Irish Sign Language Bill 2016: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 148, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration," the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, the Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed groupings. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to speak in the Seanad. Before I discuss the details of the legislation, I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and all of the best for 2018. I thank Senators for their support and co-operation over the past two terms of the Dáil.

I am delighted to be here again to report that the Bill has passed in the Dáil and is now ready for the President's signature. I commend Senator Mark Daly and members of the deaf community on all of their work. I also want to commend all of the Senators from every single party who were very supportive of the deaf community on this issue over the past six or seven months. I thank and commend them for their support. Again, it is an important statement by the Seanad and Senators as it points out the relevance of this House in Irish political life. I was so glad in the last campaign, when some elements tried to close down the Seanad, that I supported the campaign to retain the Seanad.

Today's legislation is another example of the effectiveness of our Seanad and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Members of the deaf community will appreciate that as well. Last night in the Dáil was an historic and enjoyable night for the deaf community and their families. It was great to see the consensus that we were all able to achieve.

My task today is to report back on the amendments that were made to the Bill in the Dáil. They are as follows. Amendment No. 1 involves the reinsertion of a concise definition of Irish Sign Language into the Bill. The Office of the Attorney General has advised me that this would be a useful inclusion in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, 7 and 8 update the reference to the Companies Act and make typographical changes elsewhere in sections 1, 2 and 5.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 move a regulation-making power adding new public bodies from section 2, which concerns definitions, to a substantive section, which is section 6. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has advised that this is the proper approach to the creation of a regulation-making power rather than having it in a definition section.

Amendment No. 9 tightens up the wording of section 6(1) to ensure that all services provided by a public body are covered by the Bill. Amendment No. 10 is a technical recasting of section 6(3), which concerns the regulation of notification to be given by a user of Irish Sign Language seeking to avail of free interpretation services and ancillary matters.

In terms of amendment No. 12, I accepted the argument made during the debate here that sign language users suffer extreme isolation. It is important that we recognise that. Amendment No. 12 accepts this very strong and sincere argument. The provision of supports so that they can visit their GP or engage in social and cultural activities would be a humane and worthwhile initiative to combat isolation and improve their well-being and mental health. This is what amendment No. 12 brings to the Bill and, therefore, it is a very important amendment. I secured the agreement of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the provision, in principle, of funding for the Irish Sign Language services in this regard. It is important for me to re-state that rights and liberties without back-up and resources are meaningless so it is important that we have same. This section deals strongly with this matter.

In 2018, we intend to develop guidelines as envisaged in amendment No. 12. Solicitors, working with the founder of the Citizens' Information Board, will be tasked with scoping out how a model for such a scheme would operate and will prepare draft guidelines for consideration and approval by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The intention, subject to the progress of this work, is to trial an approach towards the end of 2018. To this a sum of up to €150,000 may be made available from within existing resources to meet any pilot project costs incurred towards the end of 2018. Following the learning from the pilot project more detailed proposals and revised guidelines will be developed that will inform future annual funding requirements, subject to the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the normal way.

Amendment No. 13 is an internal reorganisation of section 10, which concerns a review of the Act, essentially renumbering the various clauses that follow subsection (1).

Last night in the Dáil an amendment was made to amendment No. 17 that sought to change the Title. An amendment on that issue was discussed. There was a bit of confusion during the debate in the middle of all of the excitement and the record of the Dáil shows that the amendment was accepted. My adviser, Mr. Gerry Maguire, has been in contact with Senator Mark Daly about this particular issue so I am just informing Senators about the situation.

Finally, this is a very important day for the deaf community with the recognition of the Irish Sign Language. It is an historic day. Again, I thank all of the Senators for their fantastic support and detailed discussions over the past number of months. Once again, I thank Senator Mark Daly for doing a lot of work on this legislation. He worked very closely with my own team of Mr. Deaglán Ó Briain, Ms Jennifer O'Farrell and Mr. Gerry Maguire. I am sure we all accept that there were some difficult moments. Today shows us that when everybody united and got together we were able to bring in this legislation that grants full recognition to the Irish Sign Language. I thank everyone for their support.

