Thursday, 26 February 2004
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. B. Lenihan: In the new subsection (II) inserted in section 5 to insert “behalf of” after “on” and before “the Official Side”. In the new subsection (2) inserted in section 5 regarding the title of the Act of 1919, the term “Prison Officer” should be plural.
Dr. Mansergh: I warmly thank the Minister and his staff for conducting this debate, which has taken place over the past two days. It was an interesting and instructive debate in which I enjoyed participating. It raised a number of issues that may need to be dealt with in months and years to come both in these Houses and in other forums. It has thrown light on many issues.
Mr. J. Phelan: I too thank the Minister of State and his officials. While I do not agree with large parts of the Bill I compliment the officials on the work they put into it. I have no doubt there will be considerable discussion in the other House before it is passed.
Mr. O’Toole: I regret the passing of this Bill. The debate has been important. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their full and committed engagement with the arguments as we proceeded. It is crucial to have such engagement when legislating. There are issues more of a political and policy nature than of a drafting nature that need to be considered. Unlike Senator Mansergh, I hope that any adjustments to the Bill would not be left for months and years. There is another opportunity in the Dáil next week. Some of the arguments made here should sink in, particularly those relating to the two groups we discussed. I will not reopen that argument.
The significant point related to age. As social circumstances and life expectancy are now different, change is needed. However, the manner of the implementation with a one size fits all approach does not work. It will have to be changed in the future and rather than leave bits of business to successive generations, we should make the changes now to allow it to work.
Mr. McDowell: I join other Senators in thanking the Minister of State for the way in which he dealt with the Bill today. I appreciate it can be difficult to come into either House with what I expect are overriding instructions from the Department of Finance not to give a great deal. Even in that context we have had a useful discussion and at least started the process of teasing out the details. Details remain which need to be teased out further and no doubt that will happen in the other House.
In today’s short debate we have seen that legislation is not the appropriate way to deal with this issue. There are many special circumstances which need to be considered and cannot be reflected in legislation. In the latter stages of our discussion, it was clear that the legislation itself accepts that principle. This makes me wonder why the legislation was introduced in the first place. I suspect we will see the Bill back in this House in coming weeks and I look forward to seeing the Minister of State at that time.
Mr. Browne: I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their courtesy and help today during the discussion on various amendments and points of clarification that we sought. Some valid points were raised on this side of the House and I hope the Minister of State and his officials will reconsider them before the Bill goes to the Dáil. If such amendments are made and the Bill comes back to us, it will be well received. While Senator McDowell made the point that the provisions of the Bill will not apply for another 30 or 40 years, that might not be the case. We will see many changes and variations of the Bill in the next few years. By the time people reach retirement age, the legislation might be radically different.
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Mr. B. Lenihan): I thank Senators both for the discussion earlier in the week on Second Stage and for today’s analysis of the Bill, which was searching, thorough and comprehensive. In its technical aspects the Bill is sufficiently robust to perform the required tasks. The wider questions raised confirm the wisdom of the Government in initiating the Bill in Seanad Éireann. I do not believe the type of discussion we had in this House about the future of politics and the teaching profession could be conducted in quite the same balanced way in another place. I should not really say that.
Mr. B. Lenihan: That is my considered opinion having listened to the views of Senators today. Clearly the Minister for Finance and his Government colleagues have reflected on the commission report. The Minister made a decision on politicians and took a view. He decided to link us with the pension report notwithstanding the fact that it did not refer to us. I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate, which were very well researched and to the point.
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