Commencement Matters

Urban Development

The Minister is heartily welcome. I thank him for coming in to take this Commencement matter. I am very excited about this application, which will be before him for consideration under the urban regeneration and development fund 2018. If funded and delivered, this project will be transformational not just for the town of Ballina but for north Mayo, east Mayo and south Sligo, which tie into the hinterland of that particular town. There are many challenges in the town and its environs. High unemployment still persists, notwithstanding so much success on the part of the Government nationally. The history of this town is that it was the major shopping or retail town going back generations. It was the place to come. It has lovely streetscapes and is pretty glorious to look at. Obviously the face of retail has changed. Small shops have changed. These are realities we have to contend with and to which we have to try to find solutions. We have to reimagine how depressed town centres can be revitalised. I know from previous conversations that is what the Minister is about. That is why I am delighted that he is here today.

Notwithstanding what I have said, we in Ballina and the surrounding areas have so much more to offer. We have so much more going for us than we have going against us. I see this fund as providing an injection, stimulus, or catalyst that will address so many issues that need addressing, encourage growth, enterprise and innovation, provide renewal in the very centre of the town, and restore it to its former glory. That would be my ambition. We have excellent broadband capacity, which is something that is not said too much in rural Ireland. We have a metropolitan area network and backhaul connectivity. That was installed by Enet at the time. We have connection with a transatlantic high-speed fibre optic cable which comes in just a few kilometres down the road. We are connected into that. We are lit, as they say. We also have a great tradition in respect of multinational companies. We have Coca-Cola and Hollister. We have five multinationals in the environs of Ballina alone. They have been there a long time and they are happy doing business there. Above all, we offer quality of life. We have never had so much investment in sports facilities and arts facilities. We have a whole package. We have houses and school places.

As part of the Minister's ambitions for Project Ireland 2040 and for rebalancing out from the big urban centres and growth in smaller areas of population, we want that €500,000 to grow outside of a big urban centre. Strategic projects such as this are the ones that need funding because they will have a knock-on or domino effect. This particular project is a unique collaboration between a local authority, Mayo County Council, a development company, Moy Valley Resources, and SMAKS Luxury Group. This is an international private investor which produces very high-end rum. It wants to locate here and bring money to the table as part of the local contribution for this. Then there is Blackstone Launchpad in the National University of Ireland, Galway. It is going to provide third level outreach. It is a challenge in some of these rural areas to get third level colleges active and to allow them to bring what they have to offer to the table to allow us to expand and grow. We are talking about a digital hub for 20 start-ups, which would be all kitted out.

We are talking about an innovation and enterprise centre. There is a regeneration fund under the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. What we propose, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and the development company and with the approval of the Western Development Commission, would address the underrepresentation of women and migrants in enterprise and intergenerational problems people sometimes experience in accessing employment. The course, including supports, would be run from this centre and it would provide for start-up, seed and scaling of enterprise. It would be delivered in a mentored fashion. The expertise would be provided by the National University of Ireland Galway, NUIG, and I have met those involved who are on board with the project.

The proposed digital hub speaks for itself. This is not a case of providing a digital hub in the hope that people will roll up. Work has been done by surveying and assessing the demand that exists and the supports that have been offered in an ad hoc manner. There will also be a private investor located in the building, providing jobs. Once the building is refurbished, it will be a tourism hub.

Should we secure the funding to refurbish the military barracks, which was built in 1742 and is the centre point around which the town was built, we will regenerate the whole town. The French who landed in Killala to participate in the 1798 rebellion pushed the British from the barracks. The town is a rich tapestry of history and needs modern day revitalisation. There are brilliant stakeholders, whom I have mentioned. The members of the chamber of commerce have a can do and will do attitude. I ask the Minister for his support and to take this on board in his deliberations. It would be a lifeline for the town and the region and it would help deliver on the objectives of Project Ireland 2040.

I thank Senator Mulherin for raising this very important issue. The urban regeneration and development fund was established under Project Ireland 2040 to support more compact and sustainable development through the regeneration and rejuvenation of Ireland's five cities and other large towns in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan, NDP, 2018-2027 and the 20 year national planning framework, NPF. The fund is designed to enable a greater proportion of residential and mixed use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns and to ensure more parts of our urban areas can become attractive and vibrant places in which people choose to live, work and invest and also visit.

