Dáil Éireann - Volume 602 - 19 May, 2005

Disability Bill 2004: Report Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

In page 5, lines 5 to 25, to delete all words from and including “ENABLE” in line 5 down to and including “INCLUSION” in line 25 and substitute the following:

“AFFIRM, PROTECT AND VINDICATE THE EQUAL RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, TO ALLOW FOR POSITIVE ACTION MEASURES TO ENABLE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES TO REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL, TO LIVE WITH MAXIMUM INDEPENDENCE, AUTONOMY, PRIVACY AND DIGNITY, AND TO PARTICIPATE IN AND CONTRIBUTE TO IRISH SOCIETY ON AN EQUAL BASIS, TO GUARANTEE A MINIMUM STANDARD FOR THE PROVISION OF DISABILITY-SPECIFIC SERVICES, TO GUARANTEE THE PROGRESSIVE REALISATION OF THE RIGHT OF EQUAL ACCESS TO ALL PUBLIC BUILDINGS AND SERVICES,”.

—(Aengus Ó Snodaigh)

  An Ceann Comhairle: This amendment is being taken with amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

  Mr. Fahey: The legislation is a positive action measure and the Long Title reflects that accurately. I do not intend, therefore, to accept the amendments. I will retain the present Long Title which adequately describes the intent and purpose of the legislation.

  Mr. Stanton: The Long Title states this is, “An Act to enable provision to be made [by Ministers] . . . consistent with the resources available to them and their obligations in relation to their allocation . . .”. Yesterday the Minister of State said this was a standard statement in all Bills. I beg to differ because I conducted a trawl of every Bill that has been passed since 1999 and this statement is not to be found in any Long Title. The statement in this Long Title, therefore, is unique.

It is a ground-breaking statement, which provides belts and braces and bells and whistles to constrain resources. Why is it necessary in this Bill when it was not necessary in every other Bill [1504] I examined, including the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004? I would be interested if the Minister of State could refer to a Long Title in which that statement is included. For example, it is not contained in the Long Titles of the State Authorities (Public Private Partnership Arrangements) Act, the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 2002 or Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. These Acts provide for significant expenditure of Exchequer funding but it was not deemed necessary include such a statement. Why has it been inserted in this legislation?

I acknowledge that most Bills contain a provision similar to section 3 of the Civil Defence Act 2002, which states: “The expenses incurred by the Minister in administering this Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.” This is a standard provision which is also contained in this legislation. However, the belts and braces and bells and whistles the Minister of State is attaching to resources demonstrates how mean-spirited the legislation is, having been introduced by a mean-spirited Government. Why is the Government so afraid of people with disabilities that it has inserted provisions throughout the legislation to prevent them from accessing services?

  Ms Lynch: I support Deputy Stanton’s contention regarding the restrictive nature of the legislation. We discussed this issue on Committee Stage and we will discuss it again. One cannot nod one’s head and say it is fine and we will live with it. Unfortunately, the people who need this legislation to live a full life depend on us to highlight issues such as this. The restrictiveness is evident in the Long Title which outlines the Bill’s intention. We cannot continue to put legislation of this nature in place. The Bill will end up in the very place the Minister of State keeps telling us he does not want it to end up. On the Order of Business earlier, the issue flawed legislation that needs to be amended was again raised. We have been telling the Minister of State for the past six months that this legislation is wrong and that it needs to be scrapped and rewritten but he still will not listen to us.

The Long Title is important because it indicates what the Bill is meant to do. However, it contains a restriction. The Long Title is the essence of the legislation and points out at first glance what it is about. In this instance, it highlights that this is restrictive legislation, which will not do what people the Minister of State consulted for two solid years felt it would do. Their frustration and dismay is now palpable when one talks to them. They throw their hands up and ask what more they can do. However, I am sure they will find the energy again, they will come back and we will, at some stage in the future, have legislation that gives people with disabilities the right to services and not just the right to assessment.

[1505]   Mr. F. McGrath: I wish to raise a number of points concerning the Minister’s response to the amendments and specifically to amendment No. 2. He pointed out that such funding provisions are not in place in any other country and that if the Opposition was in power, it would not put such funding and resource provisions in place either. He referred specifically to the sections in the legislation which demand the right to services and funding.

However, we have an opportunity to do something different, to have a Disability Bill that is historic and held in high regard internationally. Given that this country claims to be interested in equality and social inclusion, this is an historic moment when we have the opportunity to translate this interest into action.

I become very annoyed when I hear statements asserting that the Department of Finance cannot write blank cheques to provide services for people with disabilities. Services, in this context, refer to respite, residential and day care for people with intellectual disabilities and broader services for those with other disabilities. However, there never seems to be a problem in providing public money for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That Department paid €30 million for a site in north County Dublin that was worth €4 million. It also revamped a courthouse in Cork, the cost of which was estimated at €6.5 million, but the final bill was €26.5 million. One does not have to be a rocket scientist or an accountant to work out that €46 million was inappropriately used. Imagine the amount of disability services that could be provided with that amount of money. Imagine all of the respite, residential, day care services that could be provided. That money could have been used to fund the respite homes in north Dublin that are closing.

These are the real issues in the debate. When we use the term “rights” for people with disabilities, we do not do so lightly. We are talking about the rights of our citizens, both adults and children. This country has constantly been in conflict over the rights of its people, both historically and internationally. Amendment No. 1, in the name of Deputy Ó Snodaigh and amendment No. 2, tabled by Deputy Lynch and myself, are progressive attempts to improve the legislation. I urge the Minister to re-examine them and to be radical and creative.

There is an historic opportunity to do something really positive for people with intellectual and other disabilities. I pay deliberate attention to people with intellectual disabilities because they are priority cases. There are people with intellectual disabilities in their 40s and 50s, whose parents and extended families are dead, who are in very negative, if not sad, situations. We must, as proposed by amendment No. 2, guarantee and protect the rights of people with disabilities.

  Aengus Ó Snodaigh: During the course of the debate yesterday, the Minister stated that he is [1506] happy with the Bill and I would not have expected him to say anything else. The Long Title as it stands confirms what I said yesterday, that this Bill is not about the provision of rights. The Minister said as much in his opening comments today, when he used the phrase “positive action measures”.

