Senator warns Seanad not to stop asylum application Bill

Jillian van Turnhout repsonds to criticism from non-governmental organisations

Housing in Mosney for asylum seekers. File photograph: Frank Miller

Housing in Mosney for asylum seekers. File photograph: Frank Miller


Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout has warned colleagues against attempting to stop legislation that aims to streamline the application process for asylum seekers.

Ms van Turnhout criticised the Government’s approach to the International Protection Bill, which creates a single application procedure for asylum seekers.

However, she said, change was incremental and “this Bill represents the first opportunity in almost 10 years to raise the baseline”.

She said that, in her five years as a Senator, “no Bill I have dealt with here has been a perfect Bill”.

“If we wait for the perfect Bill, nothing will happen. It is not coming.”

Ms van Turnhout was responding to Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who read out criticisms of the Bill by a number of non-governmental organisations.

The Galway Senator also quoted comments from Ms van Turnhout criticising conditions in the direct provision system and the length of time people were awaiting a decision.

Direct provision

Mr Ó Clochartaigh had earlier said it was “appalling” that Senators had only just received a document from the Government about 26 working group recommendations included in the Bill.

He said it was quite clear that Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin had the document last week, and claimed the Government was afraid to give it to Senators in case they had a chance to study it and argue against elements of the Bill.

Mr Ó Riordáin accused him of not understanding what he was talking about, but Mr Ó Clochartaigh counterclaimed that the Government was trying to tone down the rights of children within the system.

Ms van Turnhout earlier sought the inclusion of wording that the best interests of the child should be a “primary consideration”, and said she was “extremely disappointed” at the Minister’s reasons for not accepting it.

However, she said they had to proceed with incremental change and she withdrew her amendment on the understanding that Mr Ó Riordáin and the department would consider her points.

The legislation was guillotined and passed by 18 votes to 11 on a walk-through vote in the Seanad lobbies.