In the 2019 budget, I have secured €71 million for the first year of the fund's operation, which will commence next year. I initiated the first call proposals under the fund in July 2018 and the deadline for submission of applications was 28 September 2018. My Department received 189 applications for funding which are currently being assessed. The assessment process is following a pre-assigned assessment criteria framework and a three-stage process with recommendations being made to a project advisory board. The board will then report to a management committee, which will make recommendations to me by the end of November.

Submissions differ in scale, complexity and are multi sectoral in nature, with a wide variety of public bodies having applied, including local authorities, Departments, State agencies and public bodies in collaboration with other sectoral partners. The proposals contain a large number of themes and sectoral areas, including urban regeneration, public realm, enterprise development, community facilities, redevelopment of existing or vacant areas, enabling strategic infrastructure to leverage further development, cultural facilities and amenity development. There are two categories of submission, category A for projects that are ready to go and category B to support the initial development of projects, such as master planning or feasibility studies to ensure a pipeline of projects into the future. The fund is oversubscribed in both categories A and B on a proportion of well over 4:1 for 2019. There is, therefore, considerable competition for this funding and investment in large towns and cities.

As the assessment process of the project advisory board is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further on individual projects at this time. However, I can indicate clearly that it is my intention to announce the first round of funding allocations as soon as possible after the assessment process has concluded later this month. I know Senator Mulherin has put much work into this particular project, is highly supportive of this application for Ballina and she sees herself as a champion for the area. She will know very shortly whether the plan has been successful under this new fund.

The Senator may ask a brief supplementary question.

I appreciate that the Minister has come to the Chamber. I know he will take seriously the points I made on the opportunity to empower a region in a strategic fashion.

Gender Equality

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for coming in to take this issue. The matter I raise on the Commencement is the need for the Taoiseach to outline the numbers by gender breakdown of those employ in small, medium and large businesses, respectively. I have been asked by the National Women's Council to raise this issue. I first tabled it as a Commencement matter to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation in the belief that it was a matter for her Department. I was advised, however, that it is a matter for the Central Statistics Office, which falls within the remit of the Department of the Taoiseach. I have certainly learned from this experience.

I raise the matter in the context of forthcoming legislation on pay transparency. Put simply, the Bill in question will address the ongoing gender pay gap. Women in Ireland still earn on average 14% less than men. We marked the day this year when women effectively stop earning, as compared with their male colleagues, on Tuesday of this week. It is known as gender pay gap day. This issue applies broadly, not only in Ireland, and European Union gender pay gap day was marked last Saturday, the EU pay gap being even wider than Ireland's. It is an issue we have to address and measures to address it have been adopted in other countries. These include gender pay gap wage transparency legislation, which requires companies to publish data on an anonymised basis about the gender breakdown of employees and the pay rates of those employees. I introduced a gender pay gap Bill in the Oireachtas, which passed all Stages in the Seanad in October 2018. The Government has made proposals for similar legislation but so far has only published heads of a Bill.

I have certainly expressed concern, as have my Labour Party colleagues, that if the Government had been minded to adopt our Bill, that could have become law much more swiftly and we would have been able to see greater change for women more swiftly. The issue here is the effect in practice of the Government legislation, as opposed to our legislation because our legislation proposed that it would apply to all companies employing more than 50 employees. Thus far, the Government heads of Bill suggest it will initially only apply the legislation to companies with 250 or more staff and then, on a phased basis, move to companies employing 50 or more staff. I have spoken at various different events on equal pay and have been told that women tend to be over-represented or represented to a greater degree in small and medium enterprises. That is certainly the case in the British statistics and I would like to know if it is the case in Ireland. If so, the Government legislation is much less likely to have the same immediate impact on women in employment as our legislation would have given that the latter envisages immediate application to companies employing 50 or more staff, rather than having to wait for a period of time.

I spoke recently at an event in the arts centre about our gender pay gap Bill and was told that very few arts organisations employ more than 50 people. This is a sector where women are well represented. Therefore, the likelihood is that even our legislation would not have any immediate impact on women in the arts because so few arts organisations employ 50 staff. We must be realistic but it would be very helpful for us in drafting and bringing forward legislation, be it the Government Bill or our Bill, to know the gender breakdown of employees of small businesses as opposed to medium and large businesses. That is the context in which I raise this issue. I understand the information has been sought from the Central Statistics Office previously but it was not forthcoming or readily available, hence my raising of this Commencement matter. I thank the Minister of State again for taking it.

I thank the Senator for raising this very important issue. I am dealing with this Commencement matter on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, who cannot be here. The Minister of State has delegated responsibility for the Central Statistics Office arising from the Statistics (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2018.

