Charities Bill 2007: Report and Final Stages.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 192 No. 16

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An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Before we commence, I remind Senators that they may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of the amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Each amendment must be seconded.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  On a point of order, is a briefing note on the new amendments available? Will the Minister of State have a script?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Minister of State will deal with each amendment as it arises. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 1:

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy John Curran): Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are technical amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Is the amendment being seconded?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Senator beat me to it.

[1048]An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Under Standing Orders Government amendments do not need a seconder.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  They provide for the necessary redefinition of charitable organisations and trusts arising from section 88 which allows for charitable organisations to enter into certain agreements with charity trustees or connected persons that would have been contrary to the previous definition.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Some of the amendments are welcome but there is an astonishing number of them. Will the Minister of State provide an explanation for why no less than 65 of the 80 amendments, that is, well in excess of 70% or three quarters of them, are Government amendments? I accept it is the function of the House to amend but it is astonishing that 65 amendments out of 80 are Government amendments given that the Bill was already before the Houses and lapsed prior to the previous general election and there has been plenty of time to consider it. Since there is such a plethora of amendments, it encourages one to hope the debate we had earlier will lead the Minister of State to address the most significant omissions. I will continue to press the human rights amendment with strong support from academic and other organisations involved, especially given that it is so close to international Human Rights Day.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Senator Norris is correct that there are a number of Government amendments. Report and Final Stages of the Bill were concluded in the Dáil recently. I am anxious that before the Bill is finalised it would be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. I think that is an appropriate exercise. Accordingly, some amendments are drafting ones for the sake of clarity. I have no problem accepting suitable amendments. The amendments have been introduced on purely technical and drafting grounds in recognition of previous amendments and to tidy up the Bill in that regard.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 2:

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is amendment No. 2 agreed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is welcomed.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 3 and 40 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 3:

[1049]

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Last week I introduced an amendment that excluded certain educational organisations from particular provisions of the Bill. Having reflected further on the matter and following consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, I table these two amendments today to have the following effect. Having consulted the Department of Education and Science, I am adding third level educational fund-raising foundations to the definition of education body. In the amendment I introduced last week, inter alia, I exempted education bodies from the requirement to keep books of accounts under section 47. On further consideration, having taken advice on the matter, I believe it is essential that the financial position of a charity should be verifiable at any given time and in this regard I am removing the previous exemption under section 47. It is not unreasonable to expect an organisation to maintain financial records, especially where it enjoys an exemption from having to file a statement of accounts.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  This is a welcome amendment. I have had an opportunity to work, for example, with vocational education committees and they provide a very good service. I note the wording of the final part of the amendment, “a body established solely for the purpose of funding not more than one such institution of higher education”. A number of bodies, especially VECs, receive central funding, in other words, funding from citizens. They are not necessarily just voluntary contributions. They receive also voluntary contributions through their charitable status and the public is entitled to an account for those. We have had a number of recent scandals that were rather surprising and regrettable. They occurred in institutions that the majority of people in this country respect, admire, and which many have used. The same is true of VECs. This is a question of accountability and I welcome it. The Minister of State has done a good job by introducing these paired amendments.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I, too, welcome the amendment. By removing the exemption, one removes also a question mark over a particular body. In any case, such a body would keep proper accounts, and it is vital it would do so. Educational bodies should have the same status as any other charity in that regard.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I welcome the amendment. This is a welcome removal. I hope it will augment the work already being done in the keeping of accounts. However, it is important we do not place an unnecessary burden on educational establishments in particular in respect to audited accounts. I am concerned we may be allowing a level of carelessness to creep in here. [1050] The amendment is welcome. In revoking reference to education we are making a positive statement. There is a growth of educational trusts in the third level area and fund-raising is an important part of the primary and second level education sectors.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I thank the Senators for their comments.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 4, 9 and 61 are related and can be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 4:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  The amendment seeks to reinsert the provision excluding an approved body of persons within the meaning of section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which was removed last week on Committee Stage. The Bill seeks to retain the status quo as regards charitable purposes. Sport is not regarded as a charitable purpose. Therefore bodies of persons under section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 cannot become charitable organisations. I do not believe that considering the inclusion of sporting bodies as charities on the principled basis that a particular advantage might accrue to them under the taxation system is a sound approach. Revenue will still retain the absolute right to make its own determination on eligibility for tax exemptions for any body on or not on the register of charities. Therefore, I cannot accept the Opposition amendments before the House on this matter as they are directly contrary to the intent of the Bill and they also involve amendments to tax law, which is not within my remit.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  It is a pity the Minister of State intends to reverse the excellent decision we took in this House last week. I commend the House on its support of the amendments we tabled. There is broad consensus on the Bill. The Minister of State has support across the board for the main rubrics of the Bill. I cannot comprehend why the Government has introduced amendments that do not allow for the advancement of sport or the promotion of human rights. We need to address the concerns of many sporting organisations and of the umbrella organisation, the Federation of Irish Sports. The Government amendment does not address those concerns.

I appeal to Senator Ó Murchú and his colleagues to recognise the importance of sport and the importance of the promotion of human rights as a positive benefit to the advancement of communities. I appeal also to the Minister of State not to reverse the decision of last week. The purpose of the previous amendment was to broaden the scope of the definition of charitable purpose outlined in the legislation. As it stands, the purpose and the goals of some worthwhile organisations that contribute great benefits to the community are not recognised in the section of the Bill outlining charitable purposes.

I thank the Minister of State’s officials for their briefing. They have been very upfront and honourable and I pay tribute to them. However, I do not see the logic of the restrictions the Minister of State is putting in place. He has not convinced me, nor has he convinced other Senators.

[1051]At this eleventh hour, the scope of the definition should be broadened to ensure sports organisations qualify automatically under the definition of “charitable purpose”. There can be no doubt that sports organisations contribute greatly to communities. They benefit them and people prosper. If one considers the society in which we live, one will note that a young boy is before the courts this morning. There is, therefore, a gaping hole in the Government’s policy for providing sports, community and recreational facilities. Sports clubs and organisations are filling that void. Government policy should be to deliver what is required to tackle problems associated with health, education and all other sectors of society. This side of the House will oppose amendment No. 4.

  12 o’clock

It is true the majority of sports organisations would qualify under the definition of “charitable purpose” based on the criteria outlined in that they are of benefit to the community. However, it makes no sense to refer to their purpose within the relevant section of the Bill to ensure there is no ambiguity involved. I am at pains to understand why the definition of “charitable purpose” should not be broadened, especially given that sports organisations have contributed to communities’ well-being. The Government talks about the promotion of health but the most important vehicle for doing so is sport. It promotes social inclusion and enhances the community spirit among all strata of society. Sport transcends gender and all age groups. Surely the legislation should reflect sport’s charitable contribution to society. We will oppose the amendment.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  There is no doubt the decision Senator Buttimer referred to last week has certainly become part of the folklore of Seanad Éireann. It will probably be debated and discussed for a long time to come. We will not make any progress in that regard this morning and we will deal, therefore, with the actual amendments before us.

Senator Buttimer is quite right that sport is vital to the well-being of a community. Of this there is no doubt. “Sport” is a very broad term and many of us realise that it is very much a commercial business. I sometimes regret this because I am often very dissatisfied that, if a team at a certain level does not do well, we call for the head of the manager straight away. This is a side to sport that unfortunately has come to the fore. There is also pressure put on those who represent us in the Olympic Games.

At Oireachtas committees, I have often stated there is much to be said for the old-fashioned approach to sport, which involves doing one’s very best, for the honour of the little village if that is what one is representing. I genuinely hope we will return to this approach because I have seen people who have been made absolute wrecks as a result of the pressure put on them by the media and others.

The Minister of State has made it quite clear that a tax law has an implication in respect of these amendments. That is ultimately a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. If there is a tax law implication and we proceed along the lines proposed, we will have to revisit the legislation. The Minster of State said from day one that it was not a matter of expanding out of all recognition what is already in place regarding charities but that it was a matter of copperfastening the legislation already in place. Organisations with charitable status will continue to have such status under the new regulatory authority. We all welcome this because it immediately does away with a whole line of applicants. It also takes the pressure off the many existing charities in terms of their having to comply with whatever is necessary in the application process.

The advice the Minister of State has given on tax law implications is important. It would be wrong of us to detract and distract from existing charities by including large commercial bodies as if they, too, were charities.

[1052]Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I am somewhat disappointed that the Minister of State is not taking on board the amendment that was considered in the House last week. Amendment No. 9, which concerns the advancement of sport, was suggested by the Federation of Irish Sports, which represents 60 different sports organisations. The amendment seeks to ensure that bodies whose primary purpose is the advancement of sport will be included in the legislation.

Last week we had a very full debate on this issue and I do not want to rehash the same arguments. Suffice it to say the amendment was supported by Members on the other side of the House. Independent Members, such as Senator Mullen, voted in favour of it, the Green Party decided not to oppose it and Fine Gael and the Labour Party voted in favour of it. I am a little disappointed that Fianna Fáil will not take it on board. The opinion of the House was clear and, if the amendment is pressed, I will vote in favour of it again today.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I agree with much of what Senator Ó Murchú said. The amateur element in sport is very important. When sport becomes a business, it loses many of its values, which, tragically, has happened in the United States.

I remember saying quite a number of years ago in the Houses of the Oireachtas that I used to watch wrestling from Manchester with Kent Walton.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Giant Haystacks.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Big Daddy.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and the wonderful Mick McManus, who was a savage in the ring but who collected Ming porcelain. He could be very delicate in his aesthetic appreciation. The interesting thing about wrestling then was that it was fun, theatre and sport. Then it moved to the World Wrestling Federation and it became utterly unscrupulous. The values were different and it was a matter of winning at all costs by cheating, smashing and using outlawed weaponry, the very values that led the United States, tragically, into the Gulf War.

Whatever about the Battle of Waterloo being won on the playing fields of Eton, I believe a moral is to be learned from sport. We certainly learned one during the Special Olympics World Games. When one participant fell, that person’s colleagues, instead of saying, “Great, this is my opportunity, I will really rub their nose in it.”, actually went back to help the fallen participant and all crossed the line together. Everyone felt this was heartening. I therefore agree with Senator Ó Murchú on the amateur element in sport.

I do not agree, however, that the proposed provision will facilitate just, or even principally, the large organisations such as the IRFU and the GAA. These organisations already receive enormous sums of money and seem to be able to tap into any fund. One need only consider the dispersal of lottery funding. The IRFU and the GAA receive enormous and disproportionate sums of lottery funding. The bodies being excluded from benefit by the legislation are the very amateur bodies about which Senator Ó Murchú is so passionate. They are the ones that will suffer because one can only obtain tax relief on money spent on capital projects. One cannot claim tax back for hiring boxing instructors or coaches of various kinds. These are very necessary, particularly for the amateur groups.

On the business of copperfastening, to which Senator Ó Murchú referred, the Minister of State made the point that the legislation is really a tidying up exercise and that it is intended to confirm the status quo. Confirming the status quo is not terribly adventurous government. If it was a question of copperfastening and tidying up, a better job could have been done.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Hear, hear.

[1053]Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is why I asked my initial question about the number of amendments. I accept that many of these amendments may well strengthen the Bill. This is not the first time the Bill has made the rounds because it was proposed before the last election so there was that period to look at it. There was the period between the two Administrations and the period when the Bill was being prepared before it was presented to this House, yet 75% of the amendments are Government amendments.

That leads me to the Minister of State’s argument that it is all about technical difficulties with tax. It is an argument I can understand, that in order for this amendment to be sustained, it would necessitate changes in tax law, which is not under the remit of the Minister of State, but rather that of his colleague, the Minister for Finance. That should have been explored with the Minister for Finance and the appropriate assurances should have been given by the two Departments.

It is very welcome that this House is absolutely pulsating at present with young blood, in the corridors and in the Public Gallery. While I am not inviting our guests to make a contribution, I wonder what they think of a Government that is turning its face against allowing sport to be considered, particularly the type of amateur sport that many of them may be engaged in, and preventing that from being recognised as a legitimate charitable purpose. I would not like to shock them too much, but I reveal at this point that later we will be looking at the question of excluding human rights. What a celebration of Human Rights Day, which was yesterday.

We very often look to our United Kingdom colleagues for models of legislation. Very often this is a form of legislative laziness. We just take down the UK Bill and stick it in here with a few harps and things around it to make it Irish. However, in the Northern Ireland legislation, this matter is addressed. The proposed definition of “charitable purpose”, to be found in clause 2 of the Northern Ireland Bill follows closely the broad definition of the English Charities Act 2006, with new references included to the advancement of amateur sport. That, I believe, addresses all the matters raised by Senator Ó Murchú and should assuage his doubts because it clearly points in the direction of amateur sport. If they can do it 90 miles up the road, I do not see why we cannot do so, particularly given that we are so anxious to have a united Ireland.

