Immigration (Reform) (Regularisation of Residency Status) Bill 2016: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I moved this Bill some two years ago, when we were promised speedy movement on it. Not much has been done, although I will grant that a certain amount has happened. It is rather appropriate that we are discussing it today in light of the fact that, coincidentally, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has produced a report which was launched this morning at 11.30 a.m. The report contains a considerable section about refugees and asylum seekers. It points to Ireland's agreement to participate in the deal with Turkey and how it puts the whole of the European Union in danger of coming into direct conflict with the provisions of non-refoulement - that is, refusal to return people to places where they could be done harm.

There is an associated area, which I will not deal with today but I am sure will come up in Seanad Éireann, which is the existence of large numbers of undocumented migrants. There are 20,000 to 26,000 undocumented migrants in Ireland and their fate bears a direct relation to that of our own Irish people living in the USA, about whom we have argued so passionately in the past. Of these, 84% have been living here for more than five years, including 49% for more than eight years and 21% for more than ten years. This is a large body of people whose situation needs to be determined.

I am not a negative person, so I will accept that some progress has been made and that Ireland, for such a small nation, has done some wonderful and remarkable things. For example, we have sent our Naval Service to the Mediterranean Sea, where they have been involved in the rescue of significant numbers of people, and this is something of which I believe we as a nation can be justly proud. It is also important to note that Ireland has been chosen to co-facilitate the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting in New York on refugees and migrants on 19 September 2016. Part of my motivation for tabling this Bill again in the House was to reactivate it and push to give the Minister of State support in doing what he has already started to do, but not - in my opinion - half quickly enough.

I reject the amendment. I am a political realist and I know they have done their numbers. We used to be governed by a four-person group in the previous Government and now it is down to two: Enda and Micheál. They have got together and decided to scupper the Bill. So be it, but I will still probably call a vote. They used the Brexit excuse - ho hum - and mentioned the European Union pact on migration and then the implementation of the International Protection Act 2015. I welcomed this, but perhaps the Minister of State could indicate an implementation date, particularly with regard to the single procedure. Can we please have a clear and specific date by which this valuable instrument will come into operation? There is also another piece of technical legal material, which I will leave to one side.

The Government established a working group under the distinguished former judge Dr. Bryan McMahon, who made his report. It is not entirely what I would like to see - it fails to address some significant issues - but it is extremely useful. One month ago, on 17 June 2016, Dr. McMahon said:

We recommend the Government now move to ensure the remaining measures to give effect to the recommendations are implemented so that people seeking asylum in Ireland can live with a greater degree of respect and dignity.

With regard to the asylum situation in Ireland, I have the latest figures, as far as I know. There are 35 centres with an occupancy of 4,371 people from 17 countries. One has to look at the report of the working group, because they did work very intensively and made it their business to visit many of these centres around the State. The working group discovered that only three of the centres were custom-built. The other centres were accommodation facilities that had been lying idle, such as hotels and guest houses, which had been designed essentially for quite different purposes from that of maintaining people who were seeking asylum. The working group found that the majority of families were accommodated in a sort of single unit with no separate living space. To ask someone to live in these conditions for five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten years is pretty grim when one thinks about it. Living in one room is a pretty disastrous way to live. The members of the working group described the accommodation units, and particularly those that are really just bedrooms, as cramped and cluttered with inadequate storage and unsuited to the multiple purposes that they they are required to serve. They also looked at the concerns around cooking facilities. I will not rehash that issue as two years ago I put onto the record of the Seanad the cultural need for people to be able to cook their own food; when children watch their parents preparing meals in a family environment, it consolidates the family unit.

I know the Government will say there were 173 recommendations. It has implemented 91 recommendations, many of which are associated with the legislation to which I have already referred, the International Protection Bill 2015. It has partially implemented 49 recommendations and further consideration is required on 33 of them. Therefore, approximately 50% of the recommendations have been implemented. That is not a terribly good average. It has attracted the attention, not just of Seanad Éireann, the Irish Refugee Council and the Human Rights and Equality Commission, but also of His Excellency, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins, who, in 2014 in South Africa, said that the direct provision situation in Ireland was completely unsatisfactory. He said that the Irish system of direct provision did not address the human rights of people seeking asylum in Ireland. That was not the end of it, as he returned to this matter on 21 May 2016, questioning something that I would also question: the fact that dealing with direct provision was originally part of the agreement on the programme for Government, but then it disappeared. That must have been a specific and deliberate decision, because it was on the programme at one stage and now it is gone. Perhaps the Minister of State could clarify the reason for this.

I will return now to Dr. Bryan McMahon. In May 2016 he described the Government's treatment of asylum seekers as remaining "narrow" and "mean". These two simple words are very powerful and effective and they characterise what he sees as the approach of Government. This is the independent judge appointed by the Government to oversee this area. Dr. McMahon called for an immediate once-off amnesty for people who have been in the asylum system for five years. This is also in my Bill, but I call for an amnesty after four years. I called for this in light of the 1916 celebrations. The President also referred to the fact that the matter had fallen off the Government's agenda.

I would like to quote a direct voice from this community, a woman called Kany Kazadi. In an interview in the The Irish Times on 20 June, she said:

Integration does not happen in rural places with this system. It was clear there were two separate communities in this small town. I was always identifiable as a woman of colour walking down its main street. If I had been given the opportunity to work or to upskill, then it would have been a different experience. Direct provision has to go. We don’t want to live like prisoners, we don’t need your sympathy, we want to be understood. We have so much talent.

I refer to the provisions of the Bill I am presenting to the House today. The main section is section 7 which addresses what I think are the essential elements we are considering today. It refers to the entitlement to reside in the State, the capacity to enjoy the right to travel, the same freedom to practise religion as Irish citizens, the ability to seek and enter into employment, the right of association, which is guaranteed in the Constitution, access to the courts, which is not fully granted under the present situation, and access to education. It is ridiculous that when asylum seekers come to the end of their second level education and want to go on to third level, they are expected to scrounge around and find €10,000 to meet their fees. Section 7 also states people are entitled to receive the same medical care and services and social welfare as those to which Irish citizens are entitled. These are the essential core demands that I have put forward in my Bill.

I have the support of the Irish Refugee Council for the Bill but it is hedged with some qualifications. The council is in favour of the intention of the Bill and the general principles behind it but it is worried about some of the language used, in particular the word "regularisation." It seems to think, and it is a legitimate point of view, that the word "regularisation" suggests or implies that there is something irregular in asylum seekers' status here at the moment. In a legal sense, this may not be true but I can say with my hand on my heart that the way in which such people are treated is as sure as hell irregular. That is what needs to be addressed and we can start the process here today.

I refer to the system whereby ad hoc permission to remain is granted. I would be very glad if the Minister could address this matter. I am particularly glad the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is here because he has been directly involved in this situation and, therefore, knows what he is talking about. Very often the people who avail of this ad hoc system do not fully understand the implications of so doing and the restrictions, for example, on their subsequent rights. I refer to the right to pursue family reunification and so on. This is a problem.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, has spoken about the International Protection Act. However, in April 2016, Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon said that it was regrettable that since the working group report, there had been no improvement in the living conditions and supports for almost 5,000 people. The Jesuit Refugee Service said that huge work needed to be done. A key recommendation was that people in direct provision for more than five years should be admitted to the system. Under the working group, there was also a recommendation that we opt directly into all instruments of the Common European Asylum System, including the recast reception conditions initiative.

I will pass over what the Government said because I know it will be well able to say it again. Two years ago, the then Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, said that it took far too long for applications to be dealt with. It is still taking too long and the process is getting longer as we speak. It has gone from 12 months to 15 months and I am not quite sure what it is now.

This country is unusual in regard to the right to work. In the United Kingdom, Malta and Bulgaria, asylum seekers can work for a year after they submit their application. In Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium, the wait is only six months and I could go on.

One of the issues at the heart of this is the length of time involved. Uncertainty overshadows the lives of people. There is also a lack of personal autonomy over the most basic aspects of their lives and daily living. I refer to cooking, going to the shops, cleaning, the lack of privacy, the challenge of sharing with strangers, the boredom and isolation, the inability of people to support themselves or their family and contribute to society in a meaningful way, the impact on children being born and-or living their formative years in an institutional setting, the impact on the capacity of parents to parent to their full potential and the loss of skills and the creation of dependency.

When I wrap up this debate, I would like to discuss the whole question of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The people who interview them say, "You don't look gay." Well, hello. Maybe I look gay but I could not care less. The people conducting the interviews say, "You're married or you have children." Do we not know the history of this bloody country where people who were gay were forced into marriage? They had to get married in order to provide cover for themselves. I thank the Acting Chairman for his indulgence and look forward to hearing what the Minister of State has to say.

I thank the Senator and call on Senator Boyhan.

I am delighted to support Senator Norris's Bill and thank him for bringing it forward. When I first met him when I came in here, he was very exercised about it and was determined to bring it forward early in the session, which is welcome. His legislation has touched on some really important issues.