The matter in question relates specifically to the available CSO statistics with regard to the gender breakdown of those employed in business by business size. Policy matters relating to business are a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and policy matters relating to gender equality are a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality. Any policy issues arising should, therefore, be raised with the appropriate Minister.

Unfortunately, the exact information requested by Senator Bacik is not available from the Central Statistics Office. I am informed that the CSO's official source of statistics regarding size of enterprise is sourced from its business demography data but these statistics, which are based on administrative data supplied by the Revenue Commissioners, do not include information on the gender of the persons engaged in these enterprises. In addition, this business demography data only include the business economy and, therefore, exclude sectors such as public administration and defence, including compulsory social insurance, education, human health and social work activities and some other services sectors.

Taking these factors into account, it can be noted that in 2016, this source showed that the total number of persons engaged in active small enterprises, namely, those with fewer than 50 persons engaged, was 720,401. The number of persons engaged in active medium enterprises, namely, between 50 and 249 persons engaged, was 290,604. The number of persons engaged in active large enterprises, namely, 250 and more persons engaged, was 467,231. Clearly, therefore, a large number of people work in small enterprises. It should be noted that these totals include the business economy only and cannot be further disaggregated by gender.

An additional source of relevant information from the CSO is the labour force survey, LFS, which provides statistics broken down by gender. The purpose of this survey is the production of quarterly labour force estimates and information is collected continuously throughout the year from households surveyed each week and each quarter. The LFS is the official source of labour market statistics for Ireland. The primary classification used for the LFS results is the International Labour Office, ILO, labour force classification. The ILO classification distinguishes three main subgroups of the population aged 15 or over, namely, persons in employment, persons who are unemployed and inactive population. Persons in employment are defined as those who worked in the week before the survey for one hour or more for payment or profit, including work on the family farm or business, and all persons who had a job but were not at work because of illness, holidays, etc., in the week. The LFS includes a number of detailed questions asked of those respondents who have been classified as being in employment. One of these questions asks respondents for their estimate of the total number of persons who work in their place of employment. However, as this question is reported by the respondent and refers to the number of employees at the local place of employment of the respondent, it does not directly correspond to the business demography data to which I referred. However, the LFS include information on the gender of the respondent and incorporates all sectors of the economy.

The most recent figures available from the labour force survey are for quarter 2 of 2018. These indicative figures show that in the second quarter, the split by gender for the number of persons working in a local place of employment with between one and 49 persons was 49.7% male and 50.3% female. The split by gender for those working in a place of employment with between 50 and 249 persons was 51.6% male and 48.4% female. These are interesting figures. Finally, the split by gender for those working in a place of employment with 250 or more persons was 58.7% male and 41.3% female. In addition, it can be noted that no answer regarding the number of persons at a place of employment was given by 27,000 males, a figure that represented 2.2% of all males in employment, and no answer was given by 19,300 females, a figure that represented 1.9% of all females in employment.

The number of males classified as self-employed with no employees was 172,700, while the number of females classified as self-employed with no employees was 54,200. I am also informed that a series of detailed LFS employment statistics showing additional data on the number of persons in employment at the respondents' place of work and also offering various additional classifications of persons are due for publication on the CSO website at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

As I mentioned, any matters of policy arising from these figures should be raised with the relevant Minister. It is important to state, however, that gender equality is a significant priority for the Government. The programme for Government includes a number of measures designed to promote and increase gender equality and significant progress has been made on this matter.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I find it extraordinary that the precise data sought in the question are not available. It would seem to be a very simple matter to obtain a gender breakdown of those employed in small, medium and large businesses, respectively. Surely it is important for policymakers, particularly those in Government, to know the gender breakdown of companies when formulating legislation on wage transparency in order to arrive an appropriate figure at which the duty of disclosure of wage rates would arise. I am concerned about this.

The Minister of State's answer explains the reasons the National Women's Council has been unable to obtain this information until now. I thank him for elaborating on the labour force survey figures. It is of interest to see the immense gender disparity between men and women in the self-employed category. It is interesting to note from the CSO figures the large number of people who are employed in small enterprises.

I will raise policy issues, particularly my concern around the absence of the key data I sought, with the relevant Ministers. It is appropriate to raise this concern with them in the context of the ongoing debate on the gender pay gap Bill. I very much hope the Government will see fit to adopt my Bill given how many people are employed in small industries. If nothing else, the Minister of State's response has certainly shown us that this is the area where a vast number of people are employed and the area we need to tackle to address the overall gender pay gap.

