NEW measures to tackle crimes against persons with disabilities have been sought in the Dáil by West Cork Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.
The Bandon-based deputy said a report published in 2014 by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties found that people with disabilities who are victims of crime experience the same problems of under-reporting, lack of information provision, lack of private areas in courtrooms and delays in progressing complaints which apply in regard to all other victims in Ireland.
‘However, very often the centrality of their outsider status is more pronounced,’ she said. ‘One of the difficulties highlighted was the adversarial nature of our legal system, which as one of the authors pointed out can also be a discriminatory barrier given its emphasis on spoken testimony, lawyer-led questioning, observation of the demeanour of a witness, the curtailment of free-flowing witness narrative, confrontation and robust cross-examination.’
Deputy Murphy O’Mahony said clearly that can be particularly difficult for those, for example, who have a difficulty with a long-term memory recall and with communicating information, with cognitive overload and with questioning that invites acquiescence and compliance. ‘Has the Department of Justice and Equality reviewed legislation with a view to making the system more accessible for people with disabilities,’ she asked.
In reply Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 makes very specific provisions requiring gardaí to carry our special measures in their assessments of victims. ‘The Bill represents a sea change across the criminal justice sector in our attitude to victims,’ she said.
Meanwhile, the granting of a licence for the mechanical harvesting of sea kelp in Bantry Bay is an example of how to stop a natural renewable process dead in its tracks, Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan has told the Upper House.
Senator O’Sullivan said the licence will cover 1,860 acres of native kelp forest. It was not advertised adequately within the local community, and contains no requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment.
‘There are a number of central issues with the agreement between BioAtlantis, the licensee, and the Department,’ she said. ‘The public consultation has been woefully inadequate. There has only been one public advertisement of the application in the Southern Star newspaper in December 2009, which did not mention the large size of the area under consideration, the mechanical nature of the harvesting or the indigenous nature of the kelp forest in question,’ she told the House.
‘Neither Cork County Council nor its western division, which covers the Bantry Bay area, was consulted on the plans. There seems to have been an almost deliberate exclusion of the Bantry Bay Coastal Zone Charter group, an EU-funded organisation designed to protect the bay from exactly such inappropriate developments,’ she added.
Senator O’Sullivan said the 1,860 acres was the equivalent of cutting down 38% of Killarney National Park.
‘The Minister of State Deputy Damien English, clarified that the extraction will work on the principle of rotation, but that still means a massive area of the bay will be facing mechanical harvesting in any single period.’
In reply, Minister of State Catherine Byrne said the licence is of a trial nature and was granted for a period of 10 years, commencing in 2014. It allows for the mechanical harvest of certain kelp species, within five specified zones, but with only one zone to be harvested in any one year.
‘The planned rotation is four years with the fifth zone being a standby zone, to be used only if weather prevents access to a zone in any particular year. On average, less than 1% of the bay will be harvested annually and much of the kelp in the bay will not be subject to harvest at all,’ she concluded.