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The new government's first legislation... the old government's policy

The new government’s first legislation, to go before the Dáil tomorrow, advances policies laid down by the last cabinet.

A new Bill published by justice minister Alan Shatter (right) - the first from the new government - is a word-for-word replica of one tabled by his predecessor Dermot Ahern in January.
A new Bill published by justice minister Alan Shatter (right) - the first from the new government - is a word-for-word replica of one tabled by his predecessor Dermot Ahern in January.
Image: PA

Updated, 10.56

THE NEW COALITION government has published its first piece of legislation: an amendment that advances a policy brought forward under the ousted Fianna Fáil-Green Party administration.

The cumbersomely-titled Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, published by justice minister Alan Shatter last night, makes provisions to allow courts issue community service orders instead of sending offenders to prison.

“I am pleased to announce the publication of this Bill, which is my first since taking office,” Shatter said last night, saying the Bill met the government’s commitment to extend the use of the community service.

But the new Bill is almost a word-for-word copy of one tabled by justice minister Dermot Ahern in January, shortly before his retirement, which had exactly the same goal.

The only difference – embodied in two words in Shatter’s edition – is that the new Bill forces a court to consider a community service order instead of a prison term for less than 12 months, instead of the six-month period that had been outlined in Ahern’s draft.

A pledge to pursue the extended use of such orders did, however, appear in the agreed programme for government between the two parties.

In a statement accompanying the Bill, Shatter said the Bill advanced the community order scheme which had been first created by a Bill he had himself written in 1982 during his first term as a TD.

A new version of the Bill had to be brought forward by the new government because the last one – having not been fully enacted – lapsed when the Dáil was dissolved.

The Bill goes forward for discussion by the new Dáil tomorrow afternoon.

More criminals to do community service instead of jail time >

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Gavan Reilly

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