Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 Apr 2022

Vol. 284 No. 8

Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage

Sections 1 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendment No. 1 is out of order due to a potential charge on the revenue.

Is it possible to speak on that amendment?

I suggest that you contribute on amendment No. 2 or on the overall section to make your point on amendment No. 1.

There is scope in amendment No. 2 to discuss all that.

When you move amendment No. 2 you can speak to your substantive point.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 9, after line 40, to insert the following:

“Report on Reforms to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board

16. The Minister shall, within 2 years of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, a report detailing the implementation of reforms to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.”.

I will speak on the amendment now and I will speak on the section later.

First, I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Naughton, to the House. I realise she has a job to do, and we have our own job to do here. This is a very important legislative measure. It was passed by the Dáil and it was very interesting to read the transcripts of the debate on it.

Amendment No. 1 was ruled out of order, but its general scope fits in so I will loosely embrace it in amendment No. 2. I wish to flag to the House that it is my intention to table a slightly modified version of amendment No. 1 on Report Stage. I have said enough about that. The Cathaoirleach wrote to inform me that it was ruled out of order and I accept that ruling.

The Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2021 was debated extensively at the committee, as the Minister of State will be aware. I read the transcripts of the contributions she and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, made on it. There was huge engagement. As an island country, we have to be very conscious of the importance of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board and I took the opportunity to look at its website and to dip into a number of its reports. There is a large and significant body of work to be done there, but we must have confidence in a marine casualty investigation unit, board, authority or whatever one calls it. Deputy Cathal Crowe, from Clare, spoke extensively about it, as did a number of other Deputies. Deputy O'Rourke tabled extensive and comprehensive amendments. Some of them were ruled out of order, not because of a constraint on the Exchequer but because they were deemed to be outside the remit of the Bill.

I wish to touch on the issues with regard to having confidence in the Marine Casualty Investigation Board. My amendment refers to two years. That is a hell of a long time and I will be extremely disappointed if the Minister of State tells me today that she cannot facilitate an amendment that applies out to two years. That could possibly be the end of the term of this Government, but it is short of that. The amendment states: "The Minister shall, within 2 years of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, a report detailing the implementation of reforms to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.” Why do I propose that? I do so because there are a number of issues in respect of reports. The Minister of State will be familiar with both the Clinch report and the Lacey report. I understand that both reports remain unpublished. Some parts of the Lacey report were made available to the committee, but I am not a member of that committee so I cannot say that for sure.

The Lacey report was undertaken by Ms Róisín Lacey SC. It was delivered on 25 August 2010 to the Department of Transport, but has not been published to date. The report was commissioned by the then Minister for Transport, Mr. Noel Dempsey. The report recommended establishing a national accident investigation office that is independent in every way from the Department of Transport, encompassing aviation, rail and marine, and identifying that it had to be done to comply with the EU directive that was being transposed into Irish law. The Minister of State will be very familiar with this as I have seen her engagement on this legislation.

That is the Lacey report, so I will now refer to the Clinch report. That report was conducted by Captain Steve Clinch of the UK-based Clinchmaritime Limited. The report was commissioned by the Department of Transport to carry out an independent review of the organisational structures of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB. The key objective of the review was to assess the current organisational structures for marine casualty investigation and to set out in a report any recommendations to achieve the most appropriate and effective marine casualty investigation structures for Ireland, taking into account national, EU and international law and obligations. The Clinch report was delivered to the Department in 2021. Again, there have been no issues relating to that, or at least it has not been published. The Minister of State will also be very familiar with the court case of Mr. Michael Kingston, an action he took against the Department and the State. It is important to state again that the Clinch report was a Government-funded report. It was independent and it reviewed the maritime casualties in Ireland.

There are very serious issues here. The Minister of State knows the complexities of this issue. It is important to have some type of accountability and to have confidence in how we are managing this area.

That is one of the key reasons I am asking for a report to be considered by the committee. That is not unreasonable in any way. I will not go on at great length because I realise the Minister of State is comprehensively briefed on these matters. Suffice it to say that when I looked at all the documents on this, it became clear that there was support for change right across the House. However, the Minister somehow believed it was not possible to bring about the sort of change envisaged in the amendments.

