Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007: Committee and Remaining Stages.

SECTION 1.

Ós rud é go bhfuil leasuithe Uimh. 1 go 4, go huile, gaolmhar, tógfar le chéile iad.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, subsection (3)(b), line 6, after “with” to insert the following:

", or attended a course of instruction or sat an examination for the purposes of seeking to comply with,".

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a ghabháil leis an Aire arís as ucht bheith anseo inniu. Bhí díospóireacht suimiúil againn ar an mBille seo níos luaithe.

I have tabled a number of amendments. Amendment No. 1 deals with students already in the pipeline. I appreciate the Minister has tabled an amendment but we might compare the two to see the best way forward. I am concerned about a situation where a person is in the pipeline and sits the Irish examination but where the Bill becomes law in the meantime. If a person passes the examination and is notified of the result, technically, he or she has not complied with section 3 of the 1929 Act prior to the passing of this Bill. Alternatively, a person who attends the Irish course in 2008-09 and who fails the examination, under section 1(3)(b), he or she is required to attend Irish lectures a second time because he or she has not passed the examination even though there will now be no examination. The amendment is really to deal with people in the pipeline. The Minister has tabled amendments but he might address this issue for us.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach. Fáiltím go mór roimh na leasuithe atá romhainn in ainm an Aire. Chuir sé isteach go mór orm nuair a thuig mé go raibh seans ann go mbeadh deacrachtaí acu siúd atá ag freastal ar an gcúrsa úd faoi láthair. Tá mé an-sásta leis na leasuithe atá molta aige. I will withdraw my amendments because the Minister's ones deal with the issue concerning me, namely, people half way through, or almost finished, the Kings Inn's course. Bhí deacrachtaí ar leith ann. Bhí fonn orm an dainséar sin a bhaint de. Is dócha go bhfuil an rud is simplí déanta ag an Aire anois. Tá an "commencement date" ar fad bainte as an rud. Tá mé an-sásta leis sin.

Caithfidh mé rud beag amháin a rá. Ag féachaint ar an reachtaíocht, níl a fhios agam an mbeidh an tAire in ann aon rud a dhéanamh chun a chinntiú go mbeidh áiteanna riaracháin na gcúirteanna dúiche sna Gaeltachtaí le chéile. The borders of a Gaeltacht area, for instance, would also be a place where it would be the norm perhaps, go mbeadh Gaeilge ar fáil do dhaoine sna cúirteanna sin. I do not know. It has nothing to do with this particular Bill, ach ba mhaith an rud é go mbeadh sé sin ann. Braithim go bhfuil sé seo tábhachtach.

An rud a chuireann isteach orm beagáinín — a slight misgiving I have about it — ná go bhfuil foráil áirithe imithe anois. Tá mé ag caint mar gheall orthu siúd nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu. Go dtí seo, bhí orthu freastal ar an gcúrsa. Phioc siad suas a lán den téarmaíocht, ainmneacha agus foclóir a bhaineann leis an dlí. Tá seans ann go bhfuil sé sin imithe anois. I suppose times are changing. There is not much we can do about it. Ar an dtaobh eile den scéal, this is important. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhfuil sé ann. Cuirim fáilte mór roimhe. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, fáiltím go mórmhór roimh na leasuithe atá molta ag an Aire. Ar an bhonn sin, tá mé chun mo leasuithe a tharraingt siar ag an bpointe seo.

The only issue I raised in respect of this Bill was the element of retrospection and the situation of those who have sat, or are who are about to sit, the Irish examination for the qualification of barrister or solicitor. The Minister's amendment satisfies that request but will he clarify precisely how he sees it applying in practice? That might deal with the concerns of Senator Alex White. I appreciate the Minister has tabled an amendment which perhaps resolves the issue.

