Céad míle fáilte roimh an Aire. Gabhaim buíochas léi as teacht isteach. Tá sár-jab á déanamh aici agus is iontach an rud é go bhfuil sí anseo linn arís inniu.
Registration of Wills Bill 2021: Second Stage
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I warmly welcome the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, to the House. She is somebody who I greatly admire. She is full of common sense and very dynamic. I know she will listen attentively to this debate. While we might disagree, the Minister has a job to do, and I always respect that. I, too, have a job to do and I gave a commitment to the former Senator, Mr. Terry Leyden, before he left this House that I would continue to raise this issue. It is timely and I am glad it is today, although that was not of my choosing, as such.
We know from the Irish Farmers' Journal and the Teagasc website that there will be a series of two webinars, one this evening, on the transfer of the family farm and on succession. A similar event was run last year and it was the most attended event ever held by Teagasc. It dealt with succession, the rural farm, the rural household and the family home, all very contentious issues when people have legitimate expectations to inherit them. Usually that is encouraged, fostered and supported by a parent or guardian who suggests to little Johnny walking the hills in Cavan that one day he will inherit this 70-acre place. Everyone is familiar with The Field, and with that legitimate expectation and excitement of inheritance, to carry on what one's father had. Someone sowed and someone reaps. Land is fundamentally important to our hearts and souls and to our belonging and tradition, which are very important things. It is funny that the further one travels north or west, where the holdings are smaller, there is an even greater intention and desire to continue, to carry on, to inherit and to succeed. That is where the will comes in.
I thank the Minister. At the outset, I wish to acknowledge that this is not my Bill. This is the Bill of many Members who put the work into it. I gave a commitment to former Senator Terry Leyden when he left that I would endeavour to pursue this issue. In the last two or three weeks I checked with the Seanad Office and it confirmed to me that the Bill had fallen. The Bill went through all Stages in this House, but in the parliamentary cycle it did not go to the Dáil. Hence, it could be reintroduced. I sought to reintroduce the Bill in the House last week. I had the full support of every Member of the House and it was restored to the Order Paper. I am aware that the same content of this Bill was reintroduced yesterday in the Dáil, but it has a different date from this Bill. The only difference is that this Bill is dated 2021. However, that is the process and the way these things go. I acknowledge the enormous amount of work done by the former Senator and former Minister of State, Mr. Terry Leyden, on this important issue.
The Bill provides for an opportunity to register one of the most important documents a person can make, a will. Most countries have such a register in place. Having this debate highlights again the importance of making a will and of storing it in a safe place to which the appropriate people will have access at some stage in the future. Some legal firms go out of business and can no longer hold a will. Indeed, I will share a story with Members. I made a will over 20 years ago with a big Dublin firm. I inquired some weeks ago where it was. First, I learned that the company had split into two different groups. When I then asked where my will was, neither company could tell me. I put it to them that I spent €75 some 20 years ago for a will and that they had a duty of care to me personally. They said they would look into it. I happen to have found a copy, but this shows the importance of lodging a will and retaining it in a safe place. We do not know when we will be called or when our life will be ended or taken through health or whatever, so it is important to have that.
I acknowledge that there are issues that need to be teased out. I am the first to say, and I am not pre-empting what the Minister will say, that this Bill contains anomalies and shortages. However, I want to get it from this Stage to Committee Stage. The then Minister in 2016, Deputy Varadkar, later the Taoiseach and now the Tánaiste, said it was important to have this Bill. He heard all the debate. Many Senators then who are still Senators - I do not see them here but they may be tuned in somewhere else and might join us later - spoke in glowing terms about the Bill. It passed every Stage in the House, and that is important. Many current Senators spoke in support of it. The then Minister with responsibility for social protection, Deputy Varadkar, spoke about its importance and the right to choice.
In fairness to him, he expressed some concern about aspects of the process. He asked if was a voluntary register, how much did a registrar know and have access to and what aspects were there in respect of confidentiality or abuse of access to wills, for example. He made some valid points but he suggested that pre-legislative scrutiny was the way to go in order to tease out this topic through committee. More important, it would get it to the next stage.
I am seeking a register of wills stating when and where the will was made, where it is held, the reference number and where it is available subject to the standard and appropriate checks, which are really important. We have a register for dog and television licences but we do not have a register for wills, which is extraordinary. We have a land registry and a very successful and professional probate service. We also have registration of births, deaths and marriages but we do not have a register for wills.
I note from previous debates on this matter that the Law Society of Ireland has expressed reservations and concerns, which I expect, as it represents the legal profession. It has views and it should be consulted. Again, either the Committee Stage process or pre-legislative scrutiny would be important in this regard, as that body would have opportunities to engage at that stage, which is important.
There have been times when people have felt they had to attend different solicitors in different towns to make different wills, which is extraordinary. It happens nonetheless, and it is very problematic. I have spoken with a number of solicitors in the past week and they told me they often receive emails from the incorporated Law Society asking if they have a certain will belonging to a certain person. People go through an exhaustive process, usually starting in their town, whether it is in Galway, Cavan, Waterford or Wexford, but may not be able to find a will.
I heard a terrible story of two women. One sister had minded her mother for 40 years and the other sister came home six weeks before the mother's death, admitting afterwards that she removed and destroyed the only will they had in the dining room. That case went to litigation at great cost to both of the women. The two sisters fell out and the courts forced the sale of the property. The sister who spent 40 years with her mother, giving up everything in her life, was chucked out on the road. How sad is that? Had the will been safe and out of the family home - or at least if a copy was out of the family home - she would have had some protection. The courts and the legal profession was sympathetic but there was simply no evidence of a will. The estate was declared intestate, the courts forced the sale and the legal profession made much money. Meanwhile, the two women now have virtually nothing. That should not happen and if there had been a register of wills, they would have known what was going on.
A national register of wills could address such matters. We all know what matters to people and disputes around estates can become very divisive, difficult and upsetting for all involved. Many people became benefactors of homes, farms and businesses that were not willed to them. Another solicitor told me thousands of wills were left in this city of Dublin in an old building not too far away from Leinster House. The business was completely wound up and in the normal set of circumstances the incorporate Law Society should have been informed of those wills. He told me the wills dated back from the early 1900s to the 1970s. Probate was never taken out on these wills and many were never opened. We only know they were filed alphabetically in a box and if a person said his or her name was "Boyhan" or "Humphreys", they would see if the file was there. Those wills were destroyed. It is a person's last will and testament but there are issues of concern around this. Not all solicitors are complying with regulations in that when they cease to be in business or amalgamate with another firm, they may not transfer the wills to the people. It is important because we know that if a will is found after probate takes place and assets have been distributed, the will is null and void.