I call Senator Mark Daly. We are currently discussing the amendments made by the Dáil. If Senators want to make general comments afterwards then they can do so when the legislation is passed.

On a point of order, are we discussing all of the amendments together?

We will discuss the first group of amendments. That means all of the amendments except amendment No. 8.

I call Senator Mark Daly and he will be followed by Senator Boyhan.

In fairness to Ms Orla Murray, she did allow this Bill to come in earlier than the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. We have agreed all of the amendments so we do not have to debate them.

Hear, hear. A bit of Christmas cheer.

I suggest that we do not discuss the amendments. I thank the Minister of State for being here. I suggest that we make our concluding statements and thanks, if that is all right with the Cathaoirleach.

I suggest that we pass all of the amendments, with the agreement of the House and the Leader.

Senators can comment. If there is agreement then we will try to shorten things. Senator Boyhan is next.

I do not agree. I want to say-----

Can I make my comments now?

I thought the Senator was done.

Does the Cathaoirleach want me to conclude at the end?

(Interruptions).

I will make my concluding comments at the end.

It is the Senator's Bill. He certainly can do so.

Yes, I will do so the end.

A Cathaoirleach, will amendment No. 8 be discussed?

Is it grouped now?

No. The amendment is part of the second group.

I thought we had agreed everything.

No, the Senator is very anxious. We are discussing group 1, which is every amendment made by the Dáil excluding amendment No. 8. Therefore, amendment No. 8 will be next.

I thought we had agreed to the proposal made by Senator Mark Daly.

Amendment No. 8 is last to be debated.

Do Senators wish to speak on the amendments of group 1?

Does the Cathaoirleach mean now?

I do not want a general discussion of the Bill. I will allow those who wish to speak when the Bill is passed to do so. Does Senator Norris want to speak on the first grouping?

Are we discussing the first grouping list?

I will make a very brief comment. These are all technical amendments, I think.

They have been accepted, so there is no discussion at all.

I would like to make one point. I was very pleased to see that there was a signer in the Dáil last night. I think that was very important but here again is another way in which Seanad Éireann led the way. We had a signer during all of our discussions on the Bill. Dáil Éireann found it impossible to do so but I am very glad that they saw the wisdom of the ways of Seanad Éireann.

Did the Minister of State cover amendment No. 8 in group 2?

Sorry, I beg the Cathaoirleach's pardon. If we are discussing all of the amendments then I should like to make one comment on one amendment. I welcome amendment No. 12 but I would signal that it seems to be a work in progress and is not actually completed. There will be a scoping exercise, the results of which will not be available until next year and then there will be a pilot project. It is not something that has been completed or accomplished in this Bill. It is a work in progress and I think we need to monitor that.

I garner that the Minister of State has rolled two groups together, so I invite comment on amendment No. 8.

The Seanad got it right in respect of amendment No. 8. The phrase is "in loco parentis". It is a Latin phrase, and it was written in italics. The draftsman has persuaded the other House to write "in" in English and "loco parentis" in Latin. I note that fact for the draftsman's benefit. We got it right, and he is now making us get it wrong.

Is there a legal significance to that?

On the day that is in it, I will not put the matter any further.

I support Senator McDowell. The entire phrase in Latin is "in loco parentis". The "in" is not an English "in", it is a Latin "in".

That is noted.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank colleagues and the Leader for their co-operation and assistance. I would like to dedicate this Bill to the memory of Daniel and William McCarthy, who both died in their 70s in Bluebell in Dublin. They were deaf brothers. They lived together for 25 years, but they died in social isolation. Their bodies were not found for a number of days, and they were buried in their native Dingle in County Kerry. The Bill is also dedicated to all those who suffered social isolation and a similar lack of understanding of the deaf community and their culture.

I would like to thank the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, for being here today. This is an issue of civil rights for the deaf community. It gives them civil rights and access to State services. It ends the extreme marginalisation that was spoken about yesterday in the Dáil. Without the Minister of State, this Bill would not be passing. He championed this Bill, and he has done so from the start, although we did have a number of disagreements along the way, as is the way with politics.

