Ireland Democracy, devolution and governance

Oireachtas report: April 2021

Summary

This briefing provides a summary of Oireachtas activity in April, covering social housing, new personal injuries guidelines and private security services.

Briefing in full

Key events at a glance

1st April 2021 – NPHET’s travel advisory committee proposes to add 43 new countries including France, Germany and the US to the list of countries subject to mandatory hotel quarantine.

20th April 2021- Robert Watt is appointed Secretary-General of the Department of Health and announces that he will waive any salary increase due to him until the economy improves after the pandemic. The Oireachtas Finance Committee invited Mr Watt to appear before them to discuss how the salary issue will be dealt with in practice.

21st April 2021 – The results of Seanad by-elections are good news for government with Fine Gael’s Maria Byrne elected on the Agricultural Panel, and Fianna Fáil’s Gerry Horkan on the Industrial and Commercial Panel. Both were elected on the first count.

22nd April 2021 – An internal review in the Department of Health rejected claims made in an RTÉ investigation that it compiled secret dossiers on children with autism who were suing the State.

27th April 2021 – Former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D. announces his immediate resignation from the Dáil resulting in a near-future by-election in Dublin Bay South;

28th April 2021- DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister, Arlene Foster, announces her resignation from both positions sparking a DUP leadership contest and renewed concerns about the stability of the political institutions in the North.

29th April 2021 – Taoiseach Micheál Martin announces phased re-opening of the economy from the 10th May 2021 amid increasing optimism over the increasing pace of the vaccine rollout.

Planning and Development (Amendment) (Repeal of Part V Leasing) Bill 2021

Overview

The Bill is a Private Members Bill tabled by Social Democrat T.D. Cian O’Callaghan. The purpose of this Bill is to enhance the provision of affordable and social homes. It aims to do this by revising the existing Part V arrangements. The Bill repeals the provisions introduced by the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, which allow Part V obligations to be met through leasing. The reason for removing leasing as a Part V option is to ensure that affordable and social homes are secured for long term use by the State.

Key Provisions

The Bill seeks to amend Section 96 of the Planning and Development Act of 2000. It does this by repealing the provisions relating to Part V leasing, as inserted by the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, 2015.

Progress of the Bill

The Bill was introduced by Cian O’Callaghan T.D. on the 28th April 2021 and debated at the second stage on the 6th May. The Bill passed second stage in the Dáil without a division being called.

Judicial Council (Amendment) Bill 2021

Overview

A Private Members Bill, published by Pearse Doherty in the context of the new personal injuries guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council on 6th of March, which took legal effect on 24th April. The Bill provides for the insurance industry to report to the Central Bank on the progress they have made on reducing customer premiums in response to the reduced awards introduced by the new personal injuries guidelines.

Key Provisions

The Bill provides for a report on the effect of the personal injury guidelines on the cost of insurance. There is provision for the Minister for Finance to make regulations requiring insurance companies to provide information to the Central Bank on how the new personal injury guidelines have impacted on policies for policyholders.

There is a provision that regulations may require insurance companies to provide the Central Bank with information about a number of matters:

  • the amount paid by insurers by way of personal injuries;
  • the amount that would have been paid in personal injury awards if the personal injury had not come into effect;
  • the amount charged by insurance companies by way of premiums for policies covering third-party personal injuries; and
  • the amount that insurance companies would have expected to charge by way of premiums if the guidelines had not come into effect.

The Bill provides that such information will be provided in each of the four years following the personal injury guidelines having come into effect.

Progress of the Bill

The Bill was introduced on the 21st April 2021 but has not progressed to second stage as yet.

Private Security Services (Amendment) Bill 2021

Overview

The main purpose of the Private Security Services (Amendment) Bill 2021 is to include an additional category and a definition of ‘enforcement guard’ in the list of security services covered by the Private Security Services Act, 2004. The Bill has its origins in incidents surrounding the removal of persons from a private property on North Frederick Street in September 2018 on foot of a High Court order. The persons were removed by a private security firm. The personnel who attended at the property on behalf of the private security firm were not subject to regulation or licensing by the Private Security Authority under the Private Security Services Act 2004, as amended. This was because the activity they were engaged in did not fall within the definition of what constitutes a security service under the Act.

Following widespread public disquiet at the time the then Minister for Justice and Equality made a commitment to the Dáil in September 2018 that the law governing the area of persons involved in the execution of court orders that are not licensable by the Private Security Authority would be examined. A private members bill by Donnacha O Laoghaire T.D. with similar objectives to the government bill was passed by the Dáil at second stage in November 2020.

Key Provisions

  • The Bill inserts a new category of ‘enforcement guard’ in the list of security services covered by the 2004 Act.
  • An enforcement guard is defined as a person other than a sheriff, county registrar or court messenger who for remuneration, as part of his or her duties, is authorised to perform any of the following functions:

(a) removing one or more persons from any premises or any other place in order to take possession of the premises or place;

(b) controlling, supervising or restricting entry by one or more persons to any premises or any other place in order to take possession of the premises or place; or

(c) seizing goods or other property in lieu of an outstanding debt,

  • The activities outlined above must have been authorised under a piece of legislation, be pursuant to a Court order or in accordance with an agreement, pursuant to a contract, or otherwise in accordance with the law.
  • A further exemption from licensing by the Private Security Authority for those engaged in the enforced collection of Revenue liabilities by a Sheriff or County Registrar.
  • Provides that the Private Security Authority can include the actions of directors, shareholders, managers, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or any person purporting to act in that capacity when refusing to renew a licence, or suspend or revoke a licence.
  • Makes the register of licensed persons available for inspection free of charge by members of the public both at its principal office and online.