I thank the Chairman and committee for the opportunity to present my credentials. I am a solicitor and I have been in practice for almost 40 years. I am a partner in the firm of Beauchamps Solicitors, and have been a partner there, and in a previous firm, for more than 30 years. I have a Bachelor of Civil Law from University College Dublin in 1978. I did a stage with the legal service of the European Commission in 1980. I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators since 1999. I am a founder mentor of the joint Law Society and Bar Council law and women mentoring programme that is in its third year. Last year, I obtained a certificate in charity law, governance and trusteeship from the Law Society, and the course was run by the Law Society and The Wheel. I have just been appointed to the board of Action Aid Ireland.
I am a partner in the litigation and dispute resolution department in Beauchamps Solicitors. I work with State and semi-State bodies, major financial institutions, owner-managed businesses and multinational companies. I have extensive experience in the public administration, financial services and healthcare sectors. I specialise in contentious matters. I have a lot of expertise across a range of areas, including administrative and constitutional law, contractual disputes, company law, insurance law, construction, employment and equality law, and defamation law.
To frame my experience I will set out some details about the functions of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. The board was established in 2002 under the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000. The legislative framework for the operation of the MCIB, which is the reporting and investigation of marine casualties, and the powers of MCIB investigators are set out in the Act and in the related European Communities (Merchant Shipping) (Investigation of Accidents) Regulations and directive. In carrying out its functions, the MCIB also complies with the provisions of the International Maritime Organisation's Casualty Investigation Code.
I will summarise the role of the MCIB. It arranges for investigations and reports into the following serious marine incidents: a fatality or serious personal injury, the loss of a person overboard, a significant injury to property from a collision, or in the case of significant environmental damage.
Jurisdictionally, that relates to any vessel that is in Irish waters, any Irish vessel, wherever that may be, or if the vessel is normally located or moored in Irish waters and under the control of a resident of the State, where the incident occurred in waters contiguous to Irish waters.
The investigations are conducted by professional investigators appointed by the MCIB to determine the cause of the accident, but not to determine who is at fault, and with a view to making recommendations for the avoidance of similar marine casualties. By the end of 2017, the MCIB had published 216 reports into incidents under its statutory remit. The board published eight final reports in 2017, while it has published seven reports in 2018. The board's 2017 report was published on its website this morning, I believe.
My legal experience is relevant in guiding the MCIB in respect of the natural justice aspects of the investigation reports. In particular, under section 36 of the 2000 Act, interested parties, namely, anyone who is likely to be adversely affected by it, have an opportunity to comment to the board on reports before they are finalised. I have worked on a wide variety of investigations that involve issues of statutory interpretation, natural and constitutional justice and the assessment of evidence including its weight, relevance and credibility. Also, because of the sort of regulatory and administrative law work on which I advise, I have worked with a number of State and semi-State entities and, therefore, I am familiar with the practical operations of public entities and the various applicable legal regimes and codes that establish their jurisdiction and functions.
I will now outline some examples of the sort of work I have done in the area of constitutional and administrative law. I acted for the Law Society of Ireland in the proceedings with the Motor Insurers Bureau, MIB, that sought to ensure that persons injured in road traffic accidents where the drivers were no longer insured due to the collapse of Setanta Insurance received proper compensation, rather than the capped amounts that were then applicable from the insurance compensation fund. This involved complex interpretation issues between the obligations to the MIB as against those of the compensation fund. That case led to the 2018 Insurance Act, which gave these road traffic victims the same level of damages as other injured parties.
I acted for the Charities Regulator in the first prosecution and in the first judicial review under the Charities Act. The prosecution was directed to ensure that charity shops are conducted by legitimate registered charities in order that the public interest is protected by properly regulated charities.
I acted for the European Commission and the European Council in proceedings challenging the EU-Turkey statement on asylum, which was brought somewhat oddly by Syrian asylum seekers in Greece who were seeking leave to enter Germany.
I acted for an Irish quadriplegic receiving health care in Germany under the EU healthcare regime in proceedings against the HSE when it sought to prevent his continuing care in Germany. The case was heard by the European Court of Justice.
I am chairperson of my firm’s finance sub-committee. I have good experience of all aspects of our owner-led business, from personnel, business, marketing, and finance to insurance and regulation. Experience on the board of a professional business partnership is relevant in providing the necessary experience, engagement and approach required for the chairmanship of the Marine Casualty Board. The board is an independent body with its own funding provided for by the Oireachtas under section 19 of the Act. It is independent of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in the performance of its functions and, in general, must be independent of any other person or body whose interests could conflict with the functions of the board. I am not a member of any sailing or boating club, and I have not acted for persons likely to be involved in investigations. I do not believe I have any conflicts that would impair my appointment as chairperson of the MCIB or that would affect its independence.
In regard to Europe, the MCIB is an active member of the European Maritime Safety Agency, EMSA, which is responsible for providing technical assistance in the implementation of the EU directive establishing the principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector. It is also responsible for maintaining a platform of casualty data and investigation reports of incidents that fall within the directive. The reports are provided by the member states, and the MCIB is tasked to provide them on behalf of Ireland.
The members of the MCIB are Ms Dorothea Dowling, Mr. Frank Cronin, Mr. Brian Hogan, Mr. Nigel Lindsay and the secretary to the board is Ms Denise Hyland. I thank the outgoing chairperson, Ms Cliona Cassidy, for all her work with the MCIB since her initial appointment in 2013. It is a small board and a considerable amount of work is required outside of the regular board meetings. In addition to all of that work, Ms Cassidy gave freely of her time to brief me on the role to ensure a smooth handover. I hope to be able to continue the good work carried out by her and the other board members. I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before it.