Deputy Hayes welcomes new spent convictions legislation

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

New legislation which provides that somebody who has been convicted of a minor offence will not be required to disclose it when applying for a job was welcomed by Fine Gael Deputy Tom Hayes.

“Spent convictions apply to both custodial and non-custodial sentences,” said. “It does not mean that the record of the conviction is deleted; rather, that it can only be accessed and made public in certain circumstances. There are numerous exceptions to non-disclosure rules. Only convictions resulting in sentences of 12 months or less are capable of being spent under this Bill.”

Deputy Hayes said he wondered about the setting of the 12-month period. What thought went into that decision, he asked.

“I ask the Minister of State to explain the reason a period of 12 months was decided upon,” he said. “There are people who committed crimes in their younger days for which they were given custodial sentences of more than 12 months, but who have now got their lives back together and got jobs and are working hard to support their families. They have worked with other people in their communities and they are remorseful for what they did in the past. I wonder if the 12-month period provided for in the Bill is too strict. In that respect, there are convincing arguments to be made.”

Like every other public representative, Deputy Hayes said he deals with people in his clinics who have been sentenced, are remorseful for having committed an offence and want to do something about it.

“They want to improve themselves and take up another job but because of the conviction they cannot get one,” he said. “That is problem facing ordinary people who in these difficult times are only trying to work to support their families. I recently met a man who was an example in this respect in the way he was looking after his elderly parents at home. He wanted to improve his lot but a conviction from many years ago was still preventing him from getting certain work.”

“We need to be braver in what we are doing in this Bill, because it could improve the quality of people’s lives and help many people,” he added. “As society is developing and the public are more accepting of the fact that people can make mistakes and later want to improve their lot, we should be more open in the way we approach people with such convictions.”

McGrath calls on GPs to act responsibly

It is time for GPs to “pony up”, level with people and tell them to stop coming into the surgery, South Tipperary Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath told the Dáil.

Speaking on a Health Bill, he said he knew people who go to Mass in the morning, call to their GP, go to the chemist, buy their few groceries and then go home.

“It is a type of social event,” he said. “That is happening. They are lonely and isolated people. The doctors should tell them to call once a fortnight or once a month, unless they are sick. I have seen this happening. We all do when we are out canvassing. We call to the health centres and see what happens. I am not saying those people are doing anything wrong. They are entitled to do that, but what if they had to pay for it?”

That is happening. They are lonely and isolated people. The doctors should tell them to call once a fortnight or once a month, unless they are sick. I have seen this happening. We all do when we are out canvassing. We call to the health centres and see what happens. I am not saying those people are doing anything wrong. They are entitled to do that, but what if they had to pay for it?”

Deputy McGrath said he had often rung on a Monday morning about a child who had been sick since Saturday or Sunday night only to be told to come in on the Tuesday morning at ten o’clock.

“In the meantime, one has a screaming child. That is the other aspect of this, when the doctor’s office is full of people who do not need to be there. The GPs have a big role to play in this. With the roll-out of special centres for medical care, we will have to deal with this issue because it is unacceptable.”

He added that had often been brought into a kitchen or parlour where press after press, even cabinets for good delph and china, were full of tablets.

“The tablets have been hoarded, unused, which is quite dangerous. They should have been returned to the GP for charities or to be sent abroad if they are still safe for use. They are dished out by the chemists when the Government is paying for them. We must examine this very carefully. We must be responsible about it but we must deal with it effectively. I am disappointed, as is always the case with the Department of Health and the HSE, that there is very poor consultation with the stakeholders.”

Politics being brought into disrepute - Healy

Politicians, politics and political parties are being brought into disrepute on a daily basis because solemn promises and commitments made to the electorate in the course of a general election are being reneged on, Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.

“Young people can no longer trust or believe statements made by politicians,” he said. “The Government continues to have choices. This is a very wealthy country, with significant numbers of wealthy individuals who do not pay their fair share of taxation. In recent days, we learned that the chief executive officer of the Bank of Ireland receives an annual salary, excluding additional payments, of approximately €690,000. Last week, the Minister for Finance informed me that 10,000 individuals have a combined income of almost €6 billion per annum, giving an average annual income of €595,000. Moreover, a further 20,000 individuals have a combined annual income of €8.742 billion per annum, giving an average income of more than €400,000.”

Deputy Healy said these extraordinarily wealthy people do not pay their fair share of taxation, yet the Government refused to impose any tax increases on them in the previous budget.

“We were told the Labour Party was prepared to walk out of government on this issue, but it did not do so,” he said. “Even if we were to take 10%, 15% or 20% of the incomes of the wealthiest individuals in Ireland, they would remain extremely rich.”

On the basis that it expounded a policy of universality and free general practitioner care for all during the general election campaign, people expected the Government to introduce a Bill to implement its policy commitments, he said.

“We could have at least expected it to implement some reasonable measures, for example, the provision of free general practitioner cards for people with long-term illnesses,” he said. “The Government told us such a scheme would be in operation by June 2012, yet there is no sign of the relevant legislation. It is clear that legislation to reduce eligibility can be introduced at the drop of a hat, whereas there is always a problem with drafting or some other aspect of legislation when one wishes to extend eligibility.”