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Question

27. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency which will provide for mandatory and automatic referral of all maternity-related deaths here to the coroner for inquest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33375/17]

Answer

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I thank Deputy Harty for tabling this important question. As the Deputy will be aware, his colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, proposed a Private Members' Bill, entitled the Coroners Bill 2015, to address issues with regard to the investigation into maternal deaths. That Bill proposed to introduce mandatory reporting, post-mortem examinations and inquests into any maternal death. It also proposed the extension of the current scheme of legal aid to next of kin in respect of maternal death inquests. I did not close it and the Minister, Deputy Ring, did not set it up. The reality is there was previously a Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - which, in its final iteration included the equality remit - set up by a Fianna Fáil Government. Fianna Fáil set up the CLÁR programme and the rural recreation scheme. I proposed the development of the greenway along the line from Westport to Achill - I have the newspaper cutting in that regard from the year in question. Fianna Fáil also set up the rural social scheme and many other schemes. When Fine Gael came into government in 2011, it demolished the then Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
I am glad that there has been a Pauline conversion and that the latter-day saint, the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, has realised that Fianna Fáil was right to have a Department of Rural and Community Development. However, the Government should have had the guts to include within its remit responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the islands, which are certainly not urban: they are geographic entities. The Government has not even had the good grace to spell out the functions of this Department. This could be a long day and it could be a long week. The Minister owes it to us to spell out the functions of this Department. Will it make a significant difference or is it a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of the Government in terms of investment in rural Ireland?
Ba mhaith liom focal a rá faoin leasú atá curtha isteach againn ar an mBille. Creideann muidne gur cheart go mbeadh freagracht na Gaeltachta agus na n-oileáin curtha faoin Roinn seo. Ní bheadh aon ghá ag an Taoiseach na Airí atá ceaptha aige don Roinn a athrú mar tá mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Seán Kyne, ag déanamh jab foirfe mar Aire Stáit le freagracht as an nGaeltacht. Ba é an Aire Stáit ab fhearr a bhí againn ó 2011. Má ghlacann an Teach leis an leasú atáimid ag moladh, agus má ghlacann an Taoiseach le toil an Tí, beifear in ann cúraimí na Gaeltachta agus na n-oileáin a aistriú go dtí an Roinn agus beifear in ann, gan aon dua agus gan teacht ar ais go dtí an Teach, tosnú le Roinn a chur le chéile go mbeadh substaint ag baint leis. Ná habair liomsa go bhfuil sé ciallmhar go mbeadh Roinn Forbartha Tuaithe agus Pobail atá ag plé le forbairt fisiciúil na Gaeltachta agus na n-oileáin agus go mbeadh Roinn eile ag plé le forbairt na gceantar tuaithe. Níl aon chiall leis. Tá a fhios ag an Aire nach bhfuil aon chiall leis.
Ar ndóigh, má bhíonn cearc á roinnt ní rabhthas sásta scaoileadh leis. Nuair a thángthas ag iarraidh cumhachtaí don Aire, fuarthas amach nach raibh an Roinn sásta géilleadh, mar is maith leis na Ranna Stáit an méid a bhfuil acu a choinneáil. Is iomaí sárú a bhí agam mar Aire le státseirbhísigh as Ranna éagsúla. Deirim i gcónaí gur gcaithfidh sé bheith curtha ina gcloigne nach raibh 15 rialtas ann, nó 16 rialtas mar is é sin an méid Ranna Stáit a bheas againn. Níl 16 rialtas againn. Níl ann ach Rialtas amháin de réir an Bhunreachta. Tá dualgas, ní hamháin ar na hAirí, ach ar na Ranna Stáit ar fad agus ar na comhlachtaí atá ag obair fúthu tuiscint chuile lá go bhfuil dualgas iomlán orthu feidhmiú mar aonad ar leasa an náisiúin. Sin rud nach dtarlaíonn. Cuireann na Ranna Stáit a spéiseanna roimh leas an phobail. Mar sin, beidh orainn smaoineamh go doimhin sula dtabharfaimid tacaíocht don mBille seo. Le cúnamh Dé, beidh deis ag an Aire inniu athmhachnamh a dhéanamh ar an gcur chuige seo. Beidh deis ag an Aire nó ag duine éigin ón Rialtas teacht ar ais go dtí an Teach agus a rá linn céard a bheas ar bun ag an Roinn seo. Beidh muid in ann breithiúnas a dhéanamh nuair a dhéanann an Rialtas é sin.