Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 May 1997

Vol. 151 No. 12

Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Bill, 1997: Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister stated this section gives the claimant the right to return to the tribunal where her or his hepatitis C condition has deteriorated. That is a good provision and I compliment the Minister for including it. Section 5 is long, complicated and important. I read the amendments tabled in the other House and the Minister took on board as many as he could.

Since I left the House, it was reported to me in respect of the function of the High Court referred to in this section that the Minister said there was a definite distinction between the case we are dealing with and the cases in which I was involved and that I had misled the House. He said as a fact that there was only one defendant in the cases in which I was involved. That is blatantly false. A Minister who is capable of making such an assertion without checking any case is capable of any of the actions for which he has been criticised and condemned over the past few months. On the contrary, in the cases to which I referred, there were other defendants who were civilians, some of whom were covered by insurance companies. How can any Minister come into the House and make an assertion of that kind and then accuse me, a Member of the House, of misleading it because I did not make the distinction between those cases and this case? How can he dare to make such an assertion?

Will he formally withdraw the allegation that I misled the House and acknowledge that he misled the House because the vast bulk of the cases about which I spoke were on a par with this? There were other defendants — not the Minister — they might have been semi-State bodies, such as the Blood Transfusion Service Board and, in some cases, civilians. Will the Minister withdraw that allegation? I do not mind the apology to me. Any Minister capable of making such an assertion for the record when I have left the House is capable of the insensitive action that he has demonstrated over the past number of months and can make a number of assertions and allegations that are totally and utterly unfounded.

Limerick East): I made no allegation.

The Minister said I misled the House.

(Limerick East): I took the examples the Senator gave. He seemed to be talking about situations where he represented the State and he did not mention that there were any other defendants in the examples he gave. I made the point that in this case there were three distinct defendants, two of them State agencies and one the State itself. Of course, I accept the Senator's explanation now but I am arguing that there were three distinct defendants in this series of cases, including the McCole case; they were separately represented by a legal team of solicitors and barristers; they were separately advised and had separate cases to answer. I also said, in respect of the BTSB and the National Drugs Advisory Board, that they had separate insurance and there were insurance considerations also.

I accept what the Senator said and do not want to reflect on his legal competence or experience. They are of the highest order and everybody accepts that at the Bar and in the House. I am entitled to argue my case and explain my position but I did not make any allegations.

It was reported the Minister made a definite statement that I misled the House. He also said I omitted to mention that in the cases with which I dealt the only defendant was the State.

How could the Minister make such an outrageous statement without checking any of the cases in which I was involved, either as a Minister or otherwise? If that is the standard of truth and accuracy we can expect from the Minister, it is no wonder we are dealing with this sad débâcle. I accept the Minister may not have intended any damage but I wish he had checked his facts and recognised that a distortion of facts, through a terrible misrepresentation which has been a feature of this débâcle, can hurt people.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister has clarified his position on the matter and I have allowed the Senator some flexibility. We should return to discussing section 5.

(Limerick East): There is a provision in section 5 for the compensation tribunal to make full and final settlement awards or provisional awards. This is the first time that has been included in Irish law, even though it is a matter of practice at the informal tribunal.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 6 to 16, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill through the House. A great deal has been said and done. If we could start over again, perhaps matters would turn out differently. The lives of about 1,000 people have been affected by hepatitis C. If 1,000 people were threatened with death in a disaster such as an earthquake, rules and regulations would be thrown out the window and we would first care for the people affected.

The Minister said he was not a Deputy when this problem started many years ago and to a certain extent he is getting the rough end of the stick. Looking back with hindsight, many people do not understand why the matter was not brought to a head immediately. The Bill is now law and this House has endeavoured to ensure its speedy passage. I thank the Minister for his comments and for bringing the Bill to fruition.

I am delighted this Bill has passed and the Minister can be proud of it. I am glad that my last contribution in this session of the Seanad is on putting the compensation tribunal on a statutory basis.

I commend the Minister on the way in which the Bill has been brought to the House and the manner in which he responded to Senator O'Kennedy's remarks. It showed his humanity.

We could quibble about aspects of this Bill but the public wants it passed as quickly as possible and that is what we have done.

The passage of this Bill represents a good afternoon's work. I commend the Minister and wish him well.

Limerick East): I thank the House for its co-operation in the speedy passage of this Bill on the day of the dissolution of the Dáil. It will be a landmark of this Parliament that this Bill has passed all Stages in both Houses on the last day of this Dáil.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.