People could find an only existing will five years afterwards but if the case has been in probate and the assets have been distributed, that is the end of it. It is a case being sorry but it is not good enough. The best way to achieve the key objectives of this Bill is to pass the legislation now. I know the Minister has considered this already. That is her style and I know how she operates. I know she will have an idea she will like to share with us. I respect that but I am conscious of the amendment that the Government has put down. I am proposing the legislation but the first I learned of the amendment was when it was notified to me in a general email some time late yesterday afternoon. I had no prior knowledge or discussion about it and nobody told me, as the person who moved the legislation, that this would be done. That is the process and I deal with that process.
The amendment proposes a delay of nine months, which is, to be frank, too long. We have been talking about this since 2005. I know that because I looked at the relevant sections of the Official Report. The Tánaiste has spoken about this and urged that we go ahead. I have the transcript of the speech where he suggested we go to Committee Stage. All I am asking today is that we go to Committee Stage. So what? I am not saying we should have that next week or next month but let us agree today not to have to bear another reading but to agree to go to Committee Stage. If it takes two or three months, that would be grand, but it cannot be nine months for another reading at this point. After all, this was passed through the Houses and been voted on by many Members. It is an important point.
I understand there is an idea of an online register. One aspect of the Tánaiste's contribution from back then that I like is that there may be a need to look at an online Irish wills register. Covid-19 has taught us something about being online. This is simply a register and it is not about the content and who made what. This would be a central register pointing to where the wills are deposited. He spoke about looking at the possibility of an online system. A wills register is an essential part of legal services. I am talking to the Minister, who wears several caps and is the Minister for Justice as well, but she is not here today in her capacity with the justice brief. She has much influence and people listen to her. They do not take "No" from her. She can make this happen. She represents a rural constituency.
I will tell her about two brothers in Bailieborough that I flagged with her when I spoke to her outside. They were promised they would inherit the family farm but in the end there was a dispute, as has happened so many times. It is so sad when we think of people who have fallen out over disputes involving land inheritance. We are talking about their heritage, their belonging and where they came from. They want to keep it but that may not happen if there is a dispute. These brothers fell apart, with one developing mental health issues. He is constantly struggling and feels betrayed and done out because, again, the will was destroyed. Somebody consciously set out to go into the dresser in the kitchen, bring the will outside and burn it because it was advantageous to that party to do so. How sad could that be and what legacy does that leave?
I do not need to share with the Minister or anybody in the House why so many suicides have happened and so many guns have been pulled on brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers over land disputes. It is about inheritance. We should remember the little boy who picked the stones from the fields or the fellow who settled the dry wall. We should remember the fellow who drove the cattle across the road to a few conacres he rented because he did not have it himself. He did not want his few acres overgrazed. These were noble men working the land and were proud to do it. They wanted to keep that land in their family name. Would the Minister begrudge that to anybody? I certainly would not.
A lawyer spoke to me today about a promissory estoppel. Within contract law, promissory estoppel refers to the doctrine that a party may recover on the basis of a promise - an honour and commitment - when the party's reliance on that promise was reasonable and the party attempting to recover detrimentally relied on that promise. The three main components needed for promissory estoppel are the promiser, the promisee and the promise that was not honoured. The injustice happens when the promisee suffers loss when he or she relied on that promise but it was not kept. In simple terms, it is legitimate expectation of inheritance and belonging that was, in a person's understanding, entitled to him or her or due to come his or her way.
That is not to mention the free labour, the toll and the commitment and sacrifices that one member of a family might have made to stay with an elderly parent and to allow the other members of the family move on. That comes at a price too. As a rural representative, the Minister will appreciate that people make sacrifices, and not always by choice. Often an elderly father, mother or guardian cannot be left alone. Those who remain do not necessarily get paid. They might get out-of-pocket expenses on good days and nothing on bad days, but they have the hope that on the passing of the parent or loved one if a will is safe and can be found and executed they will inherit what they have been told is theirs. That is fair. People have the right to leave property to other people, to exclude others from their wills and to make early provision for people. That is important too.
I have made a reasonable case for this measure. I know the Minister is fair and reasonable. I paid particular emphasis to the importance of the family farm because that is the kernel of so many of the inquiries I have received. I have only one ask, that is, that the Minister agree to allow this Bill to proceed to the next Stage. I am not demanding that Committee Stage would take place this month or next month, but that she would give reasonable consideration to my request such that people listening in to this debate can have hope. I know the Minister is committed, fair and reasonable. This is a time for her to support and stand in solidarity with the people who need a decision today.
I thank Senator Boyhan for his impassioned speech on the legislation, which has been before the House previously and discussed at length. The next speaker is Senator O'Loughlin.
I echo the Cathaoirleach's words in regard to Senator Boyhan's passion and eloquence in terms of the issue at hand. There is no doubting the principle of what he is promoting and proposing. What Senator Boyhan has proposed is in the best interests of the people of Ireland. It is only right that we remember the work of the former Senator, Terry Leyden, in regard to this issue. I appreciate Senator Boyhan mentioning him. I recall Terry Leyden speaking very eloquently and passionately about the need for this legislation at a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting. He had the full support of the party in bringing forward legislation to deal with it. I was pleased to see Deputy Devlin seek leave to have it reintroduced in the Dáil in order that it could be progressed further.
On the Bill, Senator Boyhan covered it so well that I cannot expand in any way on the reasons we need to have legislation that deals with wills and ensures that following death, the last wishes of a person are respected such that we do not have situations where land, property and money, etc., unfortunately do not go where the deceased person wanted or, indeed, where solicitors and the State end up taking the bulk of it. I have been through the probate process in regard to my father. It is a difficult enough process when there is a will that is very clear in that it takes a significant amount of time. I can only imagine how difficult the process is when there is no clear will. We should send out from this House a clear message that everybody should make a will and ensure it is clear in terms of their wishes. As stated, none of us know the day nor the hour in terms of where we will be.
With regard to my party's support, we had a lengthy discussion on this legislation when it was put forward by Terry Leyden. At that stage, it was allowed to progress. Fianna Fáil is not opposing this Bill but we support the nine-month timeframe set out in the Government amendment.