I notice that every day we are widening the gap in legislation between the two jurisdictions in Ireland. I wonder when I hear people talking about boycotting Newry whether they are committed to a Thirty-two County Ireland. It does not sound to me like an all-Ireland republic, unless they propose to isolate Newry as some type of curious principality, such as Andorra or, indeed, that oddest of all states, the Vatican. I am sorry, but I could not resist the dig.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  The Pope is a citizen of the Vatican, I am not.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I will not spend time on this matter. We debated it last week and we are debating it again today. Senator Ó Murchú expressed very well his interest in and concerns about it. We are talking about amateur and recreational sports. Senator Norris pointed out very well that north of the Border, in the United Kingdom, they have found a formula that enables us to do this. We are also talking about the tax implications in this area. There is an enormous need to solve this problem so that sport can be regarded as a charity.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending in the National Concert Hall the return home of the Down’s syndrome team from Portugal. This is a beautiful group of people — 15, I believe — and they came fifth in the world. They were ahead of the United States and I believe Australia won. It was great to see the joy and the benefit that sport can bring, in that case to Down’s syndrome people.

I also met Katie Taylor yesterday, who won the world boxing championship in China last week, a very bright young woman from Bray. Developments such as hers come initially from amateur and recreational sport, and that is what we are hoping to achieve and succeed in. I [1054]hope the Minister of State will reconsider what we are talking about here. Baron de Coubertin, when he started the Olympic Games, said it was not the winning that mattered but the taking part. It is the taking part that we should encourage because we see the benefits of that in so many areas, and nowhere more than in the Special Olympics, which were held in Ireland in 2003. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider this amendment. The attention paid to it last week was such that there is an understanding of what is involved. There may be tax implications that can be solved through the Finance Bill, but on the basis that this is worthy of consideration, I urge the Minister of State to reconsider his stance.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I thank the Senators. I want to put on record that I appreciate and acknowledge the role that sport plays in society. I have known that from long before I entered politics and I have certainly seen it in practice. To be fair, the Government recognises it, too, in its support for sporting agencies and bodies throughout the country. If one looks at sporting facilities, they have advanced radically throughout the country in the past ten or 15 years. When I played sports, virtually every time we went to a football match, we changed at the side of the field. That was common practice and it is very rare to see now. It is indicative of how things have changed.

As regards this legislation, it is primarily to maintain the status quo and define what bodies get charitable status. Sporting bodies are not regarded as charities and the whole emphasis is to maintain the status quo. The argument has been put forward time and again that they should be recognised from a tax viewpoint. The legislation we are introducing is quite specific in that regard in that the Revenue Commissioners will be absolutely independent in their judgments. Therefore, we will not be advancing sport from a tax viewpoint by including it in this legislation.

On the other hand, bodies would be subjected to a considerable amount of additional regulatory scrutiny and would have reporting requirements, but they would not have the benefits the Senators are asking for. By not being included in the legislation they are not precluded from lobbying and entering into negotiations with Revenue in any event. They would not be entitled to an automatic change in their revenue status by being included in the legislation, and that was the fundamental reason sporting bodies wanted to be included.

Senator Buttimer said there was a gaping hole in terms of Government policy. The Government very definitely and positively supports sport, but to include sporting bodies here would bring about a fundamental change when the whole purpose of the legislation is to maintain the status quo. In that regard I am pressing amendment No. 4.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.



[1055]Níl
Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  Mullen, Rónán.
Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David. Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Jerry Buttimer and Maurice Cummins.

Amendment declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 5 is a Government amendment which arises out of Committee Stage and is in the names of Senators Hannigan, Alex White, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly.

Government amendment No. 5:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  One of my basic aims in respect of this legislation is to make charities secure against takeover or against being undermined or misused by criminal or terrorist groups. It is vital this does not happen. Members may remember that during my opening remarks on Committee Stage last week, I signalled that I was examining the references to terrorism in the Bill. In this regard, I have consulted the Office of the Attorney General in respect of a possible concern that the existing wording in the Bill relating to terrorism might be interpreted as referring only to terrorism in this jurisdiction. While my advice is that the existing wording applies to terrorism in any jurisdiction, I am introducing an amendment for the avoidance of doubt in this regard. I thank Members for their input on this matter.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I thank the Minister of State for so doing. He gave that undertaking last week and I appreciate that the Bill will be changed to reflect it.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I support this amendment. All Members are aware that terrorism is extraterritorial and I am pleased this has been included.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  While it is reasonable to include the amendment, I do not feel as threatened by terrorism as do some others. However, I take this opportunity to compliment Senator Hannigan, who has enjoyed a series of unusual successes for someone in his first term in the Seanad. It is refreshing when one puts in such energy and is rewarded by having a direct impact on legislation, even in a small way, by having one’s amendments accepted. This is a good day.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Like other speakers, I compliment Senator Hannigan on highlighting this issue and I thank the Minister of State. Like Senator Norris, I do not feel so threatened by terrorism but it is important to have protection and I welcome the amendment.

[1056]Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  During the debate on Committee Stage, Senator Hannigan mentioned the Supreme Court D case, which related to the Criminal Assets Bureau and which stated that unless legislation specifically mentioned the rest of the world, it applied only to Ireland. Based on the legal advice, the proposed amendment removes any doubt that any organisation involved in terrorism in any jurisdiction would be excluded.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendment No. 6 in the names of Senators Hannigan, Alex White, McCarthy, Ryan, Prendergast and Kelly arises from Committee Stage.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 6:

While the Labour Party tabled this amendment on Committee Stage, it withdrew it because there also was a reference to cults. I have resubmitted it to state “This Act applies to humanism as it applies to religion.” The Minister of State will be aware that the US Supreme Court has recognised that humanism is a religion for the purposes of the religious charitable exemption there. Consequently, this exemption is in line with what has been done elsewhere. The Humanist Association of Ireland met the Taoiseach and other Ministers to discuss humanism in Ireland and at the time its representatives were assured there would be parity of esteem between humanists and religious groups. This is the first opportunity for the Government to deliver on that commitment and, unfortunately, by excluding humanism, it has flunked it. It has not met the commitment it gave to the Humanist Association of Ireland. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider this new amendment and I hope he will see fit to include it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the amendment formally seconded?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  If Senator Hannigan needs a seconder, I would be honoured to second the amendment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I also would be happy to second it.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I appreciate that.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  While Members have rehearsed this issue on a previous Stage of the Bill, I wish to introduce a new element. I received a very brilliant paper by Dr. Oonagh B. Breen of the school of law at University College Dublin, Belfield, in which she comments on the manner in which this matter is addressed in Northern Ireland legislation. My eyesight is not great and I am prepared to be corrected by the Minister of State, but I have looked without success for a definition of religion in the Bill. The Minister should inform me whether it contains such a definition.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  No.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is an extraordinary omission that the Minister of State should consider because practically everything else has been defined, down to the hairpins. For example, it defines “church” as the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, albeit not, I am glad to say, exclusively, as there is permission for other churches to survive. However, there is no definition of religion although there are definitions of all kinds of other matters. If one is [1057]dealing with religion and if one intends to exclude humanism, the least one should do is to provide a definition of religion.

I do not know whether the Minister of State, as a good sportsman, can take an amendment on the hop as he would a ball, but to be helpful, the Northern Ireland Bill provides for a statutory definition of religion that includes express references to faiths that do not profess belief in a god, as well as to polytheistic religions. This statutory definition, which was first seen in the English Charities Act 2006, is cognisant of the multicultural make-up of Northern Irish society. This recognition of religious difference goes beyond the law in Ireland, where the definition of religion remains a matter of common law interpretation based primarily on belief in, and worship of, a supreme being. The proposed statutory definition in Northern Ireland should facilitate the registration of nontheistic organisations, including, for example, humanist, Confucian and even Buddhist organisations as religious charities if they otherwise satisfy the public benefit test in Northern Ireland.

While I am unsure whether it is possible to take this on board, this Bill deals with a matter in which religion is central to at least one section. However, no definition has been provided. I do not make this point with an intention to carp or to water down the beliefs of any particular church. I am a regular churchgoer, but I do not approve of the current practice whereby everyone, when reciting the Nicene Creed, is obliged to say “We believe”. I know what I believe but I have not the slightest idea of what the people in the next pew believe and I will not say anything on their behalf. Their religious views and values probably alter in respect of the state of their digestion, the time of day and so on. Moreover, there are certain things I simply do not say. As I do not believe in the resurrection of the body, I will not say it. I am happy to believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Members should try to provide a definition of religion and, in its absence, they must go in the direction of Senator Hannigan’s amendment. I am neither a humanist nor an atheist, but people of very high ethical standards who promote values such as this should be afforded a space within Ireland’s charities legislation.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The amendment is an interesting one from the point of view of the definition of humanism. What is the meaning of humanism in modern 21st century Ireland? My party is not opposed to the amendment, but we would like to see a definition of humanism.

Like Senator Norris, I am a regular churchgoer and I believe in the resurrection of the body and the soul.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I do not believe in Senator Buttimer’s either, or Senator Mullen’s. I find that a great relief. It is a comfort.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The growth of humanism needs to be looked at in the context of the Bill. We have not included a definition of religion, which, I suppose, is an omission that perhaps should be looked at.

In the context of where we are at in this Bill, we need to recognise the importance of people who, as Senator Norris stated, are of high ethical standards and who do promote values. Therefore, we would not have any difficulty with the amendment before us. However, I would like to hear a definition of humanism.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  This is turning out to be an interesting debate. I am sorry that Senator Norris does not believe in the resurrection of the body.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The dead, yes; the body, no.

[1058]Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I am looking forward to my new glorified body in the next scheme of things.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  He could do with the glorification.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I could certainly do with a make-over. I am very much inclined to support Senator Hannigan’s amendment. I like the look of it. It proceeds from a generosity of spirit in including groups who have ethical values in our society. The way it is worded, that it would apply to humanism as it applies to religion, does not proceed from any intention to water down religion or the value society places on religion.

It might be worth saying at this point that what Senator Norris is proposing would not pass constitutional muster. We are in a different constitutional set-up south of the Border. It is interesting to note that Article 44 of the Constitution, for example, pledges the State specifically to acknowledge the importance of “the homage ... due to Almighty God.” It is not often reflected on, but the State is not neutral on the issue of religion. The Constitution values the religious experience very highly. It refers in explicit terms to the value of acknowledging the role of religious faith in society. However, that need not necessarily have negative implications for people who do not have religious faith. That is why I say I would be inclined to support what Senator Hannigan has proposed.

I would not go with the approach of the US Supreme Court which would try, as I think Senator Norris is suggesting in the Northern Irish context, to lump in humanism as a form of religion. That would be to deprive what I like to call authentic religion of its unique and positive character in society.

In the spirit of the new era, which I hope we are approaching, which is one where we take a generous approach to the different convictions of others and also to the absence of conviction on the part of certain people on the meaning of life or the origin of our existence and, indeed, our ultimate destiny as persons, it is good that there are people in society who, while not professing religious faith, express a desire to be associated with strong ethical values that are communitarian in nature.

I certainly hear that from time to time from people who do not share my faith or any religious faith. I have come across it recently, for example, on the pro-life issue in the context of my Stem-Cell Research (Protection of Human Embryos) Bill where several people told me they did not really share what they thought were my religious convictions but they were with me on the issue covered by the legislation. I do not wish to single out that issue unduly. There may well be other humanists who would not be with me on that but who would none the less walk the road in terms of a vision of society that is inclusive, communitarian, etc.

For that reason, it would be good if we were to find a way to include the aspirations of groups who come together, do not profess religious faith but, like religious faith communities, none the less seek to advance values in our society which, as I have stated, are communitarian and promote altruistic behaviour, if one wants to call it that, in various ways.

It surprises me that one point on which I agree with Senator Norris, and on which he is absolutely right, is “We believe”, because in Latin it is “Credo”, in the first person singular. That is probably the more correct approach to take in the Profession of Faith.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  We will have to get back to the Latin mass and the Cranbrook prayer book.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  As I do not want to alarm Senator Norris by agreeing with him on too many matters, I will conclude my comments with that.

[1059]Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  We could have an animated discussion on religion but my better judgment tells me to stay clear of the theological minefield presented by Senator Norris. Perhaps some other day we can have a full debate on that.