I have a particularly interesting quote that I want to put on the record of the House. At a meeting of the Select Committee on Transport and Communications on Wednesday, 16 February 2022, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, stated:

As the Clinch report was commissioned on the back of the Department's initiative, it is very much in our interest that it would be published and acted on. I am happy to commit here to doing exactly that. Central to that, as Deputies Carey, O'Rourke and Cathal Crowe and others have said, is that we look at a new structure and a new system, including the full-time independent investigation unit [which is what I am seeking and what the two amendments I tabled today sought]. What I said in private session is that we expect the publication of the Clinch report at the end of quarter 1 [2022] and that is still the timeline, subject to the Office of the Attorney General and others signing off on it.

I do not know where the Attorney General stands on this. Is he still working on it? Perhaps he is. If so, it is fair enough, but we cannot have Ministers making commitments and then not delivering on them. There may be genuine reasons; I simply do not know. The Minister of State may be able to shed some light on it. This is an important matter.

I referred to Mr. Michael Kingston earlier. I do not want to get into too much detail other than to say that he is the maritime lawyer who took a case against the State. Let me refer to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, delivered on 9 July 2021. It states Ireland has failed to provide for a maritime accident investigation body that was "independent in its organisation and decision-making of any party whose interests could conflict with the task". This is very serious because the courts of the EU are saying it. Basically, the court found one cannot be judge and jury in one's own cause. The court noted that the board consisted of five members, including the Secretary General of the then Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, or his or her deputy, and the chief surveyor of the marine survey office. The court judgment also stated we need to learn from the tragedies and save lives, and that there is a clear conflict in officials investigating their own regulatory framework and supposedly making recommendations to themselves by themselves and for themselves. The MCIB was established in 2002 and has issued over 300 reports.

I have examined the contributions of the Members and was most struck by those of Sinn Féin Deputies O'Rourke and Mac Lochlainn, who centred many of their arguments on the same issues on which I have centred mine today. Labour Party Deputy Duncan Smith and Green Party Deputy Patrick Costello had similar views and expressed similar concerns, as did Social Democrats Deputy Catherine Murphy, who spoke about the lax attitude towards implementing EU directives and the lack of maritime expertise on the board. These are very serious suggestions and concerns. The Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, acknowledged that there was a need for new mechanisms for appointing members of the board of the MCIB. I agree with her. I do not know how she has got on in this matter.

In essence, my concern is about safety. I have no axe to grind with anyone. I do not know anyone involved in here and do not know anyone who has ever taken a case here. I so happen to live in Dún Laoghaire, at a harbour, and so happen to have been a director, for ten years, of a State company that was looking after that harbour. I am very much aware of the issues and concerns that arise. There is a coast in the Minister of State's constituency, so she will know the significance of this. I do not doubt her support for some sort of reform of the MCIB.

I ask the Minister of State to ask her officials, sooner rather than later, to ensure we have the Lacey and the Clinch reports published and put into the public domain. They were paid for by the State. Why are they being buried and hidden? We need to publish them. I accept the Attorney General has a role and may need time to consider the reports in more detail. I can confirm today that I wrote formally to the Minister of State's Department yesterday and several other sources, under freedom of information provisions, requesting that the two reports be made public. I have to await the outcome. Much of the content might be redacted. I understand the issues and mechanisms associated with freedom of information.

What am I asking? I am confirming that I will submit a new version of amendment No. 1 for the next Stage of the Bill. My first amendment tabled for today used the phrase "The Minister shall". The second sought to ensure that the Minister shall, within two years of the passing of this Bill, prepare and lay before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, of which I am not a member but with whose members I have had much engagement, a report detailing the implementation of reforms to the MCIB. I ask for the Minister of State's support. This is a very reasonable, considered, balanced request. I hope we will have the Minister of State's support.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit don phlé. As she knows, this is a technical Bill arising from a judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Bill is and should only be a first step in addressing the serious issues in marine casualty investigations. Passing this legislation was an opportunity to address some substantive issues in marine casualty investigation. That has been outlined eloquently by Senator Boyhan. Sadly, however, the opportunity has been missed.

