Apologies have been received from Deputies Phelan and Cairns and Senator Ruane. Before we begin, I will go through a few housekeeping matters. If members or witnesses who are participating remotely experience any sound or technical issues, they should let us know through the chat function on Teams. As this is a public meeting, the chat function on Teams should only be used to advise of technical issues or urgent matters and not to make general comments or statements. I remind members and witnesses who are participating remotely to keep their devices on mute until they are invited to speak. When they are speaking I ask them to have their camera switched on, where possible, and to be mindful that we are in public session.
In addition, I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the place where Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House, in order to participate in public meetings. I cannot permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. On Covid-19, I ask everyone to keep their masks on unless they are speaking and to exercise personal responsibility.
Today, we will continue pre-legislative scrutiny of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021. We had our first meeting yesterday on this matter. Our witnesses are: Professor Eilionóir Flynn and Ms Clíona de Bhailís from the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland, NUI, Galway; Ms Carol Baxter, assistant secretary, and Mr. Niall Brunell, principal officer, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; representatives of the Decision Support Service, DSS: Ms Áine Flynn, director, and Mr. John Farrelly, chief executive of the Mental Health Commission; and Mr. Adam Harris, commission member, and Dr. Iris Elliott, head of policy and research, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC. They are all very welcome. We are delighted to have them with us either present in the room or virtually. We had a very interesting session yesterday and I hope they had the opportunity to listen to it.
I will advise the witnesses of parliamentary privilege before asking them to give their opening statements. Witnesses addressing the committee from the Leinster House complex are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentations they make to the committee. This means they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Cathaoirleach to ensure this privilege is not abused. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction. For those appearing virtually, there is uncertainty if parliamentary privilege will apply to their evidence from a location outside the parliamentary precincts of Leinster House. Again, therefore, if they are directed by me to cease giving evidence, it is imperative that they comply with any direction.
The running order of the opening statements will be Professor Flynn, followed by Ms Baxter, Mr. Farrelly and Mr. Harris. I call Professor Flynn to make her opening statement.