuss.
On the matter of witnesses who present here, witnesses need to be respected. They are professional individuals. They are well used to taking strident cross-examination and questions in circumstances like this one. I have no difficulty with witnesses being asked questions. It is difficult to control the time and there is an issue with regard to the amount of time for members. We have reached agreement in terms of how we will conduct ourselves timewise. Again, if people have issues in that regard please highlight them to me. I am doing my best as Chair to be fair to everybody and that is all I can do.
With regard to a perceived bias in terms of this committee, concerns have been raised again, mainly outside of this room, regarding the witness schedule. The committee itself decided who should attend. I, as Chair, do not choose which witnesses come before this committee. It continues to be the case that any member who believes that any other person or institution should be represented at this committee should make that known to me. Travel by an individual is justified in terms of the method that we agreed at the outset of this committee. Any concerns about specific witnesses should be raised ideally with me and not with the media so that I can be put on notice of any issues that members have. I refer in particular to the Centre for Reproductive Rights where issues have been expressed about fundraising and issues in the media. Again, I am seeking to address this matter and will come back to the committee.
At the outset I just wanted to be really clear on a few issues. Our witnesses are present and some of them have travelled. We are very grateful to them for their attendance. I want to move on in that regard, subject to Deputy Mattie McGrath making a comment. I want to give him an opportunity to address an issue that he has raised, and wants to raise in public, that follows on from last week. The Deputy has the floor.