We need to be clear about what is meant by direct provision. It is a means of meeting the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers while their claims for refugee status are being processed rather than providing cash payments. The system was introduced in April 2000. In 2014, asylum seekers were not entitled to any form of social welfare or social assistance except for the direct provision system. In 2014, a former Supreme Court judge, Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, predicted that the State's treatment of asylum seekers would be the subject of a future Government apology. They were very profound words from Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness.

Senator Norris touched on the fact that Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon completed a comprehensive report on the subject in 2015, which outlined his primary concerns and identified serious issues that needed to be addressed. Mr. Justice McMahon, in his report, recommended that no person should be in the system for longer than five years. We know that there are people in the system for well in excess of five years, which is unacceptable. Senator Norris has touched on this subject.

Clearly, there is a need for change. Mr. Justice McMahon's report in June 2015 touched on a whole range of issues and objectives and asked that they would be addressed. There are in the region of 3,500 asylum seekers who have been living in direct provision for more than five years. In 2016, the Department of Justice and Equality stated that 91 of the recommendations of the report had been implemented in full, 49 had been partially implemented and 33 were marked as needing further consideration. In April 2016, ten months on from the launch of the report, Mr. Justice McMahon said that the implementation of key recommendations had been slow to be implemented and inadequately resourced. Clearly, there are issues.

I have received feedback from people who live in these centres. They talk about uncertainty and a lack of autonomy over the most basic aspects of their lives. They also talk about the challenges of sharing with strangers and of having many children in the one centre. They are concerned about the safety of their children and partners. All of these are very challenging issues. Every parent knows how he or she guides and monitors his or her own children in one's own environment and community. The people in these centres want to feel safe and free from exploitation. Many other issues affect people who live in direct provision centres, including the challenge of family life. This is the reality. Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness is right that this State will look back on these centres in the same way it had to look back on the institutional care of children in this State where it abandoned all responsibility. A redress scheme has since been set up in this State but it is too late. Saying sorry is no good, redress is no good and compensation is no good if the damage has been done. We have responsibilities.

The most important word that stood out for me was "isolation", people who feel isolated and vulnerable. While I take on board what Senator Norris said about four to five years, initially people want to have this addressed. There is no point in the State commissioning reports and judges chairing groups and coming back with recommendations and not implementing them. I will support the Bill. There will be amendments further on but it is worth pursuing. There are many valid reasons to do so and the State is failing these people.

I am not 100% sure about an amnesty now but I am not saying it should be ruled out in the future. Anyone waiting over five or six years has to be a priority and the Government needs to give those people priority. I hope the Minister of State will say what he envisages. The negative impact on anybody’s physical, emotional and mental health is important. It is a question of human dignity, respect and rights. That is the core of this Bill, that people have rights to their dignity, to their own self, to a feeling of their own empowerment and they need to be aided and supported in the State. The Senator is talking about a humanitarian response, which is the really important issue. Wherever these people are, wherever they have come from and are going, they must be afforded dignity and humanity. That is the core of what the Senator is trying to achieve and he has my full support.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute “the Bill be read a second time this day 18 months to take account of the changed circumstances since the Bill was first introduced in 2014 and to ensure that there are no serious unintended consequences arising and to allow time:

(i) to ensure that, in accordance with national public policy, changes are not implemented that would impact the continuation of the Common Travel Area thus ensuring that Ireland’s negotiation position with the United Kingdom (U.K.) on the Common Travel Area is not compromised in upcoming negotiations following the outcome of their referendum to leave the European Union (E.U.);

(ii) in the light of Ireland’s commitments in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum at the European Council where there is a specific commitment ‘to use only case by case regularisation, rather than generalised regularisation under national law, for humanitarian or economic reasons’, to ensure that our negotiation position with the E.U. on retaining the Common Travel Area is not weakened in the context of the U.K.’s decision to leave the E.U.;

(iii) to allow for the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015 which replaces the time consuming, multi-layered sequential applications system with a new single applications procedure in compliance with international standards, designed to address the issue of the length of time people spend in the protection system and to deliver determinations of applications within a shorter timeframe;

(iv) to provide for the completion of the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group Report to the Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and other Supports which already addresses the position of international protection applicants who are the subject of this Bill; and

(v) in order to consider in detail any discrimination resulting from the different treatment of categories of applicants prescribed by the Bill which would have to be justified by objectively sustainable, and not arbitrary, reasons in order to be constitutionally compliant.”.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, to the House and congratulate him on his elevation to ministerial office. He is in a very appropriate Department given his phenomenal apprenticeship because he had the premiership of briefings chairing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence where he did a remarkable job. Senator Norris acknowledged that. I also congratulate Senator Clifford-Lee on her appointment as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice. It is a very important role and I have no doubt she will do a very good job.

Nobody can defend the direct provision structure and system as it is. In the last Seanad I called for a phased abolition of direct provision. It does not do this country justice. Tens of millions of our forefathers emigrated and received wonderful hospitality and an opportunity to flourish and blossom and to use their many skill sets to contribute meaningfully and productively to the creation and development of many cities and countries around the world. It is also true that many millions of our forefathers were blaggarded and not treated very well when they went abroad. We often hear stories of signs saying “no dogs, no Irish” in windows in different parts of the world. We have experienced both sides of this situation. Therefore we have a duty to be fair and humanitarian, and to treat people with respect, dignity and as equals. Direct provision certainly does not do that.

Senator Norris brought this Bill before the Seanad in 2014. Prior to that along with Senator Ó Clochartaigh and others, I formed an ad hoc all-party Seanad committee which was very effective, to address the issues of direct provision. We brought people living in direct provision into Leinster House where they briefed us. We took the initiative to travel to several centres, including Galway, where it was made abundantly clear to us how difficult, challenging and degrading it is and certainly not what our society wants. I agree with Senator Boyhan and with the eminent retired judge, Catherine McGuinness, who said we will be apologising for it as a nation in 20, 30 or 50 years’ time or perhaps even sooner when a Taoiseach will stand in Dáil Éireann delivering an apology similar to the apologies that have been made to people who suffered institutional abuse over the years. That will be the right thing to do. It is a shame and shocking that we will have to do that because of the behaviour and the lack of action of Governments since 2000.

In the renegotiated programme for Government in 2014 there was a commitment to tackle this issue. Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon was appointed to chair a working group which reported and many of its recommendations have been implemented. Not all the recommendations have been implemented and certainly not quickly enough but at least there has been action and movement. At the same time, Senator Ó Ríordáin was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality to take responsibility for this area. He made it a personal commitment and priority to drive this issue and try to find solutions. Coupled with those developments is the International Protection Act 2015, which was necessary and needs to be implemented. Its provisions need to be put into action.

The kernel of the problem is the delay in processing people’s applications. If people are denied the right to stay they properly have a right to appeal that decision but these appeals can take a considerable time to go through the courts. I am glad that the International Protection Act will streamline that process. There has been a significant increase in the number of people who have been given leave to remain. The process is moving much faster than heretofore and more people are moving into our communities. The system was set up in 2000. The Government of the day was caught in a situation it did not expect. Thousands of people were seeking refuge in this country. Direct provision was seen as a temporary little arrangement but unfortunately it has become too permanent for too many people.

I had the privilege as a guest of the Irish Refugee Council of visiting the direct provision system in Portugal which was most impressive. Nobody was left in direct provision or had an application delayed longer than six months. In Portugal six months was seen as the upper limit. The applications were dealt with in weeks in many cases but certainly within two to three months. If the process went on for six months it was seen as a failure. The direct provision centres provided education, access to employment and sporting activities. It was the premiership of direct provision centres. We need as a nation to have a conversation with ourselves and to ask if we need a direct provision system. My contention is that we do not.

The amendment proposes that we put Senator Norris’s excellent Bill on hold for 18 months. I know the Minister of State having worked with him for five years, and he is very committed to equality and to ensuring that everybody has equal opportunity. He is uncomfortable with the direct provision system. Eighteen months is a reasonable period to allow the Minister of State and his officials build on the progress made as a result of the McMahon recommendations, to give him the opportunity to implement more of them, allow him to commence the International Protection Act 2015 and have the breathing space that he and the Government need to move this issue on significantly.

It is only proper that the House would acknowledge that since July 2014 - not before that because precious little was achieved before then - a number of important developments have taken place, as I outlined, and we are seeing a significant improvement in this most embarrassing situation. It is not just embarrassing for us as a people but also embarrassing for us internationally given the hospitality and welcome our forefathers have received over the years. In the spirit of unity and collegiality that this House is known for, I urge that we give the Minister of State the opportunity to make his mark in resolving the issue. This is in no way disrespectful to Senator Norris's Bill because I know the motivation behind it and the commitment to human rights he has shown through his role in Seanad Éireann and in taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights as far back as the late 1980s.

The direct provision system currently in place for asylum seekers was established in 2000. When established, it was envisaged that applicants would spend a maximum of six months in direct provision while their applications were being processed. The past 16 years have shown that has not happened and currently there are approximately 2,500 people in direct provision for four years or more. Some of them have been there for up to nine years living in limbo and inhumane conditions in direct provision centres which are not fit for purpose. It is clear the situation is completely unacceptable and unforgivable. Over time, people in direct provision become institutionalised and their mental health is impacted severely. Our system of application and assessment has failed those people and we cannot stand over the failure any longer.