The hope of everyone, except perhaps the Minister, the Government and departmental officials, was that we would have a Disability Bill that conferred rights on people. That is not what we have before us. The conferral and guarantee of rights is at the heart of amendment No. 1. I have also tabled, thereafter, a series of amendments that follow on from the conferral of rights and explain what they are.

The Minister said there is no justiciable rights legislation for those with disabilities in any other country. In France, disability legislation has been in place since 1973. The French have not gone forward in terms of positive action measures or rights since then because they were not included in the original legislation. We have an opportunity, particularly given our wealth, to draw up legislation that ensures we are ahead of the rest of the world and are setting the standard for others to follow. We should take the lead and set out rights explicitly.

My intention in tabling amendment No. 1 was to change the Long Title to reflect the type of rights-based legislation demanded and deserved by people. This type of legislation was recommended by the disability legislation consultative group, the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority and is required by law under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. I urge the Minister to take the time to examine the wording of amendment No. 1, to accept it and to accept the subsequent amendments that flow from it.

  Mr. Fahey: No legislation has been passed in this House that did not have conditions attached in respect of resources. All legislation is predicated on the availability of resources and this Bill is no exception. The Long Title reflects what is contained in the Bill. If the members of the Opposition who have spoken on this section of the Bill were in Government, the situation would not be any different.

I do not agree with Deputy Finian McGrath’s assertion that there is an opportunity to change the legislation. There is no such opportunity. I have had robust discussions with the Minister for Finance and his officials about this issue. The fundamental elements of good governance and responsible public expenditure are laid down in the procedures pertaining to the budgetary and Estimates requirements of the Department of Finance and all other Departments. It is not possible to diverge from that.

  Mr. F. McGrath: Why does the Department of Finance not restrict the Department of Justice, [1507] Equality and Law Reform when it spends money inappropriately?

  Mr. Fahey: Deputy McGrath is making a fundamental mistake in giving examples such as the ones he mentioned earlier, because all spending is subject to the Estimates and budgetary processes of the Department of Finance and other Departments. This legislation underpins a multi-annual expenditure programme, as outlined by the Minister for Finance, which is designed to bridge the gaps in funding and services for people with disabilities. It underpins a public expenditure programme over the next five years, in order to address those identified gaps and I am satisfied the Bill will achieve its aim in that regard. There are rights in the Bill ——

  Mr. Stanton: Such as what?

  Mr. Fahey: The rights range across the spectrum, but there is not a justiciable right of redress to the courts. Deputy Lynch has been eloquent on this issue but even if justiciable rights were included in the Bill, that would not guarantee a right to services, as she has claimed. The experience of the Department of Education and Science in the courts is ample evidence of that. Every €1 paid out to people who have gone to the courts has cost €4 paid to lawyers. I do not accept that is in the best interest of people with disabilities and neither do I accept that justiciable rights will give people with disabilities their proper services. I am quite satisfied that the balance in this Bill, as outlined in the Long Title, is the best way to give people with disabilities their rights.

  Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Again, the Minister of State has confirmed that he will not accept my amendment nor any of the other amendments which try to set out rights. The intention of my amendment and the ones that flow from it is to confer rights and ensure that if those rights are denied, people will have recourse to a remedy for redress. The Minister of State has not adopted that track in the legislation.

I am not alone on this. It is not something I dreamt up last night or the night before. This is something for which a number of organisations have called. It is what we lived and hoped for after the debacle over the previous disability Bill.

The Long Title sets out the context and intention of the Bill. The intention of my amendment is to change it. The amendment contains five different points the purpose of which is to ensure equal rights for people with disabilities. Equal rights for people with disabilities are to be affirmed and protected. Positive action must be taken to enable people with disabilities to live with maximum independence and autonomy. They must have equal rights to participate and [1508] contribute to society. The Bill must guarantee a minimum standard for the provision of disability-specific services and, finally, it must guarantee the progressive realisation of the right of equal access to all public buildings and services.

This Bill, as currently formatted and presented, does not include any of those five rights. That is the reason I want to amend the Long Title. I want to ensure this appears in the Title, at least, and that the rest of the legislation is amended to take heed of that change. I made my points yesterday and will not repeat them now. I will make another attempt at convincing the Minister of State when we get to amendment No. 5 where we will try to amend the Title of the Bill. However, at this stage we are dealing with the Long Title. Even at this late stage the Minister of State should adopt my amendment, which I will press.

  Mr. Stanton: On a point of order, as there are three amendments taken together and I proposed the third, do I get an opportunity to make a final reply?

  Cecilia Keaveney: Only the proposer of the original amendment has the right of reply. Only one amendment is currently before the House and we must deal with it.

  Mr. Stanton: Does that mean we can reply later?

  Acting Chairman: No, because the other amendments are contingent on the amendment that was moved. Only the proposer of the amendment that was moved has the right of reply.

  Ms Lynch: Is the Chairman saying that if Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s amendment falls, we can then reply?

  Acting Chairman: No, the three amendments were grouped together. If the first falls, the other two cannot be moved.

  Ms Lynch: We had no control over how they were grouped. We would clearly have asked for them to be taken separately in the case where if one falls, they all fall.

  Acting Chairman: They are alternatives and therefore each is related to the other. If one is pressed and not carried, the others cannot be moved.

  Ms Lynch: Does it follow that if we win the vote, we can then move the other two amendments?

  Acting Chairman: Yes, I assume so.

Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

[1509] The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 49.

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Ardagh, Seán.

    Blaney, Niall.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Seamus.

    Browne, John.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Carty, John.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Cullen, Martin.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Gallagher, Pat The Cope.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    McGuinness, John.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Mulcahy, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.

    O’Connor, Charlie.

    O’Dea, Willie.

    O’Donovan, Denis.

    O’Flynn, Noel.

    O’Keeffe, Batt.

    O’Malley, Fiona.

    O’Malley, Tim.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Walsh, Joe.

    Woods, Michael.

Níl

    Boyle, Dan.

    Breen, James.

    Breen, Pat.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burton, Joan.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Coveney, Simon.

    Cowley, Jerry.

    Crowe, Seán.

    Cuffe, Ciarán.

    Deasy, John.

    Durkan, Bernard J.

    English, Damien.

    Enright, Olwyn.

    Ferris, Martin.