I overlooked the fact amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, were being taken together and did not address amendment No. 4 which relates to people who did not sit the Irish examination or who sat it and failed it. It is an attempt to address the situation of people who were excluded from practice because of the compulsory regime in place. It is not putting it too strongly to say that they were essentially deprived of a right to earn a livelihood as lawyers. I move this amendment to take account of that and have the matter redressed in so far as is possible. A basic step would be to provide that such persons can now apply to be called to the Bar or to become solicitors.

Is sé an tuiscint atá agam ná go mbeidh sé in ann. What we propose is to change the section in such a way that any person who completed the degree course of barrister at law before the repeal of the Legal Practitioners (Qualifications) Act 1929 and who did not comply with section 3 of that Act shall be deemed to have complied with that section. This is a fancy way of saying one did it and one did not do it, but ultimately one did it. It means one neat sentence deals with the issues raised. Maidir leis an gceist a d'ardaigh an Seanadóir, beidh ar na daoine a dhéanfaidh an cúrsa freastal ar chúrsa téarmaíochta Gaeilge. Ní bheidh orthu an scrúdú a dhéanamh. Beidh orthu freastal ar an gcúrsa.

Tá an cheart ag an Aire.

Mar a mhínigh mé cheana, creidim go bhfuil sé seo tábhachtach, go mórmhór d'aturnaetha — más féidir liom é a rá — ach freisin d'abhcóidí. Nuair atá gairmithe cúirte, srl., ag dul thart, ba dheas an rud é dá mbeadh fios acu ar na bun-téarmaí dlí. Creidim gur soláthar úsáideach é an cúrsa agus go mbainfí go leor úsáid as. Beidh sé sin riachtanach do gach éinne. Tá an scrúdú riachtanach imithe. De thoradh na forála seo, beidh sé ar chumas daoine áirithe an ghnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Beidh a fhios ag an bpobal cé hiad.

An bhfuil leasú Uimh. 1 aontaithe?

Táimid ag cur in aghaidh leasú Uimh 1.

I will withdraw amendment No. 1.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 8, subsection (3), between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
"(c) Any person who completed the degree course of barrister-at-law before the repeal by this Act of the Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929, who had not complied with section 3 of that Act, shall be deemed to have complied with that section.".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 5.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Government amendment No. 5:
In page 16, lines 16 to 20, to delete subsection (3).
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

On a point of order, táimid imithe ó Chéim an Choiste without dealing with Report Stage.

Tá an Tuarascáil le teacht. Caithfimid an Teideal a aontú.

Aontaím leis an Teideal. An deacracht atá agam ná in case anybody challenges it afterwards. We moved straight from Committee Stage to Fifth Stage without taking the stage in between. We must agree that there are no amendments on Report Stage.

We are agreeing the title on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I appreciate that the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, has responded to concerns raised at the previous reading of the Bill. The amendments put forward have neatly resolved the concerns of all parties and I appreciate the efforts of the Minister in that regard.

I join Senator Regan in expressing my appreciation to the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. The Bill benefits from employing that tried and tested means of having matters deemed to be the case, even if they were not in fact the case. I appreciate the approach of the Minister and his officials. This Bill will introduce a more honest and realistic regime in the practice of law through the medium of Irish. It is important that people have the right to have their cases heard in Irish. The Bill will introduce a more honest, straightforward and, ultimately, more satisfactory regime than that which has existed in the past.

I thank my colleagues on the Opposition side for their support for the Bill, by and large. I thank the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, for listening to the concerns of my colleagues and for tabling appropriate amendments to clarify some small issues.

This is an important Bill which recognises the role of the Irish language in the legal profession, which includes both barristers and solicitors. When I completed the Irish examination, probably in 1974 if my memory is correct, it was basically a sham. It was simply a matter of coming along. I remember it as a time when my Gaeilge was flúirseach and I knew more than the examiners. This Bill allows for a more realistic role for the Irish language within the professions, which is very important. Those who wish to pursue, practice and advocate through Irish should be encouraged and allowed to do so. The Bill offers a platform for this which hitherto was not there and I welcome it in that regard. I am delighted it has passed and I thank the Minister for his indulgence and co-operation along with Members from all sides of the House.