I take Senator Bacik's point about data, the gender breakdown and policymakers having this information. I will convey her view to the Government because it is an important part of developing policy on gender equality and employment issues.

We have to have reliable data and information on issues like that. Building on the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government to advance gender equality, the Government has advanced a number of specific initiatives in 2018. These are in line with the aims and objectives of the national strategy for women and girls, which seeks to change attitudes and practices preventing women and girls from fully participating in education, employment and public life at all levels. The strategy contains 139 actions to advance the equality of women and girls. It includes actions to promote the socio-economic equality of women and girls, to advance their physical and mental well-being, to ensure their visibility in society and their equal and active citizenship, to advance women in leadership and decision-making and to combat violence against women.

Work is under way, in consultation with stakeholders across civil society and professional bodies, on a wide range of actions to achieve this. Last June, the Government approved a general scheme of a gender pay gap wage transparency Bill, which will promote wage transparency by requiring companies to complete a wage survey periodically and report the results showing the gender pay gaps. It also provides for a range of enforcement mechanisms. A new initiative, Better Balance for Better Business, a business review group, was announced in July to promote better gender balance.

I thank the Minister of State. Before I go to the next item, I welcome to the Gallery Deputy Murphy O'Mahony and her guests, Mary and Dermot Collins, all the way from Bandon, County Cork. It is their 25th wedding anniversary and I congratulate them.

Hospital Services

I welcome the Minister of State to the House again today. It is always nice to see him. He has had a great interest in health over a number of years. My Commencement matter is the need for the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to provide an update on plans for a fixed catheterisation laboratory, cath lab, at Sligo University Hospital. For many years, my colleague, Deputy McLoughlin, has campaigned strongly for such a lab. This facility is vital. It provides a diagnostic service for patients with suspected heart disease or heart attacks. The hospital is currently served by a mobile cath lab, which provides services one day a week for elective procedures only.

There are also a number of cath labs in Galway that serve acute cardiac cases for Sligo and the north-west region. I understand that, in addition to the numbers treated in Sligo University Hospital, the hospital refers approximately 300 patients each year to St James' Hospital and the Mater Private Hospital. There is, however, now a compelling need for a permanent cath lab in Sligo. There is a critical 90-minute window in the event of someone having a heart attack. For those living in Sligo and the north west, this is a major challenge.

Accessing the timely care needed has been hindered by geography and the road infrastructure but more importantly, the lack of access to life-saving cardiac services. It takes at least two hours to travel from Sligo to Dublin by ambulance and a similar length of time to travel to Galway. There is an air ambulance which can get a patient to Galway or Dublin quickly but it may not always be available. It is clear to me that those living in Sligo, Leitrim, north Roscommon, south Donegal and west Cavan deserve a fixed cath lab. Cardiac patients will otherwise continue to be challenged by having to travel long journeys to receive the care they need.

There has been some progress on the issue of a cath lab at Sligo but it is extremely slow. A business case for a fixed facility has been submitted nationally and I understand this might not be advanced until the national review of cardiac services is completed. The Minister of State might shed some light on this and when this review is likely to be completed. I have to ask a question which has been posed many times. Why should cardiac patients in the north west be forced to go on long journeys to Galway or Dublin? What benefits can there be in this for a heart attack patient in this region? I must also highlight a clear cost element. In the past 15 years, I understand that the Health Service Executive, HSE, has spent €10.5 million transferring 550 cardiology patients each year from Sligo to Galway or Dublin. In addition, €3.6 million has been spent over this period renting a temporary visiting lab in Sligo. Why can the HSE not invest the money in the provision of a fixed cath lab?

I thank Senator Feighan for raising this important issue. He is committed to developing and expanding health services, particularly in the west of Ireland and, in this case, in Sligo University Hospital. It is an important issue and it gives me the opportunity to provide an update. The Government is committed to ensuring that all citizens have access to safe, high quality and evidence-based care in line with international norms. Sligo University Hospital provides high quality healthcare to the people of Sligo, Leitrim, south Donegal and west Cavan. There are currently two cath labs based in Galway, which service acute cardiac cases for Sligo and the north west. For elective cases, a mobile cath lab unit operates for one day a week in Sligo and Letterkenny.