I must admit I am fairly ignorant about humanism. I always thought it was an antidote to religion. Perhaps that is misinformed in its own way.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It places the human, rather than God, at the centre.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I cannot speak for the Holy Spirit, obviously,——

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  But Senator Ó Murchú is imbued with it.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  ——but I would be surprised if the Holy Spirit is not in there among humanists as well, in their own way.

Religion in many ways is community and in other ways it is individual. We need to be very careful when it is community and when it is individual. I will focus on individual for the moment. There is a slight danger here — I do not attribute this to anyone who has promoted the idea here or elsewhere — that often when someone wants to become part of someone else’s party, so to speak, it is intended to distract or dilute from that. I would be a little worried that to put humanism in the same context as religious is precisely what it could do. In fairness, it is not prescriptive enough when it comes to legislation. I do not know what will be the Minister of State’s response to it, but my first reaction is that it is not the category for humanism.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  As Senators will be aware, the Charities Bill 2007 provides that the advancement of religion shall have a charitable purpose with a rebuttable provision to deal with those organisations whose religious credentials are doubtful or whose methods are suspect. The Bill does not attempt to define religion, nor would it be wise to do so as religion has a much wider context than merely charity law. The other principal charitable purposes such as poverty and education have similarly not been defined in the Bill. It will be a matter then for the charities regulatory authority to determine, in a case-by-case basis utilising common law and precedent as well as its own expertise, whether an applicant body has a charitable purpose and serves a public benefit. In addition, it will be open to all applicants for charitable status to appeal decisions to the authority, to the charity appeals board and, in turn, to the High Court. In that regard, I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I appreciate the comments of my colleagues from both sides of the House. I am disappointed that the Minister of State will not accept this but I will not press it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 7:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 7 is a drafting amendment removing text considered to be superfluous.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 8, 14, 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

[1060]Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I move amendment No. 8:

This relates to the promotion of human rights. It is a slightly different wording than that of my party’s amendment last week. This would give the same definition that is included in other jurisdictions such as England and Wales where, in both cases, the protection and promotion of human rights is included within their Acts. That is all we seek to do. We are concerned the consequences of excluding them mean some organisations may lose their charitable status because of some of the sections in the Act. We encourage the Minister of State to include the amendment in the Bill.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I have indicated that I very much regret this Government clearly has committed itself to a policy that is deeply antagonistic to the entire area of human rights. There cannot be any doubt about that. I know from speaking to my Fianna Fáil and Green Party colleagues that Members on the opposite side of the House have equally little doubt about the matter. I commend the Green Party and Deputy Cuffe in particular, for bravely standing up to oppose the Government’s swingeing attacks on human rights. This Bill comprises a small part of an attack being made across all Departments. This is a shameful campaign and it renders valueless the speeches made by Government Members on human rights day.

I will not rehearse the comments I made earlier but will, if the House permits me, quote from a learned paper by Dr. Oonagh Breen because it is important to flesh out the political views of people such as me with the opinion of somebody with an extensive academic acquaintance of this area. Dr. Breen states: “No reasons have been publicly offered for the subsequent deletion of the advancement of human rights from the published Bill.” This comes on foot of the fact that the initial consultation paper on charity law reform did not originally include human rights in the proposed list of charitable purposes but the public’s disagreement with this policy decision led the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs to remedy this omission in its 2006 general scheme of the bill with express reference to the charitable nature of the advancement of human rights. Human rights were specifically removed, therefore. Nobody can tell me that is not sinister. Dr. Breen continues:

I want the Minister of State to specifically state whether he has received advice from the Attorney General on this issue and, if so, whether it was negative and what it contained. Is this a political decision rather than one with a firm legal basis?

Dr. Breen states:

These comments do not come from the alliance of charities, which could be said to have an axe to grind. This is the dispassionate view of a professional whose legal expertise has been brought to bear on the problem. Dr. Breen further states:

The problem with s. 2, as it stands, is twofold. First, it offers no insight into what is meant by the phrase “political cause” that, if found to be a body’s principal object, results in its non-eligibility for charitable status. Ultimately, human rights organisations stand to lose the most from this. There is no direct judicial authority on the meaning or scope of the phrase “political cause” to assist the regulator in applying this concept. In a non-charity context, the High Court has interpreted the phrase “political end”, drawing upon English charity case law in its exegesis, but it is unclear whether the terms are synonymous. If promotion of human rights is ultimately excluded from the statutory list of charitable purposes (putting the Irish definition at odds with that of its neighbours, all of which expressly recognise the charitable status of human rights bodies), organisations in this field would be well advised to set out their objects as precisely as possible in the governing instrument, relating them back to the other established heads of charity and demonstrating the non-political ways in which human rights will be promoted.

I apologise for quoting more extensively than I normally do. I usually speak off the cuff rather than refer to documents but these points are so convincing and irrefutable from an independent and dispassionate perspective that if the Government refuses to address them, it will be clear that the Bill represents another attack on human rights. Particularly due to its actions over the past year, this hypocritical Government has the worst human rights record of any I can recall in my 21 years in this House. It is mounting a sustained attack on the Combat Poverty Agency, the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. They are irritants but that is the reason they should be supported. Otherwise, we might as well abolish the Opposition, pestilent Independent Members and turbulent priests of a non-Roman Catholic variety.

I received correspondence from FLAC, Amnesty, Front Line and ICCL which referred to a report by the Charities Commission for England and Wales entitled Charities Working in the Field of Human Rights. This report points out that human rights charities are more likely to have complaints made against them because of the high profile of their work. It states:

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That is an unanswerable case and the Minister of State will commit an act of moral cowardice if he evades it. All the charities have made this case. Why are they being spurned? I understand that independent reports submitted to the Government on this area made similar recommendations. It will be a black day for this House and for the Minister of State if he refuses, even at this late stage, to include human rights as part of the definition. It puts into context the public statements yesterday from members of the Government parties. I honour the Green Party and its representatives for taking a strong line on this issue and I urge them to continue to do so.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the Senator seconding the amendment?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I second the amendment, if that is all right with Senator Hannigan. I would also like to move my own amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Senator cannot move his amendment at this stage.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  When the time is appropriate, I will do so. I see my distinguished friend and colleague, Senator Boyle, sitting on the Government benches. I do not deplore the fact that the Green Party is in government with Fianna Fáil. That gives a certain degree of leverage in this matter and whatever happens today with this issue, I hope Senator Boyle and his colleagues, both in this and in the other House, will use that leverage to try to bring some moral value to the views taken in these areas so disgracefully by the Fianna Fáil element of the Government.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  What is before us is, to say the least, bizarre. We are talking about the advancement of the promotion of human rights in this section of the Bill. I do not agree with Senator Norris on the leverage held by the Green Party.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I did not think the Senator would.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  If the Green Party is in government and is supposed to be an equal partner, why are we at this point? We will, no doubt, get a long lecture from Senator Boyle about Fine Gael and Labour opposing Bills and our record on human rights.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I do not need to give it, the Senator has done it for me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I am pre-empting the Senator’s comments as I can read him like a book.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I am glad I am so easy to read.

[1063]Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Why are we in the current position if the social conscience of the Government is Senator Boyle and his cabal?

All this week we are, rightly, celebrating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today in Ireland we are restricting the inclusion of the promotion of human rights in consensus-oriented legislation for no apparent reason. Senator Norris is right in that we have received extensive consultation with human rights organisations, all of which are united in their views.

We have not heard a cogent explanation as to why this measure is being rejected, especially when it was contained in the original heads of the Bill. Why has it been removed? There is a need to look at the model in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the legislation Senator Norris read to the House has been effectively introduced. Why can it not be introduced here and what is the issue? What are we afraid of?

The concept of this amendment is to promote human rights. Yesterday, Amnesty International published a document outlining ten actions for every Deputy and Senator. If we are to be serious about the advancement and promotion of human rights, the amendments put forward by us on this side of the House should be accepted. Unfortunately, the Government has ignored, in every step of the legislative process so far, attempts to include them and that is regrettable.

I will not go back over the debate we had last week on Committee Stage. The joint correspondence we got from Amnesty International, FLAC, the ICCL and Front Line asks a number of questions which should be answered by the Minister of State today. Is it purely about tax and revenue in the Department of Finance? Perhaps in his reply the Minister of State will address some of the concerns of the organisations, the representatives of which I know the Minister of State has spoken to. We must get an answer.

It is regrettable that we will again divide the House today on important legislation dealing with the promotion and advancement of human rights when we have not had a cogent message from Government as to why it has acted in such a way and the thinking behind this exclusion from the Bill. The Minister of State may indicate there is a five-year review but why not start today and include the bodies, as I argued last week? If the Department finds the practice is not working in five years, it could be reviewed then. Why are they being excluded today? We have not had answers from Government and we need them.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Yesterday I attended an event hosted by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of the agreement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I spoke candidly at that event, probably too candidly, but I would like to use the opportunity of Report Stage to repeat much of what I said there because I stand by it.

I cannot understand why the original reference to human rights in the scheme of the Bill has been removed. I do not agree with that, although I am involved in a Government process that obliges me to accept it because it has gone through Government procedures. I already stated in my speech on Second Stage that I believe this is good legislation which is flawed as a result of that omission. This has not come about through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. As a result of general Government processes, concerns have been raised, not specifically political concerns, in other Departments.

There is a view that human rights in their widest aspect are not considered with unanimity as they should be. Human rights exist in different contexts as there are civic and political human rights, on which there is a broad degree of consensus. These include democratic principles and the involvement of people in civic life. There are other human rights, such as social and economic, which engender ongoing political debate.

[1064]As far as I and my party are concerned, these are also inalienable human rights, and seeking to afford those rights is part of the democratic role of any citizen. No political process should stand aside, whether informed by administrators or elective political representatives, from seeking that such rights be attained.

If the Minister is not prepared to address the issue, the existing operations under a human rights banner could find themselves with spurious and political challenges for existing or being seen to affect charitable operations in their status. One of the major bodies in the form of Amnesty International has special tax status only because of a particular Irish solution to the Irish problem of failing to recognise human rights in the widest sense. A former Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan, chose to grant the body that status in a Finance Bill. We should no longer have such machinations.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  We should not have the validity of well recognised organisations being questioned and uncertainty over their future because of a Bill that is 90% excellent in what it proposes to achieve. The Bill aimed to achieve that at its inception, when it was presented as a scheme by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The fact that it cannot do so now means that either spurious challenges will be made against these organisations or bodies will be formed that will have their validity questioned in future. There will be a need for future legislation to amend this prior to the review mentioned in this legislation. I am stating that while acknowledging that I will be voting for the Government and against the amendments. The least the Minister can do is bring out regulations, at the earliest opportunity, to define and protect the role of organisations that currently find themselves in this position. The regulations should also define how other organisations, that may come into being under similar circumstances, can be afforded similar protection. If our legislation is not complete, we could find ourselves in difficulties in future because the valuable work of well recognised and publicly accepted organisations is being challenged by someone who disagrees with them politically. The political system should not adopt that approach.

I reluctantly accept that because unelected influences may have had an effect on the Bill and they have been given a weight that is disproportionate to what their individual concerns should be, it will result in a Bill that is missing an important element. How does the Minister of State intend to allay the concerns that will remain until the legislation is eventually completed under the five-year review or, hopefully, though amending legislation? We may feel obliged to propose such amendments because others have been successful in arguing against the issue.

Coalition Government is about give and take, and winning and losing arguments. The most important argument that has been won concerning this Bill, given what was absent from the original draft legislation, is the issue of advocacy. Advocacy is essential in civic society, including all voluntary and charitable organisations, in order to hold a mirror up to the type of society in which we live. The fact that advocacy is now very much part of the Bill will allay some of the ongoing concerns about human rights organisations. It is more important to have a Bill that recognises the charitable intent and purpose of organisations, whatever their historical background. In that way we can hold up a mirror to reflect society and force Governments and the political system generally to account for that. The inclusion of advocacy in the Bill makes it somewhat easier for me to support it, but it will not totally allay my unhappiness that there is a lacuna in the legislation that will eventually have to be filled.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  On Second Stage we all had an opportunity to express our views on human rights issues. I put my position on the record at that time because I felt uncomfort[1065]able. I must also put on the record that Senator Norris in particular has been one of the foremost advocates for human rights in this House. On many occasions, particularly on the Order of Business, I have been on the same wavelength as him. There is no doubt but that the organisations which have been mentioned here have done exemplary work. At times, many of us have felt particularly comfortable that such organisations exist, including Amnesty International in particular. On many occasions throughout the world, it has been necessary for Amnesty to put its head above the parapet. When it comes to what we might almost regard as state violence and terrorism, we are lucky to have Amnesty International’s reports. The organisation has suffered for its views. It has gone into areas to investigate state terrorism, thus putting the lives of its representatives on the line. For that reason, in the debate on Second Stage, we all expressed our feelings and emotions on that issue.

