Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, to delete line 26 and substitute the following:

“(a) the provision of health services without charge as outlined in section 2 of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996,”.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Mar gheall ar Sheachtain na Gaeilge, tá mé ag labhairt i nGaeilge go hiomlán sna Tithe an tseachtain seo. Is í sin an chúis go bhfuil mé ag labhairt Gaeilge faoi láthair. Ní haon rud pearsanta é. Tá sé seo á dhéanamh agam le gach Aire.

Bhí díospóireacht an-fhada againn leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Ó Ríordáin, faoin mBille seo agus faoi na leasuithe seo. Shocraigh muid ar na leasuithe a tharraingt siar. Dúirt an tAire Stáit linn go bhfuil gach rud a bhí i dtuairisc an Bhreitheamh Quirke tógtha san áireamh sa reachtaíocht seo agus curtha ar fáil do na mná. Bhí easaontas faoi sin, áfach. Dúirt muid go raibh Justice for Magdelenes Research tar éis a rá linn nár aontaigh siad leis an tuairim sin. Rinneadh socrú le Céim an Choiste agus Céim na Tuarascála a scarúint le go mbeimid ábalta soiléiriú a fháil faoin ábhar seo. Tá sé an-soiléir ó na freagraí atá faighte ar ais againn ó shin agus na nótaí atá faighte againn ó lucht Justice for Magdelenes Research nach n-aontaíonn siad leis an gcur chuige atá ag an Aire agus an Aire Stáit agus an moladh atá curtha chun cinn acu. Téann siad isteach go mion sna pointí áirithe a bhaineann leis sin. Tá sé ráite acu nach ionann alt 2(1)(b) den Bhille seo, ina bhfuil drugaí, comhar leighis agus rudaí éagsúla luaite, agus Acht 1996, ina bhfuil drugaí, comhar leighis, giuirléidí sláinte agus "surgical appliances" luaite. Déanann an Bille atá os ár gcomhair tagairt do dhrugaí agus comhar leighis. B'fhéidir go mbeadh sé níos éasca dá léifinn i mBéarla é. The Bill refers to "drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the time being on the Reimbursement List within the meaning of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013". Tá sé ráite ag muintir Justice for Magdelenes Research go bhfuil sé seo déanta ionas go gcuirfidh Bille 2014 teorainn ar an gcomhar leighis gur féidir a fháil faoin liosta. Luaigh siad na háiteanna sa tuairisc atá foilsithe ag an mBreitheamh Quirke ina bhfuil sé ráite go gcaithfear na rudaí áirithe seo a chur ar fáil. Le scéal fada a dhéanamh gearr, ní thagann siad leis an méid a bhí á rá ag an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Ó Ríordáin, agus ní thagann said leis an méid atá á rá ag an Aire. Tá siad tar éis iarraidh orainn an leasú seo a chur chun cinn arís ionas go mbeidh an fhoráil seo tógtha san áireamh sa reachtaíocht nua.

I second the amendment.

I repeat what the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, stated on Committee Stage, namely, that the Government is fully committed to implementing all of the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Quirke and will be providing all of the health services recommended in his report. As I indicated in the Dáil and as the Minister of State pointed out here, the women who were in Magdalen laundries will be able to avail of the services of their general practitioner, GP, of choice, whether he or she is a participant in the general medical card scheme or a fully private GP. There was uncertainty about this issue and on Committee Stage in the Dáil I introduced an amendment to remove this.

I cannot accept the amendments tabled by Senator Ó Clochartaigh and I will now outline why this is the case. The provisions of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 are duplicated in section 2 of the Bill. However, there are some additions in the Bill which are not contained in the 1996 Act. Contrary to what the Senator has been told, we are including everything contained in the latter. If, however, we were to accept the amendments, we would exclude the women from the possibility of availing of physiotherapy and chiropody services because these are not covered in the 1996 Act. As a result, there would be a reduction in the number of services of which they will be able to avail. The amendments would effectively prevent a GP from referring a patient for chiropody or physiotherapy services.

Moreover, the counselling services for which provision is made in the 1996 Act are specifically described as services in respect of hepatitis C. Since none of the women have hepatitis C, amendment No. 3 would limit the counselling services to such a degree that the type of counselling on offer would not meet the expectations of the women. I know this from discussing the matter with the Magdalen women here. In addition, I have visited some of the women who live in the UK and I am aware of the type of counselling services available to them there. There is also the fact that Sally Mulready, one of the leaders of the group, has specifically identified what the women need. To limit the counselling services available to the type for which provision is made under the 1996 Act would be of no benefit to the women whatsoever.

The effect of the amendments would be to reduce the number of services available, to ensure that the level of service available to the women would be more restricted than is currently the case and to cause confusion. In such circumstances, I cannot accept the amendments.

