Good Samaritan Bill

Civil Liability (Good Samaritans and Volunteers) Bill – Second Stage – Dail Eireann – 3rd March 2010

Deputy Dan Neville

I am very disappointed the Government did not take on board the very worthy objective of this Bill and I congratulate Deputy Timmins on introducing it twice.

The two issues of volunteerism and litigation are brought together in the Bill. There is a fantastic history of volunteerism in this country. As a rural person, I remember Muintir na Tíre. When we did not have water in our houses Muintir na Tíre came together to put in a group rural water scheme. Volunteerism developed from that through sporting organisations, community councils and the various non-governmental organisations which involved themselves in necessary work, with no monetary reward but great psychological reward for what they do.

The other side is the whole area of litigation. We have become a very litigious society and it is unfortunate that has happened. Since the onset of the recession, we are moving away from that and back towards volunteerism which should be encouraged.

Some years ago I was in Kerry when somebody dived into a swimming pool and hit their head at the bottom of the pool and was injured. There were nurses around but they did not help that person immediately. They waited for some time to see if the person was all right because they were afraid of what would happen if things went wrong for them. This Bill will change that.

We must encourage more volunteerism and protect those who volunteer to assist in their communities and assist people in difficulties such as in an accident, in an emergency or otherwise, whether on the sports field, on the roads or elsewhere. This Bill facilitates and encourages that and sends a message to the people that the Government and the Opposition encourage them to intervene to help people in crisis and that there will be no fallout. People believe there will be fallout because of our litigious society and the way this is treated in the media.

The issue of defibrillators is a perfect example where somebody takes the risk of intervening where a person is close to death. If the person dies, that intervention may be interpreted as contributing to the demise of that person. One can understand the reluctance of people to intervene. Deputy Timmins seeks to ensure that people in need of such assistance get the maximum opportunity to survive through the intervention of their fellow citizens.

It is very disappointing the Government is not in favour of the Bill, although it stated it is in favour of its objectives. The Law Reform Commission has said this is the way to go. Why is the Government not in favour of what its organisation, our organisation and the Law Reform Commission have said is the way forward?

The good samaritan issue is not one which people are widely discussing, because it is not tangible. However, there is a resistance to intervene to help people to survive, to reduce danger and to overcome difficulties being experienced, whether on a sports field, on the roads or elsewhere.

I entreat the Minister and the Government to look seriously at what Deputy Timmins has proposed and to send a message to the people that volunteers will be protected from litigation and the unfortunate circumstances which people believe could arise.