It is fair to say that the concerns which were expressed in relation to the previous Bill still stand. The Law Society of Ireland and the General Registry Office, GRO, have previously raised concerns with regard to weaknesses in the approach being proposed in this Bill. I would hope that those weaknesses could be strengthened and that the Bill would come into law. There is no doubt that detailed further engagement with the relevant authorities is needed, including with the Department of Justice, the Probate Office, the GRO and the Department of Social Protection. The proposers of the Bill rightly claim that such a register will reduce the risk of the existence of a will remaining unknown or being found belatedly and will facilitate the discovery of a will after the death of a testator. That is important. The Bill will also enable a solicitor to register the name and address of the custodian of the will to reduce the risk of it remaining unknown or being found belatedly. It also provides for the privacy of the registered particulars of the will prior to the testator's death. All of these are important provisions.
In terms of the concerns raised by the Law Society of Ireland and the GRO, in 2005, when a Bill was first proposed, the Law Society of Ireland opposed it on a number of grounds, primarily that the proposed registration is to be voluntary and would have limited effect, that registration does not guarantee that the registered will is the final will and that registration is not proof of validity. We would need to a devise a system to ensure the will that is registered is the final will. A responsible person might make a will at an early age. As we age and go through different stages in our lives, to whom we wish to leave the benefits of our life's work will, possibly, change. Ensuring that a will is the final will and testament is important.
There is also concern in regard to the appropriateness of establishing the proposed register by amendment of the Civil Registration Act 2004 because civil registration deals with registration of life events such as births, stillbirths, marriages, adoptions and deaths and not with matters relating to public or legal administration. These systems are central to the determination of identity and legal underpinning of identity. The registers currently maintained by the GRO have the presumption of accuracy based on independent evidence of the event. The GRO has expressed concern that the establishment of such a register could undermine the reputation of that office. We need to look at how we can address its concerns but, again, I think that is something we can do.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this noteworthy Bill. I wish the proposers well and thank them for bringing it back before the House. It is an important Bill.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
- "the Bill be read a second time this day 9 months to allow for comprehensive consideration of the implications of the Bill."
I note the comments of Senator Boyhan. In fairness, this amendment is not about opposing the Bill. Rather, it is about ensuring it is given full consideration, as is expected of us. As Senator O'Loughlin said, it is important to acknowledge the work that has been done here previously by others. I was not a Member of this House when Terry Leyden was a Member. He had an excellent reputation as a Senator. It is important for him that we follow through on the discussion on this Bill. I acknowledge Senator Boyhan in bringing this Bill forward and the passion with which he delivered it. There are an awful lot of people in this House who share his views on the complications that can arise in relation to wills. I come from a farming family. We have some land that has been handed down within the family over six or seven generations.
One is only a custodian of land for a period and then it is passed on. We all know of situations where what has been expected to happen has not actually happened and families have been left in a very difficult situation. We all know of families or people in communities who have experienced difficulties so it is extremely important for people with land to make a clear and definite last will.
When the Bill was first proposed in 2005 it gave rise to two issues. First, which Department would take responsibility for it and, second, the validity of the voluntary scheme for registering wills as proposed. The Law Society of Ireland was asked for its view in 2005, as Senator O'Loughlin said. It was asked for proposals on the basis that no scheme could succeed without the support of solicitors. The society strongly opposed the Bill on a number of grounds. The society pointed out that as the proposed registration is to be voluntary, it would have limited effect in remedying some existing deficiencies. The society also observed that registration does not guarantee that the registered will is the last will, which is a key point. The most the proposed registration system could achieve would be to confirm that a particular will was registered on a particular day. Furthermore, registration is not proof of validity; to be valid, a will must comply with statutory requirements.
In general, the Law Society opposed the Bill both in terms of day-to-day practicality and the infringement of certain legal principles. The only significance between the 2005 Bill, subsequent Bills in 2011 and 2016, and this Bill in 2021 was the insertion of a new section which provided that the registration or non-registration of wills could not be evidence or provide any presumption of the existence of a will or the evidence of any particulars entered in the registered will. The new section attempts to address the deficiencies brought to people's attention during the debate on the 2005 Bill in the Seanad. The amendments did not address the deficiencies in any substantial manner and left the Bill in a weaker position with those bodies that operate to an evidentiary standard with respect to official records. That is the key reason we have brought forward the amendment today. It is to give a timeframe to discuss the complexities of this matter. I know what the Minister has said about the timeframe but nine months is not a long time. This Bill is very important and I hope that the Minister can give it her support. As far as I am aware, most of the parties here are not going to oppose this Bill. Everyone supports the topic being raised and supports discussing it further. However, it is important to have the right legislation and that is why there is a request for more time.
I welcome the opportunity that I have been given to speak about this legislation. I also acknowledge the contribution and work done by Senators. I look forward to listening to the rest of the contributions.
I acknowledge the work done by Senator Boyhan and former Senator Terry Leyden. I can understand the passion because I am a former solicitor and sat behind a desk with a wills safe located right beside me. A safe is one of the most treasured possessions in a solicitor's office, partly because it is an asset but predominantly because, as solicitors, one sits down with families who are preparing for their deaths and one listens to them state their whole family's circumstances. One has a relationship with them in any case from other legal matters but one sits there with them and gives them the best advice based on their family circumstances. One goes through the Succession Act with them, which is a very enjoyable read as legislation goes. One goes through all of their rights, and the rights of those whom they may leave behind. It is important for people to realise that not everything in a will can always be executed. It is really significant that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority received 271 complaints from the beneficiaries of wills in a two-year period. I do not for one second believe that has to do with the solicitors that these people had seen because there is an awful lot of confusion about wills. I still get calls from people looking for wills because one does not know, and even more so now when families are so dispersed around the country or people are abroad. Wills are very complicated. The very fact that only 30% of people in this country write a will shows the complexity and lack of understanding about the importance of writing a will.
Two things happen if one cannot find a will. One is that there may be an older will that can be found in another solicitor's office. Second, there may be an assumption that there is no will at all so the rules of intestacy kick in and often a piece of land, but other assets as well, are divided up, which can never really go back together again. Even if a will is found later it is incredibly difficult to undo all of that. It is for all of those reasons, and not withstanding the excellent work that I genuinely believe solicitors do in this area, the best thing is to move a wills safe and put it somewhere more central due to the complex nature of society and the way that it has changed.
I agree that the Bill has many flaws, which has been acknowledged by Senator Boyhan and acknowledged by the Senators who spoke before me. I also think that Fianna Fáil Members acknowledged that at the time as well. It is important to get this Bill to a certain point, which is what we do here. We tease out legislation here. Senator Boyhan mentioned pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important to note that we have all put it on the record that we are committed to this legislation but believe it needs to be teased out because one needs solicitors on board. Even if one gets a will from the General Register Office or wherever it is, a solicitor will do the work on it and, therefore, solicitors must be on board. In the same way that we expect teachers to be on board if we make changes to the education system we must also have legal professionals on board.