    Gilmore, Eamon.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Hayes, Tom.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McCormack, Padraic.

    McEntee, Shane.

    McGrath, Finian.

    McGrath, Paul.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Gay.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    Murphy, Catherine.

    Murphy, Gerard.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O’Dowd, Fergus.

    O’Shea, Brian.

    O’Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Penrose, Willie.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ring, Michael.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Twomey, Liam.

    Upton, Mary.

    Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and F. McGrath.

Question declared carried.

[1510] Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We move to amendment No. 4. Amendment No. 5 is an alternative and the two amendments may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Mr. Stanton: I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, line 30, to delete “Disability” and substitute the following:

“Assessment and Services For People with Disabilities and Miscellaneous Provisions”.

The amendment arises from Committee Stage proceedings. It tries to describe the Bill in a more accurate way and to focus on what the Bill should be about, namely, the needs of people with dis[1511] abilities. However, people are not referred to in the Title of the Bill, although they are referred to in similar legislation throughout the world. The Short Title, “Disability Bill 2004”, does not really mean anything. I propose to change the Title to the “Assessment and Services For People with Disabilities and Miscellaneous Provisions” Bill, because the Bill is an assessment Bill which also purports to provide services.

12 o’clock

Some parts of the Bill should be dealt with in separate legislation, for example, the areas dealing with genetics and the centre of excellence, and Part 7, the miscellaneous part, which deals with broadcasting, covenants in leases and so on. The Title should be more accurate so those referring to the Bill know what it is about. The Title “Disability Bill” does not clearly convey what the Bill should contain, purports to contain or does contain. We have a disagreement with the Minister as to how the Bill will operate when it is finally enacted.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Bill was the last Bill to deal with the needs of people with disabilities. In that case, the relevant Minister agreed to change the title of the Bill because he took on board the argument that the new Title better and more humanely reflected what all Members of the House were endeavouring to achieve. The phrase “Disability Bill” is too bland and does not convey clearly enough what the Bill should do. The Title should be changed to open it up and to emphasise that the Bill deals with assessment and services for people with disabilities.

When we talk about disability, we must move away from the old medical model of disability. It was pointed out earlier in the debate that the Long Title includes that old model; it serves to blame people with disabilities for having disabilities. We must move through a social model to a human rights model, which is what the Bill should try to achieve. People with disabilities are citizens of the State, the same as everybody else. They should have a right to services and supports to enable them to live the best quality of life possible with the impairments they have.

However, while that should be the underlying philosophy of the Bill, unfortunately, it is not. The Bill reminds me of the film title “The Empire Strikes Back”. The previous Bill, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Bill, was struck down on the eve of an election because it was flawed, following a campaign against it. The Government of the time got windy and pulled the Bill. Now, the empire strikes back, and those who will suffer are people with disabilities.

The end-users have already walked away in disgust, despair and disappointment. The Minister failed to keep them together and the disability legislation consultation group, which was established by the Government, has fallen apart because the Bill focuses on resources not people. [1512] The Long Title is all about resources and protecting the State. It is the only Bill that so blatantly focuses on this area, while the other Bills I referred to have a different focus.

I accept that every Bill will contain sections stating that expenses will be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance and approved by the Oireachtas. However, while there is no need for it, the Bill goes out of its way, time and again, to refer to the protection of resources. The Bill is not about people; it is about protecting the State and the Government, as the Minister said, from the Four Courts. It is not about providing services or supporting people but the opposite. The Bill will make things worse for people with disabilities when it is enacted.

The Minister and Fianna Fáil should be ashamed to stand over a Bill such as this. They have not listened to people with disabilities, the end-users. Progressive Democrats Members did not even think it worth their while to speak on the Bill on Second Stage, apart from the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, who came to the House to heckle.

  Mr. F. McGrath: They were too busy wrecking Aer Lingus.

  Mr. Stanton: By changing the Title of the Bill, we might help to change its focus onto people with disabilities and not focus on protecting resources, which is what the Minister is interested in, no more or less. I acknowledge that resources are limited and must be protected, and that we must plan ahead and make resources available. However, we must do much more than that.

The be-all and end-all of the Bill seems to be to make sure that people with disabilities have no services and no recourse to rights or the legal mechanisms that are currently available. The Bill restricts them and boxes them in, which is why many people are angry and disillusioned. My amendment tries to bring people back into the equation. It will make no difference to the Bill itself, but it might refocus our thinking on people. There has been too much talk about resources and not enough talk about people. The Bill is concerned with protecting resources in every way.

The sky will not fall in if the Minister of State accepts this amendment and the Four Courts will not take over. However, he will say that it has always been known as the Disability Bill and he will not change it. There are shades of the song that said that flowers are red and green and leaves are green, and that is the way they always have been seen. The Minister of State is showing no imagination or courage. He is being told what to do in every respect and has no authority to make any changes. We are wasting our time debating the issue.

People with disabilities, the end users, who have spent years in so-called consultation with the Government have walked away at the eleventh hour in disgust, despair and disappointment. If the Minister of State had been successful those [1513] people would still be involved, debating, discussing and negotiating how a Bill such as this can be put into practice. However, they have been forced to walk away because they were badly let down. None of us in Opposition asked or forced them to walk away; they did so out of pure frustration. Some of the groups still involved are just hanging on, and there are various reasons for that also. The Minister of State has failed in this regard because he has forgotten that the Bill is about people with disabilities who are vulnerable.

This Bill is like The Empire Strikes Back and it is an absolute disgrace. There are belts and braces and bells and whistles to limit services and resources that could be made available to people with disabilities. It is over the top. Admittedly, there is always a need for a section that enables moneys to be spent, and that is included in every other legislation. However, this Bill does not have such a section. It is unique and ground-breaking in that regard. The public is very angry about this, and in every constituency people with disabilities, their families and neighbours know what is happening. They are waiting for this Government to come before them, and this Bill will be top of their agenda because of the way in which they have been treated. I am surprised the lambs at the back of the Government side have not been more vocal. They have all been silent on the matter. It is amazing in this so-called democracy of ours that this is allowed to happen.

I propose to change the Title of the Bill to reflect what it should contain. It should be about people and assessment of services for people with disabilities. There are also miscellaneous provisions.