The 2013 report of the north-west cardiology review group recommended that opportunities presented by the proximity of Altnagelvin Hospital to Letterkenny should be explored to see if co-operation arrangements could be agreed. This recommendation has now been implemented. There is a cross-Border arrangement with Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry to provide cath lab services and primary percutaneous coronary intervention, PCI, to people in the north west. That is something that has come up in recent days as well in the broader Brexit debate. It is important that such cross-Border arrangements are continued and especially in respect of health issues. It is also important to note that specialist cardiac catheterisation lab services are provided in a small number of hospitals in order to ensure that the services provided achieve the required standards of safety, quality and sustainability in the interests of patients.

Earlier this year a steering group was established, chaired by Professor Philip Nolan, to undertake a national review of specialist cardiac services. The steering group comprises 15 members including health professionals, patients, HSE management and officials from my Department. The review will also consider the responses gathered from a public consultation. I am sure that will include the views of the people of the north west and people throughout the country who responded. This consultation is in keeping with the Government’s commitment to incorporating the views of our citizens.

The aim of the review is to achieve optimal patient outcomes at population level with a particular emphasis on the safety, quality and sustainability of the services that patients receive by establishing the need for an optimal configuration of a national adult cardiac service. The review will incorporate rigorous reviews of evidence and data, international peer review and stakeholder consultation. This review began on 31 January and is ongoing. It is expected that the work will be completed by the end of June 2019. I expect the review will provide a blueprint for the future of adult cardiac services. As set out in the National Development Plan 2018-2027, investment in cardiac catheterisation laboratories, and other cardiac services infrastructure nationally, will be informed by the outcome of the national review.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. This review is rigorous with evidence and data. I know there are stakeholder consultations but the review started on 31 January and will not be complete until June 2019, which means it will have taken a year and half. I am not familiar with the complexities but that seems like a long time to have a review. I look forward, however, to seeing the results of the review and I hope we will have a cath lab in Sligo in future.

I again thank Senator Feighan for raising this issue. I understand its importance in the north west. I also understand his point about the long journeys. That is not acceptable. We have to plan services in order that they are patient-centred and that is particularly the case with cardiac patients. I take the Senator's point on that and on the review. I will bring those points to the Minister for Health. I assure Senator Feighan that the provision of a cath lab in Sligo University Hospital is being considered under the national review of specialist cardiac services. That is due to be completed in June 2019. I will bring the two key points which Senator Feighan raised to the Minister, Deputy Harris and push that matter.

Domestic Violence Policy

I will let the lady go first. It is only proper manners.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House. Sunday, 25 November is the UN international day for the elimination of violence against women. Can we imagine an Ireland where women and children are free from domestic violence? One in four women experiences physical or sexual violence from a partner and one in three experiences severe psychological abuse. If we were to apply those averages to this House, five out of 15 female Senators could be survivors of some form of intimate partner abuse. Across the country as a whole, we would be looking at approximately 475,000 women. What a transformation it would be for them if they were free from violence and abuse. Unfortunately, such an Ireland is difficult for many of us to imagine and that is why each and every one of us must do our utmost to support women experiencing abuse. Virtually all of us, as public representatives, will have been approached by women in difficult circumstances. While we may be able to give them advice, a listening ear or even, in some cases, refuge in our own homes, what is needed is a co-ordinated response.

The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in May this year was very significant. It marked a sea change in our understanding of domestic violence and I commend the Minister, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, and former Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, on having delivered such legislation. It has made protecting and supporting those experiencing violence a priority, and it has broadened our understanding of intimate partner abuse, particularly by providing for a new criminal offence of coercive control. It also includes provisions which move us closer to ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention. It is in this area that I am seeking clarification from the Minister today.

There can be no real equality between women and men unless women experiencing gender-based violence are fully supported by State agencies and institutions. There are some fantastic voluntary organisations, such as Safe Ireland which has its headquarters in my home town of Athlone, and Women’s Aid which provides services and support for women experiencing domestic violence. They do a fantastic job and we need to ensure we match their commitment and dedication by doing our part. I note that the Minister is fully committed to ratifying the convention, and I am seeking an update from him of where we are on that journey.

It is a privilege to share time on this very important issue with such an advocate as Senator McFadden. Her articulation of the importance of this convention being ratified speaks volumes. We are a great country when it comes to honouring our international obligations. We dragged our feet for long enough with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and we let ourselves down in that instance, but I have no doubt that we will not let ourselves down in respect of the Istanbul Convention.

In the years since Deputy Flanagan took over as Minister, a lot has happened in terms of protecting women, such as the introduction of legislation on domestic violence and resourcing An Garda Síochána to its current level, which has meant the force has a new dynamic in dealing with violence against women. Violence against women and vulnerable people is abhorrent in our society and needs to be eradicated. It is a disease that should not exist in the modern world. We are a first world country and, as such, we need to take our international obligations seriously. I know that we will.

