[Sinn Fein]

1st July 2003

Fast-tracking of Immigration Bill an attempt to bypass democratic debate

Objecting to the fast-tracking of the Immigration Bill 2003 Sinn Fein leader in the Dáil Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin speaking during Order of Business today said it was an unacceptable way to conduct business in the House, and he accused the Minister for Justice was attempting to bypass democratic debate.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: ``It is an example of the Minister's new practice of legislating by stealth - bypassing democratic debate by introducing extensive and unrelated amendments at Committee Stage to bills that have already been debated at Second Stage.

``The original Bill was published in February 2002 ? about a year and a half ago, and passed by the Seanad a year later ? this February. The Minister had plenty of time to introduce the proposed amendments prior to 2nd Stage debate in May of this year.

``Yet it was only after the debate had concluded that the Minister introduced 32 pages of proposed Committee Stage amendments ? essentially a completely new bill. His proposals include unrelated and draconian provisions, many of which violate Ireland's international obligations regarding the protection of refugees.

``The Minister has pushed this through committee and report stages with breathtaking speed, in the process preventing concerned human rights organisations from making submissions on the potential impact on people in need of international protection.

``Separate and apart from our objections to content of the Bill and the Minister's amendments, this is an appalling way to conduct House business ? involving as it does the bypassing of democratic debate. This practice must stop.''ENDS

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