Heritage Bill 2016: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill that has been amended by the Dáil and in accordance with Standing Order 148 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is 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 and this is looked upon as a report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation of those amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

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

I call on the Minister to speak on the subject matter of amendments in group 1.

On amendment No. 1 to section 5, the provision of page 5, line 26, was amended by text inserted on Committee Stage by Deputy Ó Cuív, replacing "use by boats with users" because people who do not have boats could also be users of the canals and take water from them. The wording was amended on the advice of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The amendment reinstates "use by boats", which fits with the wording in brackets and provides an amended wording, which I believe reflects the intention of the Deputy's amendment on Committee Stage.

This is the first opportunity I have had to welcome the Minister, Deputy Madigan, to the House. I congratulated her privately but I wish to repeat that here.

I will oppose all amendments and the Bill. I do so for one reason only, that is, to delay the Bill's implementation for three months. There are up to 40 houseboats in Grand Canal Dock. When this Bill is passed, it will allow up to 20 families to be removed from Grand Canal Dock. Some of those residents have been ten years on the housing list. They are unlikely to be housed anywhere in the near future. Three months at least would give us a window of time to resolve those issues.

This only come to my attention quite late. There was a meeting on Thursday last with Waterways Ireland in this regard. There will be 20 full-time licences given out to the residents. As I stated, there are up to 40 houseboats on Grand Canal Dock. There will be up to 20 other licences of 90 days' duration. If the residents on these 90 day licences exceed the 90 days, however, they will not only be expected to remove their houseboats from the Grand Canal but will lose any opportunity to get a permanent licence.

I will not vote for residents to become homeless. This is a living, thriving community in Grand Canal Dock. There have been several children born to it. I believe we need a window of time to resolve this issue. While he Minister is correct that there should be standards relating to the upkeep of boats and how they are presented, I cannot in good faith vote for any amendments that would allow this Bill pass until the licensing arrangements have been resolved in Grand Canal Dock so that we do not victimise or evict families from the Grand Canal Dock and make them homeless as a result. These houseboats are their homes. They are not holiday lets. They are not for recreation. They are there as a living community. They wish to remain. We must resolve these issues. There may not be 20. It may be a smaller number. We can resolve that in the three-month period. That is why I will be opposing Report and Final Stages of the Bill.

I support Senator Humphreys. In fact, I received a letter here from Mr. Shane Cusack, a resident of one of the boats in the dock who is very concerned. He writes that he is a resident of the Grand Canal Dock marina in Dublin, that he has huge concerns over the Heritage Bill being passed tonight in the Seanad, that he, along with other residents, believes the Canals Act section of the Bill has the potential to make homeless several people living in houseboats in Grand Canal Dock. He writes that they believe the Heritage Bill needs more time to be considered because of the powers conferred on Waterways Ireland through the Bill and asks that I consider abstaining from voting this evening to give the residents of Grand Canal Dock more time to negotiate for their homes and, it is hoped, prevent more homelessness occurring in Dublin city.

Has the Minister met the residents on the canal boats in the dock? I refer to one resident. I do not know what impact this may have on other boat communities around Ireland. I am aware there are such communities in Graiguenamanagh and elsewhere around the country. I am quite concerned because if there are families who have their permanent residence on the boats and there is a chance of them being displaced or being made homeless, as Mr. Cusack states in his letter, then some discussion needs to take place before we pass this Bill here this evening. Has the Minister met the residents and heard their concerns?

As I and others have stated, the Bill is rife with unintended consequences. This is another example.

Notwithstanding the other elements of the Bill which I can only refer to as environmental sabotage, I and Sinn Féin have consistently called for a separate canals Bill, as originally intended. Such a Bill, one that enhances rather than hinders the canals activity, should still be progressed.

While I have the floor, I call for a debate on the canals. I note Waterways Ireland and Dublin City Council worked on a report prior to 2010 around developing the Royal Canal and Grand Canal as leisure and habitable places. That was done with a consultant. We need to have a debate about the canals here in the capital.

What I am hearing from Senators Humphreys and Grace O'Sullivan is that 19 families may be made homeless by virtue of the fact that Waterways Ireland only has planning permission for 20 licences that allow for 365 day permits. Forty-three occupied houseboats are in Grand Canal Dock and the remaining 23 of those boats would have to apply for 90 day permits.