It is important to send a message to those organisations that their work should be acknowledged with the stand they have taken. Obviously, I do not agree with Senator Norris when he says we have the worst record on human rights. I do not know whether he meant in Europe or in the world generally.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  If I could explain, I meant in comparison to other governments, in terms of the interference with every single human rights organisation.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I genuinely feel it would be wrong to see Ireland in that regard.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  No, I would not say that, but I meant compared to other governments, including Fianna Fáil governments.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Ó Murchú, without interruption.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  When opportunities arise, we often ask the Government to take an independent stand. Just because one is a member of a particular forum, whether it is the European Union or the United Nations, one does not have to toe the line completely. We saw that during the invasion of Iraq. I can still recall watching that invasion on television as if we were watching a movie, forgetting that people on the receiving end of that indiscriminate bombing were being killed in their thousands. From day one, I made the point on the Order of Business that, first, I did not accept that the invasion of Iraq was justified because certain countries went against the will and procedure of the United Nations and, second, there was absolutely no respect whatsoever for human life. We were able to see the embedded journalists in Iraq telling us what suited the powers that be, but we were never told about the suffering of men, women and children. The number of people who have been indiscriminately killed has run into hundreds of thousands.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  We have also seen what some of the major powers did in laying their mines in countries they invaded. When they withdraw, however, they leave the mines and it is left to private organisations and spirited people to engage in clearing them. We also saw what mines do to people, not just killing them but also maiming them by blowing off limbs and destroying their lives. There is so much of that going on that an independent voice is needed.

Ireland was the only Government in Europe that took an individual stand against the invasion of the Malvinas or the Falklands war. People said we would suffer for doing so but we did not and, subsequently, our stature improved because we were prepared to stand up. We were not prepared to accept the soccer lingo concerning what they did to the Belgrano.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Disgraceful.

[1066]Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  It was totally against all the existing conventions on war. We should bear in mind that there are thousands of examples where we must stand up. On the other hand, while it may not be the strongest argument, I do not contribute to the notion that the organisations I have mentioned are the only custodians of human rights. I would regard that as a weakness in the protection of human rights, which are a matter for each individual and every organisation also. I am a member of several organisations for which human rights are high on the agenda. For that reason, I am making the case for the charities listed in this Bill.

I have always been a supporter of Amnesty International and contribute fairly generously each year. I was unhappy, however, with the position taken by Amnesty on abortion.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I think the Senator may be straying from the amendment.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  The point I am making is part of the amendment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  It is not.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  The work done by these organisations has been mentioned, therefore we are entitled to put the other side of the argument. I do not agree with the position taken by Amnesty International on abortion. If one supports human rights, one must support them in all forms, including for the born and the unborn. We cannot genuinely say that Amnesty should have taken that position.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Senator is straying a little from the amendment.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I look forward to the Minister of State’s response. Obviously I will be voting with the Government. I have stated what position individual organisations should take on human rights. If there is a further discussion, we might also respond.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on human rights. Our human rights aspirations should be reflected in legislation. In recent months, organisations that promote human rights in Ireland have been attacked. This is clear from the reduced funding and budgetary changes in respect of the Irish Human Rights Commission, IHRC, which falls under the Good Friday Agreement, the Equality Authority and the abandonment of the Combat Poverty Agency. Given that people experiencing poverty is a human rights issue, any body that voices the concerns of the most vulnerable is a human rights organisation.

I welcome the Green Party’s comments, but Senator Boyle’s view of coalition government is questionable, given his support for the Bill and despite his statement to the effect that it is empty of an important element. Would a coalition partner not want to express its values? The Senator has spoken strongly on the value of human rights and his wish to change the legislation, but he is accepting a Bill devoid of an important element, namely, human rights.

Why is there such intransigence? Senator Ó Murchú has referred to his discomfort and the Green Party has asked the Government to change the Bill. The Minister of State has been contacted by a range of credible organisations with a long record of quality work in the protection of human rights in Ireland, including the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, Amnesty International, Front Line and others. Why will the Government not accept their comments on including human rights in the Bill?

This week is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After recent actions, the Government is missing a critical opportunity to restore the credibility of its approach to human rights. The arguments are spelled out by those working in this area. Why did the Government remove the advancement of human rights from the Bill? If it had to do with tax concerns or Front Line’s arguments, they can be addressed easily. Its exclusion and [1067]the consequential impact on the work of human rights organisations give rise to a range of concerns. They will be undermined and presented with further difficulties. They are concerned that they will be excluded if human rights are not included in the Bill.

I wish to place on record some of the concerns of Front Line, Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, and FLAC. If the advancement of human rights is not reinstated in the Bill, problems may arise. Since human rights will not constitute a charitable objective, organisations engaging in its advancement will find accessing funding more difficult, given that foundations and donors require clarity regarding charitable status. Will the Minister of State inform the House about how organisations will be able to address this matter?

Like my colleague, Senator Buttimer, the organisations pointed out that the advancement of human rights is a recognised charitable objective in the UK, including Northern Ireland. According to them, the Bill will undermine the principle of equivalence in the Good Friday Agreement. Will the Minister of State respond to this serious issue? United Kingdom organisations that advance human rights will be able to promote their aims in Ireland, but Irish organisations will not be able to benefit from such promotion. That they will be placed at a disadvantage is immediately evident.

Many Senators will have received the organisations’ document which states that organisations have a charitable exemption for education, religious or humanitarian work. However, were they to frame their work in human rights terms, the regulator would be able to remove their charitable status. If non-governmental organisations are to retain their status, they will be in the bizarre position of trying to deny that their work includes the advancement of human rights. This is a serious problem. The organisations also claim that they could be subject to malicious complaints to the charities regulator to the effect that they are not working to advance human rights. While I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with these concerns, will he explain how the organisations will deal with them if changes to the Bill are not made?

The organisations estimate that an amazing array of Irish charities, 60 to 200 in total, may have their work with the vulnerable affected by the exclusion of human rights as a charitable purpose. Reviewing the legislation in five years is not good enough as damage could be done in the meantime. Given the week that is in it, the Government has an opportunity to begin making amends for the damage it has done to human rights in recent weeks, as eloquently referred to by Senator Norris. Will the Minister of State review the decision?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I welcome the opportunity to speak on my amendment No. 14 and related amendments, which seek to include the protection of human rights as a charitable purpose. I am disappointed because, when we debated the matter on Committee Stage, a number of points were strongly made. I look forward to the Minister of State’s reply.

As others have stated, the Bill in its original form as the 2006 charities regulation Bill included the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose. We do not know what has changed since then that would lead to that goal’s removal. From our Committee Stage debate, it appears that no legal objection was made by the Attorney General.

As I stated then, it is the opinion of the human rights committee of the Law Society that the advancement of human rights should be included as a charitable purpose. Subsequently, I provided a copy of that submission to the Minister of State’s office, as requested. Given these facts, that the opportunity to reinsert the provision was not taken is disappointing. I hope the Minister of State might accept one of the amendments.

As Senators have stated, this week is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given this, including the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose would be fitting. It is unfortunate the Government has seen fit to attack human rights bodies [1068]by undermining the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority and underfunding them next year. As pointed out by the charities that have briefed us — Front Line, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and FLAC — the charitable status of between 60 and 200 organisations could come under threat unless the protection of human rights is included as a charitable purpose.

While others have referred to this, it is important to note some of the difficulties those organisations will face. According to the Minister of State, current charities will retain their status, but this is subject to change and potential challenge. This is of concern to many groups that view their primary purpose as the advancement or protection of human rights. Even if they have charitable status, they may find it difficult to access funding because the advancement of human rights is not explicitly recognised in our legislation on charities. They may also find themselves open to malicious complaints to the charities regulator. Previous speakers referred to certain charities and took issue with particular views they expressed. I do not believe it is appropriate, in this debate, to take issue with different charities and stances they may have adopted. However, this shows the dangers involved and highlights that human rights-based charities may be the subject of complaints.

I thank the free legal advice centres, FLAC, for recommending to me the 2007 annual report of the Charities Commission for England and Wales which makes the point that human rights charities are more likely to have complaints made against them because of the high profile nature of their work. The commission also pointed out that human rights are seen as fundamental to the healthy functioning of society and that respect for such rights is generally seen as a moral imperative. That is a strong statement. It is also a strong premise on which one could base a list of charitable purposes.

The Minister of State did not provide an adequate explanation in respect of this matter on Committee Stage. He must indicate why he does not propose to reinsert a provision relating to the advancement of human rights in the Bill. He must also indicate why he is not following the legislative models adopted in other jurisdictions to which reference was made on Committee Stage. It is clear that we will be out of line with neighbouring jurisdictions when the legislation is passed. The principle of equivalence of protection of human rights under the British-Irish Agreement will be undermined if we do not include the advancement of human rights as a recognised charitable objective, particularly as it is so recognised in the UK and Northern Ireland.

The charities have pointed out that resources, including funds and volunteers, for human rights objectives may be diverted to neighbouring jurisdictions, particularly as they see those as having stronger protection for the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose.

A great deal more could be said in respect of this matter. However, I do not propose to belabour the point. As a result of the Committee Stage debate, we know of no legal obstacle to the inclusion of the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose. There is no indication that the Attorney General has objected in any way. We are aware that the advancement of human rights is included as a charitable purpose in neighbouring jurisdictions and that difficulties will arise under the British-Irish Agreement if it is excluded. The charities — those most affected — have pointed out the many problems they will encounter if the advancement of human rights is not included as a charitable purpose.

I urge the Minister of State to take on board the sentiments we have expressed, and those put forward so strongly by the Incorporated Law Society’s human rights committee and others, and include the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose.

[1069]Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  This issue was debated at length on Committee Stage and I accept that Senators have particularly strong views in respect of it. The Bill does not effect any diminution in the status of human rights organisations operating in Ireland.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Of course it does.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  It has been framed to safeguard their status through the deeming process relating to the register of charities.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Rubbish. The Minister of State should not insult the House.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I will refer to that point in a moment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Minister of State, without interruption.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Minister of State deserves to be interrupted. What he is saying is a disgrace.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Many of the charitable purposes in the Bill are very closely linked with human rights. My understanding is that no charity has been granted a CHY number by Revenue on the basis that it is a human rights organisation per se.

The Bill does not change the charitable purposes that have developed in common law, nor is it within its gift to do so. As I made clear to the House, it is not the intention of the Bill to widen or to narrow the range of purposes that have become accepted as charitable over time.

The Bill before the House is substantially different in many respects from the general scheme that was originally published. Much of what was contained in the general scheme was based on examples from other common law jurisdictions. Much of the legal guidance received during the drafting reflected that it is not always possible to transfer into Irish law what was in other legislative codes.

As regards human rights and social justice, during the drafting of the Bill and the detailed consultations that were undertaken at that time with other Departments and statutory agencies it emerged that the advancement of human rights and social justice was not a charitable purpose in Ireland. That is why it was removed. As stated on many occasions, the purpose of the Bill is to maintain the status quo and regulate the current system.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  A very noble ambition.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Senator Boyle referred to charities and advocacy. The general scheme was quite restrictive in respect of political advocacy on the part of charities. When drafting the Bill, however, in the context of addressing the question of advocacy towards a political objective by charitable organisations, practical issues arose concerning the protection of charitable status for certain bodies which do good work on the ground, such as those dealing with families of victims of homicide, abuse etc. It has been argued that many charitable organisations legitimately engage in advocacy as a means to achieve their charitable purpose, although advocacy in itself is not their principal objective. Accordingly, it was decided not to include a specific provision in the Bill restricting advocacy by charities.

The question of deemed versus non-deemed charities has arisen on a couple of occasions. There seems to be some misinterpretation to the effect that charities which are deemed under section 40 are to be perceived differently from those which apply for registration under section 39. I wish to put the record straight in respect of this matter. I received legal advice to the effect that deemed and non-deemed charities are exactly the same for the purposes of the Bill. [1070] The most critical provision in the Bill in this context is the definition of “registered charitable organisation” in section 2. Deeming is not to be regarded as a temporary measure pending registration proper. Deemed organisations will have had their charitable credentials assessed to the satisfaction of Revenue in the first instance. In addition, they will be no more likely to be removed from the register than their section 39 counterparts.

