Dáil Bills to focus on finance, jobs and children


THE MAIN focus of the Government’s legislative programme for the autumn parliamentary session will be “finance, jobs and children”, chief whip Paul Kehoe said last night.

The Government says it plans to publish 31 Bills before the end of 2012. Legislation will include the Credit Reporting Bill, Credit Union Bill, Consumer Competition Bill, and the Companies Bill.

“Job creation and economic recovery are at the very heart of the Government’s priorities,” the chief whip said.

Ministers in a number of departments will publish what Mr Kehoe described as “progressive legislation” on mineral development, the forestry sector and the education and training sector.

Other areas include publicly funded GP care, risk equalisation in health insurance and the HSE (Governance) Bill. There will also be a Bill on forensic evidence and a DNA database.

Legislation will also be published providing for an amnesty for members of the Defence Forces who went to fight for the Allies in the second World War.

The Government also plans legislation to extend the category of those who can solemnise marriage.

In the finance and related areas, Mr Kehoe said: “Progress will also be made on a number of Bills that have already been published and are currently before the Oireachtas.” These included the Personal Insolvency Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Bill, Construction Contracts Bill, Central Bank (Supervision Enforcement) Bill and the Legal Services Regulation Bill.

Other legislation includes a Bill to reduce the membership of Dail Eireann, establish a new utility company, Irish Water, on an interim basis and provide for the introduction of the property tax.

On the children’s referendum, Mr Kehoe said Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald would bring the necessary legislation before the Oireachtas in the “next number of weeks”. If the amendment was passed, further legislation would be introduced “in a number of areas to improve the legal standing of children”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has announced the establishment of a working group to conduct a strategic review of penal policy, in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group which reported last year.

This is to consist of an examination and analysis of all aspects of penal policy including prevention, sentencing policies, alternatives to custody, accommodation and regimes, support for reintegration and rehabilitation and the issue of female prisoners.

The group is to report back by the middle of next year. It is chaired by Michael Whelan and the other members are as follows: Tom Cooney, adviser to Minister for Justice and Equality; Michael Donnellan, director general, Irish Prison Service; Vivian Geiran, director, Probation Service; Liam Herrick, executive director, Irish Penal Reform Trust; Maeve Lewis, executive director, One in Four; James Martin, assistant secretary, Department of Justice and Equality; Sunniva McDonagh, barrister at law; Oonagh McPhillips, principal officer, Department of Justice and Equality; Jack Nolan, assistant commissioner, An Garda Síochána; Helen O’Neill, consultant forensic psychiatrist; Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.

The review will consider: relevant work already carried out in this jurisdiction and elsewhere; the rights of those convicted of crimes; the perspective of those who are victims of crime, and the interests of society in general. The group is being asked to “make recommendations as to how a principled and sustainable penal system might be further enhanced taking into account resource implications, constitutional imperatives and our international obligations”.