I move amendment No. 44:
In page 30, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following subsections:
"(2) Any such order made under this section shall be for a period not to exceed five years.
(3) After the expiry period for each order the Minister shall conduct a review which will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, together with a copy of any new or renewal order.".
This section deals with the press council. The press council has been set up independently of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and it appears the legislation retrospectively will rubber-stamp it. I feel that is inappropriate. That is not an issue for the Minister because it happened during the lifetime of the last Government. However, I do not think that is the way we should establish something as important as a press council. An attempt has been made to make it look like it is independent, but it cannot be so, given the structure that has been put in place to establish it. That is regrettable. When the Bill is eventually finalised in the Houses of the Oireachtas, I encourage the Minister to advertise for bodies and personnel to make an application for recognition as the press council. A proper evaluation of those bodies should take place before the press council is put in situ.
As I read section 43, there is no time limit for the press council. Once it is put in place, it could continue ad infinitum. I do not think that is the most appropriate mechanism for us to establish a new press council. I was going to suggest that it should not be for a period longer than three years, but my amendment is for a period not to exceed five years. There should be a review and it will be particularly important at the early stages to monitor its effectiveness, impartiality and impact on the issue of defamation, as well as whether apologies are compliant with recommendations and the like. My amendment calls for this review at the end of the period of five years or less, and it should be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, together with a copy of any new or renewal order.
The press has a very powerful influence and if we do not have something like this in law, it would be much easier to take the option of not carrying out the review and having an argument with the body that represents itself as the press council. If the normal procedures applied and there was an independent process of assessing what would be defined as the press council, there would be periodic reviews, as happens in all Government regulations to set up bodies. I hope this amendment will be an improvement to the section.