I reiterate that while human rights and social justice are not specifically mentioned in the legislation, the acts to which they relate, namely, the prevention and relief of poverty, the advancement of education and the prevention of human suffering, are so specifically mentioned. As stated previously, my purpose has always been to maintain the status quo and draw up legislation that is in line with established practices. On those grounds, I cannot accept the amendments.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  On a point of order, will the Chair provide a ruling as to whether it is appropriate for the Minister of State to merely read a typescript that was prepared in advance when replying to a detailed debate?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  That is not a point of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Will he be kind enough to indicate whether he obtained advice from the Attorney General?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Norris is being disorderly.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  If there is nothing in his typescript in respect of the matter, then he could not have obtained such advice. The Minister of State could not have known the questions I intended to pose before that rubbish was prepared.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Has the Minister of State concluded his reply?

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Yes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Minister of State is not going to answer my question.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I call Senator Hannigan.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Minister of State does not have much courage.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Members feel strongly about the failure to accept these amendments. Those on the Opposition benches have been approached by organisations such as FLAC, Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties in respect of this matter. Senators on this side have posed questions, as has Senator Boyle on the Government side. I agree with the latter in that there is a large hole in the Bill. Senator Buttimer suggested a way to circumvent difficulties in this regard by the inclusion of this measure for a period of five years. That is a sensible proposal and I do not know why such an approach could not be taken.

The Minister of State indicated that there is no specific reference to human rights in the Bill. However, such reference is made to “the prevention or relief of suffering of animals”. I fail to understand why human rights have not been referred to in this way. I encourage the Minister of State to reconsider the position in this regard because nothing he has stated will dissuade us from pressing the amendment.

Amendment put.

[1071]The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 26.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Dominic Hannigan; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  The next amendment is No. 9.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I call for a vótáil on this amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Senator has to wait until he is asked.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Senator Buttimer must formally move the amendment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I move amendment No. 9:

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Is the amendment seconded?

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I second the amendment.

Amendment put.

[1072]The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 26.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Jerry Buttimer and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendment No. 10 is a Government amendment arising out of Committee proceedings and amendment No. 11 is related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 10 and 11 may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 10:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  This amendment removes some text that on reflection was considered not to be necessary. Amendment No. 11 is also a drafting amendment that simplifies the previous wording without changing the provision in any way.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  We are not opposing amendment No. 10. Senator Boyle in his earlier remarks on human rights referred to forces being at work outside the control of certain sections. In the context of this section, which is of benefit to the public, I ask the Minister what the Senator means in terms of what forces are at work. Is there manipulation of the Government at work? Is Fianna Fáil refusing to accept the involvement of other parties in government in the drawing up of this Bill? Is the Progressive Democrats’ dog wagging the Government tail or are there other agencies trying to influence and infiltrate proceedings?

[1073]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  As it is 2 p.m., as is ordered, the sitting will be suspended until 3 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 2.00 p.m. and resumed at 3.00 p.m.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Prior to the sos Senator Boyle referred to “outside forces” and I am concerned by those remarks. I seek clarification on what he said. Prior to the sos we took a vote to exclude sporting and human rights organisations from being considered as charitable organisations. A member of a Government party has referred to “outside forces”. The section with which we are dealing refers to “a public benefit”. Are the outside forces at work of public benefit to the wider community and the organisations we represent? I seek clarification from Government on what are the outside forces. Who are these mystical people?

Is pressure being put in regard to human rights, as so eloquently outlined by Senator Norris, and is Fianna Fáil wielding a big axe and a big stick? If that is the case, we deserve to know. Let us have the debate now. If the Green Party is not happy to support the Bill, let us park it. We have already seen a major tome of amendments, which shows that the Bill is a work in progress, a bit like the Government budgetary policies. A member of the Government parties came to the House and made a speech like a Member of the Opposition and then voted against the Bill.

Is a sinister plot involved? We have not raised the matter on this side of the House. We have been consensual in our approach to the Bill but a member of the Government parties has made an astonishing revelation to the House. I would like to know who are the outside forces and what Senator Boyle is talking about. If the matter is of concern to groups that promote human rights and the advancement of sport and it has a negative impact on the Irish charities sector then we need to park the legislation. We need honesty in this matter.

I appreciate that the Minister of State is probably none the wiser than I, but we need clarification. It is disingenuous of Government to come to the House with a vast tome of amendments when a member of the Government parties has castigated his colleagues and voted against them. That beggars belief on a Bill that is of such importance to the regulation of the charity sector. Are we justified at this eleventh hour to deny the inclusion of human rights bodies or sporting organisations in the Bill? We deserve answers. It was appalling for a member of the Government parties to make such comments in the House and then vote against the Government.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I would love to go along the line Senator Buttimer has so effectively promoted but I do not believe that is the case. I do not think that it is outside, sinister forces who are pushing a particular political agenda on behalf of the forces of reaction. This is weak Government. Senior civil servants in Departments are driving Government policy. I am sure that is the case. It is inappropriate to name the particular senior civil servant in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform but the Minister will know exactly who is involved. It is treating the House with contempt that those kind of pathetic non-answers should be read into the record, prepared by other people, and not to answer the questions that were asked.

I do not follow the conspiracy theory. I do not think all kinds of mad pro-lifers, George Bush neo-cons and doodahs are behind the Bill. I do not suggest that my balanced friend, Senator Buttimer, was suggesting that, but that might be an implication that could be taken from it by more hysterical people. I do not believe that for a minute, but it is up to Government to govern or listen to the advice of its civil servants. I emphasise the second word, because they, like the Ministers, are servants of the people, and if the Government does not listen to the advice and then makes a decision on policy, it is in difficulty.

[1074]The reason the matter that has been raised by Senator Buttimer is so important is not that these sinister agents were involved but that the door has been left open for them to walk right through it. That is the problem. That is why I put on record the vulnerability in these cases that was found by the British Charity Commission’s report. Senator Bacik did the same. The danger is that one is leaving it wide open.

Turning to the specific amendment, which relates to charitable purpose and public benefit, I am interested to hear the Minister of State’s reply. Since I am not the proposer of the amendment I will not be able to speak again. I am reminded of those rather innocently sectarian days when one had collections for the Catholic boy scouts or the Protestant orphans. I always thought it was rather unchristian, whatever about the skirts, I beg your pardon, the shirts. I have a slight verbal confusion — the scouts. Skirts, shirts, I eventually got scouts right. Whatever about the scouts, is the idea of public benefit intended to make sure that if any of those groups who make collections have survived, that they widen their focus so that they take in the full public within the remit of their benevolence rather than narrowly collecting for the charitable purposes of assisting, for example, the Protestant orphans.

Thinking back on it, I remember there were Protestant gentlewomen also, and even Protestant lepers in India. I thought that was a little bit discriminatory. My heart went out to the poor Catholic, Muslim or even Hindu lepers who were deprived of that munificence. I am curious about that point. What is the effect of this measure and why was it necessary technically to change it because the change is not substantial? I do not have the original wording in front of me but the Minister is now saying, “A purpose shall not be a charitable purpose unless it is of public benefit”. I think there was a phrase after that saying “within the meaning of this Act”. What is the point of removing that? I seek to be informed.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I am beginning to wonder if I am an innocent abroad when it comes to the operation of democracy. My understanding of democracy is that one expresses one’s point of view and then accepts the will of the majority. I am not a Trappist monk when it comes to that, I am entitled to express a view and still vote with the Government. I would be very disappointed if this process were diluted in any way. What we are trying to do is get to the essence of any given matter, be it an amendment, report or otherwise. It is through this cut-and-thrust process that we have had some of the best debates in the Seanad over the years. We do not all necessarily sing from the same hymn sheet at any given time but we all have the opportunity, as members of political parties, to attend the parliamentary party meeting and have an input. We have an opportunity to approach a Minister, etc. This is how democracy operates and I hope we do not suggest this should not be the case.

One would hope that every charity would fall into the category of having a wider public benefit. One of the difficulties associated with trying to legislate for such a diverse group of bodies is that one must be very careful that one’s legislation is implementable and does not have any loopholes or inadequacies. I look forward to what the Minister of State has to say but I hope that, in our debate on amendments, we can express our views and await the Minister of State’s response.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are technical. Senator Buttimer referred to the “forces” but I have no idea what forces he is referring to. In the preparation of this legislation, there has been extensive consultation with various Departments, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, political parties and the charities sector. The reason for the substantial number of amendments on Committee and Report Stages is that we accepted amendments or redrafted amendments on advice we took, where possible.

[1075]Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It would be perfectly possible to accept the amendment on human rights.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  The Minister of State should be allowed to reply.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  He must be corrected when he is wrong.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 10 is just a strengthening provision. The wording “be regarded as a charitable purpose” is being changed to “be a charitable purpose”. It is a technical amendment in that regard.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 11:

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 are related and may be discussed together.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

Government amendment No. 13:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Since the earlier debates on the Bill in both the Dáil and Seanad, I have been reflecting on the issue of those organisations that purport to be religious in nature but whose principal interest is in profit or whose methods may be harmful to their followers. As I stated last week, this issue arose from an Opposition amendment originally developed by Deputies Wall and Higgins. It was reintroduced today by the Senators. I have concluded that there is merit in the principle of the original amendment in that religious organisations that in reality have scant regard for the spiritual, psychological or financial well-being of their members or potential members should not be granted the privilege of charitable status. Accordingly, I am proposing an amendment, developed in consultation with the Office of the Attorney [1076]General, that will ensure dubious organisations that pose as religious but whose motive is making money or which use inappropriate psychological techniques in recruiting or retaining members will not attain charitable status. The Opposition amendment has not been moved but mine serves the same purpose.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is very welcome that the Minister of State has clearly used phraseology from the original amendment of Senator Hannigan. It is very interesting that it has been considered properly by the Minister of State and carefully referred to the legal authorities. The Minister of State has come up with a very good amendment that takes the essential elements of what was proposed from the back benches of the Seanad. It is very good that he has done so. Praise is due where it is merited but, unfortunately, such instances are becoming scarcer.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I concur with Senator Norris. In this amendment we are taking cognisance of the role of the church and religion, yet the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, by banning the Veritas advertisement, has done the exact opposite. There is no joined-up thinking by the Government and its agencies. In praising this amendment, one must seek consistency in terms of Government policy. I ask the Minister of State to raise the banning of the Veritas advertisement with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The ban was a completely crazy decision.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  That does not have much to do with the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 14:

I must indicate I have Senator Bacik’s authority to press this amendment. She stated she would be at a professional consultation and might not be back.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 15:

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I second the amendment.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It most certainly is. It is one last grim opportunity for the Government to find its conscience.

Amendment put.

[1077]The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 26.

Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.  


Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Jerry Buttimer and David Norris; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I move amendment No. 16:

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I second the amendment.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 26.

Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul.
Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David. Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.



[1078]Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Jerry Buttimer and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendment No. 17 arises from Committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 17, 41, 56 and 62 are related and will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I move amendment No. 17:

This is a question of liability. On Second Stage, I put on the record of the House extensive information on the brief I received, particularly from the Respond Housing Association, and it would be tedious for me to repeat that now. The Minister of State understands the points that were made. As I recall, he said he would reconsider the matter to see if there was room for movement on it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I second the amendment. I echo the words of Senator Norris. This is an issue of great importance for voluntary directors of charities. I have also received communications from the Respond Housing Association, which has been very supportive of this amendment. It is supportive of the Bill as whole, as we all are, and believes that it is important to regulate the charities sector. However, the association is concerned about the problem of liability for individual voluntary directors and trustees of charities. It is concerned that it will be difficult to get indemnity insurance without an amendment such as this. It is also concerned the Minister of State may have misunderstood the purpose behind the amendment. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State’s response.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I too support the amendment and compliment Respond Housing Association on its representation on this matter. It is important that we protect voluntary directors, especially in the current economic situation where commitments made have been pared back, frozen or cancelled. It is incumbent on the Government to protect voluntary directors. Sometimes, in the rush to legislate and regulate, we forget voluntary directors. Therefore, [1079]it is important to protect them. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State’s reply on this issue.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I will just add a few words because the issue was debated on Committee Stage. Some years ago a Bill went through the House with regard to directors of private and public companies. The point was made very clearly that sometimes there is great difficulty in getting someone to become a director of a company because of the inherent liability he or she could suffer. Whatever about commercial companies, in the case of charitable organisations this should never inhibit a person from becoming a director or becoming involved in a charitable organisation. This amendment seems logical. On Committee Stage, the Minister of State undertook to give serious attention to this issue and I look forward to hearing he has found a solution in this regard.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  It is clear from the amendments tabled that there is a great appreciation throughout this House of the vital role trustees play in the operation of charities. I am aware of the need to protect the interests of trustees of charities and I wish to ensure they are not made unfairly liable for commitments into which they enter on behalf of charities in all good faith. I wish to ensure that those engaged in charity work can undertake the role of trustee without being worried that such a role might have negative financial implications for them.