Direct provision is perhaps the most important human rights issue of our generation. I commend Senator Norris and the other Senators involved on bringing this Bill before the House today. Fianna Fáil supported the Bill when it was first before the House in 2014. What is being sought is no more than what has been sought for Irish citizens living in undocumented limbo in the United States.

We fully support the report of the working group chaired by Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon and the recommendations of the group contained therein. A huge amount of time, effort, energy and resources went into the report. Mr. Justice McMahon is a person of impeccable credentials in this area and worked with numerous stakeholders such as NGOs, Tusla and the Department of Justice and Equality to produce the report. A total of 173 unanimous recommendations were made. I am informed by the Minister that 91 recommendations have been implemented, 49 are partially implemented and the remaining 33 are under consideration. I am also informed by people involved in the sector that the softer recommendations around personal privacy in direct provision centres have been implemented but the more meaty recommendations have not.

The wording of the Government amendment makes no mention of any recommendation of the working group being under consideration but merely states that time is being sought to provide for the completion of the implementation of the recommendations of the working group. Therefore, I can only assume that the recommendations can be taken as completely accepted by the Government and I call on the Minister to implement them immediately.

The main recommendations of the McMahon report centre on giving a status called “leave to remain” to those who have been in the asylum system for more than five years if that does not breach three criteria in relation to criminal activity, threat to national security and public policy considerations. Leave to remain is less than refugee status in that family reunification is not guaranteed automatically, as is the case when refugee status is granted.

Deportation orders have issued against many people in direct provision but they have not been acted upon for a significant period. We do not have diplomatic relations with countries such as Iran, Iraq and Russia and therefore we cannot effect deportation orders in relation to people from those countries. This results in people being left in a horrible limbo with no real prospect of their situation ever being remedied. I am told that on humanitarian grounds many families in direct provision are eventually granted leave to remain but young, single men are not being afforded the same status and the McMahon recommendations would bridge that gap.

The International Protection Act 2015 was signed into law by President Higgins at the end of December 2015 after the Council of State decided not to refer it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. The Act ends the bifurcated system of applying for asylum and subsidiary protection separately and allows for a single application procedure. That brings us into line with international practice and would allow for a speedy, straightforward method of processing applications. It is clear that would significantly cut down on the amount of time new entrants into the system spend in direct provision and would also cut down on the scope for judicial review at the various stages.

The new single application process was supposed to come into effect from July 2016 onwards, but having spoken to legal practitioners in this area there does not seem to be any sign of that happening any time soon. New applications lodged in recent weeks have gone into the old system. I call on the Minister to commence the Act without further delay and to allocate sufficient resources to allow the new process to work without significant delays in the system.

While the sentiments of the Bill before us today very much find an empathetic home within the Fianna Fáil group we are mindful of the new uncertainty in which we find ourselves following the historic referendum in the UK last week. We are also mindful of the fact that we had a long period between the election of the Dáil and the formation of the Government. Therefore, in the spirit of the new political reality in which we find ourselves, and the new spirit of co-operation, we are willing to give the Government the time and space it seeks and to vote in support of its amendment.

However, I put the Minister of State on notice that I will raise these matters again in the autumn as a Commencement Matter and should significant progress not have been made in terms of the ending of the bifurcated system via the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015 and the full implementation of the recommendations of the McMahon group, our support for the Government’s position, should this Bill come before the House again, cannot be guaranteed.

Ireland is not and has never been closed to immigrants. How could that be the case with our history? Just over 1,500 vulnerable persons from 27 different countries have resettled in 22 different communities throughout the country, as at December 2015. While the Bill before us today is clearly well intentioned and motivated by concerns we all share for those genuine applicants impacted by such lengthy delays in a decision being made on their status, I am afraid it does not go far enough to address all aspects of concern.

Instead of the Bill helping to improve the system, it would be an open door for potential abuse on a massive scale, which could have very costly and negative impacts on a large variety of public and social services, which are still reeling from almost a decade of pain.

The cause of the delays in the system are twofold; one is the multi-layered system, and the other is caused by applicants themselves, who for their own personal benefit delay the process for as long as possible, thus creating major stresses and strains on all systems and services. No one disputes that our multi-layered system needs to be simplified into a single application procedure, just as in every other European Union member state and in the Statement of Government Priorities 2014–2016. The Government has already committed to introducing a protection Bill to establish a single application procedure, together with an independent working group to report on improvements with the protection process.

Let us face it - Ireland cannot and should not be an easy touch for all to exploit because of our generous and giving nature. Our citizens have suffered serious cuts in recent years in social protection services. The Department has also worked diligently to seek out and reduce fraudulent claims. The Bill would have the potential for any and all to jump on board and to make false claims, thus further impacting on services and affecting those who genuinely are in distress and seeking assistance.

Do we really need to scrutinise each Department to see the possible further negative, knock-on effects this Bill would create in, for example, housing, health and education? Need I say more?

No, you need not.

Genuine assistance for those who genuinely require it is only right, but for those willing to take advantage of the system that would be put in place if this Bill were to proceed, without being effectively scrutinised, it is absolutely wrong. It is not only our job to protect those who need it most, it is our moral duty.

Immigration has an impact on every society, including both the host country and the home country. Provided the correct structures and supports are in place, the positive impact on the host country can be greatly enhanced as we can see from the increasing diversity of Ireland’s population over the last number of years. The cross-departmental group of 15 Departments and other organisations working together to review and produce an updated overall integration strategy is a positive step in the right direction to find solutions to the challenges facing immigrants and communities alike.

The Government has shown its commitment to tackling this area. It is only right that the required time be allocated to finishing all reports before proceeding. Following the fallout of Britain leaving the EU we are now in uncharted waters, and a quick fix solution to this single area of the overall problem, which the Government is already addressing, would be not only reckless but also disastrous. Cautious, steady, positive progress is what has been taking place, and in the long term I believe that those who are entitled to it will benefit from this due process.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáít agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis as ucht a cheapacháin. Guím gach rath air sa ról nua mar tá a fhios agam go raibh sé an-ghlórach ar na ceisteanna seo san am a chuaigh roimhe.

I congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment. I have been studying this issue for a number of years and I am very interested in it.

I should have paid tribute to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I apologise for not doing so.

I apologise for not being present for the start of the debate, but I was watching it elsewhere.

This is a very serious human rights issue in our country. I wish to pay tribute to Sue Conlon, the outgoing chief executive officer, CEO, of the Irish Refugee Council who has been an outstanding advocate on behalf of asylum seekers over the last number of years.

Hers will be a hard act to follow. I welcome the Bill as an attempt to highlight and focus discussions on the delay within the asylum procedure and to clear some of the backlog of applications before a proposed new single protection procedure comes into force. It is unacceptable that people who are waiting for a decision on their protection needs for up to four years are left languishing in direct provision during that time. While supportive of the objective and good intention of the Bill, I and a number of non-governmental organisations, NGOs, have stated that we have concerns about its content as it is currently drafted. I will address those concerns.

First, the use of the term "regularisation" in the Title and content of the Bill indicates that there must have been a period of irregularity. People who have outstanding applications for either refugee status or subsidiary protection do not have an irregular status. Instead, they are awaiting a decision on applications made under Irish law, in compliance with EU or international obligations, and have a temporary right or permission to remain pending the outcome of that decision. In addition, notwithstanding that applications for leave to remain follow a notice from the Minister for Justice and Equality that she is considering deportation, until that application has been determined, refused and followed by a deportation order, it is inaccurate to say that a person is in the country irregularly. Similarly, there is a reference in the explanatory memorandum to 50,000 Irish immigrants in the United States with an irregular status. That term is bandied around by others. It is confusing, as they are not in a comparable situation to persons awaiting decisions in Ireland in the direct provision system. The content of the Bill should be reviewed in this light and an alternative wording, such as "resolution of residency status" could be considered.

That is absolutely no problem.

With regard to legal assistance, as the Bill proposes automatic recognition of residency status under section 6, it is vital that applicants receive legal assistance and advice in advance of applying for this residency status. People with outstanding applications for a form of international protection are entitled to a decision on that application. There are defined entitlements that flow from refugee status and subsidiary protection being granted. For example, refugee status is an internationally recognised status under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and a catalogue of rights attaches to this status under our international obligations as a state party to that convention. The primacy of the 1951 convention, including the rights of refugees, should not be undermined and-or circumvented by states providing alternative forms of status with lesser rights.

Notwithstanding that a person will not be required to secure residency under the Bill, if enacted, there is evidence that people who have opted for leave to remain, when offered it under an ad hoc scheme operated by the Department of Justice and Equality previously, have not fully understood the implications of doing so and have been left unable to pursue family reunification applications, for example, which has long-term consequences for the person concerned. It is noted that family reunification is not provided for under the alternative status in the proposed Bill.