Wills are not just important because of land. Wills are important as one can stipulate the kind of care one wants to put in place for a dependant or dependants who have been left behind. We really need proper education from a young age so that people can start making their wills before they reach the stage of preparing for their death because it feels somewhat imminent. Education is something that we should look at.
I wish to mention a campaign group called My Legacy that seeks to reduce the VAT rate of 20% on charitable donations that are written into wills. It is important that we consider this matter. We may even increase the 30% of the population who have written their wills if we conducted a campaign and informed people that society can benefit in other ways from a will and that making a will benefits one's family and the wider society with bequests to charities.
I support the Bill but I agree with the sensible suggestion of nine months for all of the reasons that I have outlined.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire don phlé agus tréaslaím leis an méid a dúireadh faoinár gcara, an iar-Sheanadóir Terry Leyden. Tagraím don sárobair a rinne sé i dtaca leis an reachtaíocht seo sa Seanad deireanach.
I thank the Minister for being here for what has again been a very respectful and informed discussion on Second Stage. I read the previous Second Stage debate in the last Seanad and it is hard to believe that it was five years ago in 2016. That debate was very respectful and quite similar in that we all agreed something needed to be done.
Yes, it needed to be tweaked, it needed amendments and it needed to be refined. We all agree that that should happen. However, here we are again in 2021.
When Senator Boyhan made his opening remarks, I set my speaking notes to one side. I felt I would not be able to improve upon the clear, coherent, logical rationale he offered as to why this legislation is necessary and why a new system is necessary. Respectfully, there are few Members of this House who can sail through a full 16 minutes and not hesitate at all. Well done to Senator Boyhan for that.
We all agree today that this legislation is necessary. We all agree and acknowledge that it could be fine-tuned and that it needs that. The way to do that is, as Senator Boyhan outlined, to progress the Bill through the normal parliamentary process, and to get it to Committee Stage. I do not disagree, and in supporting the intent of the legislation I am also of a view that it needs to be refined and needs improvements. I would approach it in that regard as it passes through the House. However, we have it within all of our political and parliamentarian craft to get it to Committee Stage way before nine months. Nine months is way too long. That causes me concern, given that we have been here with this Bill before, as well as because we all agree that this needs to be enacted and delivered to people, for all the reasons that colleagues across the House have outlined.
I do not say this to be facetious at all, but if we can put through this House omnibus legislation, hugely complex, vast arrays of legislation, quickly, speedily and efficiently, then it is within our political and parliamentary craft to get this Bill to the place where it needs to be much quicker than within nine months. I do not want to labour that point. The argument has been made well and comprehensively by others. I have no doubt other colleagues of Senator Boyhan in the Independent group will argue likewise. However, I support the principles of the Bill, much like we did in 2016. I think we can improve upon it. The onus is on us to work collaboratively to get it done. We can do it well within the scope of the nine months that is being advocated for by the parties opposite.
Go raibh maith agat, a Sheanadóir. Anois, cúpla focal ó Sheanadóir Marie Sherlock, le do thoil.
On behalf of my Labour Party colleagues I thank Senator Boyhan for bringing this important Bill forward. I understand this is the fourth time that this Bill, or at least the concept contained within this Bill, has come before the House. I read back through some of the transcripts of those previous debates and, as other Senators have said, there is cross-party support for the concept within this Bill. However, the Oireachtas has failed on every occasion to progress it. As a House we need to look at ourselves and ask if we are determined to progress this legislation and tease through all the issues. Of course, no Bill that comes before the House will be perfect. The Bill needs to be tweaked, but it needs to be allowed to progress. I am struck that Ireland is, I am told, one of only seven EU member states without a national register of wills. A will is probably one of the most important documents in a person's life. We need to address how wills are alarmingly underregulated or underprovided for with regards to a register. We need to address that soon.
I have a concern about the Government amendment. I do not believe that we should be effectively kicking the can down the road. Of course, by the time we get to the proposed nine months, there will be further delays. There will be another additional number of months to try and put it through Committee Stage. I am reflecting on my own experience with the sick pay Bill, which went through the Dáil last September. That was 12 months ago. We were told then by the Government that we should wait for a delay on passing Second Stage for six months. Of course, we are now coming to the end of 2021 and we still do not have the sick pay Bill. That is one example by way of illustration. While I accept that the Government wants to engage, kicking the can down the road for nine months is simply not acceptable.
In the spirit of the Bill, I will go back to the point that a will is probably one of the most important documents in a person's life. It is also an important document to the life of a family of a person who has passed on. To provide certainty to a family at a time that is already difficult, it is important for them to know that a will is held within a centralised register. Like Senator Boyhan, I know of many stories of people who had to send an email around to various solicitors, to go through the Law Society of Ireland, to get them to email solicitors in a particular town or district to try and identify if their loved one has left a will. There is also the situation where there can be multiple wills. Of course, somebody can make a will at a young age and may make another will many years later. That inconsistency between wills can be a source of great distress and additional grief to families. There is a general agreement that this is a good idea, but we need to try and push this on. It is important in terms of public confidence in us as a House that we do not see the fall of the Government, the start of a new term, and the reintroduction of this Bill for a fifth time. I ask that we progress this Bill as soon as possible.
Go raibh maith agat. Anois, an Sheadadóir Seán Kyne, le do thoil. He has six minutes, and I will give him a warning after five so that he does not go over.
I commend the authors of this Bill. As others have said, it has gone around the Houses for some years. It is an important issue. When people make a will, they like to think that it will be read and dealt with when they pass. As others, as well as the last speaker, have said, we all know of cases where we have gone astray, and difficulties have arisen. Dare I say, there are some unscrupulous people out there as well. I could name cases - but of course I will not - of which I would be aware, involving solicitors, bank managers and individuals. We will say no more on that.
One concern I have relates to the General Register Office. The Bill states that the register of wills should be kept in the General Register Office, Oifig an Ard-Chláraitheora, in Roscommon. If this is the same crowd that is dealing with the records of deaths abroad, I would not have a lot confidence in them. I dealt with legislation on the registration of deaths abroad. I produced a Private Members' Bill a number of years ago. Deputy Humphreys's predecessor, Deputy Richard Burton, updated legislation on that issue. This legislation was on behalf of parents who lose a child abroad and who cannot get a death certificate in this country, because the death occurred abroad. We changed the legislation in this House. However, when I contacted the Oifig an Ard-Chláraitheora in Roscommon, I was politely told: "Just because ye changed legislation up there in Dublin doesn't mean we jump to your tune down here. We have to update and change the computer systems", and things like that. The last I heard, the office was on strike. If one tries to get this office to look after wills, never mind a nine-month delay, a nine-year delay might be more appropriate. We might get clarity on that. A kick in the proverbial backside is what that office would want, with the way they have respected people who lost loved ones abroad and who cannot get a death certificate. They said: "Just because ye do things in Dublin and changed the law, we basically act as we want down here in our office". That is the Oifig an Ard-Chláraitheora and how it deals with people who go through tragic cases involving deaths abroad.