Could I be associated with those remarks? Mar a dúirt mé nuair a bhí mé ag caint níos luaithe, fáiltím go mór roimh na leasuithe a dhein an tAire ar an mBille. Bhí sé thar a bheith tábhachtach that the Department listened leis na rudaí a bhí ag cur isteach ar dhaoine. Tá réiteach na faidhbe seo againn. Tá mé an-sásta leis. Ó thaobh na hoibre atá déanta ag na advisers, chomh maith leis an Aire é fhéin, go raibh míle maith agaibh.

I dtosach báire, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis na Seanadóirí as an inchur a bhí acu sa Bhille. Tá leasuithe tábhachtacha déanta inniu. Is dóigh liom go ndéanfaidh sé difríocht go bhfuil feidhm iarghabhálach leis seo. Taispeánann sé uair amháin eile an gá atá leis an dara Teach. It is fair to say that the work done in the Seanad is often overlooked. Many Bills have been amended in the Seanad and if such legislation had been left unchanged after being read in the Dáil it would be poorer. The amendments to this Bill are no exception. I thank Senators for taking on trust that we would revert to this issue on Report Stage and that we were listening. The amendment put forward and agreed is a reasonable way of dealing with the issue. I like that it is legally possible to deem that something has happened. Tá an Bhille tábhachtach mar, don chéad uair, beidh cur chuige ceart ag déanamh freastal ar an bpobal. For too long, the Irish language, in terms of service provision, was not focused on what the public needed. We will now have available a list of barristers and solicitors capable of practising law in Irish. We have found, in respect of the list of translators which was proofed by Foras na Gaeilge, that people are consulting that list and using the translators because they know they have the standard of Irish required.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le Seanadóirí agus Teachtaí as ucht na tacaíochta a thugadh ó chuile thaobh don dá Theach. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go raibh plé bríomhar againn ar an gceist seo. Tá súil agam go mbeidh togha seirbhíse ar fáil trí Ghaeilge dóibh siúd a dteastaíonn uathu an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus iad os comhair na cúirte.

Maidir leis an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir O'Toole faoi na cúirteanna, luafaidh mé é sin le mo chomhghleacaithe, an tAire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí. Le gairid, tá mé tar éis comhlacht páirtnéireachta Leader a dhéanamh don Ghaeltacht ar fad. Creidim go gcuirfidh sé sin leis an tseirbhís atá ar fáil ag an leibhéal sin. Tugaim i gcónaí "an 27ú contae" ar an Ghaeltacht. Tá idir Gaeltachta láidre agus laga ann. Go deimhin fhéin, le déanaí bhí mé i nGaeltacht i gContae na Gaillimhe, áit inar roghnaigh muintir na háite dul leis an gcomhlacht Gaeltachta seachas le comhlacht eile in oirthear na Gaillimhe. Taispeánann sé sin an rogha a dhéanfaidh daoine nuair atá rogha acu. Creidim go bhfuil bunús leis an méid atá le rá ag an Seanadóir. Ba cheart go mbeadh breitheamh le Gaeilge ag freastal ar na ceantair Gaeltachta, cibé cén bealach ina ndéanfar é. Beidh mé ag plé na ceisteanna sin leis an Aire. Chomh maith leis sin, is féidir soláthar a dhéanamh sna pleananna teangacha a thugtar isteach ag mo Roinn. Ar ndóigh, bíonn baint agam leo. Caithfidh an tSeirbhís Chúirteanna plean teangacha a thabhairt isteach. Is féidir linn breathnú ar an gceist sa chomhthéacs sin chun a dhéanamh cinnte go bhfuil freastal á dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Níl oifigigh le Gaeilge lag ag teastáil ag daoine atá iomlán líofa sa Ghaeilge. Ba cheart dúinn daoine iomlán líofa a chur ag freastal ar na cúirteanna Gaeltachta. Pléfidh mé an cheist sin le mo chomhghleacaithe, an tAire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 3.55 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.