Similarly, although section 7(2)(b) enables people with this status to enjoy the same rights of travel within, to or from the State as those to which Irish citizens are entitled, the travel document referred to is unclear, while travel documents under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees are, for the most part, internationally recognised. This may have long-term implications for the person's ability to travel outside the State. It is therefore vital that persons are equipped with the knowledge required to make an informed decision as to whether to apply for this status. This should be provided by way of independent, quality legal advice and the provision of clear, accessible information on the rights and entitlements of this status compared with the protection statuses. Section 6 should be amended accordingly.

I am open to the Bill being amended.

I am glad to hear it. With regard to the exclusion grounds, the Bill automatically excludes people who should have an opportunity to be considered. These include, but are not limited to, an immediate family member of the applicant who is subject to a deportation order. Such exclusion could potentially lead to the anomalous situation of a family being separated within Ireland or between countries and could potentially breach their right to family life. A provision should be included to enable a review of the applicable groups in order to extend them, without restricting the categories of persons already outlined in the Bill.

The Bill gives powers to the Minister to revoke a residence permit issued in accordance with the Bill, if enacted, and to make a deportation order. A number of NGOs are concerned that the circumstances in which the permit can be revoked and a deportation order issued are too wide under the Bill. There is also no right of appeal against revocation and the issue of a deportation order. For example, revocation followed by a deportation order can occur when there has been falsified or concealed information in an application made under section 6, in an application for asylum, an application for subsidiary protection or an application for leave to remain. This appears to apply regardless of whether that information is material which is decisive to the granting of the residency and without any regard to circumstances in which that may occur, particularly for people who have fled, or fear return to, persecution or serious harm. The terms of procedural rights under a revocation procedure guidance could be taken from the revocation provision under the International Protection Act 2015, which enables the applicant to provide representations in writing in advance of the issuing of a revocation order and enables the Circuit Court to examine an appeal.

They are my points on the Bill before us. However, I also have concerns about the Government's approach in its amendment. I have been very critical of the implementation of the working group report. The working group was hampered in its approach and in what it could examine. I note that Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon recently stated that he has concerns about the implementation of the working group's recommendations and the length of time it is taking to implement them. A number is being thrown about for the number of measures that have been implemented from the working group's report but many of the NGOs in this area and people in the system tell me that the big ticket items have simply been dodged, particularly the right to work and the right to education. That must be addressed. It is pointless to say we will sign up to certain EU directives, but not all of them. That is a concern.

Many of the working group's recommendations that have been implemented are somewhat linked to the International Protection Act, which has not commenced, but some, such as the right to work, have not been implemented.

It is unclear whether these will be implemented in the future. The recommendation in the working group report was to ensure access to the labour market for first-time applicants awaiting a first instance decision. I could go on all night about this.

It is very interesting.

I would welcome a further debate on Committee Stage on all of these issues. I state once more that I believe direct provision is a national disgrace.

It is an institutionalised form of abuse and it needs to be scrapped forthwith. The privatised nature of it and the way people's human rights are being degraded is absolutely unacceptable. I call for a specific debate on scrapping direct provision at a later date.

I commend Senator David Norris on tabling the Bill, the general intention of which I support, and I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, on his appointment. The stated purpose of the Bill is to provide for the regularisation of residency status of persons who have applied for refugee status and-or subsidiary protection and-or leave to remain if, four years following the submission of such application, the application remains undetermined. In light of the outcome of Brexit and in light of the Bill itself, I support the Government's amendment to defer discussion of Second Stage of this Bill for 18 months.

I second the amendment.

The Senator can second it. I have no problem with that.

It does not need to be seconded.

As Senator Conway has said, we need to take time to consider the possible implications. It is a bit distracting when the person behind one is laughing when one is speaking.

Laughter is terribly good for one. I was laughing silently.

The timeframe will ensure changes are not implemented that would impact the continuation of the common travel area. This would ensure that Ireland's negotiation position with the UK on the common travel area is not compromised in upcoming negotiations. Given Ireland's commitment in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum at the European Council, deferral of this Bill will ensure that our negotiation position with the EU on retaining the common travel area is not weakened in the context of the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

It will allow for the commencement of the International Protection Act. The Act replaces the time-consuming multi-layered sequential applications system with a new single applications procedure, in compliance with international standards. The Act is designed to address the issue of the length of time people spend in the protection system and to deliver determinations of applications within a shorter timeframe. It will provide sufficient time for the full implementation of the recommendations of the working group report to the Government on improvements to the direct provision process, including direct provision and other measures which are the subject of the Bill.

The deferral of the Bill will allow time to consider in detail any unconstitutional discrimination resulting from the different treatment of categories of applicants prescribed by the Bill which would have to be justified by objectively sustainable and not arbitrary reasons in order to be constitutionally compliant.

Despite the merits of the Bill and the clear intention, which is to be commended, it could perhaps have potential negative or unintended consequences. It does not take into account the significant reforms included in the International Protection Act 2015 resulting from the implementation of the recommendations of the working group on the protection process. The Bill essentially amounts to a standing amnesty for those who would seek to make false protection claims in the knowledge that if they can hold out for four years, they will gain residence status. This is a potential pull factor for false protection claims and for irregular migration, not least that it also confers potential benefits in respect of family members. In some cases, these exceed that available to persons who use legal migration channels. An increase in false protection claims will also delay the processing of genuine protection applications.

The Bill actively incentivises the evasion of deportation orders. Fundamentally, the Bill fails to appreciate the distinction between the delays arising from the construct of the protection system itself and those generated by the actions of the foreign nationals, including judicial reviews.

I commend the amendment.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House and Senator Norris for tabling this important Bill. When I returned here from being an emigrant in America in 2004, it was to a context in which racism was rising. We had seen the introduction of the direct provision system as a very negative response to what was in the global sphere a negligible increase in the number of refugees and migrants and we were told that it was a temporary arrangement. Even at the time, it was clearly a dangerous and badly thought through arrangement. We had to produce information leaflets on myths and facts about refugees and asylum seekers as the divisions between communities and asylum seekers and refugees grew as they were warehoused into the direct provision system. Since then the system has remained largely stationary, even to the point where the €19.10, the desultory payment made to those trying to maintain individual dignity, has remained unchanged, even in the last Social Welfare Act and the publication of the McMahon report.

I recognise and welcome the McMahon report, which is important. While I would like to see the dismantling of the direct provision system as I believe it is a dangerous system that builds division within society, I welcome the recommitment from the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, in terms of implementation of the McMahon report. There are areas on which I believe the McMahon report fell short, particularly around the protection and guarding of rights of women and full due process in regard to that. That is an issue we would have critiqued. Nonetheless, while the McMahon report moves ahead, the kernel of the problem, as identified by colleagues in Fine Gael, is still the long waiting time. There are still 3,500 people within the system. There are families within the system. There are children who have spent their whole school-going lives in a direct provision system, a system which is unsafe. As has been acknowledged by both sides of the House, we may be vulnerable to future claims of redress and recrimination as we have placed people in institutionally unacceptable situations. Nonetheless, the 3,500 cases have been moving forward.

This modest and reasonable Bill simply puts into effect the idea that we would move forward towards a reasonable timeline of four years to process claims. We must bear in mind that this Bill would only take effect for those whose claims have not been processed in due time of four years and that we were told originally that the direct provision system would last for six months. That is a stated goal.

I support the Bill but I recognise the concerns expressed by the Irish Refugee Council and others in regard to the use of the term "regularisation", the need for legal assistance, the need for a wider recognition of family rights and reunification rights and, of course, the question of revocation. These can all be dealt with on Committee Stage. I recognise that it would be a small and symbolic step we could take, recognising the concern expressed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. Surely, we must be aware of the dangers of racism and intolerance.

I recognise those in our society who have reached out to those in the asylum system to create meals together and to bring dignity to the experience.

I also recognise that the depression rate among people within the asylum system is 90%. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, in its annual report, names it as an issue. The report includes a quote from somebody living in a centre. The person referred to it as "the dehumanising experience which eats away at my dignity".

I would like to focus my main remarks on not only encouraging Members to support the Bill moving to Committee Stage, where we can improve, temper and enhance it, but also to strongly oppose the Government's amendment. It is unusual for a Government amendment to be brought forward on Second Stage and it is something we should note with concern. It would be interesting if it would address the reason the very particular and usual circumstances in which this decision be taken. I note that we have heard of times of uncertainty. We are at times of extreme uncertainty. What we need now is certainty in our asylum system.

If we are to negotiate with the UK around the common travel area, what we need is a system that is objectively fair and transparent and properly applied, which we can stand over.

Not only do I reject the amendment, I also reject arguments to the effect that we should suspend fair systems within our asylum, refugee and immigration system in order to facilitate negotiation in respect of a common travel area. Are we to chase the narrative on immigration that we have heard in the UK? Unfortunately, that is what some of the testimony we have heard today seems to suggest. Will we will adopt a weak position and talk about a common travel area without a clear strategy of our own? Will we leave ourselves vulnerable to chasing the narrative around the phrasing which we heard during the citizenship referendum campaign here in 2004, which led to an increase in racist incidents of the sort that are happening again in the UK? We are giving space to the narrative about pressure on our system and services to take root if we fail to move forward and provide an 18-month suspension. Will we then see headlines in the newspapers for 18 months?

