‘This could come back to haunt us’

People should remind themselves that, even though certain comments are made about the church and religion and persons being sanctimonious, that what they are really talking about in the 
Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is the human right to life.

People should remind themselves that, even though certain comments are made about the church and religion and persons being sanctimonious, that what they are really talking about in the 
Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is the human right to life.

Speaking during a debate on the Bill in the Seanad Eireann, he said it is widely acknowledged from the current debate that Ireland has the safest medical environment for an expectant mother.

Second, treatment is not withheld where the life of the mother is in danger even if it does necessitate the loss of life of the unborn child.

“Third, we learned, as the debate went on, that Europe did not require or demand that we introduce this type of legislation, simply clarification,” he said. “In so far as possible, certain sections of the Bill, clarification is forthcoming and that must be welcomed.”

He said many people were surprised that conscientious objection did not extend to Members of the Oireachtas and that the Whip was ruthlessly used against people who wanted to express their own view.

“Early in the debate we were told to leave personal opinions aside and even went as far as telling us to leave our conscience outside the gates of Leinster House,” he said.

At the recent Oireachtas Committee hearings, he said he was particularly interested in the evidence given by the psychiatrists during the hearings.

“If those hearings were meant to be meaningful and the intent was to inform ourselves and Government policy, the psychiatrists were quite clear that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation,” he said. “If I read it correctly then we are asking medical practitioners to involve themselves in a procedure that is not evidenced-based. If we are prepared to throw the evidence-based concept out of the window when it comes to medical practice then we know full well that the move will come back to haunt us in future debates and discussions.”

Landy calls for review

of VAT regime

There is a need for a comprehensive review of the VAT regime, Tipperary Labour Senator Denis Landy told the Upper House. He said he wished to provide a number of examples of the ludicrous situation which obtains in respect of VAT at present.

“The rate of VAT on fruit juice is 23%, while that relating to frozen pizzas is 0%,” he said. “The rate on walking sticks is 23%, while that relating to limousine hire is 0%. The Minister of State can clearly see that there is no connection between the services people need and the system of VAT currently in place. If we carry out a review of and reform our VAT regime, this would give rise to great job creation opportunities. I alluded to tourism and it is important to note that the number of jobs and the packages on offer from hotels, restaurants and others in the sector have both increased.”

The rate of VAT on wool is 23%, whereas the rate which applies in respect of purchases of gold for investment purposes is 0%, he said.

On a lighter note, he said he could not give it as the reason Tipperary were beaten by Kilkenny, surely VAT-rating a hurley at 23% does not help the hard-pressed tax hurlers in Tipperary.

Replying on behalf of the Minister for Finance, Minister of State John Perry said the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of European Union VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply.

“The EU VAT directive provides that each EU member state must apply a standard VAT rate to the majority of goods and services,” he said. “The standard VAT rate must be set at a rate not lower than 15% and there is political agreement that it does not exceed 25%, although it is possible to set the rate higher. Hungary has introduced a standard rate of 27% in recent years. In addition, member states may apply up to two reduced VAT rates of between 5% and 15% for a range of goods or services.”

New Child Agency will require a major cultural shift - McGrath

Up to 4,000 staff will be transferred to the new Child and Family Agency which is being established following the long-standing criticism of the handling of child protection and social services by the Health Service Executive, Tipperary Independent TD, Deputy Mattie McGrath told the Dáil.

The new Child and Family agency will be one of the largest public bodies in the State.

“It will have an estimated budget of €500 million,” he said.

“The new agency has been formed as an alternative to the old HSE child and family services area. It is envisaged that by creating an independent agency, children’s rights, child protection, child welfare and family support would be given additional priority and resources from within the vastness of the old HSE structures.”

Child protection and children’s rights were not prioritised previously, a fact admitted by Brendan Drumm when he was departing as chief executive of the HSE, said Deputy McGrath. However, the creation of the new agency should be done carefully and strategically.

“There is a risk that the practices and culture of the HSE could transfer to the new agency, especially given that almost all of the staff who will be working in the new agency are currently working within the HSE,” he said.