  Mr. F. McGrath: I support amendment No. 5, which proposes to deleted the word “Disability” on page 5, line 30, and substitute it with the words “Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. We are referring to the core issues in the legislation when we speak of the rights of people with disabilities. It is important to reflect that the disability movement and in particular people with disabilities have been talking with and lobbying us over recent months as well as sending us messages. They have encouraged us to stand with them in respect of this Bill. One of the largest organisations is namhi which represents some 28,000 intellectually disabled people, those who provide services and parents of people with intellectual disabilities. It has strong views on this legislation, and it is important that all Deputies, and especially those in power, listen to their voices and not simply look the other way and hope the other groups will stay silent.

It is also important to listen to parents of people with disabilities, in particular those with younger children, such as Pat O’Hanlon, mother of Ryan O’Hanlon, and Marie O’Donoghue, mother of Paul O’Donoghue from Cork. When these people contact us and ask us to raise specific issues with regard to the promotion of the [1514] rights of people with disabilities we have a duty as legislators to listen to them. Over recent months they have been saying that justice delayed is justice denied.

The Minister of State is constantly referring to budget resources and extra allocation, and we accept that has been announced. During the debate on the budget I welcomed the extra resources that would be provided in 2005. There was another roll-out of an extra €900 million between 2002 and 2009, which I also welcomed. However, those involved in services and people with disabilities are also saying these moneys must be targeted so that they can make a real impact on the daily lives of the 400,000 with disabilities awaiting and demanding services.

We have a duty to listen to people with disabilities. Nigel Brander, who has a disability, is national chairman of PwDI, an organisation is involved in the disability sector. On his discussions with politicians, he says:

To them I say we are looking for equality, to be treated on an equal basis as other citizens in this country. You cannot say: “Sorry, you cannot have the health care you need”, or “Sorry, there are too many children this year so you will not get an education” or “We do not have any housing to give you”. So, why do you say it to people with disabilities? Give us the stepping stones so that we can stand alongside everyone else as equal citizens.

Mr. Brander has a very valid point. There is no problem about wasting money and resources in other Departments, but there is always a problem in respect of people with disabilities.

I strongly urge people to support my amendment because it adds to the legislation. It is progressive and adds depth and teeth to the Bill. Deputy Stanton said that it was amazing that in such a short debate the party that calls itself the Progressive Democrats is not involved on any level. That is a disgrace. It talks about issues of equality and justice and regularly lectures the nation. However, it makes no contribution to defend the rights of people with disabilities. We know what that party’s agenda is in respect of the rights of all citizens. One is not top of their political agenda if one is unemployed, an Aer Lingus worker or a person with disability. We should not be afraid to state that in this debate. It is important that we do so. Amendment No. 5 relates to the rights of people with disabilities.

I get extremely annoyed and let-down when I hear people taking about services coming on stream. That is pie in the sky and we need to ensure that services are there and that people with disabilities have these services as a right. I do not accept that people must ring our offices because they cannot get respite in 2005 after the massive allocation in the budget. Something is going wrong within the management and structure of the services and it must be challenged. It is not just a question of legislation, but also a question of the management of services. Elderly [1515] parents of people with intellectual disabilities are unable to get day care or respite services. A few hundred people on the north side of Dublin are on the waiting list for some services. That is amazing and it is not acceptable. People talk about respecting people’s rights but that is a complete disregard for their human and civic rights. It is also very much part of this debate. I urge Deputies to support amendment No. 5.

  Ms Lynch: I support Deputy Stanton’s amendment. We will all make statements about particular amendments but from our experience on Committee Stage we know none of them will be accepted. It is important that the arguments are made, however, and the reasons the amendments are being tabled outlined. The Minister of State will say in his reply that resources are the problem. Anyone put in charge of this legislation, regardless of who they are, would say the same as the Minister, that it is about finite resources and we cannot write a blank cheque, despite all the money that goes to solicitors.

That would be an appropriate response from a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who might be concerned about the way the legal system operates, even though the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not concerned about the way the legal system operates. He is the Minister who organised the payments to barristers in the tribunals which he now cribs about because they are costing millions but he set the rate. He said they were to be paid by the day. Someone building an extension on their house would never agree to paying the builders by the day because they know they will probably be lifelong lodgers. It is hypocritical to talk about resources not being available for people who desperately need them when there is such waste in the country.

A recent report indicated that in regard to four projects, and the country is like a building site at the moment, the total cost was to be €60 million. I am being extremely conservative in regard to that figure. I am overestimating the cost of the projects and underestimating the cost of the overrun. The eventual cost was €120 million yet this Minister is telling us we do not have enough money to provide services to people with disabilities.

It frightens me to think of the amount of money that has been wasted in various areas. It equally frightens me to think that we are prepared to allow that type of waste continue while at the same time telling people with disabilities that they cannot have the services they need to allow them make a contribution to society and the economy, and people with disabilities will make a contribution to the economy.

I remember the same argument being made about equal pay for women but no one makes that argument now because they realise the contribution women make to the economy. The same argument was made more recently about the [1516] minimum wage, and it is still being made. Every time there is a minuscule increase in the minimum wage, the same argument is made, namely that we cannot afford it and that it will bankrupt us and destroy business. We are hearing the same argument now.

The hypocrisy of that argument is very hard to take. This country is awash with money. Every year the returns to the Exchequer surprise the Minister for Finance. He has underestimated the returns to the Exchequer every year. The figure is always more than he expected. He is finding it difficult to find ways of getting rid of it and that is the reason there is no restraint on overruns or the waste of money.

One can only imagine what people with disabilities could do if they had access to that type of funding. There would be no question about participation. We would not be having this debate. People with disabilities would not be as frustrated as they are now yet the argument will continue to be made that resources are limited and we cannot provide everything. If they are limited, they are limited by imagination and capacity because the problem is definitely not a shortage of money. We have so much money we do not know what to do with it but there is an absolute block when it comes to giving people equality. It existed when the argument was for equal pay for women, it is still there in relation to children and it certainly exists for people with disabilities.

I do not know whether the Minister has the power to change this Bill and make it radical and worthwhile but very few of us in our lifetime get an opportunity to be remembered for doing something in the common good that will affect everyone for good, not ill. This is an opportunity for this Minister, and he should consider doing it.