This has been a deaf-led campaign for over three decades. I would like to thank the Irish Deaf Society, Mr. Eddie Redmond, Mr. John Bosco Conama, Ms Lianne Quigley and all those who have been advocates for sign language recognition for the deaf community. I thank Mr. Willie White of the Kerry Deaf Resource Centre, who was here yesterday, and has been here for a number of meetings with the Department. I thank the Irish Deaf Institute, represented by Mr. Liam Breen from Kerry. From the Cork Deaf Association, I also thank Mr. Gerrie O'Grady, Mr. Graham O'Shea, Mr. Andrew Geary and his son Calum. Calum explained to us his point of view, having a twin brother who is hearing. Calum was falling further and further behind because he is deaf, and simply did not have access to an interpreter.

I thank my own party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, who met with the Cork Deaf Association a number of months ago to discuss the passing of this Bill. I thank my colleagues, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan and Deputy Jack Chambers, who are members of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, and the Chairman of that committee, Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who ensured that this Bill went through pre-legislative scrutiny early. That committee's report, which highlighted the extreme marginalisation of the deaf community, was key to making sure that this Bill progressed through all Stages in this House.

I thank our party's spokesperson on disabilities, Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin and Deputy James Browne, who spoke on the Bill in the Dáil. I thank all the people from all parties who spoke in favour of this Bill, and all my Seanad colleagues who attended meetings. Senators Victor Boyhan and Lynne Ruane were at one meeting which went on for seven hours, and that was only one of them. Those meetings followed the very unusual Committee Stage that we had in this House, but there was a more unusual Committee Stage held subsequently in the Department. We met with them and went through the Bill line by line. Going through Committee Stage line by line is difficult here, but doing it with members of the deaf community is a serious challenge.

In the spirit of the new politics, I would like to acknowledge the work of Fine Gael. Deputy Joe McHugh and Ms Alice Carney in the Whip's office ensured that this Bill got onto the Dáil work schedule before the Christmas recess. I thank Ms Orla Murray, whom I know is watching anxiously in her room, hoping that we get through this as quickly as possible so that the rest of the business can be done.

This is an important day for the deaf community. This has been achieved with huge cooperation and collaboration from a huge amount of people on all sides. The biggest congratulations go to the Minister of State and his staff; Deaglán Ó Briain, his quiet adviser from the Department of Justice and Equality, trying to advise him with pieces of paper and whispers in the ear; and to Mr. Gerry Maguire, who like the Minister of State is a champion of the underdog. Finally, is Ms Grace Coyle here? No, she is not. She is working. Ms Grace Coyle of my office brought relentless drive and determination, as Mr. Ó Briain and Mr. Maguire know. No stone was left unturned, no roadblock was allowed to be in the way, no mountain would stand. Thank you.

I would like to share the sentiments and expressions of thanks that Senator Daly just outlined. This is a historic day. This is a civil rights issue. It is an issue that I highlighted in the last Seanad through a Private Members' motion. To be fair to Senator Mark Daly, he has stuck at it. He kept on highlighting the issue and brought the legislation through, and I would like to commend everybody for all their work on this very important piece of legislation.

I salute the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. The fact that we now have a Minister of State at the Cabinet table with specific responsibility for disabilities is a good thing, and the passing of this Bill through the House is reflective of this Government's policy and attitude towards people with disabilities. This Government realises that people with disabilities have rights, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will hopefully be ratified and enacted over the coming weeks. Those are very important incremental steps in the right direction.

I would also like to commend the Leader of the Seanad and his staff on the work they have done to facilitate this legislation. More than anyone else, like Senator Daly, I want to commend and salute the thousands of deaf people in this country, whose lives will be enriched and enhanced as a result of this legislation.

I remind Senators that there are 12 Members indicating to speak.

I thank the Minister of State and his assistants and officials for their work. We have come a long way from when we met for those many hours in his Department during the summer. I think he was expecting three or four people and there might have been 40. I do not believe there was ever a meeting with a Minister of State that had so many people in attendance. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for that. It is a really good piece of work. It is very important for the Minister of State and for his portfolio and focus. There comes a time, a year and a half into this Government, when we have got to see results. This is one of the great results.