As it stands, without clarity, Sinn Féin is inclined to support the proposal that we delay this legislation tonight.

Although I might be wrong, this Bill has been one of the most debated Bills to have gone through the Seanad over the past two and a half years. I and Senator Humphreys have clashed on different parts of it on numerous occasions. We have debated nearly every part of the Bill, be it the burning, the hedge-cutting or the canals. It is a bit unfortunate that Senator Humphreys now, at the 11th hour, brings forward a new issue without proposing an amendment and without using the powers that he had over the past two years in which we debated this Bill. In fact, if I recall, we debated this Bill 19 or 20 hours on one sitting alone. It is a Bill that ran very late into the night under a former Minister. It is unfortunate for Senator Humphreys to come forward now, not even with a proposal but merely to block the Bill.

We have proven that the Bill has great merit. It is a Bill that has undergone due process all the way through. I am somewhat disappointed now at the last moment that Senator Humphreys has in many ways turned up with a front-page story to see if he could stir the pot. That is unfortunate.

I come with the concerns that have been raised by others. I also have spoken to some of the residents in Grand Canal Dock on whom this is having an impact.

This is a one-off situation. It is one where even a simple adjournment of the Bill would suffice. I was hoping that the Government might be amenable even to adjourning these Report and Final Stages to allow for those residents who would be affected to negotiate with Waterways Ireland. The 19 families who face potential homelessness and who are negotiating are vulnerable.

I have spoken to others, including Deputies from different parts of the country, who have seen situations in the past where Waterways Ireland has changed the rules or policies around berthings with significant consequences. In one case in Kildare, there was a real concern which eventually was satisfactorily negotiated whereby alternative berthings were provided to those affected. At present, there is nothing like that on offer. There is a huge vulnerability and an imbalance in power at present and that imbalance becomes much more severe under the Bill. Under the Bill, Waterways Ireland is given an extraordinary free hand in relation to the charging and fixing of fees, tolls and charges in respect of the use by boats of the canals.

I have a substantive concern about amendment No. 1 as well. I note that the Minister herself had very significant concerns in respect of it. This amendment, as made by the Dáil, extends the powers, from being concerned with the charging and fixing of fees, tolls and charges in respect of the use by boats of the canals to being concerned also with "the charging and fixing of fees in respect of the use by persons of the canals".

This could include anything that happens by the canal. I note that it says including the taking of water from the canal. Deputy Ó Cuív raised the issue of taking water and did so very well. It is a real concern that businesses or others would seek to take water from the canal.

Use by persons of the canal includes everything that we do in the canal. Will commercial franchises be given the right to sell food by the canal and will those who seek to bring a picnic somehow be liable for a fee or be in breach of the new set of canal rules? There were two occasions when poetry was used in the Chamber today but I am, of course, thinking of Patrick Kavanagh, "Leafy-with-love banks" and the idea of the canal bank seat for the passer-by. Will the seating on canals, their usage, and the opportunity to spend time there become something that is subject to fees, fines, privileges, being closed in certain areas and being contracted to certain companies, essentially being an enterprise which excludes the public? This is a real concern. I think specifically of the charming gathering which happens every year at Patrick Kavanagh's bench to mark him on St. Patrick's Day, 17 March. Will events like that be subject to fees or charges? They are activities by persons on the canals.

The Minister highlighted in the Dáil that this is very wide and may be subject to abuse. She expressed considerable concern about the wide terms relating to fees and use of the canal by persons. There are substantial concerns relating to this amendment and very specific concerns that we have people who are feeling very disempowered and vulnerable, who are attempting to negotiate with Waterways Ireland, and unlike others who have negotiated with Waterways Ireland in the past, where they have at least been able to assert themselves and use something of a balance of power to get some form of satisfaction, as we saw in Kildare and other instances, this Bill will shift that balance of power and make those 19 families more vulnerable. I encourage and support the appeal that we delay this Bill by three months to allow those groups and families to negotiate properly.

I oppose this amendment because I am concerned. In my many years living in the city, the canal has been my green space, my water space and my access to nature. I love the variety of usage that the public has put that to. I come from Galway, a city where we saw derelict canals become spaces of enjoyment, celebration, people practising juggling, birthday parties and all of the things they enjoy in life in a public space. I do not want to see that paved over, leased out, commercialised or narrowed. I worry that this Bill makes that possible.