Moreover, the legal arguments are inaccurate. The Government suggests, in paragraphs (ii) and (v), that there is some problem with the case-by-case criteria. It is absolutely clear in this Bill that while the period of four years is necessary, it is not sufficient in itself to acquire status. Nonetheless criteria are still applied and the case-by-case criteria still apply. In terms of Article 40.1, which I presume is the constitutional reference made in paragraph (v), equal treatment before the law, the law has a long-established practice of setting timelines. As stated, however, the case-by-case criteria apply. I contend that if we agree to this Government amendment, we are not only agreeing to a suspension for 18 months, and pandering to potentially dangerous narratives, but we are also accepting flawed legal arguments in paragraphs (ii) and (v).

I welcome the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015, which, I believe, can be done in a timely fashion. If the Bill before us is enacted, I hope the International Protection Act 2015 will be in place. The preamble to the Bill acknowledges its expectation that it would complement rather than supersede the International Protection Act 2015. The implementation of the working group’s report should proceed apace and is in no way inhibited by this. I strongly urge all in the House, including my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, who in their consciences are aware that they supported this Bill in the past, to please support it now. It is more urgent and necessary than ever before and no strong or acceptable legal argument has been put forward for the delay.

I agree with my colleague, Senator Higgins. Ireland is known around the world for its generosity, compassion and humanity. We do not have to look too far to see all the great work done by Irish overseas agencies. The conditions in direct provision where we keep people are shocking. It is a disgrace. It is not right that people are kept in such conditions. Some county councillors, who are also concerned about this issue, have described direct provision as the modern Magdalen laundries. It is imperative that when people come to Ireland we treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. We need to improve the standards in which they are kept but also reduce the time it takes to process asylum seekers.

I welcome this Immigration (Reform) (Registration of Residency Status) Bill 2016 and acknowledge the good work of Senator Norris and the working group on direct provision, chaired by Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon. We need to ensure that Ireland complies with international human rights standards and continually review our work in this area. We need to ensure that when dealing with the vulnerable in our society and those who seek safety in our country we treat them with compassion, empathy and above all respect.

I welcome the Minister of State. I am genuinely delighted by his appointment. I also welcome the officials from the Department with whom I worked.

One of the reasons I changed my mind about the validity of this Chamber - which Senator Norris will be delighted to hear - relates to the issue of direct provision. When I was Minister of State, it was the collective will of the people in this Chamber that something should be done about the issue. I was greatly impressed by the campaigning zeal of Senators across the Chamber to ensure that something practical could be done. In fairness to the Houses of the Oireachtas, unlike other parliaments in Europe, when legislation such as the International Protection Bill 2015 and other issues relating to direct provision are brought before the Houses for discussion, the amendments and questions put down in this Chamber and in the Dáil are always on the humanitarian side, never on the conservative side. In the case of the legislation to which I refer, an amendment to try to restrict access or play the race card was never tabled. We should take comfort from that without being complacent about it. There is a collective will in the Houses, across all parties, to do the right thing, which is to be commended.

The International Protection Act 2015 envisages that any new applicant for asylum in Ireland would be dealt with in a speedy manner - within six to nine months - through a single procedure mechanism in order to ensure that we do not have people in our asylum system for years on end. Much has been done recently to deal with direct provision. Many have been moved out of the system. There was a logjam and people were not able to get out - even when they had leave to remain in the country - to access housing and other services.

I was genuinely horrified when I read the programme for Government. When I read the draft programme, I was delighted to see a commitment to implement the working group report. Many people think the report does not go far enough. It does not end direct provision. I do not believe we can end direct provision because when we go beyond the one line hashtag of "#end direct provision" and dig deeper into the situation, we have to remind ourselves of what happened 15 years ago when direct provision was initiated because asylum seekers here were effectively homeless and without services. Direct provision was created as a short-term measure but, as happens sometimes in Irish public policy, a short-term measure became a long-term reality. The system that was envisioned as lasting for six months remained in place for ten and then 12 years. Children are growing up in this system. I visited 13 of these centres - some better than others - across Ireland. I could envisage myself spending time in some, in others I would not spend a night. There is one in Waterford that particularly sticks in my mind and we are overseeing this.

We should have a system that has excellent facilities, with proper oversight, with food preparation that is culturally sensitive, where children can play and people have community links and stay for a maximum of six months. The working group report contained the same vision. The Minister of State’s officials signed off on it. The reason I was horrified was that the non-governmental organisations, NGOs, which engaged in that process took a risk to come inside the door to work with officials and sign off on proposals that could be implemented. They were implementable because the officials signed off on them, from a right to work, to food, to education, to health care, etc. One NGO walked away. The rest stayed in the system and with the process and signed off on the report in order to try to have it implemented. The draft programme for Government stated that it would be implemented but in the actual programme, that line was deleted. Somebody said this line about implementing the report - which Department officials had stood over and which NGOs had taken a great risk to be involved in to protect possibly the most vulnerable children in the State - had to be deleted. I would love to know who said that. It was not the Minister of State because this predated his appointment. Somebody in the political system or the Department decided this report could not be implemented in full. I want to know why because everybody took a risk. Why would any decent NGO trying to make a difference by working with the system engage with the Department of Justice and Equality again?

Why, if another working group was set up to deal with any issue, would an NGO come inside the tent, take a risk and do the hard work - in some cases for nine months - to then sign off on a report for a Government which produces a programme for Government that initially states it will implement the report but then deletes the line? Somebody went out of his or her way to delete that line.

I am horrified that somebody did that. If the Government does not want to implement it, it should say why. People took great risks. Some people in the Chamber were not happy with the report and did not feel it went far enough, but it is something about which I feel very strongly.

I walked into the centres, and could smell the desperation and see people who were genuinely broken and were looking to public policy makers to make a difference. A document was then produced, which was greatly maligned in some quarters but had a chance to change lives, and somebody somewhere decided the line had to go.

I am not in any way questioning the bona fides of the Minister of State. The Labour Party is happy to support the Bill. However, the working group report has to be the only game in town. The commitment of the Minister of State to that would be greatly appreciated.

I thank Senators across the House for the welcome. I recognise the passion, zeal and research that have gone into this debate. It has been a very good debate so far. I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House and respond on behalf of the Government to the Bill. Unfortunately, due to other commitments the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality could not be here today, and she sends her apologies.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his amendment, which will ensure that there will be no wide-ranging unintended consequences and allow time for due consideration to be given to the important matters the Bill seeks to address. Senator Clifford-Lee made the point that there was a lacuna between the time of the election and when the Government was formed, and that is noted. I have been four weeks in the job and have visited about eight reception centres so far to meet the people living in them and hear what they have to say. I have also met people in their homes who have been granted refugee status and have left reception centres to see how they are getting on. I want to continue doing that. I intend to do my best to visit all reception centres in the foreseeable future.

At the outset, I want to thank Senator Norris for outlining the objective of the Bill and the rationale for reintroducing it at this time. It seeks to address the position of persons who entered the State's international protection system and who, after four years, are awaiting a final decision on the request to remain in the State. This Bill was previously discussed, as Senators pointed out, in 2014. In line with the commitments given during that debate, I can report significant developments on the matters raised in the Bill. Some of these have been substantially addressed in the intervening years and have significantly altered the context in which the Bill will operate today.

Before I get into the specifics of the Bill, I want to set out for the House the context of the amendment that seeks to allow the necessary time to carefully consider the wider impact of any legal changes and its impact on the evolving scenario between Ireland and the UK arising from the decision of the UK to leave the European Union. In an ever-changing scenario, it is vital that there are no serious unintended consequences arising from the reintroduction of the unchanged Bill at this time.

We intend to carefully examine the provisions as set out by the Leader to ensure that, in accordance with national policy, changes are not implemented that would impact on the continuation of the common travel area, thus ensuring that Ireland's negotiating position with the UK on the common travel area is not compromised in upcoming negotiations following the outcome of its referendum on leaving the European Union. A similar situation arises in regard to any negotiations with the European Union on the future of the common travel area.

In public policy terms, it is of the most profound national importance that we do not create wider differences for the future of the common travel area that could have far-reaching implications. As we know the situation is very new; the decision was only made last week. Everyone is still wrestling with the implications. As someone said, we are dealing with unknown unknowns.

It was Donald Rumsfeld, I believe.

In this regard, Senators should be aware that in agreeing the European impact on immigration and asylum at the European Council in October 2008, member states made specific commitments to use only case-by-case regularisation, rather than generalised regularisation, under national law for humanitarian or economic reasons. The political commitment among member states then and now is clearly against any formal process that would in any way legitimise the status of persons present in the State without first examining the merits of individual cases. To do anything that would weaken our position in the EU in any upcoming negotiations must be avoided.

As Senators will know, the situation that prompted this Bill is one that the Government is very alive to, as reflected in our responses to date to address the delays in the protection system raised in 2014. There is no doubt that it was taking far too long for applicants to work their way through the protection system in Ireland and for a final determination to be reached on their applications. However, this is a complex area of law and administration and there can be many reasons for the delays that arise as we balance the efficiency of the system with the rights of individual applicants to seek recourse by appeal or through the courts.

