Galway TD Denis Naughten says that the emergency powers which will be granted to the government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic must contain a “sunset clause” to give them an end date.
The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 is being debated in the Dáil today with multiple health and economic measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The bill contains measures to ensure the payment of illness benefits and unemployment payments to those affected by the spread of coronavirus.
It also gives the government powers to shut down mass gatherings, order people to stay in their homes in certain areas if necessary, and allows for the detention of a person if a medical recommendation has been made and they are refusing to self-isolate.
“These are very powerful legal provisions which must only be used to specifically deal with the current national health crisis, and we must be able to have the law repealed after this threat has abated,” Denis Naughten said.
Subsection 3 of the bill says that the measures in the legislation shall continue until May 9, but sections 4 and 5 allow for the Ministers of Health or Employment Affairs and Social Protection to declare that they shall continue in effect past that point if necessary.
The Independent TD pointed to the Offences Against the State Act, which must be renewed each year, as a successful example of a sunset clause for special powers.
The emergency legislation has been debated before the Dáil today, with a reduced number of TDs in attendance to comply with social distancing for the coronavirus.
The bill passed its second stage without a vote, and the debate has now been suspended until 7pm.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said that he himself intends to place an amendment in the bill which will insert a time limit into the legislation, and its powers.