Order of Business: Parliamentary Oversight of Human Rights

20.11.2013

Senator Zappone:

I support Senator O'Donovan's very eloquent call for a debate on fishing. We have extraordinary expertise in this House in the person of Senator O'Donovan, together with other colleagues. It is an issue on which we might well expect to make a unique contribution and on which we might usefully engage the public by way of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee.

I welcome the publication of a briefing note by the Department of Justice and Equality on the family relationships and children Bill, which is a very positive and long-awaited development. I praise the Minister for his commitment to modernising the very outdated law in this area. Our laws must reflect the lived realities of families throughout the country. The publication of a briefing note on this very sensitive issue, which is relevant to large numbers of people in the State, will allow us to examine and review it before the heads of the Bill are presented for debate. It is a very constructive way of legislating.

Last week I took part in a high-level workshop at King's College on effective parliamentary oversight of human rights. Several international experts and academics contributed to the discussion, from the Philippines, Australia, Canada, South Africa and throughout Europe. I presented a paper setting out my views on the effectiveness of our parliamentary oversight in the area of human rights. I will be submitting that document to the justice committee and hope to return to this House with some points for discussion. With that in mind, will the Leader indicate when we should expect to see the legislation establishing an Irish human rights and equality commission? The Minister indicated some time ago that its publication was imminent, but we are still waiting. The heads of the Bill were published in May 2012.

It has been a month since the Taoiseach came to the House to hear our views on Seanad reform. Will the Leader provide an update on how the Taoiseach is getting on in terms of proposals for reform? Has he met party leaders and when are we likely to see progress in this regard?

Human Rights
Human Rights
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