I agree with the policy of ensuring that there is a register of wills. It is very important to give peace of mind to people. We all expect to be able to live a long and healthy life. Somebody in their 30s or 40s could be obliged, or rightly advised, to enact a will. Solicitors move on. Things get mislaid.
Solicitors are struck off from time to time or files are transferred and all of that sort of stuff, which can be complicated. The idea of a general register is right and correct. It should be considered. Whatever mechanism that can be introduced to ensure this happens would be right and proper. The delay for nine months allows the time for the consultation, engagement, and certainty on this with the Law Society and other groups acting on behalf of solicitors to ensure whatever is done and put in place is correct and accessible.
There are also issues of confidentiality. A register would say that a will is there, but this does would not mean that the will would be accessible to anybody, and this would be a danger particularly with online systems and security and so on.
Senator Pauline O'Reilly spoke about a safe beside her desk. I am sure every solicitor has something similar, and banks may have them as well. Perhaps somebody else can advise as to who else might have a copy of a will or if it is just the solicitor. Perhaps the bank or somebody else might have a copy also to ensure safe keeping. When a person goes to the trouble of executing a will, whether it is for something small or of sentimental value, or whether it is for an asset of significant value, it is important that the person's wishes are carried out and that they are carried through thereafter.
I commend those who have drawn up the Bill, and I look forward to the Minister's response, and the enactment of this legislation over the coming year, shall we say.
Senator Higgins is next. The Senator just came in there and I caught her in the corner of my eye.
This Bill had a great deal of scrutiny in the previous Oireachtas. The proposed legislation was championed by former Senator, Terry Leyden. It is an example of good faith legislation and an attempt to improve the lives and deaths of people, and to make those processes better. It has been subject to detailed debate and scrutiny. I have no doubt that it will be subject to further debate and scrutiny, including in the other House.
There are provisions that could be tweaked slightly such as the re-registering of new and subsequent wills, and the question of changes to appointed persons. The core of the Bill, however, is a massive step forward. It is about establishing a register of wills and having a place that people can go.
Another former Senator, Marie-Louise O'Donnell, produced a detailed report on bereavement and how we engage with that in Ireland, and the lack of supports and proper engagement. We are aware that sometimes people do not know how to deal with this area until they have to deal with it. The idea of having a register of wills and having clarity is important. It is a step forward. It will make family relationships and succession easier and clearer. It will reduce the number of cases where properties remain in limbo and in dispute for periods, which is one of the sources of the vacant properties issue we face. It may be a small reason but it is one. The Bill is a step forward.
I acknowledge Senator Kyne's frustrations regarding a particular office. If there are frustrations around implementation or practice in particular offices, it is appropriate that this would be addressed. I encourage the Government to address those practice issues. We cannot afford to be cynical or allow this to have any kind of setback in our ambition for the legislation. Legislation is what we produce. We produce good legislation. The delivery and administration of the legislation is one area of follow-up. This is where Departments must play a strong role in ensuring appropriate delivery and follow-up.
I support the Bill and we should not delay it. The Bill will address the issue of people postponing the making of wills. We should not postpone the legislation on the establishment of a registry for wills. We should not display the same kind of behaviour, where we are push it further down the line and wait for the right moment when we are sure of everything before we commence the process of creating a register of wills, just as we do not want people to employ those same kinds of logic in their own decision to commence the process of making a will.
I support the Bill moving forward. I urge the Government not to seek a nine-month delay. There will be other opportunities. This is a Private Member's Bill and the time slots for it are dependent, to a large degree, on the limited slots available for Private Member's business. It is not going to rocket through the Oireachtas at a pace that will not allow for proper scrutiny. There will be time for proper scrutiny and amendment if that is required. I encourage that the Bill be supported to move forward without a nine-month stay.
I also endorse the proposal from Senator O'Reilly on the legacy requests. That is a financial matter with regard to tax so I am conscious that we would not be able to address this by amendment. Perhaps this issue could be addressed in the finance Bill when it comes through this House. It would be a good idea to abolish VAT on legacy donations to charitable institutions.
I am pleased to second this Bill. It is a long time since I have been before the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and as she is a member of the Government I want to put something on the record of this House. I believe it very important that our Government is represented at the interdenominational service in Armagh on 21 October. I do not believe it has been made clear whether the Government is going to be represented. If the Government is represented, I hope that-----
Speak to the Bill if you do not mind ,Senator.
The Minister is the person who should be there because she would certainly represent this country and the Government with dignity and decorum. I just wanted to take this opportunity to put that important point on the record of this House. Sometimes it is the only way one can get the ear of the Minister.
This Bill needs to pass today. It should not be subject to a nine-month delay and there are two reasons for this. The Bill previously passed in the Seanad, which is a commendation of the good work of former Senator, Terry Leyden, for all he did to promote this legislation, and it is only for political reasons that Fianna Fáil put this Bill on the Order Paper in the Dáil yesterday.
This Bill is good to go in the sense that there will be plenty of time to amend it without such a nine-month delay, and out of respect for the Seanad and the good work that it did in the past. Let is consider also the rather crazy and counterproductive Bills that have not been subject to this nine-month delay but that have been allowed through this House on Second Stage. I could offer a list but I will not because I want to stick to the point.
The Bill mirrors the Registration of Wills Bill 2016, which passed all stages in the Seanad in 2019 but has since lapsed. The aim is simple. It is to assist in asserting upon the death of a person whether a will exists and in whose custody it is kept. It is no more and no less. Other matters such as the validity of the will, it contents, whether it has been revoked or revived, and whether there are codicils to the will, are irrelevant to the register and to this Bill.
It is a limited strike but it is a strike that makes sense because it allows people to establish whether there is a will on the register and to proceed with their search from there. The fact that the will has been registered is not proof of its validity and it will not invalidate any subsequent will that, for whatever reason, has not be registered.
On the previous occasion this issue was debated, there was an unfortunate attempt by the then Government to conflate these issues, almost to suggest that if the register said nothing about the validity or contents of the will, it would somehow make the registration irrelevant. That was to miss the point and that is not correct. A system that would allow us to assert whether a will exists and where it might be could be invaluable and prevent a lot of time, effort and resources being wasted.