Tá mé buíoch den Aire as an bhfreagra sin. Ní thuigim cén fáth nach raibh an rud seo réitithe idir an Rialtas agus na híospartaigh - na mná a bhí sna hionaid Mhaigdiléana. Feictear dom ón gcur chuige a bhí ag an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Ó Ríordáin, an lá faoi dheireadh agus an cur chuige atá ag an Aire inniu go bhfuil siad cineál olc, cantalach nó mífhoighneach leis an eagraíocht seo mar gheall ar na ceisteanna atá siad ag ardú. Tá iontas orm nár shuigh siad síos leo chun na rudaí atá i gceist a shoiléiriú. Is léir dom go bhfuil an grúpa seo tar éis cuid mhaith staidéir a dhéanamh ar an gceist. Tá sé ráite acu nach dtagann an méid atá luaite sa Bhille seo le Appendix G de thuairisc Quirke ach an oiread. Dá bhrí sin, níl siad sásta leis na moltaí atá á gcur chun cinn sa reachtaíocht. Tá sé de dhualgas orm, mar ionadaí ar a son, an leasú seo a bhrú chun cinn ag an bpointe seo.

I appreciate why the Senator put forward the amendments and I am not for one moment questioning his motives in that regard. However, I have been at pains to point out what is contained in the Bill. Obviously, the Government wants to give the women the services they were expecting. There has been a partial misunderstanding in the context of the discussions that have taken place. I accept that Mr. Justice Quirke's report refers to "other services". However, the Government is certainly making provision for everything his recommendations suggest it should provide. We examined the Senator's amendments and I can honestly say that if we were to accept the first of them, the number of services on offer would be reduced rather than increased. I accept that the advocacy group may have suggested amendment No. 1 to the Senator but I am obliged to inform him as to what is the reality. It is my clear belief that if we accepted the amendment, then there would be fewer services available to the women. As already stated, the Bill makes provision in respect of physiotherapy and chiropody but the 1996 Act does not do so. I also pointed out earlier that they type of counselling available under the Bill will, potentially, be both broader and different in nature. This is because the counselling to which the 1996 Act refers relates to hepatitis C.

That is my understanding of what is proposed in the two amendments. If that is what the advocacy group is recommending, I am obliged to point out that it would result in the availability of fewer services for the women. This is our genuine position in respect of this matter. I am totally motivated to meet the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Quirke and that has been the approach of the Government all along. There has been some discussion with regard to a number of actions in respect of various therapies which I previously stated that we could not take but which the advocacy group wanted us to take. The Department of Health will simply not agree to what is proposed in respect of the therapies in question. In that context, it is understandable that alternative therapies can be available via the medical card. system. I have already placed on record the fact that this is one matter in respect of which I have not been able to accede to the requests of the advocacy group. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, also outlined his views on the matter when he came before the House.

Some discussion took place in respect of advocacy and I indicated that I would develop a support system for the women but that I would do so outside of legislation. It must be remembered that the general scheme is also outside of legislation. It is not legislatively-based but is, rather, an administrative scheme and it has been accepted by the women. To date, approximately €18.5 million has been paid out under the scheme. There is a unit in my Department and the staff who work in it - approximately eight - are in almost daily contact with the women in respect of any queries they may wish to make.

They have been dealing primarily with the funding scheme, but any other queries which have come up have been dealt with. When I met the advocacy group it was at pains to point out how supportive the women had found the unit in the Department. We are not impatient with the comments. However, I want to be clear that we are providing for everything that Mr. Justice Quirke recommended.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 22.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 2 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, line 6, after "service," to insert "as provided for in the services provided by section 2 of the Health (Amendment) Act, 1996,".

I second the amendment.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 22.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 4 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(2) That within 1 month of enactment of this legislation the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will independently verify, in a report laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, that the legislation does indeed fully and faithfully implement the relevant recommendations contained within the Magdalen Commission Report on the establishment of an ex-gratia Scheme and related matters for the benefit of those women who were admitted to and worked in the Magdalen Laundries, authored by Mr Justice John Quirke and published in May 2013.”.

Is í aidhm an leasaithe seo ná le cinntiú nuair a chuirfear an reachtaíocht i bhfeidhm go mbeidh ról ag an gCoimisiún um Chearta an Duine agus Comhionannas maidir le déanamh cinnte go bhfuiltear á chur i bhfeidhm de réir na tuairisce a bheas leagtha os comhair Thithe an Oireachtais. Táimid ag iarraidh cinntiú go bhfuil an reachtaíocht ag cloí go dlúth leis na moltaí atá in san tuairisc maidir leis an gcoimisiún ó thaobh na scéime ex gratia a bhunú le haghaidh mná na Maigdiléana agus ábhair eile a bhaineann leis na mná sin a bhí ag obair sna neachtlanna sin. Is í an tuairisc atá i gceist agam ná an tuairisc a chuir an Breitheamh Uasal Quirke le chéile a foilsíodh i mí na Bealtaine. Phlé muid é seo ar Chéim an Choiste agus níl mé chun dul i bhfad scéal leis. Tá mé beagnach cinnte nach bhfuil an tAire chun glacadh leis ach dar linne tá ceist muiníne ann idir an Rialtas agus na mná ó thaobh na leasuithe atá curtha chun cinn againn. Níl mé cinnte cén chaoi a bhfuil an caidreamh eatarthu. Is léir domsa nach bhfuil sé iontach mar ní chreideann na mná na rudaí atá an Rialtas ag rá linne agus leosan.