  Aengus Ó Snodaigh: My amendment is No. 1 but I concur with the purpose of amendment No. 5, which has the same intention as my amendment. This is not a disability Bill. It should be a rights for people with disabilities Bill because those groups who were drawn into the consultation process and involved in the discussions for the past two years believe they were cynically used over two years on a promise which has not been delivered. They see it as a betrayal. They engaged in the process in good faith but they have been let down because the rights they hoped for and were led to believe would be included in a Bill to address disability issues and the equal rights of people with disabilities have not been addressed.

While I recognise that a Title change does not reflect the actual contents of the Bill, that does not prevent us from changing it and adopting the amendments put by the Opposition who hope to change the intent of the Bill to one that will deliver rights. I urge the Minister to do the right thing and accept the recommendations of his Government’s disability legislation consultation group and change the focus of the Bill, in keeping [1517] with the Government’s promises to the DLCG and to the people with disabilities that rights based legislation would be the product of the long, drawn out consultation process, which only ended last week when the Minister met with different groups.

In proposing this amendment I urge the Minister to reflect on the responses of the DLCG member groups and the Government’s treatment of them in the process. In their formal statement on 4 May of this year, in advance of a meeting with the Minister of State, the DLCG described the Minister’s response to their position on the Bill’s ten fundamental flaws as totally inadequate and fatally flawed. They stated: “As matters now stand, the sector will be compelled to condemn the Bill as a betrayal of the hopes of people with disabilities in Ireland”. It is a pity it reached that stage because everybody hoped the rights would be provided.

Even with that warning, the consultation process was in danger of breaking down owing to Government intransigence. Within recent weeks the DLCG in good faith narrowed down the list of issues it wished to see addressed to a group of five key issues in the vain hope the Minister would move on some of them. These issues are pertinent to the change in the Title because they concern rights. The DLCG called for a clear and unequivocal right to an assessment of need, a right to the provision of services identified within a reasonable and agreed timeframe, clear protection of disabilities specific resources so these rights can be realised and a clear duty on all Departments and public bodies to include people with disabilities meaning every Department must provide a sectoral plan as a minimum.

The Forum of People with Disabilities, the only organisation in the State exclusively led by people with disabilities stated five days later on 9 May following a meeting with the Minister of State that its investment in the three-year process, “had yielded minimal results for the disability community”. In the context of announcing its formal withdrawal from that process the forum said disabled people are left with political promises rather than justiciable rights. It stated it would ask all political parties to give a commitment to complete an immediate review of the legislation in their election manifestos. I give that commitment today on behalf of Sinn Féin.

Other members of the DLCG were just as scathing about the resource basis of this Bill. The Disability Federation of Ireland said:

As a nation we have put off inclusion by saying that we cannot afford it. We were told over and over again that “when things get better you will be looked after”.

It also said:

Good intentions and honest attempts are not in themselves enough. We have to get it right.

The DFI called on us to live up to our responsibilities, stating the Oireachtas now has a clear [1518] choice between using this legislation to oblige the Government to fully include people with disabilities or to confirm that people with disabilities in Ireland remain as second class people. It reminded us that people with disabilities have been wrongly treated by our State. The key challenge for this legislation is to right a continuing wrong.

The DFI went on to say, “We should not have to continue to be inferior in status,” but that the Government’s approach means, “disabled people will remain petitioners on the edge of society”. It warned us: “We will know whether we have become equal citizens by virtue of how the Oireachtas deals with the amendments to this Bill.” They lived in hope and that is the basis on which this amendment and others have been tabled.

People with Disabilities Ireland expressed concern that the Bill is not rights-based and will reduce access to rights as it potentially excludes vast numbers of people with disabilities from the services they badly need because they may not need such service on a continual basis.

It is a disgrace that Members of the Opposition have been prevented from even proposing amendments to redress the definition issue owing to the decision of the Ceann Comhairle to rule out of order many amendments that would put this legislation right. Of my 59 original amendments, 38 were ruled out of order because they involved a potential charge on the Revenue. The Minister of State did not even get to debate them with us. Every single amendment is a charge on the Revenue by virtue of the fact that it is written down on paper that costs money to produce. Ruling amendments out of order because they involve a charge on the Revenue is a sham.

The Opposition has tried on Second Stage, on Committee Stage and now on Report Stage to be constructive in this debate. We wanted to debate the amendments and while I would not be in favour of the Minister of State rejecting them, that would be his say. We will not have the opportunity to discuss many of the issues that were part of the preparatory consultation process over the past two years. We wanted a debate of substance but we will not get it because the amendments that have been allowed only skirt around the edges of the issues. We will not have rights-based legislation even if the Minister of State accepts all the Opposition amendments that have not been ruled out of order.

The groups that took part in the consultative process had set their hopes high but have been let down. The National Association for Mentally Handicapped in Ireland, the co-ordinating body for more than 160 organisations providing services to approximately 26,000 people with intellectual disabilities stated this Bill, if enacted, would dilute the rights of people with disabilities and push them further into the margins of society.

The National Parents’ and Siblings’ Alliance offered the view that the effect of the Bill was to give legislative support to existing inequalities [1519] and that it could not take the Bill seriously unless it were drastically redrawn because, as it stood, it was aimed at excluding a large number of people from receiving assessments and the resulting services. The organisation reminded legislators that history has shown that where there is no pressure on Government to provide services for people with disabilities, they are left at the bottom of the heap. This means that when they reach adulthood, not only have people with disabilities been damaged by State neglect, the intervention required is even more costly. I agree and urge the Government to change the Bill, not to insult people with disabilities and accept this amendment and the amendments flowing from it.

  Mr. Fahey: Amendment No. 4 would relegate the remaining provisions of the Bill dealt with in Parts 3 to 7 to the status of miscellaneous provisions. I believe the Bill represents a more comprehensive response to the concerns of disability than the Title proposed seeks to convey. On amendment No. 5, putting exclusive emphasis on rights will not give us the most effective results.

I want to refer again to the issue of resources, mentioned by three of the speakers. I pay particular attention to what Deputy Finian McGrath stated on this issue. He has personal experience as his daughter is a young person with disability. I must re-emphasise where we are coming from in respect of the problems outlined by various Deputies, most effectively by Deputy McGrath.