I had intended to speak to amendment No. 1, which I accept has been ruled out of order. Amendment No. 2, in seeking a report, outlines the rationale for a report. I would like to speak about that. Senator Boyhan mentioned the Lacey report, which was published in 2010. It is a serious matter that the Lacey report of 2010 was revealed through a whistleblower when it should have been published by the Minister's Department long ago. That report made specific recommendations on how to deal with the totality of the deficiencies in marine casualty investigations. It recommended a multinodal accident investigation office to cover air, marine and rail incidents, similar to the Swedish model. It was not acted upon. That has led to a complaint being sent to An Garda Síochána by Mr. Michael Kingston. This could not be more serious. The complaint alleges that these failures have led unnecessarily to lives being lost at sea. In effect, we should not be here now. Had we acted on the Lacey report and other advice over ten years ago, we would not be here with this Bill now.

There is a long and sorry history of missed opportunities, including in respect of the Whiddy Island disaster in 1979, the MS Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in 1987, the 1998 report, the 2010 Lacey report and the 2020 Clinch report. Instead of doing what needed to be done, the State defended the indefensible at a European court and, as expected, failed.

We have concerns about the fact that the Bill does not go further in addressing the issues in marine casualty investigations. It is disappointing that the Minister has not tabled amendments similar to those tabled by Senators Boyhan and Norris, particularly now that they have been deemed to be out of order.

Where is the urgency to address the wide range of issues regarding marine casualty investigations? We firmly believe that we now have the opportunity to get the area of marine casualty investigations right. The Minister of State is asking us to take a leap of faith and trust the very Department responsible for that catalogue of widespread failure. That is a leap we cannot take, I am afraid. Unless the Minister of State is able to come back with substantive amendments on Report Stage, we will oppose this Bill. We see it as a missed opportunity by the Minister to get this issue right with many people offering in good faith to assist.

I thank the Senators for their contributions. I remind the House that the primary purpose and focus of the Bill is to amend the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 to facilitate a revised board composition for the MCIB.

In the various interactions of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and me with Oireachtas Members on this Bill to date, we have consistently highlighted the reasons for regarding the Bill as a necessary intermediary step to ensure and support the continued functioning of the MCIB as the marine investigative body in the State and thereby meet our EU and international obligation to have an independent marine casualty investigative body in place.

It has been explained that the Bill is the first step in a reform process and that further legislative change in this area is proposed, arising from the completion of a separate review of the legislative structural framework that applies to marine casualty investigations in Ireland. These statements and commitments must be borne in mind when considering this amendment.

I am concerned by the proposal in the amendment, as it anticipates and refers to the implementation of unspecified reforms to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB. It is my view that this goes beyond the scope of the current Bill and related policy decisions taken by Government. Acceptance of such an amendment would expand the entire focus and intent of the current Bill. Having said that, I wish to remind Senators that the Minister, Deputy Ryan, has already indicated in Dáil Éireann and on Second Stage in this House his intent to deal with the wider structural reform issues in the area of marine casualty investigation. Further legislation in this regard is planned.

I will take this opportunity to inform the House that the Minister, Deputy Ryan, recently brought forward a policy proposal for a further reorganisation of marine casualty investigations structures to Cabinet. Cabinet approval has been given to the preparation of draft heads of another merchant shipping Bill to further amend the existing legislative framework and to provide for a new marine accident investigation structure based on the establishment of a full-time marine accident investigation unit, something to which the Senator made reference. Time is required for the development of the substantive proposals for the next stage of the reform process.

In the interim, there is a need to enact the current Bill before us today. It is important that the MCIB is supported in carrying out its role in accordance with international and EU requirements, pending the development and progression of future legislative reform in this area. The continued operation of the MCIB during this transitional period is crucial and that is one of the aims of the current Bill.

With regard to a report on the implementation of the current Bill, if enacted, Senators Boyhan and Norris will be aware that, in accordance with Dáil and Seanad Standing Orders, 12 months following the enactment of the Bill the Minister will be required to provide a post enactment report which shall review the functioning of the Act. Such post enactment reports will be laid in the Library for the information of all Oireachtas Members and will outline the developments regarding to the implementation of this Bill.

In addition, the draft heads for the proposed next merchant shipping Bill to implement the next steps of the structural and organisational reform process in regard to marine casualty investigations in this country will, in due course, be subject to engagement with the Committee on Transport and Communications, including pre-legislative scrutiny as part of the normal legislative process. In all of these circumstances, it is considered that amendment No. 2 is unnecessary. As I have explained, existing requirements will facilitate reporting and engagement with the committee on the implementation of the current Bill and in the coming period on the reform proposed in the next merchant shipping Bill. For these reasons, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

That is somewhat disappointing considering all of the commentary of the Minister of State to date. She said that she acknowledged the need for a new mechanism for appointing members of the board of the MCIB. Can she tell me what progress has been made since she made that statement?

