Transport Minister’s attempts to bypass analysis of maritime safety legislation has been rejected by unanimously by Dáil Committees
“Dáil Committees unanimously reject Transport Minister’s attempt to by-pass analysis of maritime safety legislation following the intervention of Maritime Experts with damning indictment of States approach to Maritime Safety,” writes International Maritime Lawyer, Michael Kingston
The Business Committee of the Oireachtas, chaired by Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó’Fearghaill TD has by unanimous decision, rejected Minister for Transport Eamonn Ryan’s request to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of new legislation. The legislation aims to rectify Ireland’s breach of international regulation following a Judgement against Ireland by the Court of Justice of the European Union on 09 July 2020 which found an obvious conflict of interest on Ireland’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), as two of the five person Board comprised of 2 Transport Department officials – The Secretary General or his/her nominee and the Chief Surveyor. This breach has been in place since the MCIB was established in 2002.
This follows Wednesday’s unanimous decision by the Transport and Communications Committee, who had been delegated the task of analysing the request and to advise the Business Committee with their recommendation.
On 18th December Minister Ryan wrote to Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó’Fearghaill TD and his Business Committee colleagues requesting waiver of scrutiny invoking Standing Order 173 of the Oireachtas rules of business arguing that the amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 (the Current Act), were urgent, and he provided a copy of draft amendments (the proposed Act). Under Standing Order 173 the urgency must be ‘in the national interest’
However, International maritime expert, Michael Kingston, who is also the son of Tim Kingston who died in the 1979 Whiddy Island Disaster, together with specialist maritime Barrister Ciaran McCarthy, wrote to all Business Committee Members on 4th January 2021 explaining why the failures under the Current Act were so serious in nature that it would be completely the wrong approach to waive pre-legislative scrutiny. The letter was supported by Marine Hazard Limited’s Report into The Operation and Effectiveness of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), dated 4th January 2021, which gives a damning indictment of the failures of the MCIB.
The 14-page letter alleged that the Minister did not give ‘full and frank disclosure’ to the Committee, setting out in detail the failures of the MCIB to date, explaining why the Proposed Act before the Committee is totally inadequate and does not address these failures, which they argued, has caused unnecessary death of Irish citizens. Mr Kingston, supported by whistleblower
Revelations from MCIB investigators, Department officials, and former Department officials, also explained that MCIB reports were altered and safety recommendations removed to avoid criticism of the Transport Department, and that the matter is currently before the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The letter also alleges that the Transport Department knew that the conflict in place was wrong and deliberately failed to correct it despite direction by then Transport Minister Noel Dempsey in 2009.
Mr Kingston, upon learning that the Business Committee delegated the decision to the Transport and Communications Committee also provided the Committee with Southern Star’s article ‘Has Whiddy Disaster taught us anything about safety at sea?’ that marked the occasion of the 42nd Anniversary of the Whiddy Island Disaster on 08 January 1979.
The article explains why the current breach is an age-old problem that needs to be fixed correctly to protect the lives of our merchant sea farers, fishers, pleasure craft users and emergency services.
Speaking on Clare FM yesterday before the Óireachtas decision, husband of ICG Volunteer, Catriona Lucas, who died in the Kilkee ICG vessel tragedy in 2016, described how he “has no faith in the MCIB, or the proposed changes”.
Mr Kingston and Department Officials will now appear next week before the Transport and Communications Committee who will conduct the Pre-legislative scrutiny in a public meeting of the Committee.
Mr Kingston and Mr McCarthy have been supported in particular by Ms Anne Marie O Brien (Quote below), sister of John O Brien who drowned off Helvick Head in July 2010 with his friend Pat Esmonde. Ms O Brien has been at the forefront of previous attempts to amend the Current Act, led by Deputy Mattie Magrath, due to the obvious flaws in the investigation into her brother’s death. Mr McGrath and Ms O Brien have been, gallantly, seeking to change the Act to ensure the MCIB has suitable competency.
Source: Michael Kingston – Press Release