Legislative Programme for Spring/Summer 2017

Office of the Government Chief Whip

17th January, 2017

In our third Government Legislative Programme since taking office in May 2016 the Partnership Government has set out our legislative priorities for the first half of 2017.

 After almost nine months in office and with our first Budget passed, the Government has used this Legislative Programme to focus on delivering a range of commitments in our Programme for a Partnership Government by setting out the Bills prioritised for publication and those scheduled for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny over the coming months.

 As a minority Government we will continue to work with all those elected to the Dáil and Seanad at Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Stage, in the Dáil, in Oireachtas Committees and in the Seanad to debate and enact better legislation.

 This Government Legislative Programme is divided into a number of sections

  • The first sets out the details of 31 Government Bills to be published by July 2017.
  • The second sets out the details of 33 Bills to undergo Pre-Legislative Stage in this Session.
  • The third sets out the details of 69 Bills each Department plans to introduce in the longer term.
  • The fourth sets out the 27 Bills which have already been published and are currently before the Oireachtas, detailing the progress they have so far made.
  • The final two sections set out the 18 Acts passed and the 28 Bills published by the current Government since it took office on the 6th May 2016.

Cabinet has prioritised 31 Bills for publication in this Programme including the Affordable Childcare Scheme Bill to provide a single affordable childcare scheme, the Financial Services & Pensions Ombudsman to establish one office dealing with pensions and financial services complaints.

Among a range of Health Bills included in the Government’s Legislative Programme are Bills to provide a scheme to make individual payments as a contribution towards transport costs for people with severe disabilities on low incomes, to provide medical cards to all children on Domiciliary Care Allowance, licensing supervised injection facilities and laying the legislative foundation of the New Children’s Hospital.

The Government will build on the radical Housing Legislation passed before Christmas with the publication of new legislation to regulate Approved Housing Bodies.

Among the other Bills prioritised for publication over the coming months are a range of Bills from the Department of Jobs, key reforming legislation from the Department of Justice in the area of the Judiciary and the laws on Domestic Violence and significant legislative reform in the area of Sea Fisheries.

These 31 new Government Bills, together with the 27 Government Bills currently before the Oireachtas, will ensure that this Partnership Government will make progress on legislation across a wide range of issues as it enters its second year in office, in the first half of 2017.

LEGISLATION

Doherty joins Cabinet in approving strengthening of powers for GSOC

“Much needed legislation on the way to ensure effective management of complaints by GSOC.” That’s according to local Fine Gael TD for Meath East, and Minister of State at the Department of An Taoiseach, Regina Doherty.

Last week, Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty joined her Cabinet colleagues in approving a proposal for legislation to be drafted to strengthen powers for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).


The Meath based Minister said “I was delighted to join my Fine Gael and independent colleagues in approving the proposal by the Minister for Justice, Francis Fitzgerald, which will ensure a strengthening of powers for GSOC in the course of investigating complaints against members of the Gardaí.


“The Bill will now be drafted in consultation with a number of key stakeholders with a view to ensuring the mechanisms put in place by the state are adequate and that GSOC is adequately equipped to receive protected disclosures.”


Continuing, local Minister Regina Doherty said “last week we also saw the Criminal Justice (Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment) Bill 2016 in the Dáil which will ensure that the suspended sentences regime, an integral part of our criminal justice system, operates efficiently and effectively.


“This Bill will allow for an appeals process for the triggering offence before consideration of the withdrawal of the suspended sentence. This crucial piece of legislation also gives provision for the Garda Síochána, the Governor of a prison or a probation officer to apply to the court for a hearing to revoke a suspended sentence in the instance of a breach of this sentence.


“Particularly in the context of the spate of thefts and burglaries that we have seen in recent months across county Meath, I am hopeful that this change in law will prevent these crimes taking place in our communities, many of which are performed by repeat offenders – a bleak reality which I was informed of when my own home was broken into last summer.”


Concluding, Minister Doherty said “it is vitally important that we continue to ensure that the mechanisms of the state are equipped with the necessary laws to deal with threats to individuals and communities across Meath. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with Minister Fitzgerald and my other Fine Gael and independent Ministers in my role as Government Chief Whip to ensure the delivery of just that.”  


ENDS

Legislation by women for women

Fine Gael female Ministers, TDs, Senators and Councillors have joined forces in advance of International Women’s Day (tomorrow, Wednesday 8th March) to highlight the work they are doing which will positively impact the lives of women and their families nationwide.

Fine Gael has more women elected to the Dáil than any other party. It is a modern progressive party with many hardworking women focused on social progress, finding solutions to problems and working to improve the world around them.

The introduction of gender quotas by Fine Gael in Government was a landmark moment in increasing the participation of women in politics. In addition, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny appointed the highest number of female Ministers than any other Taoiseach before him.

The Tánaiste, and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, highlighted the work in the Department of Justice that is positively impacting on the lives of women.

“New landmark domestic violence legislation is going to improve the protections available to victims most critically for cohabitants and parents in crisis situations, by introducing a new emergency barring order which can last for up to eight working days. This legislation along with the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, will help to protect women in Ireland.

“The Mediation Bill 2017, will put mediation as an option at the centre of the court process, which is much easier and more cost effective than full legal proceedings for family disputes for example. It also makes provision for the involvement of children in the mediation process,” the Tánaiste said.

Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, spoke about the array of legislation currently going through the Oireachtas. “Twenty Government Bills have been enacted since this Government formed just over ten months ago. Fine Gael has a range of legislation and policy initiatives that will positively impact on the lives of women and their families. We’ve enacted new legislation to bring down the cost of childcare, we’ve introduced a second free pre-school year and we’ve introduced paternity leave for Dads for the first time ever- all designed to make life easier for working parents,” Deputy Doherty said.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, spoke about the involvement of women in the year of commemorations. “Last year, for the first time, the role of women in the revolutionary generation was fully reflected. As we commemorated the events of 1916, we heard the stories of women who played a pivotal role in the Rising. Next year, we will mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, when we will remember the women who fought so hard to ensure we could all have our voices heard. It will also provide us with an opportunity to reflect on women in Irish society over the last century and how we went from a situation in 1919 when Countess Markievicz was the first female minister in a modern democracy, to a situation today where women are still under-represented in Irish politics.”

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Minister Mitchell O’Connor, commented on the ongoing success in the area of job creation. “The number of people at work is now at its highest level since 2008. The monthly unemployment figure has dropped to 6.6%. 66,100 new jobs were announced last year. 70% of those were outside Dublin. We have had an extremely strong start to 2017, with close to 3,500 jobs announced to date. Our target for this year under the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 is 45,000 new jobs. I want two out of every three new jobs created to be in regions around the country,” she said.

Fine Gael is working hard to build a fair and compassionate society with thriving communities across every region. In order to do so we must protect and sustain the economic progress the country has made, so that we can use it to benefit the people who need it most.

Irish women know better than most how that economic progress has been hard won over the last six years. We cannot afford to throw it all away on other parties who would risk our recovery. Fine Gael is working day and night to ensure that every single family sees the benefits of an economy that is growing strongly once again.

ENDS

Traveller recognition as ethnic group could have a transformative effect on relations between Travellers and the wider society

The formal recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group could have a transformative effect on relations between Travellers and the wider society. That’s according to local Minister and Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, following  Dáil statement on the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group.

The local Meath based Minister said “it was truly humbling to be present in Dáil Éireann this week (Wednesday 1st March) as An Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave a powerful statement recognising Travellers as a distinct ethnic identity.

“It was a moving statement witnessed by a large contingent of Travellers watching and listening with intent from the overlooking Dáil gallery. As was acknowledged by the Taoiseach, we all want the same for our children – this, in particular struck a chord with me.

“No child should be embarrassed by who they are or where they come from, rather it is with pride that our children should be able to reach their absolute potential, regardless of country or culture of origin and without prejudice. The official recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group, I sincerely hope will assist in ridding our society of exclusion, marginalisation and negativity between our people.

“There is an overlap, and much in common, between the wider Irish society and Travellers in terms of how we can identify, however, there are indeed a number of cultural, heritage, linguistic and emotional associations for Travellers, which combined, brings about their own unique ethnic identity.” 

Concluding, the Government Chief Whip said “The recognition of Travellers as a distinct ethnic identity is further confirmation that Ireland is a society in which everyone can be and live as they truly are. The acknowledgement of Travellers in our equality legislation, I am hopeful, will contribute to greater understanding and relations between ‘a people within our people’ as was to aptly in the Dáil this week.” 


END

Mediation Bill will reduce costs and relieve pressure on court proceedings- Doherty

Meath East Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, has said that the Mediation Bill, which was brought to cabinet this week will substantially reduce legal costs for parties and significantly relive growing pressure on our court proceedings. 

The Meath based Minister said “This week I joined my cabinet colleges in approving the Mediation Bill 2017 which is to be presented to Dáil and Seanad Éireann in the coming weeks. The Bill, which received Government approval in 2012, has already been scrutinised by Oireachtas members and stakeholders at Committee stage is a stronger piece of legislation today following the incorporation of numerous recommendations on foot of this thorough examination


“I regularly meet with constituents who seek advice at my constituency clinics and raise issues of the extraordinary costs and waiting times to seek resolutions to various disputes through the courts. This Bill will, on agreement for participation by all parties involved, substantially reduce legal costs for families and organisations and drastically speed up the resolution of disputes.
 

“To a family or individual, the alleviation of extensive financial burdens and stress experienced through many court proceedings which will prevail following the enactment of this Bill will, I am sure, be welcomed by many throughout Meath.

“Tánaiste and Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has also made provisions in this Bill for the proposed establishment of a self-financed Mediation Council. The core responsibility of the proposed Council will be to oversee the development of the mediation sector whilst encompassing balanced representation from the primary mediation organisations and a number of public interest members.

“If established, the self-financed Mediation Council will focus on public awareness of mediation which will be complimented by the obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise mediation – a measure also contained in this bill – and to prepare codes of practices and regulation for mediators. 

“Thanks to the Mediation Bill 2017, instances of successful outcomes will be speedy and associated costs a mere fraction to that in comparison to court proceedings.”

Concluding, Minister Doherty said “the Mediation Bill 2017 is a much welcomed cost effective alternative to expensive court proceedings, coming at no cost to the exchequer, and will be available to any and all parties willing to engage.”

ENDS

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