The Clinch and Lacey reports have done us a service. There is a fear in government and in the Department about publishing those reports. The Minister of State did not address that, or is perhaps not in a position to do so. I appreciate that it might not be fully within her scope in terms of authority within the Department to do so, but she did not address when they could be published. There is a lot of suspicion and concern about this and a lot of people are involved. It is only when we read the very extensive MCIB reports that we realise the situation.

Families from all parts of Ireland whose partners, friends or relations have been involved in serious casualties have contacted me. They are deeply concerned. A number of marine publications are following this issue. It is a big issue for maritime communities. It is about people's safety.

At the end of the day, I respect the Minister of State, her job, what she is doing and the rationale she set out in her response. However, let us not fool ourselves. The European Court of Justice found enormous shortcomings. It raised the question of the independence of the organisation and decision-making of any party whose interests could conflict with the task at hand, in this case the task of investigation. This rests with the Minister of State. As I said, the judgment went on to state that we need to learn from the tragedies and save lives. That is what the judgement clearly set out. The Department officials and Minister know that.

The judgment states there is a clear conflict in the official investigations, their regulatory framework and in the fact they made recommendations to themselves, effectively being judge and jury in their own cause. That does not give people comfort. The Minister of State has suggested an amendment or tweaking that. I do not see that amendment No. 2 will in any way frustrate or stop the Bill from being enacted. I would have thought the Minister of State could have said this was two years away, we might not even be here ourselves and that it is well-intentioned but way down the track. Surely we would get our act together within two years.

I cannot see any reason for not accepting this amendment other the fact it is an Opposition amendment. Perhaps it is a numbers game and the Government is not that interested because it does not need to curry favour or ask for support. I do not know what the position is. There is a general trend whereby anything that comes from the Opposition in this House is opposed. That is a pity because no one has a monopoly on wisdom, vision, policy, foresight, empathy and concern with the people involved and those whose family members have tragically lost their lives.

There is opportunity in a good argument. I do not go away disappointed that the amendment has been rejected. That is not the way I operate. I come in here with one thing to do, namely, to table two amendments with the objective of getting space and time on the floor of the Chamber to raise questions about the judgment of the European Court of Justice and the failings of the State to respond adequately and immediately to that. I sought to have the Lacey report publication date confirmed by the Minister of State or the relevant Minister. My third request was at the Clinch report be published. I am going away happy enough that I have had an opportunity to engage with Minister of State is a respectful way regarding these issues.

I will be clear about what I am asking for. I would like a more urgent response from the Minister of State regarding the EU judgment. I thank Michael Kingston for being brave and taking the case. I am terribly sorry that the taxpayer has had to pay substantial money regarding the case and that has still not prompted speedier action. That is for another day. I ask that the Lacey and Clinch reports be published as soon as possible. It would be great if the Minister of State could share any information she has on that, but if she cannot do so she might come back to me in the next few days. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House.

All of us are acutely aware, as members of the committee, of the importance of this Bill. It should be put on the record of the House that there has been extensive consultations on this Bill. I thank Michael Kingston for his engagement with us. I ask Members to read the report on pre-legislative scrutiny and the heads of the Bill from the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. All of us have an overarching aim to improve safety and ensure that reform takes place.

I have a one-dimensional ask of the Minister of State who has, to be fair to, been receptive. There has been a lot of engagement at briefings with Members from the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and the Minister of State. The primary thing is that the investigative board is independent and not beholden to vested interests. I will not go back over other sections because the Acting Chair will not let me to do so.

The report of the committee on the heads of the Bill contains recommendations. Some have been taken on board by Government and others have not.

The Minister, to be fair to him, speaks about further legislation and the need for further safeguards and reform. I ask that, when we come back here again, the Court of Justice of the European Union judgment is one that we should look at. Senator Boyhan speaks about the cost and the need to go there. We must learn. In this case, the outcomes are predominantly about the lives of people. It is about saving lives, protecting and preserving lives and ensuring that the men and women who work in the maritime area are looked after by us in this legislation.