I listened with interest to the points that have been forcefully made by the last two speakers. I sympathise with them to an extent. I may stand corrected on Standing Orders but I understand that it is not possible to move a deferment of the issue and we are effectively in a position where we either approve the amendments or do not, in which case, I have to state that Fianna Fáil is committed to the Bill and we will support the amendments unless the Minister finds it possible herself to come up with a solution to the valid points that have been raised by the last two speakers.

What Senator Humphreys raised does not speak to the amendment. It is wrong to suggest it. The Bill will not allow the removal. The reality is that there is limited space on the dock. The by-laws can now be drawn up and sent for public consultation. Their drafting will take time, as we know. This Bill is being debated extensively and there has been constructive engagement with the boating community and Waterways Ireland. I believe that relationship is positive and many matters will be resolved through discussion, engagement and dialogue.

With regard to Senator Grace O'Sullivan's comments, I will arrange for Waterways Ireland to continue to engage. It is not correct to apply this to this legislation. The by-laws are subject to consultation and this Bill is not carte blanche for this. I have had no request for a meeting and will confine my remarks to the amendments under discussion. There have been meetings with boat owners and users and I believe that Waterways Ireland will take a positive and reasonable approach, but it has to balance the needs of all users on the canals. In response to Senator Warfield, this Bill is not an eviction device. Waterways Ireland will continue to engage constructively and with compassion. What has been raised here this evening is a parliamentary ambush which does not speak to the amendments in front of this House. My officials met the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland and it did not raise this issue. Waterways Ireland is committed to dialogue. The Senator is not speaking to the amendment.

What Senator Higgins is saying is preposterous. There will not be charges for walking, sitting on benches or anything of that nature. An amendment that was suggested in the Seanad that would have allowed for such charges was voted down. I assure the Senators that the canals will remain free avenues of public amenity.

The text allows for that, unfortunately.

I thank Senator-----

The text allows for it. I am not saying that-----

Every Senator can only speak once on Report Stage.

-----O'Sullivan for his support.

I ask the Minister to speak on the amendments in group 2.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, are grouped. They are technical drafting amendments, updating the Minister's title to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Amendment No. 5 is a minor technical amendment to correct the subsection numbering in page 7, line 7, to refer to subsection (6) and not subsection (4). The reference changed following the insertion of two amendments by the Seanad in page 6, lines 34 to 40, and page 7, lines 1 and 2.

This is the Heritage Bill 2016. This legislation demonstrates that the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with responsibility for our natural heritage portfolio, has a lack of understanding-----

I can only allow Senator O'Sullivan to speak to the amendments in group 2, which is just the change of name.

The point I want to make is that there is a lack of regard for biodiversity and nature conservation in Ireland. It is the portfolio of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

I take it that Senator O'Sullivan wants to make a point but what we are doing here is taking references to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and replacing them with the new title of the Department and the Minister, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Heritage is in both titles.

I understand. The Minister is the Minister with responsibility for heritage. My concern is simply that this legislation as it stands can impact on the EU birds and habitats directives and have a lasting effect on Irish heritage and nature. I object to this legislation as it stands.

I regret the Minister's previous statement that this is a political ambush. It is not meant to be that in any manner. In fact, in response to Senator Lombard, we have debated this at length. He should regret some of the figures of speech he has used on previous occasions, such as asking what else he would do in August but cut hedges. I apologise since this issue came very late, but it also came very late to me. I only spoke to one of the residents today and got the message from Councillor Dermot Lacey recently that this is a real and live issue.

I respect the vote of the Dáil. I accept that the Senator said Fianna Fáil is committed to the Bill, that it voted for it and avoided votes but we are talking about people's homes, and Waterways Ireland has not been able to move on them.

There should be no Second Stage speeches.

I will read just one paragraph from a letter to emphasise my point.

It states: "In order to be able to hold a non-residential EMP, you must provide evidence that your boat is not your ordinary private residence".

Senator, I am calling the Minister.

It further states: "Please forward a utility bill issued within three months confirming your primary residence". They have no primary residence.

