Senators approve Legal Services Regulation Bill despite amendment confusion

Senators approve Legal Services Regulation Bill despite amendment confusion

Members of Seanad Éireann yesterday criticised Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for turning the long-running Legal Services Regulation Bill into “a shambles”.

However, the legislation eventually cleared the upper chamber late last night.

Senator Denis O’Donovan, solicitor and justice spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, said the bill was meant to be “a lion in tackling the difficulties with the legal profession, dragging it kicking and screaming from the pre-Victorian era of the 19th century into the 21st century through reforms, but we have ended up with a little lamb”.

Independent Senator Sean Barrett said the process of drafting the law “must be a Guinness Book of Records entry” due to the number of amendments.

He told the Seanad: “Page 41 of the Minister’s own Bill was amended by her 105 times. That must be a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records. The page has 38 lines.

“Frequently, she sought to delete amendments on Report Stage that she had tabled on Committee Stage.”

The bill was extensively revised by Ms Fitzgerald after approval by the Dáil to allow the Bar Council of Ireland and Law Society of Irelandto retain major powers, while still pushing ahead with the establishment of a new Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

A bid by Mr O’Donovan to postpone yesterday’s vote on the bill in order to give Ms Fitzgerald time to “get her act together” failed by 22 votes to 19.

Senator Maurice Cummins, leader of the Seanad, said: “Many Members raised the issue of the Legal Services Regulation Bill. I appreciate the problems Members from all sides had in that regard.

“In my time in the House, I have never seen 300 amendments being introduced on Report Stage. Many of them are amending amendments made on Committee Stage.”

He added: “Unfortunately, as I said, I cannot accept the amendment to the Order of Business regarding the Legal Services Regulation Bill.

“I appreciate the difficulties that Members have over the number of amendments involved but I must facilitate the passage of Government legislation in the House.”

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