Order of Business, 25 January 2012

25th January 2012

I encourage my colleagues to participate in the Private Members’ debate on the motion proposed by the Independent group on disability support and services. I appeal to Members to support the motion as proposed. This is an important debate and I hope the House will support the very clear action points in the motion. It will be led by my colleague, Senator Mary Ann O’Brien.

I recall the Private Members’ motion by the Independent group on 12 October 2011 on criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland. We are three months into the six-month period indicated by the Minister for Justice and Equality for public consultation. This matter was raised in the Dáil last week by Deputy Kevin Humphreys and the Minister advised that the consultation process would be ready before the end of January. However, I am concerned by the inclusion of a caveat in the Minister’s reply that the publication of the document before the end of January is subject to resources, having regard to compelling priorities including legislative priorities. I fully appreciate the financial times we are in and I know that the Government needs to prioritise its work. However, the debate we had on 12 October 2011 showed a clear link between prostitution and trafficking, particularly in respect of trafficking children for sexual exploitation. The protection of women and children from sexual exploitation must be a Government priority. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to confirm that the consultation document will be published and that the consultation process will commence without further delay.

I also wish to raise whistleblower legislation. The situation of Louise Bayliss has been raised by the media in recent days. Coincidentally, she met me last Tuesday to discuss lone parents, before she heard the news. She is an advocate who has spoken out and we need to remember the five women she spoke out about, who were being put into a closed unit. How do we know how many other people are in that situation if we do not produce whistleblowing legislation? There should also be independent funding for advocacy organisations. This does not concern new funding but the basis of funding for the organisations working as advocates.

Finally, I wish to raise Children’s Rights Alliance report card launched on Monday. Last week, I called for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to come to the House and I suggest to the House that this is an excellent basis for discussion. The Government has failed in the report card in regard to St. Patrick’s institution and the continued detention of children in an adult prison regime. The effects of budget 2012 on lone parents and large families and the implications for child poverty were highlighted. The Government got the best grade any Government has received in four years but that does not mean it is good enough. We need to do more. It is a wide-ranging report which looks at all aspects of a child’s life and would provide an excellent foundation for a debate.