Senator O'Reilly correctly referred to how interesting succession legislation is. We are talking about serious issues when we talk about succession. As always in our country, however, the seriousness of those issues makes them ripe for humour. We have all heard the line about where there is a will, there is a relative. For the benefit of Members who were not here in the House when we addressed this matter previously, I like to recall "Glenroe" when the great character, Dinny Byrne, had some expectations of inheriting from his uncle Peter.
The bad news was conveyed to him by Fr. Devereux that there was no will. He said, "Dinny, I am afraid you Uncle Peter died intestate", to which Dinny replied, "I thought it was the heart". Anyway, that is not to make light of what is a serious matter.
We should encourage people to make wills as a matter of public policy. In an ideal world, everyone would do so early in order for their affairs to be promptly and properly administered according to their wishes after their death. We should provide every means we can to ensure that the record of existence of these wills or their whereabouts should be maintained in order to encourage wills as best we can. A problem clearly exists at some level with regard to missing wills, uncertainty as to whether a will exists and people dying intestate.
In the August-September 2021 edition of the Law Society Gazette, there were 19 notices from solicitors advertising to other solicitors asking their colleagues if they were aware of the existence of a will made by a named deceased person. Every edition of that publication contains at least as many such notices. In fact, the only people likely to be discommoded by the creation of the register would be the Law Society Gazette because it charges €155 for these advertisements. I have no desire to deprive it of revenue but I do not think the maintenance of its revenue is a sufficient argument not to provide for the registration and the possibility of registering wills.
As I understand it, solicitors also correspond with other solicitors in their locality inquiring as to whether they are aware of the existence of a will for a particular deceased person. All this adds to time and cost. Of course, the existence of a will does not mean that it is all plain sailing. I recently read Bowen's Court by Elizabeth Bowen in which she recounts the details of wills concluded in the 1700s, describes allegations of shenanigans with regard to their content and relays an urban legend about a stash of gold coins being secretly buried on family property. And that family was embroiled in two costly and futile legal actions, one of which went all the way to the House of Lords, causing resentments which survived into the 20th century. Most Irish families are not quite so fond of drama as the Bowens but problems can and do sometimes arise even where a will exists. However, at least if a will exists and is located then for good or ill, and no matter what fallout it might cause, it will show the wishes of the testator and surviving relatives can proceed from there.
The Bill, therefore, will establish a register making it easier to locate a will and to "reduce the risk of a will remaining unknown or found belatedly". There will be no requirement to file a copy of the actual will. Apart from very basic details identifying the testator, no details of any kind about the will itself will be registered. A will is a deeply personal instrument to which the highest standards of confidentiality should apply unless waived by the testator, and even the bare details about the testator and the will's existence will not be a matter of public record. In the words of former Senator Terry Leyden, these details will not be made available "to any family member or inquisitive neighbour".
Finally, under section 10-----
The Senator has had a long time. I ask him to conclude.
Okay. The registration of a will is optional, not compulsory, and that is necessary because we do not want a situation whereby the failure to register a will would invalidate it.
I call Senator Gallagher followed by Senator Garvey.
At the outset, I extend a very warm welcome to the Minister, who is my constituency colleague, into the Chamber this afternoon for this very important piece of legislation. I commend my colleague, Senator Boyhan, and his colleagues, on bringing forward this proposed piece of legislation.
I often think about my former colleague, and I am glad to say, current friend, Terry Leyden, who did Trojan work on this particular issue in the previous term and succeeded in ensuring that the Bill passed through all Stages of the Seanad at that point. I, for one, thought that was job done in that regard and it was passed over to our good colleagues in the Lower House. Here we are back discussing the matter this afternoon, however.
From the discussion today, one thing we all have in common, and one message we would like to send out loud and clear to everyone, is the importance of making a will. That is the key message I would take from the debate this afternoon. It is vitally important that people make a will. Those who come thereafter might not like the contents but I know from experience in a different field that where no will is made, it can be a terrible thing for a family. It can result in families being broken up and split for good. That is a very sad thing and something we should try to avoid at all costs. That is the first point.
The second relates to the principle, thinking and merit behind this piece of legislation. Again, we are all on one page as regards the idea that a register of some kind could be compiled, which would give details of wills. It is a good idea and one with which we are all in agreement.
Concerns have been raised, most notably by the Law Society of Ireland, none of which is insurmountable. The proposal being put forward this afternoon whereby we take some time to tease out the issues that have been raised by the Law Society of Ireland, among others, is welcome. It is not about the speed of legislation passing through both Houses; it is about the quality of that legislation and ensuring that we get the result we all require.
Having spoken to Terry Leyden on many occasions on this piece of legislation and as recently as today, his goal was that it would go through but that it would do so in a manner that would have benefit for those who would be affected by that legislation. That would be my key goal and principle in that regard. I understand the Minister is proposing this and that she was given a bit of space in order to arrest those issues. Knowing the Minister as long as I have, I have no doubt that she will. I accept her bona fides in that regard 100%. I have no doubt that within nine months or even before that, she will be back in this House where we can take what is, at the moment, nothing more than a good idea and attach it and make it workable for everybody concerned.
In that regard, I am quite happy to support the motion being put forward. I commend Senator Boyhan. I listened to his passionate contribution earlier with regard to wills, land and the connection we all have to land. Like the Minister, I was born and reared on a small farm. We can all appreciate the connection people have with that land and with property.
In summary, I thank the Acting Chairperson for the opportunity to say a few words. I am happy to support this legislation, as I was when Terry Leyden brought it forward. I understand it is the exact same piece of legislation. I was delighted to support it then and I am delighted to support it now. As I said, my only goal is to ensure we have quality legislation going through in a timeframe we can all live with. I am sure we will get that. I look forward to the Minister's contribution after other Members have had the opportunity to have theirs.
I thank Senator Boyhan for his work on this Bill. It seems like the work was done before and, sometimes, we must resurrect Bills. I am working on a Bill that was brought through back in 2008. If we can get this Bill through in nine months' time we will be doing great.
I support the Bill but I support the amendment too. A will is a legal document. We often pass Bills about things that are not legal documents so one thing we must make sure of is to get this right. We all know wills can make or break families. In some ways, it is quite amusing that when it is an Opposition Bill, we are being accused of delaying it and when it is a Government Bill, we are often accused of rushing it. In this instance, nine months is not a big ask. It is important that it is done properly.