The reality is that in the mid-1990s, just ten years ago when Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour all spent time in Government, the increase in funding for disabilities in any one year was approximately €1 million. That is where the difficulties lie. This year the extra amount provided in the Estimates is €290 million with an additional €150 million provided in the budget, which amounts to €440 million extra this year for services for people with disabilities. It means a total of €2.9 billion will be spent this year which is three times more than in 1997 and represents 7.5% of gross public expenditure.

I am first to accept the point made eloquently by Deputy McGrath that there are serious gaps in the service and people are waiting for services. This Bill, however, is designed to underpin people’s rights to obtain those services through an assessment, a service statement and the right of redress. The Bill is part of a multifaceted strategy that was outlined by the Taoiseach. In particular, the legislation will underpin a multi-annual expenditure programme, as outlined by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech. For the first time in the history of the State, half the budget speech was devoted to the provision of proper services for people with disabilities. Also of significance in that speech was the Minister’s statement that the €900 million multi-annual expenditure over the next five years is only the start. It will be possible for him to provide extra resources over and above that in any one year [1520] during that period. There is no question, therefore, but that the Government is committed to providing resources in line with the points, correctly raised by the Opposition, about gaps in services. In those circumstances it is not necessary for people to go to court in order to have their rights determined by the Judiciary. There may have been a case for doing so ten or 15 years ago when all political parties neglected people with disabilities, but that is not the case today.

The top three people in Government — the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance — are committed to implementing this Bill in the spirit in which it was framed. They are also committed to providing the necessary resources in order to implement the legislation and, therefore, I reject these amendments.

  Mr. Stanton: My amendment No. 4 seeks to delete the word “disability” and substitute “Assessment and Services For People with Disabilities and Miscellaneous Provisions”. That takes in most matters, as almost everything in the Bill is about assessment and services, whether it concerns employment services, access services or genetic testing services. The wording “miscellaneous provisions” concerns the Minister’s own Part 7. The Bill is about assessment and services for people with disabilities. Everything else is about assessment and services of some sort, or so it should be.

The Minister referred to courts and he seems to have a fixation in this regard. He must have nightmares about being in court. However, court is the last place that people with disabilities want to be. If this Bill works as it should, they should never have to set foot in a court to get what they need.

  Mr. Fahey: Then it is time to get away from the courts.

  Mr. Stanton: Exactly. The Minister should try to broaden his vision and take off the blinkers where courts are concerned. He is fixated by and scared stiff of courts. Every time he stands up he talks about courts and the Judiciary, but if the Bill works there will be no need for courts. Likewise, there will be no need to bar people from courts because they will not seek recourse to them. The Minister is preventing people from using the courts as a last resort but if the Bill does what is should, the courts would never be used in this respect. However, the Minister knows this Bill is flawed and he is bolting the door, and nailing it shut, so that people will not be able to use the judicial system.

Courts are the last place that anyone wants to go, but people with disabilities are being forced there. We all know of numerous cases involving children with special needs whose parents go to court because the Government and the Department have dug in their heels and will not provide such services and supports until the courts instruct them that under the Constitution these [1521] children are entitled to them. That is the current position.

If the Minister thinks the Bill is the cat’s miaow, as he keeps telling us, then he should not be afraid of the courts as there will be no need for them. People would not bother going to court if the Bill worked. In barring access to the courts, however, the Minister is saying the Bill is fatally flawed. He has inserted that provision because he is fixated about courts and scared witless of them. Up to now, court is the only place in which people could obtain their entitlements.

  Ms Lynch: Although I covered this point earlier, it would be remiss of me not to re-iterate my belief that it is unconstitutional to prevent anyone from vindicating their rights in court. I am not the only one who believes that. I know of no other legislation in which people are deliberately prevented from vindicating their rights in court. I could cite how many cases have come before the High Court and were eventually dealt with in the Supreme Court. Apart from one case of which I am aware, Supreme Court appeals in such cases have always been at the instigation of the Government which refused to accept the determination of the High Court. There have been five such cases. The Minister appears terrified by the notion of people vindicating their rights in court, but how would he like it if someone told him he was legally prohibited from going to court? The provision is unconstitutional and, therefore, the Minister should re-examine it. Given the way the legislation has been framed, it will have the opposite effect to that which is intended. Once again, the judges will become legislators, which none of us wants. I did not spend my political life trying to get into the Dáil and enact legislation only to hand that function over to the courts. God knows, there are bodies outside this House that do virtually everything legislators should be doing. The Judiciary should not be acting as legislators and I do not think they want to do so anyway. I intend to press amendment No. 5.

  Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The Minister referred to the legal provisions and other Deputies have covered the matter well. No Opposition Members or those in the disability sector — either providing services or those who are disabled — is denying that the Government has put additional resources into this area. The Government has the additional resources to put in, and it would have been an even worse scandal if it had not done so. The point is, however, to provide such resources as of right so that they will be there for the future. The Minister may cite the example of multi-annual funding and say that the Minister for Finance was very good to spend half his budget speech speaking about services for people with disabilities, but the Minister will not be there for ever. He will not be there in five years. He might not be there next year if the Taoiseach decides to change him, so we do not have guarantees in that respect. Ultimately, the disabled, those who work [1522] with them, their organisations and the Opposition are seeking guarantees of rights to ensure they will receive their just delivery of services. They must be treated as equal citizens in this State. We have already extensively covered the issue in our discussion of the first five amendments. In the opinion of the Equality Authority not only does the Bill not amount to additionality but its provisions could diminish and reduce existing equality provisions and protections with regard to direct and indirect discrimination, positive action, including a reasonable accommodation requirement, and employment and could reduce the provision of services as a result of a disproportionate burden test and the enforceability of these rights.

The authority is particularly concerned that the Bill creates tensions with existing equality laws in that it marks a move away from the inclusive non-hierarchical rights based model contained in equality legislation. It is specifically concerned that the decision to avoid a more inclusive definition of “disability” will result in the Bill’s provisions not being applicable to everyone with a disability. It is a pity my attempt to include, though amendment No. 12, the definition of disability used in other legislation has been ruled out of order because it would address the concerns of the Equality Authority.