I already have amended the Bill to enable charities to use charitable funds to indemnify trustees against personal losses arising where they have acted in good faith. Even though Opposition Members welcomed the insurance provision, it was considered that there may be a high cost involved in taking out such a policy, particularly when potential liabilities might be considerable. Accordingly, Opposition Members have tabled amendments on Report Stage, as they did last week, in respect of trustee liability. I agreed to reflect on this matter and have done so in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. My advice is that a trustee could be liable only where there is a breach of fiduciary relationship by the trustee with the content of the trust deed. Where a trustee acts in good faith in carrying out its business with a body such as a statutory body, I understand there is no way the trustee would be personally liable. Nonetheless, for the removal of doubt, Government amendment No. 62 will introduce a new section 89 to deal with the issue raised by the Opposition amendments. By allowing the court to grant relief to charity trustees from personal liability for a breach of trust where the trustee has acted honestly, reasonably and in good faith, I am confident that this will offer reassurance to those who act as trustees to charities or who are contemplating such a role. Although I cannot accept the Opposition’s amendments as worded, I thank Members for raising the issue. I hope the Government amendment, which has been tabled on the advice of the Attorney General, will address the issue.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  First, I thank the Minister of State for his clear statement. I will pass on a copy of the Official Report to Respond!, because it would assuage its problems and anxieties to an extent. The Minister of State has stated clearly that in situations in which trustees were acting in good faith and in concert with the intentions of the trust and so on, they would not be held liable. Moreover, he has tabled an amendment to this effect. As he has honoured his commitment to reconsider this issue and to introduce an amendment, I am happy to withdraw my amendment. It would be foolish to put this to a vote in any case as it would be just another lost vote. The Minister of State has moved on this issue and I will revert to those who briefed me on this matter. I thank the Minister of State for accepting the sense of the points raised in the House. While there may be further difficulties because the exact wording sought by the various organisations has not been included, significant movement has taken place, which I welcome.

[1080]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 18 to 24, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 18:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  These amendments are presentational and corrective in nature. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are similar in that they clarify subsections 2 and 4, respectively, applying to consultative panels established on the direction of the Minister under section 37. Amendment No. 20 is a technical amendment clarifying that section 39(4) applies only to applicants under the section and not to charitable organisations so deemed under section 40. Amendment No. 21 is a presentational amendment to the provision introduced on Committee Stage allowing for the authority to exempt certain applicants from being obliged to provide each and every document listed in section 39. However, there is no substantive change to the provision. Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 both correct cross-references to other sections of the Bill that should have been made following previous amendments and amendment No. 24 simply clarifies that the subsection refers to a requirement under section 43.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 19:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 20:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 21:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 22:

[1081]Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 23:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 24:

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 25 to 28, inclusive, and 31 are related and will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 25:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 25 to 28, inclusive, and 31 are similar drafting amendments which provide that charities that have registered under section 39 and charities that have been deemed to have registered under section 40 are regarded in the same way in the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 26:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 27:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 28:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 29 not moved.

[1082]Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  On a point of information, may Members speak on amendment No. 29?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No, it was not moved.

Government amendment No. 30:

it shall remove from the register all of the information entered in relation to that body and the body shall thereupon cease to be registered.

the Authority may remove from the register all of the information entered in relation to that organisation, and that organisation shall, thereupon, cease to be registered.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Although at face value this amendment, which replaces the original section 43, is substantial, essentially it is a presentational amendment proposed on the basis of legal advice. It provides for the circumstances under which a charitable organisation, which had applied successfully for entry onto the register of charities may be removed from the register by the authority. It ensures that the circumstances reflect those applicable to those charities deemed to be registered under section 40. This underlines the principle that charities that are deemed to be registered and charities that actually applied for registration should be regarded equally under the legislation.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I am grateful to the Minister of State for clarifying the purpose of the amendment. I apologise that I did not have an opportunity to speak on this matter on Committee Stage because I wish to express a concern about the wide-ranging powers that are given to the authority after consultation with the Garda Síochána. What causes me alarm is the exclusion of any reference to the advancement of human rights as a recognised charitable purpose, despite the numerous Opposition amendments tabled to that effect. Given such an exclusion, an organisation that is deemed to be a charity because it currently exists, although its primary purpose is the advancement of human rights, may be deregistered under the new section 43. It may be deregistered where the authority, after consulting with the Garda, considers that its promoting purposes are contrary to public morality or contrary to public policy.

My general concern about both the existing section 43 and the Government amendment under discussion is that the powers bestowed are too broad and the criteria too vague. In particular the reference to public morality and public policy could easily be used effectively to deregister a charitable organisation that is in existence at present and is deemed registered but the primary purpose of which is the advancement or protection of human rights. If such an organisation in such a capacity is critical of the Government in some way, it could at some point be deemed, therefore, to be acting contrary to public policy or public morality. Those terms are too vague and the power is too broad. I have a concern about it, especially in the context of the amendments that were defeated earlier.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Obviously, there was considerable interest from the sector that charities currently registered could be deemed under the new Act. We have regulated the existing practices in the legislation. In other words, the charitable purposes in the Bill would be similar to those that are seen as such by Revenue. There no reason a charity currently registered with Revenue would lose that status.

[1084]More importantly, there is an appeals mechanism and the courts system. If the purposes currently applying continue to apply, there is nothing to fear. We have been very conscious in sections 39 and 40 that those deemed and those who apply would be treated exactly the same.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 31:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 32:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 32 requires the authority to notify in writing a body that has been removed from the register because it has a disqualified trustee. Previously, there was no such obligation.

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 33 to 37, inclusive, are related and they will be discuss together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 33:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 33 is a presentational amendment that, rather than showing a lengthy list of subsections to which provision does not apply, shows a much shorter list of subsections to which it does apply. Amendment No. 34 is a presentational amendment on a similar basis to the previous amendment. It broadens the list of subsections to section 44 to which the subsection in question applies. Amendment No. 35 is consequential on amendment No. 34. Amendment No. 36 is purely a drafting amendment. Amendment No. 37 clarifies that the tribunal may impose conditions upon an appellant.

[1085]Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 34:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 35:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 36:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 37:

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 38:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 38 corrects a mis-reference in the subsection. Amendment No. 39 is purely a drafting amendment that effects no substantive change to the provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 39:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 40:

Amendment agreed to.

[1086]Amendment No. 41 not moved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 42 to 47, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 42:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 42 removes what ultimately was considered to be a superfluous reference to subsection (3). Amendment No. 43 is purely for clarification that the reference is to subsection (3) and the reference to subsection (2) in this subsection is correct as there is no offence under subsection (2). Subsection (3) is the correct reference, as is inserted by amendment No. 44.

Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 are essentially the same. They clarify that the provisions of subsections (7) and (11) do not apply to either subsection (6) or subsection (4) of section 50. Amendment No. 47 indents the final paragraph of section 50(4)(b) to clarify that it refers only to paragraph (b).

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 43:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 44:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 45:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 46:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 47:

[1087]a person who is qualified under the law of that EEA state to perform functions the same as or similar to those performable in the State by a person referred to in paragraph (a).”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 48:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 are consequential on each other. They provide for flexibility on the type of annual reports to be submitted by different charities or categories of charities to the new authority. It is not considered that every charity should have the same reporting burden.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  It is important when moving into regulation, as I pointed out on Committee Stage, that we provide supports for charities in submitting reports and in the auditing process. I am a little concerned at the Minister of State’s remarks on the context of different types of reporting. I hope he will be prescriptive in his reports to the charities on what they can and cannot do. It is important there is uniformity of reporting. Otherwise, there will be confusion and there will be a return to the old way where there was no regulation. The amendment is a worthwhile one and my party will not oppose it, but it is important we provide supports and that reporting mechanisms are consistent and uniform.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I agree it is important we have reporting and I suppose it is important the reporting is proportionate to the type and scale of the operation of the charity. It is a point Senator Buttimer made previously and I want to reiterate it because it is very important. We are regulating an area that has been largely unregulated. The role of the new authority, apart from being a regulatory authority, is also to be supportive and helpful in that regard. That is key. Passing the legislation is only the first hurdle, but the role of the authority most definitely must be a supportive as well as a regulatory role.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 49:

[1088]

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 50, 51, 55 and 69 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 50:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendment No. 50 corrects a cross-reference within the section. Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 update a legal reference to the Pensions Act and the Unfair Dismissals Act, respectively. Amendment No. 69 updates a reference to a section number of the Charities Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 51:

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 52, 53, 54, 57, 58 and 59 are related and will be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 52:

  4 o’clock

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 52, 53, 54, 57, 58 and 59 are redrafting amendments concerned with offences under the legislation of charity trustees and charitable organisations, and also with the power of the authority to require charitable organisations to produce relevant documents. Amendments Nos. 52 to 54, inclusive, are drafting and presentational amendments to section 57(1), consequential upon each other and intended to simplify the provision. Amendment No. 57 arranges the existing wording of section 58(1) for presentational purposes. Amendment No. 58 tweaks the existing wording of section 68(2) without making any substantive change to its meaning. Amendment No. 59 clarifies that the powers of the authority under section 68(1) apply both to the charitable organisation and to the charity’s trustees.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 53:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 54:

[1089]

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 55:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 56 not moved.

Government amendment No. 57:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 58:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 59:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 60:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  This is a drafting amendment which clarifies that the section applies to a direction given by the authority under 51(2), unlike the other sections referred to, which make no provision for the authority to give a direction.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 61 not moved.

Government amendment No. 62:

Amendment agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Amendments Nos. 63 to 66, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 63:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Amendments Nos. 63 to 66, inclusive, are redrafting and technical amendments consequential upon each other. They are being made on the basis of legal advice, particularly in the context where begging or receiving alms is no longer an unlawful activity following a legal challenge.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 64:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 65:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 66:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 not moved.

Government amendment No. 69:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 70 not moved.

[1091]Government amendment No. 71:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I consider it key to this legislation that organisations which are not charitable in nature should be prevented from presenting themselves to the public as charitable. I want to be sure that donors to charity can be confident that the money they intend to go for the benefit of good causes is not diverted into commercial businesses or worse. In this context, I am aware of the concern expressed by Members about the sale in shops of pre-signed mass cards which are not obtained directly from or with the consent of the Catholic church. There is no doubt that pre-signed mass cards are widely sold in shops and this practice has given rise to concerns that mass cards are sold on a for-profit basis, with only a small proportion of the purchase price used for the benefit of the church, and that no mass is ever offered in respect of the intentions specified on the cards.

Senators will be glad to know that I have taken on board the concerns expressed to me on this issue and, following consultations with the Office of the Attorney General, I have proposed an amendment to the effect that anyone who sells mass cards will have to able to show that he or she has entered into an agreement with the Catholic church to do so. I hope this will set people’s minds at rest in regard to the validity and authenticity of such cards. This measure, combined with the authority’s power to provide information to the public through public information campaigns or guidelines and the provisions in the Bill that prevent non-charities from portraying themselves as charities, will help people to discern genuine charities from organisations which are not charitable in nature.

The Catholic church will play an important role in ensuring the success of this approach. I understand it is committed to playing its part.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I appreciate the Minister of State’s intentions but I wish to express my concerns about this provision. As a criminal lawyer, I am concerned that we are creating a new [1092]criminal offence which will be difficult to defend. I am particularly concerned that no provision is made for the defence of good faith. We are far too quick to create new criminal offences that purport to impose liability in the absence of any requirement of mens rea. Constitutional difficulties have arisen in this regard, although I do not want to say too much on this subject because I am involved as a practising barrister in cases which involve mens rea. Has the Minister of State received advice that the proposed measure sufficiently safeguards the rights of the accused?

I am also concerned about a very different constitutional issue. The proposed section will create the offence of selling a mass card. The definitions by which the parameters of the offence are outlined pertain to matters which are internal to a particular church. The Constitution does not grant a special position to any church and this Republic observes the principle of the separation of church and State. I am not sure from a constitutional point of view that we should be creating an offence which relies on definitions pertaining to internal matters of a particular church in this country.

I recognise the problem which the Minister of State is seeking to address and agree that people should not be defrauded. However, I am concerned about the way in which the proposed section is framed. Has the Minister of State received advice on the matters I have raised and is he confident they will not cause a problem?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I welcome this amendment and acknowledge Senator Bacik’s eloquent exposition of the difficulties that arise in resolving this matter. However, Fr. Matt Moran of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Irish Missionary Union have made significant efforts in this regard. I understand they have met the Minister of State to discuss the matter. It is important that we consider this amendment from a number of angles. The issuance of mass cards is an internal matter for the Catholic Church and we must recognise that the offering of masses for the deceased is an important part of the church’s traditions. We should acknowledge this and not take away from it.