We advocated for the convention that became the Istanbul Convention. The people, of all parties and none, who represent this Parliament at the Council of Europe articulated this issue. It was formulated by our parliamentarians and other good parliamentarians throughout Europe and further afield. We need to transpose the convention into law to show that we espouse the complete elimination of domestic violence against women. I know the Minister will reflect these views in his response, but we would especially like a timeline from him.

I thank Senator Conway and Senator McFadden for raising this matter. I assure all the Senators in the House of my commitment as Minister for Justice and Equality, and that of Government, to do everything we can to tackle violence against women. This violence is a blight on our society and its complexity requires a systemic, multifaceted response.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention, is a significant legal instrument in combating sexual and domestic violence and the programme for Government is committed to its implementation. The convention is a broad-based document which covers a number of Departments’ policy areas. The purposes of this convention are to protect women against all forms of violence and to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of such violence.

Senators will be aware that Ireland signed the Istanbul Convention in November 2015. At the time, the Government gave approval to an action plan which contained those outstanding actions that were identified as being necessary to enable Ireland’s ratification of the convention.

Those 18 actions were included in the second national strategy for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence which was published in January 2016. The implementation of this whole-of-government strategy which contains a range of actions to be implemented across Departments and agencies is ongoing. I acknowledge the work of the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Stanton, in particular, in that regard. I also acknowledge the contributions of Members of this and the Lower House, particularly those of Senators McFadden and Conway.

Progress in implementing the actions required to be taken under the Istanbul Convention includes the training of public sector officials, implementation of the victims directive, development and implementation of a risk assessment matrix by An Garda Síochána for victims of domestic violence and sexual crime. I acknowledge and welcome what Senator Conway said as far as An Garda Síochána is concerned, but, of course, there is more to be done. Enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill 2018 in May significantly advanced progress in ratifying the convention. This groundbreaking legislation delivers on a number of Istanbul Convention actions, including emergency barring orders, extending access to interim barring orders and creating an offence of forced marriage. It is my intention to commence the Act in January. The agencies that are key to implementing the legislation are working to that end.

There remains one outstanding legislative action before Ireland can ratify the Istanbul Convention, that is, legislating for extraterritorial jurisdiction. This technical legislation will provide for individuals who commit particular offences abroad being liable to prosecution under Irish law. It is my intention to publish the legislation in the very near future. Its early enactment will enable ratification of the convention. It is my intention to ratify the convention early in 2019 and have the legislation enacted prior to that.

I do not doubt the Minister's commitment to deal with this matter. It is the obligation of the State to fully address the issue of violence against women in all of its forms and to take measures to prevent such violence, protect its victims and, most importantly, prosecute the perpetrators. That is why it is essential that all elements of the Domestic Violence Act be fully implemented and that the remaining legislation and other actions needed to progress be pursued as a matter of urgency. I thank the Minister for his presence and commitment thus far.

It is rare for a Minister to come into the House to answer questions. The Minister is spot on as the timeframe is clear and unambiguous. As a unit, the women of Ireland should be very pleased with the information he has given, for which I thank him. I again commend An Garda Síochána, in particular the Commissioner, Mr. Drew Harris. I listened carefully to his commentary at the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and his commitment to ensuring An Garda Síochána is responsive, reflective and flexible to ensure it not just acts against but also seeks to prevent domestic violence is refreshing. I would like the message to be sent to the women of Ireland that the Government and An Garda Síochána are committed to a policy of zero tolerance of any violence against women and vulnerable adults.

I repeat that implementation is continuing of the actions contained in the second national strategy for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I am very keen to ensure the strategy will be part of the focus of all interested parties. I acknowledge what the Senators have said about enactment of the domestic violence legislation being a major step forward in enabling us to ratify the Istanbul Convention. It is my intention to publish in the coming weeks the final item of legislation required for ratification. I would like to have it published before the end of November. We will then have three weeks before the Christmas vacation, within which I will be very keen to make progress. In that regard, I look forward to the constructive engagement of the Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is technical legislation, but in working together we can ensure its early enactment. It is my firm intention to ensure the Istanbul Convention will be ratified as soon as practicable thereafter. The timeframe for its ratification is early 2019.

If the Minister so wished, the Bill could be initiated in this House in the next three or four weeks.

Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.