The Equality Authority is correct that the legislation creates a hierarchy of disabilities because its effect will be to reduce and diminish existing provisions. It will also be a source of confusion in the public sector. The authority maintains the provisions on access to buildings and services fall short of those already contained in equality legislation. This is the final opportunity for the Minister of State to change his mind and take steps to adopt a rights based Bill.

  Mr. Fahey: With regard to the point made by Deputy Lynch, I believe the Bill is constitutional and the advice of the Attorney General to the Government is that the Bill is robust and will withstand any constitutional challenge.

  Mr. Stanton: It is curious the Minister of State did not respond to the points I made in rebutting his comments on amendment No. 4. This leads me to conclude that he has no case to make. I suggest, therefore, that he accept the amendment, although I doubt, given the Government’s track record to date, that any amendments tabled by the Opposition will be accepted. Nevertheless, we live in hope.

The amendment reflects the Short Title the Bill should be given. The purpose of the legislation should be the provision of assessment and services for people with disabilities, which is what most of it, with the exception of Part 7 entitled “Miscellaneous”, purports to do. If the Minister of State wishes to retain the Short Title, “Disability Bill”, it is his call to do so given his majority in the House. However, it would not cause the sky to fall in to change the Short Title to reflect the fact that the Bill is for people with [1523] disabilities as opposed to being concerned solely with disability. I doubt, however, that the Minister of State has the authority to make such a change.

  Mr. Fahey: It is not correct that I do not have the authority to make amendments. I listened carefully——

  Mr. Stanton: I understand the Minister of State may not speak to the amendment again.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: He wished to clarify an issue.

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 5 cannot be moved as it has been disposed of by the decision of the House on amendment No. 4. Amendments Nos. 7 to 11, inclusive, are alternatives to amendment No. 6 and all may be discussed together.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.

  Ms Lynch: I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, to delete lines 31 to 36 and in page 6, to delete lines 1 to 8.

I was not satisfied with the answers given by the Minister of State during a lengthy Committee Stage debate on a similar amendment. Usually a Bill automatically enters into force when it is signed by the President. Under the current provisions, the Minister may delay the Bill or introduce it in a piecemeal fashion if the Government so decides. While I accept a combination of factors must come together to form what the Minister of State describes as the disability strategy, it is unacceptable to give the Minister control over the timing and manner in which these elements are to be introduced. It would be wrong, for example, not to introduce the sectoral plans as quickly as possible because the Minister has the power to delay them as this would also delay the allocation of the limited resources available under the Bill. It is inappropriate to include such a provision. The legislation should take effect as soon as the President signs it, as is the case with all other Bills. A piecemeal approach towards implementing it will damage whatever benefits are available.

I hope Deputies will not need to ask the Taoiseach month after month when the Disability Act will be implemented and when the Minister will sign the order. The Bill should be rolled out as soon as it is signed into law and then we can see what are its implications.

While the mechanism for delay is unnecessary, I understand the reason it has been included. If, for instance, the Minister is not certain that [1524] everything he has indicated will become available, it is understandable that he will need to protect himself from an early onslaught as people discover the Bill does not do that which he claimed. The purpose of the amendment is to address this issue.

  Mr. F. McGrath: I support the Deputy’s comments on this important amendment, which adds to the legislation, and I urge Deputies to support it.

  Mr. Stanton: I have tabled amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 11 to make use of the active voice. The use in legislation of the active voice was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its report on legislative drafting. It is important that the style of our legislation represents best practice and is made more readable for members of the public.

  Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I will speak to amendments Nos. 7 and 10 and make some general comments on the group of amendments. This is the first instance of a reference to the circumscription of services. Under Part 2, only the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Education and Science can make orders allowing a person to be the subject of an assessment of need and only for health and education services. I am opposed to this patronising, medical approach. It does not acknowledge or reflect the reality that people with a disability are routinely excluded by design from much more than health care and education services. They are excluded from the work place, independent living, transport, communications and participation in many aspects of life that non-disabled people take for granted. These structural impediments are obstacles to their full inclusion on an equal basis. Therefore, disability specific services, which should be provided on the basis of need and as of right, constitute much more than could be appropriately provided by the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Education and Science.

1 o’clock

I propose the deletion of section 1(3) and the reference to it in section 1(2). The formulation reflects the Government’s view that the only services people with disabilities truly need and, therefore, should be assessed for can be provided by two Departments. I disagree with this. As the disability legislation consultation group has pointed out, disability-specific services that people with disabilities should have a right to are those which enable them to participate fully, as equals, in society and that maximise their ability to live their lives as independently as possible to their full potential as equal citizens: housing, training, employment support, transportation, access to communications and a range of other things that have nothing to do with health or education.

The whole tone of the Bill is that people with disabilities are dependent on who needs to be cared for. We all must recognise people with dis[1525] abilities as people with equal rights who are being prevented from exercising them by a society that is exclusive by design. This Bill does not recognise that and continues to patronise them. That is why my amendments seek to strike out the words “Subject to subsection (3)” and section 1(3) itself.

The whole point of the recommendation that the legislation should assert the right of people with disabilities to an independent assessment of need is that such an assessment must be made independently of service providers, the Health Service Executive or the Department of Education and Science with their inevitable organisational and financial constraints. Otherwise the assessment will not reflect the individual’s true needs and, therefore, will only become a statement of what is currently available to the person. That is not good enough.

We oppose the Government’s entire model for the assessment and appeals process and that opposition starts with section 1, which is why I have tabled amendments and support the other amendments we are discussing. We must address this now rather than making minor changes further on in the Bill. The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out many of my other amendments on this principle and I am forced to press this amendment because it is important that we ensure that the responsibilities of other Departments and the Government appear at an early stage in the legislation.

  Mr. Fahey: Section 1 provides for commencement orders by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in respect of the Bill except for Part 2. This is a matter for the Minister Health and Children, after consultation with the Minister for Education and Science, as these Ministers have primary responsibility for the matters covered in that part of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 10 seek to remove from the Bill provisions relating to commencement, the intention being to allow immediate commencement on enactment. Such an approach would be unusual for a Bill of such size, diversity and complexity.

With regard to Part 3, these provisions will become operative on 31 December 2005. When the Bill was published, the Taoiseach remarked that putting in place the full set of measures set out in the Bill will take time. The scope of the Bill is ambitious and people will understand that these services and supports will take time to put in place.