As Senator Bacik indicated, there is the issue of people being defrauded or losing revenue. The purpose of the amendment is to bring greater clarity to the issue surrounding bogus mass cards being issued and introduce accountability. I am amused on one level that bishops and priests are being defined in the legislation, which is probably unique in this context. Without getting into trouble, the Minister of State will have plenary indulgences in heaven and masses said for him as a consequence of that.

We had a great debate on humanism this morning and we are now discussing mass cards. It is important we consider the context of the amendment and where we began. It is a reserved function of the Catholic clergy and the church in the issuing of mass cards. We should never take that away. We will support the amendment because the Government has an obligation in the context of this legislation and other legislation regarding fraud, deception and financial matters to protect the church in question and the citizens from being defrauded.

There are many religious charities that are compliant and genuine in their approach, and that have been very forthcoming in their operations. To allow a deception to continue would be wrong. As Fr. Matt Moran said to us, there will now be transparency and accountability, as introduced in this legislation. Whether we agree with mass cards being pre-signed and sold is a different issue but in the context of this legislation, we will support the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I congratulate the Minister of State on bringing forward a very thoughtful and comprehensive amendment. I apologise that I was not here in person to withdraw my amendment No. 29, as I intended to do. I have not had much time to consider the [1093]amendment but I can find no flaw in it in terms of the rights of an accused person or the attempt to address a particular mischief.

I do not know if Senator Bacik was here when we discussed a Labour Party amendment this morning dealing with humanism. I was inclined to support it as it provided that the Act in question would apply to humanism, as it does to religion. I spoke about a new generosity. To take as a starting point what the Constitution states, it is not neutral on religion because it acknowledges, as I stated earlier, the homage due to almighty God. It is a specifically Christian document, and although not everybody likes that, that is how it stands.

I spoke about a new generosity in which all of us in society, whether as people of a particular faith or not, would recognise the bona fide communitarian vision of people of faith and of groups that do not profess particular religious faith but have altruistic motives. It was in that regard that I felt there could well be scope, while not categorising humanism as a branch of religion, for seeing agencies of humanism which are almost by definition not theistic as nonetheless agencies or groups of people who have altruistic motives qualifying for charitable status.

I appeal to Senator Bacik and others to adopt that same vision of a generous and inclusive future as they look at an amendment like this. I worry there is something of a Pavlovian response in certain quarters that if anything that appears to go to the benefit of religion or a religious organisation is proposed——

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  On a point of order, I raised two constitutional concerns about a provision and I am entitled to raise them on the record. I am also entitled to have the Minister of State answer them. I did not engage in any criticism of the drafters but simply raised these points. In the spirit of fairness, it is appropriate in the Seanad that we raise points such as this. I do not intend to have a debate about the merits of religion and so on, although I am delighted we had the debate on humanism etc. on Committee Stage and again on Report Stage. That was a different debate. The issues I raised are very specific to this amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I await the Leas-Chathaoirleach’s ruling as to whether that was a point of order.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Mullen should speak to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  Apart from the fact that her comments were not on a point of order, as Senator Bacik well knows, I am not taking issue with her right to express certain concerns from a constitutional perspective or otherwise about the Bill. I am about to address some of those concerns. I will restate what I fear is present in some quarters, namely, a Pavlovian response. That is where people automatically react against measures that may act in the interests of people or groups of faith. One can then produce arguments against it.

To take the core of Senator Bacik’s two arguments, her first dealt with the question of the rights of the accused. I can best address that by referring to my own personal experience. I raised this issue long ago in consultation with religious bodies and I wrote about it in a journalistic capacity. It would be useful and of assistance to Members to make a few points on the matter.

As I understand it, the Catholic church does not believe in the sale of masses as it is regarded as simony in canon law. It would certainly not be the business of the State to inquire into that. The practice within the Catholic — Roman Catholic as some call it — tradition is that people ask for the saying of masses, as is their entitlement as members of the Catholic faith. In that context they offer a donation or stipend to the priest in question on the basis that the labourer deserves his wages and it is a contribution.

[1094]If a person has no money to offer, her or she is entitled to have a mass said, be it for the repose of a loved one’s soul or any other mass intention. Most politicians in this House send out mass cards very frequently to the bereaved or mass bouquets to those who are ill or for all sorts of other reasons. I suspect it is not just practising Catholics who engage in this as it is seen as a gesture of solidarity and as such it is very noble.

Under the rules of the Catholic church, which again are not necessarily any business of the State, a priest is entitled to accept one stipend per mass per day. It may be of particular interest to Senator Bacik that the common practice is——

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I thank Senator Mullen but I do not require a lecture on the rules of canon law. It is not appropriate to this amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Mullen, without interruption.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I am reminded of the exchange between the barrister, F. E. Smith, and a judge. After hearing a long exposition, the judge——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Senator should speak to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  I do not believe I am subject to a time limitation.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  That is what we are afraid of.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Senator must speak to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Ronan Mullen  Zoom on Ronan Mullen  In speaking to the amendment, I am reminded of the exchange between the barrister, F. E. Smith, and the judge where Smith gave a long exposition. The judge said he was none the wiser having heard the comments, to which the barrister responded that perhaps the judge was none the wiser but certainly was better informed. The subsequent response of the judge was to ask if the barrister in question was trying to show contempt for the court and the barrister responded that he was trying to conceal contempt for the court.

Where priests or clergy receive in excess of one stipend per day, it is their practice to pass it on to people in missionary lands and clergy who very much depend on these stipends. It supports them in positions of extreme financial difficulty. I have worked with a charity in Argentina and have been asked on a number of occasions to facilitate this very good and laudable practice of transferring excess mass stipends to missionaries who need it. They are not necessarily Irish people and are in foreign lands.

As is well known to people in the church, one can see mass cards on sale in many shops and post offices in the country. If Senator Buttimer has a comment, he might address it to the Chair because I cannot lip-read. There has been a purported sale of mass cards and very often what one sees on them is a name that is hardly legible. The name is of a priest who may or may not exist. Certain commercial interests have been selling these mass cards, but it is a scam. People purchase these cards in good faith and believe they are making an offering in respect of a particular mass, which is not the case. Very often the signature on the card is that of a defrocked priest or a non-existent person. People who buy such cards are transferring money not to the church, as is their intention, but to a commercial interest that is acting quite cynically and not in the common good.

It is in this context that I am addressing Senator Bacik’s second concern. Just because the church is a private interest into whose business the State may not necessarily inquire, people in the church are citizens of this country. On countless occasions, President McAleese has [1095]extolled the good works done by our missionaries abroad. It is entirely appropriate to act in the interests of a certain group in society, whose business primarily should be to alert shops and post offices that these are bogus mass cards. It is also a legitimate activity of the State to spot the scam and seek to inhibit its perpetrators by introducing a rule or regulation that will operate to the specific benefit of a certain group in society. We all agree that that group is doing good pastoral and humanitarian work here and abroad.

To address Senator Bacik’s first concern about the rights of the accused, given what I have explained about the practice, there can be no doubt about the desirability of putting the onus of proof on the person selling these cards. It will be a burden on them that will be easy to discharge if they are operating in conjunction with recognised bodies associated with the Catholic faith in parishes or diocese, including religious orders. It is clear that people who sell mass cards in post offices or shops are doing so through an arrangement with a commercial interest. There are cases where it is done by arrangement with a local priest or missionary to collect money for the missions. Such people have nothing to fear from the Bill, notwithstanding Senator Bacik’s concerns.

I ask for a greater degree of generosity when it comes to addressing the interests of specific groups in our society, including, heavens above, faith groups. I compliment the Minister on tabling a comprehensive amendment that deals with a problem that has emerged. I accept that it is primarily the responsibility of the church to deal with this, and it could be doing a lot more. The church needs to be more active locally in advising shopkeepers and post offices that they are helping to perpetrate a scam, albeit unwittingly. In many cases, they are depriving missionaries in developing countries of much needed funds. It is good that the State is intervening in this regard. I compliment the Minister in coming up with a comprehensive wording that is far superior to my own. Perhaps I lacked faith in the process in thinking that something as specific as the Minister’s proposal would not get through. He is addressing a problem and it will benefit people here who will not be subject to such scams. In addition, he will be benefiting the work of Irish missionaries abroad, as well as their religious colleagues.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  It has come home to me again today how alive and well religion is in Ireland. It is evident because two of the most animated discussions we have had here dealt with religion. The main issue, however, was the sale of mass cards in shops. We were all approached by several people about this practice and many Senators have raised the matter in the House. We also discussed misrepresentation whereby an individual or group dishonestly claims to represent a charity, and obviously something had to be done about that. One of the most blatant cases concerns clothes, and we have seen that happening throughout the country. A leaflet may be dropped through the letter-box indicating that clothes will be collected for a charity. Subsequently, however, we discovered that this was not the case. In some cases that representation is given but only a small proportion of the money collected goes to a charity, while the main proportion is for commercial purposes. It is one of the reasons this Bill is focused on ensuring that we are dealing with genuine charities.

Since Senator Bacik’s election to the House, I have found the discussions to be exceptionally good. It is good to hear other views being put forward. Perhaps I am not supposed to refer to another Member, but I only knew of Senator Bacik through the media prior to her election. When she makes a point here, however, it gives the Government side an opportunity to respond and that is what parliamentary debate is all about. We have had that on the Order of Business nearly every day and I would like to see it continue because we must all be open to learning. On the other hand, Senator Mullen has given us an exceptionally good background on the issue.

Let us come down to the facts. We accept that masses relate to the Catholic church, which is the starting point. Given that that is the case, if one is looking for a governing or representa[1096]tive group, it must be the Catholic church in this case. I am not sure whether this issue comes under the heading of charity, but it does not relate to money alone. Nonetheless, we should never underestimate the importance of a mass card in helping bereaved people to grieve for a loved one. I have repeatedly heard people say that they never realised they had so many friends until the mass cards arrived. There may be a theological weakness in that argument, but it does not take away from the positive effect of mass cards. It is important to maintain the status of such cards, which cannot be the case if it is the same as buying a lollipop. Generally, there is an unusual signature on bogus mass cards, which seems like Arabic, and therefore when people receive them they know that the same sentiment and concern were not involved. They will also know that one did not go to the same trouble to have a mass said for the deceased person.

Knowing that a scam was involved, the Minister could have outlawed that practice completely. If he had done so, we would have had a wider debate here because we would have read all kinds of connotations into such an extreme measure. The balance that he has introduced in the legislation is like the wisdom of Solomon. On the one hand, the law does not come down like a ton of bricks on a “genuine” purveyor of these mass cards. Second, the Bill places a responsibility on that person to prove the cards are legitimate because we know there are scams.

One could not possibly take the Catholic church out of the equation. The mass relates solely to the Catholic church so surely it is entitled to maintain its credibility. Senator Mullen put his finger on it when he said that members of the church are citizens of this country as well. They have a representative group called the Catholic church. Would we treat a trade union any differently, for instance? Would we have dealt any differently with the representative organisations concerning this Bill? We would not have done so. Incidentally, the Catholic church still represents a majority in this country. One can become over politically correct on these issues and think one is helping some minority, but, in the main I do not always see those minorities.

I have cited an example, which is going slightly away from the amendment, that when people were demanding that the Angelus should be taken off RTE, it was a Church of Ireland bishop who defended it, not a Catholic one. He asked, quite rightly, what was wrong with reflecting for a couple of minutes each day in a spiritual context. The same applies here because there is so much badness, violence, division and acrimony out there. If religion can help people to focus, cultivate a conscience, help others, be neighbourly and promote peace, surely to God that is vital, and if the mass card is an instrument of that process, we should ensure that it is not undermined, misrepresented or fraudulent.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  I support the amendment. While I did not contribute on Second Stage, I remember some of the discussion, including the lengthy contribution of my colleague, Senator O’Reilly, on this issue. The Government’s amendment is reasonable, practical and sensible.

I have had occasion to send a significant number of mass cards, although I do not want to cross theology and politics. The signatures and stamps on pre-signed cards for sale in supermarkets and shops generally looked suspicious. One would be fearful that the card’s recipient would believe that one’s sentiments were less than genuine. The amendment will address this concern which has been raised a number of times in recent years and in which the media took a degree of interest. Where concerns about legislation are highlighted from a non-partisan perspective, be it by political sources or those outside the Houses, it is good that certain Departments and civil servants are willing to listen and produce a reasonable response.