As the previous speaker said, I commend the Senator on the work. I also want to reiterate the issue around charitable donations being taxed at 23%. It is absolutely wrong. We will have to look at that as well. This gives us a bit of time to look at those kinds of things. We need to get this right. Even if we resurrect a Bill, laws will have changed since then and we must dot our i's and cross our t's. I can see why the nine months is requested. I welcome that timescale and I welcome the Bill.
First, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Registration of Wills Bill 2021. I acknowledge Senator Boyhan on his initiative to reintroduce this draft legislation. I really want to thank all the Senators for the contributions. I acknowledge the genuine concerns they have regarding wills.
It would also be remiss of me not to acknowledge the significant work done on drafting similar Bills on this topic by our former Oireachtas colleague and Senator, Terry Leyden, who I know raised this issue in previous Seanad terms.
I speak to Senators as both Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Justice. The General Register Office, GRO, is an independent office that falls under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection and is central to the proposal being advanced in this legislation, while the Department of Justice has a remit in respect of the administration of wills via the Courts Service and the Probate Office. It is fair to say that both Departments have concerns with the Bill as drafted. Notwithstanding these concerns, which I will outline in further detail later, I accept the spirit in which this legislation is being brought forward. I am, therefore, proposing a timed amendment in order to allow for engagement between the Senators and officials from both the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Justice, the GRO, and the Probate Office, so that the merits of this Bill and the issues it presents for those bodies can be teased out in further detail.
The House may be aware that this is a further attempt to introduce a system by which wills can be registered. As I mentioned, former Senator Terry Leyden originally introduced the Bill in 2005. That Bill passed all Stages in Seanad Éireann in 2006, but it fell on the dissolution of the Oireachtas at the general election of 2007. Senator Leyden continued to pursue a Bill and introduced the Bill again in 2011. That Bill was similar to the 2005 Bill, in that it provided for a voluntary system of registration of wills by the General Register Office. That Bill also fell and was reintroduced again in 2016. Unfortunately, despite reservations being expressed on each occasion regarding the approach in those Bills, the text of the current Bill before us appears to bear no substantial differences to its predecessors. It is worth noting at the time the original 2005 Bill was introduced, the then Department of Justice and Law Reform sought the views of the Law Society of Ireland. In its response, the Law Society of Ireland expressed a number of reservations on the Bill both in terms of the day-to-day practical implementation of the proposed provisions, and on the infringement of certain legal principles. I have not had the opportunity to consult with the society on this Bill, given the time available to me since its introduction last week. However, as the contents of the Bill have not taken on the earlier concerns, I suspect that the Law Society of Ireland’s reservations continue to persist. It might be useful to remind the House what the society concerns were. I share these concerns.
The Law Society of Ireland pointed out that as the proposed registration of wills is to be a voluntary code, it would have limited effect. Proponents of a register of wills suggest that a number of wills go undiscovered or are destroyed each year, sometimes resulting in the mistaken distribution of estates under intestacy rules, or on the terms of a prior will. Unfortunately, very little information has been advanced to substantiate the problem the Bill seeks to remedy. I am aware of a general concern that wills can go missing. However, I have no information as to the number of instances where wills are reported as missing or lost.
The Law Society of Ireland made the point in its commentary submitted on the earlier Bills that the problems of missing or lost wills would persist under a voluntary system of registration contained in this Bill. In addition, the society was of the opinion that the most the Bill’s proposed registration system would achieve would be to confirm that a particular will was registered on a particular day. Crucially, it would not be conclusive that the will registered was the last one of the deceased person.
A further concern raised by the society was that the registration of a will offered no proof of the validity of the will registered. As I mentioned, the current Bill as it stands does not appear to address these earlier concerns. Neither does the Bill address concerns that a will has been executed in accordance with the statutory requirements and is valid. Importantly, registration would not prove that the will was made under undue influence. The society expressed the opinion that if the issue of the proper execution of wills is not addressed, the veracity of information held in a public register was doubtful and of limited use.
I would like to turn now to the concerns expressed by the Registrar General, who has responsibility for the General Register Office. The Bill proposes that the GRO will have responsibility for the registration of wills. The GRO is one of our longest surviving offices of State. Civil registration was introduced in 1845 for the registration of non-Catholic marriages and expanded in 1864 to births, deaths and Catholic marriages. Registration of adoption was introduced in 1952, civil partnerships in January 2011 and gender recognition in 2015. The services of the office continue to evolve to reflect societal change but continue to be primarily concerned with providing legal certainty around the registration and recording of vital life events, such as births, marriages and, ultimately, deaths.
As the Registrar General has stated in his annual report to me, the GRO is concerned primarily with matters relating to identity and the legal underpinning of matters relating to identity. I do not need to remind the House of the importance of the registers maintained by the GRO. The data in the registers form a basic, continuous source of information about the population. The registers provide faithful records of vital events relating to people. Most importantly, they provide a reassurance that satisfies the need for evidence that has a bearing on rights, entitlements, liabilities, status and nationality. Senator Kyne raised a specific issue. I would ask him to provide me with the details. I would be happy to raise the issue with the Registrar General.
As emphasised in previous debates on the Bill, civil registration is relevant to each of us at important stages in our lives, beginning with the registration our births and ending with the registration of our deaths. Between those events, civil registration affects us directly, as in the case of marriage, and indirectly when certificates are required for many of the services available in society such as enrolling a child in school, obtaining a passport, taking up employment, participating in sports, and claiming a social welfare entitlement. Most importantly, each event registered under civil registration legislation has the benefit of an independent, evidential basis. Details of births are notified to the register independently of the parents. Details of deaths are attested, either by way of a certificate provided by the medical practitioner who had tested the deceased, or a coroner’s certificate. Marriages are evidenced by the signatures of the parties to a marriage, the witnesses and the solemniser.
The importance of these independent verification processes is that the records of the GRO enjoy a high reputation for integrity and credibility, both nationally and internationally. Certificates of vital events are readily accepted as evidence of the facts recorded, without the need for further investigation or inquiry. Records contained in the registers are recognised for their value as evidence in court proceedings, and the processes that underpin them are relied on by our courts in determining the matters before them.
From the foregoing, Senators will recognise that the proposals to establish a register of wills by the GRO would represent a significant departure. The scheme of registration of wills proposed in the Bill is voluntary. It will not guarantee that a will registered in the manner proposed was the last will, that it was a properly executed will, and that it was not made under duress. The scheme also fails to recognise that wills may be amended, revoked or superseded. A key failure is that the Bill does not make any effort to address concerns that the validity of wills registered can be assured. I do not see how the scheme, as proposed, can achieve the underlying objectives of the Bill. In addition, placing the General Register Office in an area of legal administration that is not within its recognised public administrative function, runs the risk of undermining that body.