Since Deputy Frances Fitzgerald became Minister for Justice and Equality, a number of radical actions have been taken to address the difficulties that have arisen in this area over the years. Therefore it would be helpful to the debate if I first set out what has been achieved since 2014 and the plans for the future. At the time this Bill was first introduced in 2014, approximately 3,700 persons with asylum or subsidiary protection applications had decisions pending. In terms of the number of people who it is intended to bring within the ambit of the Bill, in 2014, 48% of those persons were in the system for four years or more. Following a concerted effort by the Department in the intervening period, I am pleased to confirm to the House that this number has been very substantially reduced by a minimum of two thirds and the process is ongoing to address the remainder.

Under current law, there is a very cumbersome process for investigating such applications. The current system is multi-layered and sequential. It requires that the investigation and decision relating to the refugee application, including any appeal that may be taken in that regard, be completed first. Only then may a person who is refused refugee protection have his or her application for subsidiary protection investigated and decided upon, and appealed thereafter in the event of a negative decision. A person who is refused international protection is then liable to deportation from the State. However, as part of that process, such persons may seek permission to remain in the State under immigration law.

Senators recognised that the system was unwieldy and also the need for a simpler and more streamlined and efficient procedure by passing the International Protection Act last December which allows for a new single application process. This will replace the current system where each stage of an application is decided, and if a negative decision issues it can be appealed in a sequential time-consuming process. Overlaying all of what I have just described is the opportunity for applicants for international protection to seek leave from the High Court to judicially review each stage of the process; that is, every decision made on their application, as they make their way through the process.

While recognising the entitlement of everyone to seek redress from the courts, in very many instances the delay in finalising cases is often due to applicants challenging negative decisions by initiating judicial reviews at various stages of the process simply in order to delay the date of arrival at a final decision in their case and their departure from the State. The initiation of judicial review proceedings on any one decision can add some years to the time it takes to reach a decision in respect of that application and each stage of it. In 2014 it was estimated that approximately 2,000 applications could not be finalised because of such legal challenges. This has now been reduced to 337 current judicial reviews, with only 19 at first instance, against the Department. I am sure Senators will agree this is real and significant progress.

We all agreed in 2014 that there was a need for an efficient and resourced single application procedure. The shared acknowledgement for the existing arrangements to be changed was reflected in the introduction of a single application procedure contained in the International Protection Act 2015 which was passed by both Houses last December. The implementation of this radical reform of the complex applications process is already being actively prepared in the Department and I am confident that the Minister for Justice and Equality will be in a position to commence this Act before the end of the year. This is the approach adopted in every other European Union member state.

In addition, the Government established an independent working group to report to it on improvements to the protection process, including direct provision and other supports for asylum seekers. The working group concentrated on the length of time persons spend in the protection applications system, the non-execution of deportation orders and the impacts that court proceedings have on the finalisation of decisions. These matters were discussed in great detail by the expert group, and an effective way forward was found and has been delivered. This did not involve an amnesty as proposed by this Bill.

Before going any further and for the avoidance of doubt, Ireland is not closed to or seeking to put bureaucratic barriers in the way of immigrants or protection applicants.

More than 123,000 immigrants have been granted Irish citizenship since 2000 and 117 citizenship ceremonies have been held since 2011. I am sure Senators who have been to those ceremonies have been moved by the events, by the dignity with which people were treated and the delight felt by applicants. If any Senators have not been to one such event, I urge them to attend the next one that comes up. They are a huge improvement on what went before.

Turning to the Bill before us today, while it is well intentioned and motivated by a deep concern, which I share, over the length of time people spend in the protection system, it has been superseded by the radical initiatives undertaken by the Department since our original discussion here in 2014. Therefore, in this new and changed context, we must take time to examine the wider impacts of the Bill as outlined as it could have serious negative consequences for the State.

While agreeing with and acting on the length of time issue which has been raised, as the House was informed in 2014, the core concern is that the Bill essentially amounts to a standing amnesty for those who would seek to make false protection claims in the knowledge that if they can hold out for four years, they will gain residence status. This is a potential magnet for false protection claims and irregular migration, putting further pressure on existing resources, not least in that it also confers potential benefits in respect of family members. Senators should be aware that in some cases outlined in the provisions before us, these exceed those available to persons who use legal migration channels. False protection claims, and any signals that would encourage them, also delay the efficient processing of genuine protection applications.

The Bill also actively incentivises the evasion of deportation orders. Fundamentally, the Bill fails to appreciate the distinction between the delays arising from the construct of the protection system, itself addressed by recent reforms, and those generated by the actions of the foreign national, including for example judicial reviews. A similar situation arises in respect of deportation orders where the individual is obliged to remove themselves from the State.

This Bill would alter that core obligation of the law, encourage delay and break down the system. It would ensure that failing to comply with a deportation order would be rewarded by an automatic grant of permission to remain. Such a system would completely undermine Ireland's ability to enforce deportation orders, which would be a further pull factor and incentive for unfounded applications to be made. The State is currently in the courts defending a decision to deport a senior ISIS member who has been identified as the foremost recruiter and facilitator of travel to contact zones for ISIS in this State. He would have benefitted automatically had the Senators’ Bill become law in 2014.

I do not think so.

The application of the proposed regularisation framework to persons seeking international protection, as compared with persons whose presence in the State is irregular, is considered to be inappropriate. Persons seeking international protection status are not irregularly present in the State as such persons are legally present until such time as their protection application is finalised, at which point their temporary permission to reside in the State ceases to be valid. The State has a legal obligation under national and EU law to properly and fairly investigate all protection applications made in this jurisdiction. Applications must be examined individually and decisions must be based on the specific merits of each case. It must also be emphasised that broad regularisation programmes are problematic, in particular as they could give rise to unpredictable and potentially very costly impacts across the full range of public and social services.

The Senator's Bill wishes to replace the existing executive discretion for those with assessed and failed protection applications and to allow them to be subject to a fair individual assessment of their humanitarian needs. I do not believe that automaticity is a higher standard than fair humanitarian consideration on a case-by-case basis.

The new single application procedure and the continued examination by an international protection officer, as underpinned by the International Protection Act in a system supported by UNHCR standards, is considered the way forward. It is the effective functioning of that new system that will reassure our UK and EU counterparts in the negotiations ahead and not a standing amnesty as this Bill proposes.

Without going into the detail, the Bill needs to be examined to ensure that it does not give rise to a number of significant questions including: the lack of clarity therein in regard to what happens to extant protection applications in circumstances where the applicant stands to gain the automatic residency provided for in section 6; the automaticity with which residence must be granted without any prior consideration of exclusion grounds of the type set out in section 8 - at a minimum, national security and criminal background checks would have to be considered; and the potential legal difficulty arising from section 5 which would require the revocation of deportation orders lawfully made, thus calling into question the basis on which the order was made in the first place.

Accordingly, and for reasons related to the substantial change in context which I have already set out, the Government has tabled an amendment to reflect the consideration needed before the House passes such a Bill. Our key concerns to be examined are summarised as follows: in light of Ireland's commitments in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum at the European Council where there is a specific commitment "to use only case-by-case regularisation, rather than generalised regularisation under national law, for humanitarian or economic reasons", to ensure that our negotiation position with the EU on retaining the common travel area is not weakened in the context of the UK's decision to leave the European Union; to allow for the commencement of the International Protection Act which replaces the time-consuming, multi-layered sequential applications system with a new single applications procedure in compliance with international standards, designed to address the issue of the length of time people spend in the protection system and to deliver determinations of applications within a shorter timeframe; to provide for the completion of the implementation of the recommendations of the working group report to the Government on improvements to the protection process, including direct provision and other supports, which already addresses the position of international protection applicants who are the subject of this Bill; and in order to consider in detail any discrimination resulting from the different treatment of categories of applicants prescribed by the Bill which would have to be justified by objectively sustainable, and not arbitrary, reasons in order to be constitutionally compliant.

Such a careful consideration can only result in better law. I hope that the Senators will acknowledge the significant efforts made by the Government to address long-standing and difficult issues in regard to Ireland's protection system since this Bill was first tabled in 2014. The radical actions taken to address the length of time involved have had a hugely positive impact on those people whose interests are addressed in this Bill. The original context in which this Bill was introduced is no longer the case, as our actions have ensured the length of time landscape has been radically changed.

I have outlined the key policy concerns, particularly in regard to the upcoming negotiations on the common travel area and why it is essential that the House agrees to the amendment to defer deliberation on this Bill at this time. In addition, the deferral allowed time for the commencement of the single protection procedure and to continue the ongoing process of the case-by-case determination of those longest in the system.

The International Protection Act is only now coming into force and we have to give it time. It is a very good Act and will shorten the timescale considerably but I appeal to Senators to give it time. If people spend less time in the system and decisions are made quickly, a lot of the other issues raised by the Senators automatically fall. If people spend less time in the system, the right to work comes much sooner. Some schemes at third level have now been introduced and NUI Galway brought in some of them last week. There is a recognition across the country that there is a need to support people who have been granted status here.