I cannot let this opportunity go without congratulating Senator Mark Daly. He is tenacious, determined and focused. Some might call him a bit of a sole trader, but that is how he achieves things, because he stays on-message and he delivers. I say all that in a good spirit, because those are good qualities in any parliamentarian. I also want to record my thanks, and acknowledge the great support of his parliamentary assistant, Ms Grace Coyle, as I think it important that all of us in this House do. She has been an engine in all of this. It was she that communicated many of the messages. She was at the meetings with Senator Daly, and I think they have achieved great things.

The Bill is important, and hopefully if it is agreed today, it will soon be on a piece of vellum and will be taken up to Áras an Uachtaráin. If it is signed, it will only be the second piece of Private Members' business introduced and enacted from the Seanad in 2017. It is important to note that.

I want to make one other point. There were 28 Private Members' Bills introduced or presented to the Seanad in 2017, and only one was enacted. That is a measure of the work, commitment, focus and drive one has to apply to bring Private Members' business, so I want to congratulate all the people involved.

I congratulate all involved in this legislation. I hope the Bill will be signed and enacted.

I have a final message for the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. It is all very well on paper but unless we see deliverables, funding and resources, and training in place to follow on the Bill, it is meaningless. It is incumbent on all Oireachtas Members to keep the pressure on the Minister, his Department and the Government to deliver. We will have failed if all we do is leave this Chamber on a high about a piece of paper. We need to acknowledge the great work that has been done but all Members across parties need to commit to delivering on the funding and resources to make this happen.

The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is waiting. He will be waiting a long time if every speech is as long at that. I call Senator Ruane.

I will take the hint.

I want everybody to take the hint. Normally we allow the spokesperson-----

I will be brief. I will be the only member of the Civil Engagement Group to speak. On behalf of the Civil Engagement group I thank and congratulate Senator Mark Daly, the deaf community, the Minister and his officials in the Department on their hard work. When Senator Daly asked me to become involved and support this Private Members' Bill, it definitely raised my awareness and gave me a new appreciation of what I had taken for granted, namely, being able to communicate and interact with the world, be heard and be seen. Language is not only about communication it is about culture and identity. I hope this Bill is just the first step forward in recognising the deaf community and what they need to go forward as full active members of society.

I really welcome this Bill. Sinn Féin has been involved in the Bill. Senator Mark Daly has been a Trojan warrior in moving it forward. I acknowledge the work of the members of the deaf community who are present. We are further disability-proofing our society and we are going in the right direction.

I wish to echo Senator Boyhan's remarks that we need money and we need to keep the pressure on the Minister. Let me say "Well done" to Senator Daly and the deaf community. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Sometimes in Irish politics one can become very cynical and wonder if anything ever gets achieved. Today, there is magic in the air because of the campaigning zeal of the Irish Deaf Society, which pursued the issue of sign language for a long time. As I said to a group of secondary school students yesterday, if one believes in something, and believes that it is just and right and are willing to pursue it, one will always win. It helps when one gets a decent politician on one's side. That decent politician is Senator Mark Daly. I think he is to be commended by everybody across the House on his zeal in pursuing this issue. At a time when the Department of Justice and Equality is receiving much criticism, and many feel justifiably so, I recognise the work of Deaglán Ó Briain, a person with whom I worked, who is a committed and extremely professional civil servant and I think his fingerprints are clearly to be seen in the Bill.

It would be appropriate for all Irish schoolchildren to be in a position to learn Irish Sign Language in order to communicate with fellow citizens. Surely that would be the next step in this regard.

I congratulate the campaigners, Senator Mark Daly, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and his officials. Today, I think all Members feel that little bit of magic that politics can sometimes bring.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Finian McGrath, to the House. I compliment and congratulate my colleague, Senator Mark Daly. None of us would be here today if it were not for Senator Daly's tenacity and great work. As a colleague, friend and somebody who shares an office on the same floor, I know better than most how much work went into the legislation. I probably only know the half of it. Nobody will ever know how much work he has put into this issue to get the Bill to this stage in the House today. Senator Mark Daly thanked everybody in all the different political parties and in the Departments who had an input and a role to play. I know Senator Daly's work ethic and how he and Ms Grace Coyle, whom he thanked, worked on this. Very often we the politicians can portray our wares, but it is the people behind the scenes who are after doing all the spadework. I was delighted when Senator Daly gave Ms Grace Coyle such recognition for her role.