[1097]In this regard, I welcome the Minister of State’s initiative. I am unsure as to who formally sought this amendment, but it is a balanced response to concerns that have been expressed frequently in recent years. The Government is doing the right thing by tabling the amendment.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I thank the Senators for their contributions. Senator Mullen outlined the nature of the problem adequately. As Senator Bradford stated, the problem has been identified for a long time and I have been conscious of it since assuming my position. That we have only been able to introduce a provision at a late stage despite my willingness to address it shows the complexity of the problem.

While I do not want to delay the debate, I will respond to Senator Bacik directly. The drafting of the wording was a complex matter. The provision was drawn up by the Office of the Attorney General and drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel. In light of this, I have confidence in its constitutionality.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Amendments Nos. 72 to 80, inclusive, are related and can be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 72:

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  The new charities regulatory authority will face a significant challenge. In addition to its wide-ranging regulatory and supportive role, the new authority will be taking on also the complex functions of the Office of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland, which is to be dissolved. For this reason, the new authority will need to be able to draw on a wide range of expertise and experience. In light of this complex work and on the basis of the Attorney General’s advice, it is proposed to increase the maximum membership permitted to 20. The amendment is intended to ensure the authority will be able to call on an extensive range of skills which will enable it to undertake its broad remit efficiently and effectively. It will also facilitate the authority in forming committees to which specified decision making can be delegated as the Bill provides.

In the context of the authority’s membership, Senators may recall that the exclusion of public representatives from the board was raised in previous Seanad debates. After reflecting on the issue, I can appreciate the argument that people who serve as local authority representatives may have skills and experience that could enhance the board’s work. On Committee Stage, I signalled that I would propose a relevant Government amendment on Report Stage. Accordingly, this amendment removes the provision excluding members of a local authority from membership of the new authority in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 and in consequential paragraphs. This does not mean councillors will be appointed to the board automatically, but it will make those with relevant experience and interests who may have a great deal to offer the new authority eligible for appointment. I commend the amendments.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I compliment the Minister of State on agreeing to remove the provision excluding members of local authorities. It is good news and means councillors with specific experience can sit on the board. It benefits the Bill and I thank the Minister of State for tabling the amendment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I welcome the Minister of State’s decision to allow members of local authorities to be board members. The Government trend has been to exclude them from boards. Fianna Fáil’s hypocrisy was evident when it voted to preclude local authority members in the Harbours (Amendment) Bill 2008. The Government should reverse its decision and redress the imbalance.

[1098]On a non-political level, it is important we recognise that councillors involved in charities often bring with them a set of skills and experiences. We must learn from the FÁS situation. The authority should not be a political cumann for Fianna Fáil. We must use it wisely. Some people in the charitable sector have vast experience that should be availed of by the new authority. I hope the Minister of State will not use the board as a reward for people who donate to or support Fianna Fáil. A wrong decision, it would detract from the consensual approach of the Bill. I welcome the decision to include local authority members and I hope other Ministers and Ministers of State will decide likewise.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I compliment the Minister of State. The removal of the exclusion cause has given the Bill greater credibility. It would not have been good to exclude by title alone a particular group that is central to communities and, often, the work of charities. It would have detracted from the Bill.

As public representatives, councillors are drawn into close co-operation with and involvement in many charities at local level. Judging from the various local authority debates that are covered by local newspapers, councillors are probably the most focused group when it comes to vulnerable people in need. Whether it is part of councillors’ remit, they are invariably to the fore. They are able to create publicity for a good cause by virtue of their positions because local newspapers and radio stations tend to cover their meetings. To make them feel leprous and hurt would not be right and could create a silence. I welcome the Minister of State’s show of strength in responding to the request not to exclude local authority members specifically.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  In the spirit of consensus, I echo the words of other Senators in welcoming the Minister of State’s helpful amendments. I also echo Senator Buttimer’s words, as it is important to note that there may be political appointments of councillors. I hope it does not become an exercise in cronyism or jobs for the Fianna Fáil boys, not just members of Fianna Fáil. I hope for a balanced set of appointments. As already stated, it is nice to speak in a spirit of consensus. I unwittingly roused a hornet’s nest earlier when I referred to concerns I consider to be valid. Senator Mullen is no longer present but I must state that I did not intend to provoke what occurred. I accept that the amendments put forward by the Minister of State are useful and it is good that everyone in the House is in agreement on that matter.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  I welcome the Minister of State’s decision in respect of local authority members. He did not go as far as I suggested on Committee Stage, namely, that it should be specifically stated that a local authority member should be included on the board. However, I welcome the fact that local authority members will not be excluded from the board.

I am concerned with regard to the composition of the board and the fact that there can be up to 20 members thereof. Various items of legislation that are supposed to represent Government policy have been dealt with by the House in recent months. In the Harbours (Amendment) Bill, for example, the number of directors on a commercial port company is being reduced from 12 to eight because it is considered that a board comprising 12 members is too unwieldy. There are 17 members on the board of FÁS and we are now suggesting that there can be a maximum of 20 on the board of the charities regulatory authority.

Does the Government have a policy regarding the membership of boards of this nature or does it just make it up as it goes? It appears that 20 is a large number of members for any board. I stated in respect of the Harbours (Amendment) Bill that reducing the number of members from 12 to eight was a step too far because it will be local authority members who will suffer.

We should take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland because they have provided a wonderful service and carried out their duties in an exemplary manner for many years. I am a trustee of the Holy [1099]Ghost Hospital in Waterford. Whenever we had to engage in financial dealings or sell any of our properties, we were obliged to obtain permission for doing so from the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland. They always dealt with us properly and in the best interests of the trust when approached. It would be remiss of us not to pay tribute to the commissioners and thank them for the service they provided over the years. I hope some of them will be appointed as members of the new board when it is established because they have built up a vast store of knowledge in this area.

I am of the view that a board with 20 members is probably too large. If fewer members were appointed, it would be possible to appoint sub-committees. In addition, such sub-committees could be made up of professionals from outside the board. However, appointing boards with 20 members is taking matters too far and smacks of a “there is one for everyone in the audience” approach. I am somewhat concerned with regard to this matter.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I thank the Minister of State for tabling amendment No. 72. He is a man of his word because he indicated on Second Stage and in private discussions I had with him that he would do so.

I have strong feelings with regard to local authority members being excluded from the membership of boards.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Why then did the Senator vote in favour of the Harbours (Amendment) Bill?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I have been obliged to change my position in respect of this Bill.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  The Senator has not been present for any of the debate on this Bill.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I am sure the Minister of State will confirm that I made representations to him in respect of this Bill.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Senator is not at all like St. Paul.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  This is a worthwhile amendment. The Minister of State has shown great initiative and leadership in respect of this matter.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Has the Senator sent out the letter relating to this matter?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Leyden, without interruption.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  In light of the Minister of State being so supportive, I sent out an e-mail even before the amendment was introduced. I hope what has happened in respect of this Bill will set the tone for the way legislation should be dealt with in the future. The legislation relating to the PIAB does not even exclude Senators from being members of that body and Senator O’Toole is vice chairman of its board. When the legislation relating to the Garda Síochána——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I did not think Senator Leyden would stray from the amendment under discussion but is now in fact doing so.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  ——was debated in the House, Senator Cummins and I ensured that Senators would be able to serve as members of the certain Garda bodies.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Senator Leyden is canvassing now.

[1100]Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I thank the Minister of State for tabling the amendment. It would be remiss of me if I did not request that he check the position with regard to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. I am not sure about the theological position of either institution and I wish to mark his card in respect of this matter.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Senator is back to mass cards.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I thank Senator Leyden for his comments.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  It will not be easy for the Minister of State to reply to them.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Minister of State will be going Greek.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I must inform Senator Buttimer that what other Ministers do in respect of legislation relating to this matter in the future will be their responsibility. I dealt with the matter before us because it was raised by him and Senator Leyden. When I considered the position, I could find no good reason as to why public representatives should be excluded.

It was suggested that there should be an automatic inclusion. However, I felt that this would be inappropriate because we had already set down the criteria — such as legal background, charitable experience, etc. — people serving on the board would be obliged to meet. Rather than councillors being automatically appointed to the board, I am of the view that it should be councillors with a range of experience who should be considered for membership.

The provision relating to the appointment of 20 members to the board is enabling in nature. There is no specific intention to have a board comprised of 20 members. A minimum of nine members will be appointed, but we will have scope to appoint up to 20 members. Senator Buttimer is correct that, like the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland, the authority will be extremely supportive in performing it duties and will not be just a regulatory body. The number of members appointed will depend on the level of expertise that will be required in order to allow the board to work effectively and efficiently. However, it is not the intention to establish a board with 20 members from the outset. It is merely an enabling provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 73:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 74:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 75:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 76:

[1101]

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 77:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 78:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 79:

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 80:

Amendment agreed to.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy John Curran): Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  The House has spent two long days dealing with the Committee and Report Stages of the Bill. I thank Senators for their contributions, both in the House and outside — where they might advise others — in respect of it. Our remit was to develop legislation to reflect what is going on in the charities sector and to maintain the status quo. We have a come a long way in this regard. I have, as far as possible, taken on board suggestions that were practical in terms of what we are trying to do.

I thank my officials and the staff of the Office of the Attorney General for their advice which allowed us to proceed this far.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I welcome the passing of the Bill. I pay tribute to all involved, in particular the groups in the sector who were instrumental in framing amendments and who made representations in regard to anomalies in the Bill. I thank the Minister of State for his courtesy and, in particular, his officials who were helpful, courteous and professional in their dealings with us. The Minister of State’s openness was reflected in the consensual approach taken on this Bill. Often public servants receive bad press. I pay tribute today to the Minister of State’s officials in respect of the briefing they provided, which was very good. Also, I thank the Fine Gael staff, Áine Kilroy and Jennifer Carroll for their help and co-operation.

The Charities Bill 2007 will be remembered as the legislation on which we almost brought the Government down — a slight exaggeration. It was nice to get a win last week despite Senator Wilson’s discomfort in that regard. It is important charities are regulated. There is a [1102]broad welcome in the sector for this legislation. I welcome the five year review. I implore the Minister of State to assist and augment the work of charities rather than hinder them in terms of compliance with this legislation.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I, too, welcome the passing of the Bill which will provide for the better regulation of charitable organisations, its primary purpose. We all accept it is generally a positive Bill. Putting in place a proper framework, in statutory form, for the regulation of charitable organisations is long overdue and in that regard the Bill is to be welcomed.

I have some regrets, including that the Bill as passed is not somewhat more inclusive in terms of definitions and, in particular, that the advancement of human rights, sports bodies and humanism is not included. The Bill could have gone further than simply maintaining the status quo on those issues. I welcome the Bill which will provide for a much greater, efficient, effective and better regulated charitable sector, for which all of us are grateful.

Senator Dominic Hannigan: Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  I, too, welcome the passing of the Bill, which is timely and helps to put matters on a statutory footing. Also, it helps to improve the whole process of better regulation in the sector. I am particularly pleased the Minister of State has taken on board so many of my party’s amendments and compliment him on doing so. While we were less fortunate in regard to our amendments on issues such as humanism and human rights, perhaps these are subjects that can be reviewed in the future.

I pay tribute to the work done behind the scenes on this Bill by members of the Labour Party and by external organisations who have been helpful and forthcoming with their advice. I thank the Minister of State and his staff for the work and effort they put into this Bill, which we all wish well.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  The passing of this Bill is exceptionally good news. It will be welcomed by the charities sector. The widespread consultation on this legislation has played an important role in respect of the consensus generated in this House and in the Dáil. This is the first Bill the Minister of State has steered through the Houses of the Oireachtas and he has done so astutely. We are all in agreement that he listened to our viewpoints in respect of many of aspects of the legislation, which is good.

I compliment the Minister of State’s officials for their work on this Bill over a long time given the many archaic aspects to it. At long last, we have what most people in the sector require. While some amendments did not make it over the final hurdle, we all look forward to the five year review, which is the correct road to go.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  Hear, hear.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I compliment everybody who participated in the debate in this House. We all had an opportunity to make known our views on this issue. The legislation reflects the commitment of the people of Ireland to charity, per se. I have said many times that Irish people when asked to respond to a good cause always do. I compliment the Minister of State on the passing of the Bill. I hope he will have an opportunity to steer more legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am sure we will be able to make good progress with him.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  I welcome the passing of the Bill. I compliment the Minister of State and his officials for the speedy manner in which they have put this Bill through the Oireachtas. I thank everybody who contributed to the debate, in particular Senators Ó Murchú and Ó Domhnaill.

[1103]I take this opportunity to publicly apologise to the Minister of State for the slight mishap last week. Like all Cavan men, when there is a replay, I like to win by a good few more points than I lost.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The House will now adjourn until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Is that agreed? Agreed.


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