I hope the comments of Senator Boyhan are wrong regarding the suggestion that it will take us forever to get back, and I hope we do not do that. I thank the Minister for his engagement. The committee did a lot of work on this. Senator Boyhan is right that Michael Kingston is a very brave person. I am assured by the Minister of State's comments tonight that this is the first step, an intermediate step, that reform is coming and that this is part of the reform process. I have a fundamental fear, although I do not mean to be offensive in this remark, that civil servants are taking control in places and are pushing away different expertise, not in the context of this Bill but across the board. I hope we do not see this happen. I will not go back over the Bill, partly because the Chair will not let me. However, I will return to that point on Report Stage. I am reassured by the Minister of State's comments today but Senator Boyhan's comment that we should not be here again in two years time is one that we should take note of as well.

Like others, I sat on the transport committee and this issue got a good hearing. The issues raised by Senator Boyhan and others were well ventilated, were thrashed out and, I would say, reached a conclusion that did not meet the expectation or the wishes of anyone on the committee, but we reached a kind of a truce with assurances from the Minister. Senator Buttimer, other members of the committee and I put a lot of time into it. We were guided to a large extent by the evidence and by the information provided to us by Michael Kingston, a noted expert in this area, due not only to his personal expertise but to his personal and family circumstances, which were rooted in that dreadful accident that he has talked so eloquently about. The “Doc on One” on RTÉ did a very good piece of work on it, which is worth listening to for anyone who has any doubts about the matter.

In any event, we reached that point where we came to the conclusion that in order to comply with the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling, we needed to move quickly and we needed to move in a way that ensured that other investigations that were under way were not compromised or were not open to litigation. Due to the way the board was constituted or constructed, the Minister did not feel that it had the power without this legislation to go ahead and put the appropriate board in place. I do not think there is anyone on that committee who has given up, based on all the evidence we have heard, or who believes that this is a conclusion to an overall comprehensive review and the changes.

I am trying to recall some of the detail. There were promises made in the past that did not come to fruition. I know what Senator Boyhan is trying to do here: he is trying to stitch this in, rightly so, to try to get some commitment. I am sure officials in Departments will tell the Minister of State and others that it is not good for legislation to have those kinds of forward-looking, catch-all provisions that really do not say anything but are meant to create an encumbrance on someone in the future. All that says to me is that we need to work harder to bring about comprehensive legislation in respect of reorienting the entire investigation board, how it does its business, who it holds to account and how it works. It is not about working for us. It is about working for the people who, sadly, find themselves the victims of tragedy at sea and their families. There is a job of work to do. The commitment that has been made by the Minister of State and by the Minister is that they accept there is a continuation here. Those of us who sat on the committee for hours and hours reached a point where we felt we have to move on, but we are not doing so by leaving behind or not dealing with the issue. We know there is a piece of work that has to be done. The committee and, I assume, Senator Boyhan and others will continue to push for that to happen. As long as I am here, I will certainly be supporting that approach.

I want to conclude my commentary on this amendment. I thank Senator David Norris for co-signing it. We had a good debate and a good exchange. I am not on the committee, although I did have engagements with some of the members of the committee as a result of looking at the Dáil transcript and reading the transcript of the committee. All of the contacts that I received were external. They were from people involved in the maritime area of concern, either in business in the maritime area or representing maritime communities. I particularly think of some harrowing stories in Donegal, from where people came to my office to discuss their concerns. All of the people were very knowledgeable and very fluent in regard to the Clinch and Lacey reports. They were also very up-to-speed in regard to the outcome of the European case. They spoke extremely highly of Michael Kingston, which it is important to acknowledge. He was a brave man. He took risks. He took a case. It is not easy to put yourself out there.

These are professional reports and professional people with a huge stake and huge expertise in this area and they brought concerns. We do not need any legislation to make the ask that we would have these two reports published, which is in line with the commitment of the Minister, by the way, subject to the Attorney General, and I accept that may still be an outstanding issue. I would like to think the Minister of State will bring back that request from the House. I think there is general agreement across the House that, at some appropriate time, when it is practical, possible and reasonable to all parties to do so, we could have those two reports published.

As Senator Dooley put it, this is far from concluded. Indeed, the Minister of State's constituency is one of the constituencies from where I had people up to meet me. I mentioned Deputy Cathal Crowe, who spoke at great length in regard to all of this in the House and at the committee at some point. There is a huge commitment across the parties by all involved. The Minister of State said there is this need for a new mechanism to appoint members to a board of the MCIB, so she acknowledged that herself, to be fair to her. That is important.

