Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2017: Motion

A message has been received from the Dáil concerning amendments made by the Seanad to the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2017. The message has been set down on the Order Paper. The list of amendments made by the Seanad and considered by the Dáil has been circulated for the information of Members. The Dáil has not agreed to amendment No. 4 and desires that Seanad Éireann should not insist thereon. Senators may move, in respect of the original amendment No. 4, either "That the Seanad do not insist on the amendment" or "That the Seanad do insist on the amendment".

Senators may speak once only, except the proposer of the motion who has the right of reply. Any Senator who wishes to move either of the permissible motions may do so now. There must be a seconder for a motion moved by a non-Government Senator and the motion should be seconded immediately. The seconder may reserve his or her speech until later.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann do not insist on Seanad amendment No. 4.

The message returned to the Seanad from the Dáil is to the effect that while the Dáil accepted a number of amendments made to this important Bill on Report Stage in the Seanad, it did not agree to the amendment proposed by Sinn Féin Senators to section 15 of the Mental Health Act 2001.

As Senators will be aware from the debate in this House on Report Stage, this amendment was proposed following a judgment by the Court of Appeal delivered on 4 May 2018. This judgment declared that renewal orders by mental health tribunals under section 15(3) of the Mental Health Act 2001, which include both six and 12 month orders, breach Article 40.4.1° of the Constitution. I acknowledge that the amendment was well intentioned and I fully agree that section 15(3) of the Mental Health Act 2001 needs to be changed sooner rather than later. My officials, along with the Office of the Attorney General, are actively working on this matter. I particularly want to thank Deputy Pat Buckley, who confirmed on behalf of Sinn Féin that its Deputies would not agree with the amendment in the Dáil as he accepted my explanation that the amendment, as proposed, would also be unconstitutional in light of the court judgment. He also accepted that we need to carefully examine existing six and 12 month renewal orders and how we legally deal with these in the amendment to the 2001 Act currently being examined.

While it is important to confirm that the court's declaration of unconstitutionality stands suspended until 8 November 2018, I assure Senators that the obligation on government to present an appropriate and legally proofed amendment to the Oireachtas is one that will be met in a timely manner. Once again, I express my appreciation to Members of the House for their important contribution to this Bill and I thank Sinn Féin Deputies and others in the Dáil for agreeing to leave the amendment in my hands and the hands of my officials for the moment.

It is unusual to have anyone thanking Sinn Féin but it is appreciated. Deputy Buckley and I spoke at length and decided we would take the advice of the Minister of State in the interests of facilitating the passage of the Bill. Perhaps we are coming to a better place for people suffering from ill health in this country.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House and thank him for the contribution he has made in his role. I commend my party colleague, Deputy James Browne, and the various mental health advocacy groups on the work they have undertaken in bringing the Bill to fruition. I also thank Deputy Pat Buckley for his input. He spoke to me about the amendment we passed in the Seanad and subsequently agreed not to pursue. As we heard, Deputy Buckley accepts what the Minister of State said in that regard.

Deputy Browne joins a small minority of Opposition Deputies who have managed to get Bills passed in both Houses since the adoption of the Constitution. Progressing mental health reform is a key objective of the Fianna Fáil Party and this is an important step towards realising that objective. The enactment of the Bill will improve the provision of mental health services and promote the rights of persons availing of them.

I thank all stakeholders, including Deputy James Browne, for their work on progressing mental health reform and in respect of this Bill. Deputy Browne is seeking a number of key changes to the Mental Health Act 2001 which will give patients more say in their treatment and often more protection. I understand the Dáil has agreed to all the Seanad amendments bar one, which concerns section 15 of the principal Act, as we are now discussing. The Minister of State thanked Deputy Pat Buckley who confirmed on behalf of Sinn Féin that its Deputies would not agree to the amendment in the Dáil. His explanation is reasonable and I certainly agree with it.

I congratulate Deputy James Browne on bringing the Bill through all Stages. I thank all the contributors and stakeholders, and colleagues from all parties and none in both Houses for their co-operation. As Senator Devine said, we all have the same interest at heart, namely, the betterment of the lives of people with mental illness.

I congratulate Deputy James Browne and thank the Minister of State for attending the House.

Question put and agreed to.