When Senator Mark Daly went to the meetings, he would have had a folder under his arm that had the answers. That is what helped and that is how it was so easy to get everybody else on board.

As the Minister of State said, the Bill is validation of what we all knew, namely, the significance and importance of the Seanad. The Irish people made the right choice in keeping this great institution alive. From a personal point of view, I am thankful they did, because I would have never got the opportunity to say these few words. Neither would Senator Mark Daly have been able to bring to this point a Bill which will have such a positive effect on so many people and enhance and improve their lives.

Comhghairdeas leat, Mark.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas agus mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Seanadóir Mark Daly as ucht an Bhille seo atá ar tí a bheith rite.

As Leader of the House, may I join all the speakers in commending Senator Daly on his work. When I said to him that we would honour our commitment to this Bill, we on this side of the House have done that every line of the way. At no stage did the Government obstruct the Bill. I commend Ms Grace Coyle in his office and Ms Orla Murray in the Leader's office.

As Senator Ó Ríordáin said, this Bill will have a positive impact on the lives of so many people. Today, we salute the tenacity of the Irish Deaf Society and the Cork Deaf Community. We will not name names but all who were involved in the Bill know who they are. It is important that we continue to overcome the marginalisation in society. This is a good day; it is a day to take pride and satisfaction in the Oireachtas. The work of the Oireachtas can be seen in a positive sense.

I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, especially. It is a bit like American football, one can have all the runners and the linebackers, but if one does not have a quarterback one has nothing. The Minister of State has proven that. He was not found wanting and he and his officials were engaged all the time. We have mentioned Mr. Deaglán Ó Briain, but Mr. Gerry Maguire, who is in the Gallery, has also been pivotal in the passage of the Bill.

Let me remind Senator Boyhan that some of the 28 Private Members' Bills that were initiated in the Seanad would have been flawed, so perhaps after further work they could be reintroduced.

I compliment Senator Mark Daly on his work. The Bill is a fine achievement. I also compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, because there was a fruitful dialogue between them. I also pay tribute to the Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer, who facilitated the passage of the Bill. These are the three principal people today.

As far as I am concerned, it is an equality issue. The deaf community were second-class citizens until the passage of this Bill. For many of us, we were on a learning curve. I attended a meeting in the centre for deaf studies in Trinity College. I was horrified to learn that people had their hands tied behind their backs to prevent them using sign language. It had not struck me at all that Irish Sign Language was the first language for deaf people. I had automatically assumed that it was English and they used sign language as a communication tool, but that English was their first language. I certainly learned that sign language is their first language and must be respected.

I compliment Senator Daly, the Minister of State and Senator Jerry Buttimer. It is a good day's work for the Seanad. I look forward to members of the deaf community being at last equal citizens with the rest of us in Ireland.

I add my voice to those who have commended Senator Mark Daly, the members of the Irish deaf community and the Irish Deaf Society, the centre for deaf studies in Trinity College and all of those who have been so involved in making this legislation happen. As Senator Ó Ríordáin said, it is a magical day and a magical moment in the Seanad.

It is great to see a second Seanad Private Members' Bill pass into law and I thank the Minister and his officials for that.

I agree with everything that has been said. I give notice that I will bring in a Latin language preservation Bill as well.

I thank everybody involved and congratulate Senator Mark Daly on bringing this forward. I thank the Minister and his officials, particularly Gerry, who I know put a lot of work into it. I also thank the Irish Deaf Society in Limerick, led by Mary Kiely and Des Hayes, who did Trojan work and met with local Senators and Deputies to make their points. It is a great day and I congratulate all involved.

I congratulate Senator Mark Daly. I remember being a councillor when he was a candidate for the first time. He showed great tenacity and went around the country to get elected, and then got elected a second and third time. He has shown his tenacity again in respect of this Bill which has gone through the House today. I played a very small part in it when I chaired Committee Stage in the old Seanad Chamber. We tried to get it through as fast as we could so that it would get through to the next Stage. That is all I did apart from give Senator Daly a bit of moral support, of which he did not need too much. I congratulate him, the Minister of State and Senator Buttimer. I particularly congratulate the Irish Deaf Society. I wish everybody in the deaf community well as this proceeds into law.