Is mór an trua í sin. Dá bhrí sin, sílimid go bhfuil ról neamhspleách ann d'eagraíocht cosúil leis an IHRC le déanamh cinnte go bhfaigheann na mná seo an méid atá dlite dóibh. Chualamar ar fad an leithscéal a ghabh an Taoiseach sa Dáil, agus an ceart aige, ar an ábhar seo. Cloiseann muid na gealltanais atá an tAire ag tabhairt anois, ach sílim go bhfuil na mná amhrasach. Tá siad ag dul in aois agus tá siad ag iarraidh cinnteachta. Is gá meicníocht tapaidh, éifeachtach agus úsáideach a bheidh in ann súil a choinneáil ar chur i bhfeidhm na reachtaíochta seo, sa chaoi nach mbeidh aon deacrachtaí acu amach anseo agus ionas go bhfaigheann siad an cúiteamh agus na seirbhísí atá dlite dóibh chomh luath agus is féidir.

I second the amendment.

The best assurance we can give the women concerned is that we will pass legislation to fulfil what Mr. Justice Quirke recommended in his original report. As I said, that is what this legislation seeks to do in regard to health.

The scheme is not legislatively based; it is administratively based and has worked very successfully. The feedback from the women participating in it and the responses they have received from the Department have been very good. This is shown by the fact that there is agreement with many of the more than 700 women who have accepted the payments. They are eligible for a payment of between €11,500 and €100,000, depending on length of stay.

Decisions have been made on 88% of the applications that have come through and work is being done on the outstanding ones. We have also put in place a mechanism whereby the women concerned can come in for interview with a nominated person and legal advice will also be paid for if they want to discuss the settlement. All this has been put in place in cases where there are disputes over the length of stay which can sometimes be very difficult to determine.

We have, obviously, erred totally on the side of believing the women concerned in the first instance. Second, we have used a variety of mechanisms to establish the length of stay, looking at information available from other records, including work and insurance records. All of this has been done.

The scheme is progressing well and administratively based. The best assurance to give the women concerned is that we will pass the legislation in order that they will be able to access these services. Many of them already have a medical card, as we know from the records. Mr. Justice Quirke's report highlights the medical care they might need and the Bill covers these needs. It is very broad and includes much of the medical help the women the Senator described might need, including general medical and surgical services, as well as nursing services. They are excluded from all costs relating to nursing home care, home help services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services, which are all available. The only differences between this card and the one given to the women who had contracted hepatitis C are the ones specific to hepatitis C and it would not be appropriate to include them in this Bill. It is not just a vague statement; it is actually included in the legislation. The best assurance we can give is that we will have this legislation in place on a statutory basis. I cannot accept the amendment because I do not believe it is appropriate. As the scheme was not legislatively based, it would not make sense to ask the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to review it.

It is open to Senators or Members of the Dáil at any time to ask questions on this issue and ask for updates. Senators can call for me or other Ministers to come to the House to discuss the development of the services available. I have said I believe advocacy groups have a role to play in supporting the women concerned on an ongoing basis. We provided €200,000 for the group in the United Kingdom last year and it has made a submission to continue to be supported. Eight people work in the unit in the Department providing the service. As the work of the unit winds down, I will consider how we can continue to give support. In the longer term support should be given outside the Department by an appropriate NGO. I will certainly support its development. The legislation is comprehensive and responds to Mr. Justice Quirke's recommendations. I ask the House to support it.

Cloisim an méid atá á rá ag an Aire, ach deirim arís an rud céanna agus a bhí le rá agam maidir leis na leasuithe eile. Is léir go bhfuil ceist muiníne i gceist anseo idir na mná a d'fhulaing agus an Rialtas. Cá bhfios nach mbeidh athrú Rialtais ann faoin am a bheidh an reachtaíocht ag teacht i bhfeidhm. Mar sin, sílimid go bhfuil sé cothrom agus cóir go mbeadh dream éigin a bhfuil muinín ag na mná astu, ar nós IHRC ansin le déanamh cinnte go bhfuiltear ag déanamh mar a dúradh, go bhfuil beart de réir briathar á dhéanamh maidir leis an gcoimisiún agus cur i bhfeidhm na moltaí. Nílim chun athrá a dhéanamh, ach is ar an mbunús sin a bheidh muid ag brú an leasaithe.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 23.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration", put and declared carried.
Question put: "That the Bill do now pass."

Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?

Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly rose.

As fewer than five Senators have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 61 the names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of Proceedings of the Seanad.

Question declared carried.