We are not voting against this Bill but putting it in abeyance and Senator Clifford-Lee is right to hold me responsible for making it happen. We are parking it for a while to give the Act a chance to work and to bring about some of the things in this area which my predecessor, Senator Ó Ríordáin, was instrumental in starting and for which I pay tribute to him. I wish to make it clear that during this period, the House can be assured that the Government intends to proceed with its planned course of action on the implementation of the new single applications procedure and to maintain our commitment to implementing the remaining recommendations of the working group on the improvements that can be made to the current protection system. I am committed to doing all I can to make sure those recommendations are implemented. I have been to the centres to see for myself what is going on so I urge Senators to support the amendment, taking into account the major policy implications for the operation of the common travel area and in the best interests of our protection process in a time of great reform and change. It was only last week that the UK vote occurred so we have to be very careful.

The Bill does not actually refer to direct provision.

Senator Ó Ríordáin referred to the programme for Government. I am not sure why it was removed from the draft but many reports are not mentioned in the programme for Government. However, as the Senator knows, the implementation is under way and I am committed to that. There are approximately 4,270 people in direct provision today. I do not know the source for the figure of 3,500 being there for four years which Members have mentioned. The vast majority of the 4,270 have been in direct provision for less than three years. The landscape has changed radically since 2014 when the Bill was first introduced - Senators should acknowledge that - and 80% of the McMahon report has been, or is being, implemented. The Tánaiste is committed to implementing the rest. We are not resting on our laurels on this but working hard to implement it. Some of it quite challenging, as Senators will appreciate.

The McMahon group report did not recommend an amnesty, as the Bill does. Huge numbers of people have been granted status under the expedited process. Work is ongoing and the reform of direct provision is a priority. The other side of this is the issue of integration, which is very important. There is the granting of status side and the integration side, which is crucial. I am reminded of the huge swell of support we had for the Special Olympics because I have been contacted by communities across the country who are anxious to support and help people who have left hell on earth, as it were, in other countries and come here. The communities want to help and we are engaging with them as well. If Senators can assist in that, we would be most grateful. If they are aware of communities that wish to do something practical to assist and support, they can assist their communities in that regard. It would be very helpful.

There was a reference to 2,500 people being in direct provision for four years or more but the latest figure available is that it is approximately 700. That is too many but it is not 2,500. It is a work in progress and there are many challenges. I am up for the challenge the Senators have laid down today. I thank them for their passionate, well-researched and good debate so far and I look forward to hearing more contributions.

On a point of order, I did not like to interrupt the Minister's flow, which was impressive, but we have not been provided with a copy of the Minister's speech.

That was a slip up.

I will share time with Senator Clifford-Lee, who wishes to raise a few points.

She has spoken already.

She wishes to clarify a few points.

Can one speak twice?

No. Senator Ardagh can make the clarifications on the Senator's behalf, and I am sure she will do so eloquently.

One can use a point of order to do that.

Senator Ardagh can make the clarification.

Senator Ardagh can incorporate it in her contribution.

First, I thank Senator Norris for introducing the Bill. This issue is close to my heart. I am a solicitor and an immigration practitioner. Last year, in Dublin City Council, I proposed a motion, which received cross-party support, calling on the chief executive to ask the Minister to put an end to long-term direct provision for asylum seekers and to review the consequences for children living in direct provision centres. Furthermore, it called on the Minister to bring an end to the operation of direct provision centres across the country and to grant asylum seekers the right to study and the right to work in line with the rest of the EU.

Direct provision is inhumane and amounts to State-sponsored poverty and exclusion, particularly for children. People are forced to live in substandard accommodation and often have to share it with strangers. The eminent retired judge, Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, said that direct provision centres will be the subject of redress boards in the future unless something is done. It is a serious matter. The Rape Crisis Centre has been involved with this issue and 148 child protection referrals have been made to the HSE arising from direct provision centres. It is an issue we must consider from a child protection and welfare perspective more than anything else.

Other Members have raised the fact that allowances paid to families are quite unbelievable. An adult in direct provision receives €19.60 while a child receives €9.60. It is disgraceful that the amounts have not changed in the past 15 years. In 2014, when direct provision was established, the total budget was €51 million. Only €3.5 million of that sum was given to the individuals. The balance was given to businesses, essentially, to run centres such as Mosney and Hatch Hall.

Direct provision appears to be run like a business rather than an institution that is caring for people.

Fianna Fáil set it up.

Can we have no interruptions, please? The Senator, without interruption.

That will be the day when there are no interruptions in the Seanad.

We will aspire to good practice.

Senator Ardagh is speaking a great deal of sense.

Ireland, unlike other EU countries, opted out of the two EU directives which would grant asylum seekers the right to work and study, so people are left idle and without the opportunity to make a contribution to the society in which they live. When their children finish school they are unable to go on to third level education, as we have seen in a number of high profile cases where children have sought protection after completing their leaving certificate. It is so unfair and discriminatory against a child who is unable to choose their parents or where they were born. The entire system is massively unfair.

Fianna Fáil shares many of the concerns about the direct provision policy. The most interesting one, which I believe we could resolve, is the excessively long waiting times for asylum and protection applications to be processed. The system has an interview process under section 13 and an appeals stage in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. If that does not work out for the protection applicant, they have a second bite at the cherry with the subsidiary protection interview. If that does not work, they can go to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal again to appeal the subsidiary protection interview decision. In the midst of all this, there are opportunities to go to the High Court to seek a judicial review of any decisions made. Figures are being bandied about for the process, such as it being four years. The Minister said there are fewer people in the system for four years. I do not know where people are getting their figures. The Reception and Integration Agency said last year that 46% of residents were in the direct provision system for more than three years. I do not know where the Minister is getting his figures but perhaps he would clarify that and how the figures are validated.

Fianna Fáil is reluctantly supporting the Government's amendment, as my colleague outlined, and we will monitor how the Government is fulfilling its obligations under the McMahon report and the International Protection Act. I commend Senator Norris but, unfortunately, we will not be voting for his Bill. Hopefully, it will be rectified in the not too distant future.

It might be the issue that brings down the Government.

It is with reluctance that we are not supporting the Bill. The Minister of State has clearly and cogently outlined the reason for that. However, Members who engage with people every week and understand their plight recognise that this is a maze and minefield that must be sorted out. Senator Ardagh referred to direct provision. I commend the former Minister of State, Senator Ó Ríordáin, and the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, for his work in the justice committee, which he chaired.

He also visits direct provision centres. They are soulless, heartless places. The one in Cork-----

We will do that.

Senator Buttimer, without interruption.

Some of us do not just shout from the rooftop or the mountain, we actually do things. Perhaps the Senator and some of his colleagues should do the same.

I would gladly close them down.

If the Senator wants to talk new politics, he should walk the walk with us and not just go back to the old ways of the megaphone and roaring and shouting at us. Walk on a journey with us.

We have been calling for this for the past six years.

It is a shame the Government has not done more work on the issue.

I am not speaking about the Senator specifically but-----

Beidh seans ann níos déanaí ag an Seanadóir.

Tá an Ghaeilge go flúirseach ag an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach.

Gabhaim mo mhíle buíochas leis an Seanadóir Norris.

-----the point I am making is that all of us want to see change. Like Senator Ardagh, I want to see this whole area tidied up and resolution brought to it. Of all the people in the Department, the bona fides of the Minister of State cannot be questioned. I refer Senator Ó Clochartaigh to the Minister of State's work as Chair of the justice committee. Rather than laugh at me, the Senator should look at the work he has done.

He has not said he will scrap direct provision though.

He has done a lot, in fairness to him.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh should wait his turn.

Rules, Chair, please.

We speak about new politics in this House but it is a pity some of the people who want to see new politics do not accept responsibility and live up to their rancour and calling.

I have a huge issue with the way in which children, in particular, are treated in the system. We talk about child protection. Reference was made to the former Supreme Court judge, Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, and the possible involvement of the redress board in time. That is what we could be facing. There really is a need for an impetus to bring all of this to a conclusion. The McMahon report was an important and a welcome beginning as was the Living in Limbo study on asylum seekers, repatriation, deportation, rights and entitlements.

The debate today and in the future should not descend into name-calling back and forth. We should adopt a united front to work to change the system so that we can treat people with humanity and as individuals.

Not now though but in 18 months. Right?

All of us agree that waiting times need to be addressed. To be fair to Senator Ardagh, sometimes we get a set of figures from the Department, other times they come from elsewhere, but what we need to see are changes following the McMahon report and the system modified. The Government amendment today is one which seeks to defer. It is not opposing it. I challenge those who shout from the corners to read the Minister of State's speech. Look at what he has said. Read the content of his speech.

We have not got it.

Well, the Senators will get it.

I agree with the Minister of State that it is important to allow time. We engage weekly on this matter. I refuse no one in my office and clinic, Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I meet everyone-----

I have been dealing with people in direct provision for six years, Senator Buttimer, and I will not take any lectures from you on direct provision. The Government needs to do something about it rather than waffle.

-----and I do so-----

Through the Chair, Senators.

-----not under any guise but because they are human beings who deserve our respect and action.

That is my modus operandi always and I will not take lectures from anyone.

Is Senator Ó Clochartaigh on the rooftop or in the corner? Senator Buttimer has accused him of being both. I do not think he can be in both places.