What is the ask? We need a robust and properly resourced marine casualty body which has capacity, funds, resources and organisation structures in place that are of a very high level, like any other international practice. That is very important. Again, we need a full-time and professional unit to investigate marine casualties. We need openness and transparency in this area. We need to ensure that the public has confidence in the body that is doing this, and I think that is where we are going. It is a question of us all agreeing what needs to be done but there is an urgency about it. It cannot go on and on, so that is what I would ask.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House and thank Members for their time in engaging with this amendment. We will take it from there. I understand from a draft of next week's schedule for the Seanad that this item may appear again next Thursday, but that is to be confirmed and is only in draft form. As I said, there will be a new deadline and it is my intention to bring at least that one amendment at the next meeting of the Seanad.

I apologise for not coming back on the Clinch and Lacey reports. I will do so now and will address the other issues raised earlier. A number of Senators raised the issue of the wider review of the organisational structure for marine casualty investigation in Ireland and the publication of the Clinchmaritime Limited report. The recommendations of the Clinch report will inform the wider structural reform process that is under way. With regard to publication of the report, there continues to be a number of legal issues that are subject to consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. I want to be very clear that every effort is being made in my Department to resolve these legal issues as quickly as possible. Subject to this and to receipt of the legal advice, a final decision on the publication of the Clinch report will be made.

It is important to note that the 2010 Lacey report was not about the independence of the MCIB. That report was initiated at a time when Government was looking at the rationalisation of State agencies. There was a focus on that in Government policy. The purpose of that report was not to examine Ireland's marine casualty investigations structures; rather, it was concerned with the possibility of combining rail, air and marine accident investigation bodies under a single entity and the possible establishment of a multimodal investigative body.

In the context of looking at wider structural issues concerning accident investigation, the matter of a multimodal accident investigation office may well fall to be considered, not through this Bill but at a future date. However, the focus of the current merchant shipping Bill and the next legislative reform proposal is a review of the organisational structures relating to marine casualty investigation. Publication of the Lacey report is under consideration by the Department, and a decision will have regard to the publication of the details of the Clinch report and consultation with the author of the Lacey report, given the passage of time since it was prepared.

The Court of Justice for the European Union judgment related to the presence of two Department of Transport officials on the five-person board of the MCIB, who are seen as persons whose interests could conflict with the task entrusted to the MCIB. There was no claim by the Commission that the MCIB lacked independence with regard to its legal structure and no court finding of partiality or wrongdoing by any member of the board. It is important to state that. The immediate action taken to address that judgment was that the two officials resigned from the board on 30 July, 2020. Amending regulations were made under the European Communities Act 1972 which make it clear that the two officials are no longer board members when it comes to decisions relating to investigations that fall within the scope of the directive.

It is important, going back to the Minister's proposal of a memorandum for Government or Cabinet, that there be a clear plan and indicative timelines for future legislation. The submission of that policy proposal to Government was approved by Cabinet on 29 March and preparation is under way for a new general scheme. There is a clear plan of action in relation to preparing the heads of a new Bill, which will go through the Oireachtas legislative process, including pre-legislative scrutiny through the Oireachtas committee. Subject to Government approval and engagement with the Oireachtas committee and the formal drafting of a new Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to provide for the new marine casualty investigative structure, that should be in place by quarter 3 or 4 of this year. Given that pre-legislative scrutiny of the current Bill by the joint committee took six months, it is unlikely the new Bill could be prepared and submitted for Government approval until quarter 3 or 4. That will require the progression of the legislation through the Houses.

I reassure the Senator of my commitment and that of the Minister to the independence of the new MCIB. We are working through Oireachtas structures, Dáil committees and pre-legislative scrutiny in order to ensure we have a robust, fit-for-purpose MCIB structure in place.

I thank the Minister of State. That enlightens Senators better than any Commencement matter. Her second intervention was exceptionally helpful and informative. I am happy to withdraw the amendment. We have had a good discussion on it. The Minister of State shared much information of which I was not fully aware and confirmed the Government's commitment. I do not doubt her commitment. I would like to think we are going away with a greater understanding of our concerns and having aired the issue in more detail.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

When is it proposed to take the Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 3 May 2022.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar athló ar 6.17 p.m. go dtí 10.30 a.m., Déardaoin, an 28 Aibreán 2022.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.17 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 28 April 2022.