We have been through this-----

They cannot fulfil that request and I will not vote tonight to make people homeless.

I am sorry but I cannot call the Minister yet. Senator Higgins has not spoken. I ask the Senator to speak to the technical nature of the amendments.

I regret the Minister's response. The proposal is not preposterous. Giving such leeway within the Bill is preposterous.

What has that got to do with the updating of the Minister's title?

I am responding to a point the Minister made about the charging and fixing of fees in respect of the use by persons of the canals. That is how wide the provision has been made.

That was the previous amendment.

The way in which it will be applied is to be determined by Waterways Ireland because we have given it that power.

I will speak to the second group of amendments because two aspects arise. Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, relate to the change in the ministerial title.

They correct the change in the title.

I am speaking to the change in the title, which is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive. When it was first submitted, the Bill was under the remit of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It is extraordinary that when the Department was effectively divided in two and responsibility for rural and regional affairs moved into a new Department - I have engaged constructively with the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, in respect of his Department - the Bill did not move to the new Department. Why is the Bill proceeding within the remit of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when it does not contain any provisions to strengthen heritage or address heritage concerns? The reason for the lengthy debates in the Dáil and in this House is that this is an issue of serious concern. There has been lengthy discussion of rural and regional affairs, including concerns about roads which come under the remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. However, in terms of heritage, we have yet to see an argument made as to how this Bill will enhance or strengthen our heritage. Rather, we have seen evidence, which has been consistently disregarded, that it will damage the natural heritage we pass on to the generations ahead. It is relevant in terms of the departmental title and the roles of the Minister.

Both the old and the new titles incorporate the heritage remit.

I am questioning whether the Bill belongs under the title. Given the disregard for heritage, it would seem it should belong under the remit of the Minister for Rural and Regional Affairs if that is the only concern.

Am I right that amendment No. 5 is in this grouping also?

I will make a simple and brief point about amendment No. 5, which I support. This is a practical, technical amendment related to subsection (7), which notes that where an offence has been committed by a body corporate and has been committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of a director, manager or secretary, both the person and the body corporate shall be liable for an offence.

It is not a correction. It is an amendment to subsection (7) and in respect of that, I want to-----

It is correcting a cross-reference.

I am speaking to it and I will be very brief. I welcome that in this section the Government recognises that a negligent director, manager or secretary-----

The Senator can only speak about the drafting nature of the Bill.

If I am not interrupted I will conclude after one sentence. I need to make this important point, which is that the principle being communicated in this section, as proposed to be amended, is that a person who is a director, manager, secretary or officer of a corporate would be liable, as well as the corporate body, for an offence. That is a very important principle. I note it is somewhat contradictory that the Government has not taken on board the proposal in respect of the Corporate Manslaughter (No. 2) Bill put forward by Senator Daly, in which the same principle applies.

Those are the points I want to make, and they do relate to the amendments. This is a very sad day for the environment. I recognise that the Bill will now be passed and I urge the Minister to look for any opportunity to try to address issues of heritage in the future because, unfortunately, this will be a dark mark on the Department's legacy in terms of heritage under its previous and current name. When the balance is considered, I believe there will be much to be redressed.

I point out to Senator Humphreys that the by-laws are subject to 90 days consultation. They come before the Houses and there are 21 sitting days in which they can be reviewed.

I thank Senator Higgins for commending our drafting of the original subsection (4) but it is important to point out that the Bill also deals with the Heritage Council. I consider that the Heritage Council does a very important job in respect of our heritage. I am sure the Senator did not mean to dismiss that.

I acknowledge that.

There is an entire section in the Bill which is designed to improve the governance of the Heritage Council. As the Senator knows, legislative issues do not fit neatly into departmental boundaries but, ultimately, her point is moot. This is a Government Bill.

On a point of order, as the budget in this area has dropped from €20 million to €6 million, I do not think an appreciation of the Heritage Council will go very far tonight.

Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 13.

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Kevin Humphreys and Grace O'Sullivan.
Question declared carried.
Question put: "That Fifth Stage be taken now."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 12.

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Kevin Humphreys and Grace O'Sullivan.
Question declared carried.
Question put: "That the Bill do now pass."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 13.

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Kevin Humphreys and Grace O'Sullivan.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 July 2018.