I begin the meeting by drawing witnesses' attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in regard to a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are further directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of the proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her, or it identifiable. The delegates are advised that their opening statements will be published on the committee website after the meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice in respect of references to persons outside the House and officials. I ask both witnesses and members to ensure their mobile telephones are switched off, as they interfere with the broadcasting equipment and the translation service.
Last September the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, published a draft general scheme for an Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2013, as well as draft regulations for discussion ahead of the enacting legislation. The Bill will apply to all 4,000 primary and post-primary schools and the proposed regulations aim to underpin a fair, consistent and transparent enrolment process that precludes school places from being allocated on the basis of waiting lists and prevents schools from seeking deposits or payments as part of the admission process. The draft general scheme and the draft regulations were referred to the committee for consideration, and we undertook a process of general consultation on the general scheme which resulted in a large number of submissions that are now under consideration. Approximately 50 submissions were received, and we have invited anybody who specifically sought to address the committee to do so. In all, we expect to hear some 25 presentations over the course of three meetings, the first of which took place last week. Today is our second meeting.
I welcome Dr. Ríona Ní Fhrighil of Cearta Oideachais; Mr. Kevin De Barra of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge; Ms Bláthnaid Ní Ghréacháin of Gaelscoileanna Teo; Mr. Mark O'Connor of Inclusion Ireland, which is the umbrella group for Down Syndrome Ireland, Irish Autism Action and the Special Needs Parents Association; Ms Hilary Harmon of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre; Ms Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland; Mr. Ken Whyte of Presentation College, Cork; and Mr. Caoimhin Ó hEaghra of An Foras Pátrúnachta. I ask witnesses to keep to their allocated five minutes. We have received their presentations and will go through them in detail; what would be helpful from each speaker today would be an outline of the submission, highlighting the issues of greatest importance. The value of these meetings is really in the question and answer session. I now invite Dr. Ní Fhrighil to give her statement.