The priority, however, for the Government is to enact the Bill, as promised in the programme for Government. The Government intends to implement the provisions of the Bill as quickly as possible. The HSE is working on the detail of the practical implementation of the new arrangements, regulations and standards that will come into being and the Government will implement this Bill as soon as physically possible.

  Mr. Stanton: On amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 10, there must be something in the Bill that provides [1526] for commencement. We all want to see it start as soon as possible but there must be a mechanism to enable it to begin. That is standard in most Bills.

The Minister of State did not react to amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 11, which are technical in nature. Does he agree with them or is he going to ignore them altogether? They propose the use of the active voice, as recommended by the Law Reform Commission. During the debate on the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Bill, the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, accepted amendments that were almost identical to these. Will the Government take the advice of the Law Reform Commission in its report on legislative drafting?

Can the amendments be moved if amendment No. 6 falls? Why were they taken together? The three I have tabled have a totally different intention from amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 10.

  Mr. Fahey: Since Committee Stage, I have consulted the parliamentary counsel’s office and I have taken into account the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission in 2000 regarding the use of plain language in legislative drafting, which promotes the use of the active voice. The text as drafted is in accordance with these recommendations and uses the active voice and future tense, rather than the present tense as proposed by the amendment. This is the style used in the Bill so I will not accept the amendments.

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 7 to 13, inclusive, not moved.

  Mr. Fahey: I move amendment No. 13a:

In page 6, line 24, to delete “of,” and substitute “of”.

This is a technical amendment to rectify a proofing error.

Amendment agreed to.

  Mr. Fahey: I move amendment No. 13b:

In page 6, lines 26 and 27, to delete “Local Government Acts 1925 to 2003” and substitute “Local Government Act 2001”.

This is a technical amendment to import into the Bill the correct definition of local authorities contained in the Local Government Act 2001. I am grateful to Deputy Lynch for bringing this matter to my attention on Committee Stage.

Deputy Lynch’s amendment No. 14 proposes to alter the citation of the Local Government Acts in a different way. The Local Government Act 2001 contains the most up-to-date definition [1527] of a local authority. This Act replaced the definition in the 1941 Local Government Act which was used in the interpretation of relevant legislation prior to 2001. I am advised that a reference to the 2001 Local Government Act will be sufficient and is the preferred option from a legal perspective. Government amendment No. 62a deletes a reference to the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill which is unlikely to be enacted before the Disability Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 14 not moved.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 14a and 15 are related and will be taken together.

  Mr. Fahey: I move amendment No. 14a:

In page 6, line 31, after “operates” to insert “a”.

This is a technical amendment to make a grammatical correction.

Amendment No. 15 seeks to replace the terms “historic or touristic” in referring to railway with the term “heritage”. I amended the definition of passenger transport services on Committee Stage to reflect concerns expressed by Members and others that the definition was unduly wide and will encompass access to some mainstream train services. In doing so, I drew on the language and definition in the Transport Acts and in particular the 2001 Railway Safety Bill which is before the Oireachtas. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept amendment No. 15.

Amendment agreed to.

  Mr. F. McGrath: I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, line 32, to delete “historic or touristic” and substitute “heritage”.

Question, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand”, put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 16 not moved.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 17 to 20, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are alternatives to amendment No. 20. Amendments Nos. 17 to 22, inclusive, will be taken together.

  Mr. Stanton: I move amendment No. 17:

In page 7, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“(i) any private body which provides services and products to the public;”.

[1528] Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 deal with public moneys made available to private bodies. The concern is that if a private body provides services and products to the public using public money, it should be accountable. If public money is used, required services should be provided to people with disabilities.

  Mr. Fahey: The Bill is a positive action measure geared to support participation by people with disabilities in society. It places a significant positive obligation on public service providers in this respect. The extension of such obligations to voluntary and private bodies could be viewed as an unreasonable encroachment into service organisations, particularly those run on a commercial basis. These organisations are already obliged to comply with employment equality and equal status legislation which is of relatively recent origin.

These amendments would place certain obligations on voluntary and private bodies. Part 3 requires that services provided by public bodies are made accessible and would be subject to complaint ultimately to the Ombudsman. These amendments, if accepted, would, for example, require cinemas and shops to retrofit their premises over the next ten years. Sports centres would have to present all literature in accessible forms, irrespective of cost. Organisations, such as the National Women’s Council, in receipt of State support would have to ensure any service they purchased is disability accessible.

Part 5 established a statutory basis for the 3% employment target. This would be broadened to include the whole economy. If these amendments were accepted, those carrying out car tests for the national car test would be obliged to observe an employment target for people with disabilities. Similar provisions would extend to contractors in publicly funded road and building projects. I am not convinced that the proposed amendments would help in practical terms in attaining the goals of the Bill. It is better to maintain an approach based on the mainstream public bodies which we all use and which have a public duty to accommodate all citizens.

  Mr. Stanton: The concern is that when the Bill is enacted, if a body receives public money, it would be obliged to ensure that people with disabilities are facilitated. From what the Minister of State has said, that will be the intention.

  Mr. Fahey: I did not say that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 18 not moved.

  Mr. F. McGrath: I move amendment No. 19:

[1529] In page 7, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“(i) any body, organisation or group financed wholly or partly by a Minister of the [1530] Government and standing prescribed by the Minister;”.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 60.

    Boyle, Dan.

    Breen, James.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Cowley, Jerry.

    Crowe, Seán.

    Cuffe, Ciarán.

    Ferris, Martin.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gregory, Tony.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Joe.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McGrath, Finian.

    McHugh, Paddy.

    McManus, Liz.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Murphy, Catherine.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O’Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sherlock, Joe.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Upton, Mary.

Níl

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Blaney, Niall.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Seamus.

    Browne, John.

    Carey, Pat.

    Carty, John.

    Collins, Michael.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Cullen, Martin.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Gallagher, Pat The Cope.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McDowell, Michael.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    McGuinness, John.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Mulcahy, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.

    O’Connor, Charlie.

    O’Dea, Willie.

    O’Donovan, Denis.

    O’Flynn, Noel.

    O’Keeffe, Batt.

    O’Malley, Fiona.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Smith, Michael.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Walsh, Joe.

    Woods, Michael.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies F. McGrath and Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.

Amendment declared lost.

Debate adjourned.