The arguments that I have set out are equally applicable to other State bodies that have a role in the administration of wills, estates and inheritances. If we are to legislate for a register of wills, it needs to be done in a manner that addresses the concerns of the Law Society, GRO and others.
While I am not opposing the Bill today, I hope Senators will accept the genuine concerns expressed regarding it. As this is now the fourth time since 2005 that the Bill has come before the Oireachtas, I believe it is high time that there was a serious engagement between the relevant Departments and offices with the Senators who are putting the Bill forward in good faith. For that reason, and with the co-operation of Senator Boyhan and his colleagues, I propose to arrange a meeting between the relevant officials in the Departments of Justice and Social Protection, the GRO and the Probate Office in order that all of these issues can be considered in detail and a decision can be taken once and for all on the merits of this Bill, which has been knocking around the Houses of the Oireachtas for longer than me and many others.
We need to quantify the extent of the problem and get an understanding of how it can be addressed to proceed. We need to get everybody into the one room. I am happy to facilitate that so that we can move this forward. Gaining a better understanding will allow an opportunity to properly identify the solutions that can be crafted either by a legislative or administrative mechanism. I also believe further consultation with the Law Society would offer refreshed and valuable insights into how the legal profession would see the objective being progressed.
I thank Senator Boyhan for bringing forward the Bill. I also thank all the Senators who have highlighted how important it is to make a will. Senator Boyhan is correct that many a will has been burnt, many a bitter row has resulted over a will and many a family divided because of a will. Senator Gallagher is correct that it is about getting the legislation right. It is not about going around the houses; it is about getting everybody in the one room to thrash this out once and for all. As I outlined, I am happy to facilitate this engagement with the aim of getting a comprehensive understanding of the matter, identifying suitable and workable solutions, and engaging with other stakeholders such as the Law Society so that any proposals that emerge enjoy the strongest credibility.
One could say, follow that. I love the passion. The more passionate about it that the Minister got, the more the Northern accent came out. I do not doubt her credentials. I said to her in the anteroom before I came into the Chamber that she has a job to do, and I have a job to do. There is a terrible creak in the floorboard here every time I move forward. I am disappointed with the nine-month delay. That will bring us to next June and July. At the end of the day, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Senators put this Bill through every Stage. I take on board all the shortcomings. The Minister was not in this office when the Bill was before the House previously. The Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, who was then the Minister for Social Protection, dealt it. I note what the Minister's scriptwriter has done. I marked two pages of the script which were cut and pasted, line-by-line, from the response given by the previous Minister. At least there is consistency. I will not be critical of that. He stated:
The best way to achieve this is to allow the Bill to pass through Second Stage and proceed to Committee Stage and, under the new arrangements, to allow for a pre-legislative scrutiny hearing in order that we can hear from all those who have an interest and expertise in this area and perhaps tease it out further.
That was said by the leader of the Minister's party, the Tánaiste. He made that call as Minister and it was a good one. He suggested we go forward with the Bill and tease it out.
Poor old Senator Leyden. I too spoke to him. I know he is away because I received a text message from him. I hope he is enjoying the sunshine. For some reason, his colleagues did not reinstate this Bill. I am an Independent. I did not change one word in the legislation, other than to add "2021". I have no doubt he is listening in, because he is keen on the legislation. None of his colleagues had the gumption to put the Bill on the Order Paper. Suddenly, a week later, a reference to the older Bill is on the Order Paper in the other House. We know that has gone on and on since 2005, as the Minister rehearsed herself. It is not in the programme for Government either, but suddenly there is a renewed interest in all of this.
To be fair, I would have preferred if somebody had rung me up yesterday or come to me and said he or she was in the Department, the Seanad office or somewhere else and had put a proposal, but no one rang me, spoke to me or came to me. Nobody suggested six months, nine months or anything else. I am a man of compromise. I believe in getting things done. I am not in the business of opposing things. I might be on this side of the House because of the technical voting structure but, on the whole, I do not oppose the Government. I support most of the Ministers who come into this House and I support good legislation. However, this is critically important. The Minister could even have said six months. Why did she not go along with the previous Minister and let it move to the next Stage, Committee Stage? I will give a commitment. I am happy for Committee Stage to be dealt with in three months. Let us all agree that it should be put off for three or four months. Next June, no doubt we will be heading off on our holidays. We are talking about dealing with the Bill in nine months. This Bill will not be heard about for another year. How can we go back to our rural roots in our constituencies and say there is a delay yet again?
If I hear the name, the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, once more, it will be too soon. It was used that more than any other term here today. The Incorporated Law Society of Ireland has vested interests too. There are conflicts of interest. It has done nothing. Litigation is shillings; it is bobs and money. Too many people in this country have spent too much of their hard-earned money on litigation. It is great. Bring them in. Wheel them in. If people have a problem with their spouses or siblings or so-and-so, it will have to go to litigation. They do not talk about arbitration or mediation; they talk about litigation. Shillings, boy, shillings. I am sorry. Not all people in the legal profession think like that, but many do.
A phrase used by the Minister today is that "mistaken distribution of estates" happened in some cases. Was that not a terrible thing to have happened? The mistaken distribution of people's estate. I have no axe to grind. I did not come with any great story. This is nothing to do with me in terms of work. I just put "2021" on the Bill and got it on the Order Paper, because I wanted it back on the centre stage in the Oireachtas. I respect the Minister and, what is better, I like her. I do not want to fight with her. She is a hard one to say "No" to, but she has to do what she has to do and I have to do what I have to do. I will continue to respect her. I will continue to engage with her, and I will continue to pursue this issue.
I want to work with Senator Boyhan.
I want to work with the Minister too.
Is that not a nice bit of collegiality?
- Ahearn, Garret.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Byrne, Malcolm.
- Carrigy, Micheál.
- Casey, Pat.
- Cassells, Shane.
- Conway, Martin.
- Crowe, Ollie.
- Cummins, John.
- Currie, Emer.
- Daly, Paul.
- Doherty, Regina.
- Dolan, Aisling.
- Fitzpatrick, Mary.
- Gallagher, Robbie.
- Garvey, Róisín.
- Hackett, Pippa.
- Kyne, Seán.
- Lombard, Tim.
- Martin, Vincent P.
- McGahon, John.
- McGreehan, Erin.
- O'Loughlin, Fiona.
- Ward, Barry.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.
- Boyhan, Victor.
- Boylan, Lynn.
- Gavan, Paul.
- Higgins, Alice-Mary.
- Keogan, Sharon.
- Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
- Sherlock, Marie.
- Warfield, Fintan.