If one is to be honest, we understand the difficulty and trauma experienced by many families, which is harrowing and disturbing. It is uncomfortable to meet these people and hear their stories and experience in a modern-day Ireland and world. The Minister of State outlined the legitimate concerns. He is not seeking to do nothing. He is seeking to take a step-by-step approach to bring about a resolution. The Government did not table tonight's amendment lightly. I commend Senator Norris on bringing his Bill before the House and hope there will be regularisation and resolution. However, the Government is seeking to defer this Stage. It is not seeking to oppose it for the sake of opposition. I will not rehearse the arguments made by the Minister of State but he has highlighted unintended consequences of the legislation as presented to the House, if passed, which could present further difficulties. It would not bode well to do that.

I think we all agree on the end result although we might disagree on the journey of the train. I hope Senator Norris, rather than dividing the House, will accept the amendment. The unintended consequences of the Bill, as outlined by the Minister of State, need to be examined. To be fair to him, the Minister of State's bona fides in regard to this area cannot be questioned by any Member of the House. He is an honest and honourable man. This is the first time I have met him since his appointment as Minister of State and I commend him and congratulate him on his appointment.

Of all the appointments, he, in particular, fits the portfolio he has been given. We have worked on cases together in Cork. There is humanity, dignity and respect in the man who presented this amendment to the House tonight, which is why it is important to listen to him. Like Senator Ardagh and other Senators who have spoken, I too want to see change happen. We all want to see immigration reform to the betterment of all. The amendment tonight is one that we should support rather than dividing the House.

I have a particular interest in this subject. I chaired the Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, which produced a report on the issue. We travelled across the State, visited the direct provision centres and met asylum seekers and representatives of NGOs. I acknowledge the work of the NGOs which work on the front line, including the Irish Refugee Council, Doras Luimní, NASC, Spirasi, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Crosscare and others.

In particular, I thank the Irish Refugee Council and NASC for their inputs to the Bill. They have a number of documented concerns around the Bill. My colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh, also worked extremely hard with me and other colleagues in putting together the report.

I acknowledge that he has outlined his concerns. We would have supported the Bill passing this Stage, with the opportunity to amend on Committee Stage. I am concerned about this proposal to delay this Stage. The Minister of State has met asylum seekers and I can attest to his honour and decency.

I know he is committed to these matters. The difficulty is that his is a very conservative Department-----

-----which is the Department of Justice and Equality. I want to speak about the experiences of the Department of Justice and Equality. Historically, it has been a conservative Department and slow to embrace change. It has the benefit of a report from an all-party committee, which was unanimously approved, as well as the McMahon report, which we had significant concerns about, although it was certainly a step in the right direction. However, we can see that there are still major issues. Eugene Quinn, national director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, has spoken about the single procedure which is now in place but not being resourced. Applicants are still experiencing significant backlogs and delays. Mr. Justice McMahon, who oversaw the report, is very concerned about the slow progress. Then there are the alarming concerns outlined by the former Minister of State, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

The Department is always slow to bring in change, which is why we cannot support the proposed amendment. We have seen asylum seekers having to wait again and again. I remember when we were working on this report. I happened in the middle of it all to read that Ireland is the only country in the world today - I said this in the last Dáil too - that has a population smaller today than it was in the early 1800s. That is because we have a profound history of emigration.

A famous book from the mid-1980s documented the fact that in the 65 years before it was written, half of the people in the State who survived childhood had emigrated. That trend continues right through to today. Our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are in Australia, Canada and Britain. We appealed to those in Britain before the recent referendum there. With our history of emigration - the level of which is proportionately greater than that of any other state in the world - one would think we would adopt a compassionate approach not to economic migrants like we were, but to refugees and asylum seekers who come here from the most devastating situations. The Minister of State will agree it is a profound shame on our people and we have to sort it out. We must address it because we cannot continue to have delays. The system - which was supposed to be a short-term, emergency model - has been in place for 16 years. Some 52,000 human beings have come through the system, some of whom were in it for years. There are families that cannot teach their children the culture of food - which is profound to all cultures because they do not have kitchens in which to cook. They are living in a single room in some hotels. What kind of experience is that for a child? We have to do better. We are better than this.

I spoke to these asylum seekers and met their children. In fairness to the people who run the centres, we got full access and saw it all. We were looking into their faces, seeing what they were going through and listening to their stories. They really hoped that our report would make a difference. The report was submitted a year ago. They hoped that the McMahon working group would make a difference. The problem with the single procedure system, which is welcome, is that it focuses on elements that are not in the favour of refugees. I have a note of concern here from one of the NGOs, which I can pass to the Minister of State. It refers to what is happening with regard to the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015. Enforcement measures have been introduced but the measures that would benefit asylum seekers are not being implemented. The people working on the front line are not seeing progress and that is why a number of NGOs have reservations about aspects of Senator Norris's Bill. We appreciate its intent and the ambition behind it. I am sure the Senator will work with us to deal with amendments on Committee Stage.

The Bill should be allowed to proceed to Committee Stage in order that it might be worked on. We need to send a clear message that the delays have to stop. We have to see action and act with the knowledge of our history of emigration and our footprint across the world. We have to do something that honours that history and represents who our people truly are.

My final point is on the Ombudsman. The report we drafted looked in particular at the role of independent oversight of the system. We called for the public service Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children to have oversight. I ask the Minister of State to proceed with that because it is critically important.

We will support Senator Norris's Bill proceeding to Committee Stage, with the ability to deal with some of the concerns we have at that point. We cannot support any further delays.

I thank all colleagues who took part in what has been an excellent and informative debate. I pay tribute to the work of Senators Ó Clochartaigh and Conway. I also thank the Independent group of Senators, which I left with some delight yesterday. I contacted them and asked if they wanted to take this slot as it was in the Independent's group's gift. I told them they could have it back but in light of the pressures of time, they said they would not.

They are missing Senator Norris already.

I do not accept the amendment. It is not clear if the Government will still be here in 18 months. That is a very optimistic forecast. I thought I would have a miscarriage trying not to laugh when Senator Butler said we did not go far enough and talked about people milking the system and fraudulently using the legal system. The Minister of State gave in to that. What in the name of God is the legal system for if people are not to be allowed to use it? It is the right of every person to use it and people are not false claimants until they are so judged. It is like being innocent until proven guilty.

Matters have improved. We all remember the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the couple of old blisters, one of whom said he had only let two people in out of 500 cases. Another said he had not let any in. A former European Commissioner, a former Member of this House, with some solicitors took them to court. The case was agreed outside the court. What happened was an absolute and utter disgrace. I instance the judgment of Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark to support that.

I had another spasm of laughter when the Minister of State invoked ISIS. I have heard everything now. Under the Bill, the Minister can revoke the residence permit and deport a person under a whole series of criteria, including if the deportation of the person would, in the view of the Minister, be conducive to the common good. What more does the Minister of State want, tumbrels at the door of the Department of Justice and Equality to fire people out of?

We do not really have a date, except the autumn, for the commencement of the single procedure. There should also be clear provision for legal assistance in all cases including ad hoc business. It is very important that people have access to appeal in all cases. The introduction of the Ombudsman is important.

The McMahon report also indicated the need for proper funding and the establishment of a task force. I have been in this House so long I have heard of things going through but without implementation bodies. It is the implementation body that really counts and ensures that things happen. I am not sure those who compiled the McMahon report listened carefully to the voices of refugees. For example, when they were talking about a cap, almost all of them suggested a cap of six months on the process but that is not referred to at all in the McMahon report.

The Government has made various commitments. The last time this was brought up we heard that everything would be resolved in approximately six weeks. Not that much has happened. About half the recommendations have been implemented, including several that are negative from the asylum seekers' point of view. I call for resources. In terms of the report, one of the most important paragraphs is where it says, "In the case of all persons awaiting a decision at the protection process and leave to remain stages who have been in the system for five years or more, the solution proposed is that they should be granted protection status or leave to remain (subject to certain conditions) as soon as possible and within a maximum of six months from the implementation start date". That is amnesty in anybody's language. The Minister said there is no amnesty suggested in the McMahon report but I do not know what that is if it is not amnesty.

Then there is the question of the amounts of money. It is very difficult for people to survive on what is provided. I acknowledge - I do not think anybody else has - that the rate for children has been increased, but only marginally. That presents another difficulty. If we abolished the system immediately and people were still left with €19.10 a week, how would they live? There has to be a transition process for people.

I thank the Minister of State for his graciousness and also his advisers, some of whom I know personally and for whom I have a great professional regard. I thank all Senators who took part, particularly the ones who made me laugh.

It is good to laugh.

It is very good to laugh. I make no apologies for it.

It is not that often that one gets a laugh in this House and when it comes along we should welcome it. I am not accepting the amendment. I thank my colleagues from Civil Engagement for their excellent, clear support for the Bill and the detailed facts they placed on the record of the House. Thank you, Acting Chairman.

I thank the Senator for that eloquent conclusion.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 16.

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Black, Frances.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators David Norris and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Amendment declared carried.
Question, "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to", put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 June 2016.