Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny has accused the government of attempting to use Covid-19 emergency legislation as cover to enact a law that favours vulture funds.
Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said: “The Minister for Justice last week sought a waiver for pre-legislative scrutiny for a bill that would facilitate vulture funds.
“The bill would ensure certain court evidence given by vulture funds is no longer deemed as hearsay and inadmissible. This would have serious implications for debtors to funds.
“Such a waiver would mean the General Scheme of the Civil and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 would pass through the Oireachtas without the usual scrutiny.
“The waiver was sought on the grounds that the legislation provided for Covid-19 measures and therefore needed to be progressed quickly.
“The Minister stated that the legislation dealt with challenges concerning the efficient operation of the courts, transport of prisoners to court and between prisons, in the area of coroner law and concerning statutes of limitations in certain civil actions.
“As constructive opposition, Sinn Féin, as we have done with other legislation during the pandemic, agreed to the waiver on the condition that a briefing was provided.
“But the government did not include provisions related to business matters in either the request to the Oireachtas for the waiver or the briefing provided by the Government or Minister for Justice.
“There was no mention of Chapter 3, which deals with Business Records and other documents in civil proceedings.
“These provisions, particularly Section 14, appear to solve a difficulty felt by vulture funds, whereby they cannot avail of the provisions of the Bankers’ Book Evidence Act.
“But this is not a Covid-related measure – it has nothing to do with addressing difficulties arising from the pandemic.
“In reality, it is a legislative leg-up for vulture funds in the courts.
“Given this, and the fact that the Government has sought to insert these provisions into the legislation by stealth, Sinn Féin will be opposing Chapter 3 and call on all parties to do the same.”