I wish to be associated with the sentiments expressed today. I thank the Minister of State and his staff for making the passage of the Bill easy and I also congratulate the Leader of the House. I congratulate the Irish Deaf Society and the deaf community. When I was Cathaoirleach, I remember when Senator Mark Daly first brought the deaf community into the old Seanad Chamber. It was a historic day and I know the difficulty the Senator has had over the five years that have elapsed since then. I also compliment the former Clerk to the Seanad, Deirdre Lane, who played a huge role in this, on that occasion and others. This Bill, however, would not have been enacted had it not been for Senator Mark Daly, who has championed this for the past five years. I congratulate him on this historic day.

I add my voice to congratulating the deaf community on the work it has done. This Bill gives a sense of hope to other marginalised groups. It shows that if we champion a cause we can make a difference and I congratulate Senator Mark Daly for making a difference with this legislation. There are many other small and marginalised groups who also need to be championed. Perhaps in 2018 this House might take up that challenge. I refer to groups such as those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia, whom we may be able to help just by small changes in legislation.

I will support Senator McDowell with his new Bill but hopefully we will expand it from private schools so that all schools have equality of opportunity in respect of education.

Today is a historic day and shows what the Seanad is capable of doing. I commend Senator Mark Daly on bringing this legislation forward. It has been a long, hard campaign for the deaf community and I have met Des, Mary and the deaf community in Limerick many times. This must be an incredible day for them and their families. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and his officials, Gerry Maguire and Deaglán Ó Briain. I told Gerry to show me the money and he found the money. These days make being involved in politics worthwhile. It shows the difference perseverance can make to people's lives.

As Senator Humphreys said, this is the best example of what happens when we are educated about the lived experience of citizens and communities. We all learned about the importance of Irish Sign Language and we were all astonished about the extent to which the deaf community has been disadvantaged by lack of recognition, particularly in regard to rights before the law and access to justice. It is a privilege to be associated with the compliments to all involved. I congratulate those in the Visitors Gallery and the community in general.

I commend Senator Mark Daly and his team and everybody in the Visitors Gallery who have been so excited in the past couple of days.

I thank all Senators for their great support for the recognition of Irish Sign Language Bill this morning. It is worthwhile and will have a huge impact on the lives of members of the deaf community. I particularly commend Senator Mark Daly and share his thoughts on Daniel and William McCarthy. It is appropriate that we dedicate this legislation to them because as well as services, this Bill addresses social isolation. Section 7 addresses these issues and I will be closely watching any pilot projects and the €50,000 that is being spent in this area.

The three basic things in the Bill are the recognition by the State of ISL; the duty on public bodies to provide ISL services at no cost; and the statutory right to use ISL in courts. Senators Máire Devine and Victor Boyhan asked about resources and part of my national disability inclusion strategy over the next four years emphasises this point, with €1.763 billion to be spent in 2018 on disability services, an increase on the €1.688 billion in 2017. There is an additional €10 million for 1,500 school leavers and €10 million extra for respite services so we are building and today we have this Bill. There is a plan. We are banking certain things and we are making sure things are delivered.

I thank the Leader of the House for facilitating this debate and for the fact that there was no obstruction whatsoever. As Senator David Norris said, this is about equality. ISL was banned 30 years ago and there was corporal punishment for children caught using it in some institutions. Deaf children were sent to institutions for services as the services were not brought to the children. We have come a long way. The Seanad was the engine room for this Bill, and is so for the equality debate too. I wish everyone a happy Christmas. I thank Senator Mark Daly and all the officials who were involved for their support. I wish everyone the best of luck in 2018.

I congratulate Senator Mark Daly on his tenacity in seeing this through and I thank all Senators for their co-operation. It is a good day for the Seanad. It is a good day for the deaf community too. It is not before time but that is how slowly the axis of the Seanad and Dáil sometimes grinds. It is a great day for Senator Mark Daly and I wish him and the deaf community a happy and more hopeful Christmas as a result of this Bill being passed.

Question put and agreed to.