Thursday, 19 March 2020
Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
I welcome you all and thank you for attending today for this important sitting. We meet this afternoon in limited numbers at a time of great crisis for our country and for the entire globe. The crisis is not to be underestimated. However much we try to tame the world we share with so much else, we are rarely true masters of our own destinies. Something as cruel and capricious as coronavirus has come from nowhere to challenge us and to challenge our human confidence.
We arrive here today to debate at social distances from each other in the Chamber of our nation’s proud Parliament, utterly shaken and taken aback by the events of the past few days and weeks. I know we all wish to commend the Taoiseach on his address on St. Patrick’s Day, a considered, thoughtful and sensible view of our current, grave predicament. As he said on Tuesday, we are at the beginning of this crisis. Considerably more sorrow and sadness have yet to visit our towns, villages, neighbourhoods and communities, but in the time ahead, we must be resilient, sensible and cautious, as I know we will be.
Common sense and factual information must triumph, not rumour and ill-judged mutterings on social media. We, parliamentarians, must lead by example. We must be to the forefront in dispensing practical, factual information to our constituents, friends and neighbours. We much practise those safe and sensible guidelines which help to prevent the spread of this pitiless virus.
We have before us this afternoon legislation for debate which addresses some of the key concerns people have as the coming weeks seem to open up into dark, uncharted waters.
Those waters will be choppy and difficult to navigate. However tempting it is to batten down the hatches and hope things go away quickly, we must be proactive in fighting this virus and its impact on our nation's health. We must adapt quickly to those sensible rules for living set down by medical and scientific experts. We all know it will be a long slog. This is an exhausting marathon, not a sprint. This legislation is one step in that long and difficult journey but each step forward is a step closer to our final goal, namely a resolution to this dreadful crisis. We legislators are playing our part this afternoon. So too are many others. Healthcare professionals, public servants, shops, pharmacies and transporters are all continuing to work tirelessly for the common good. Neighbours are looking out for neighbours, particularly the sick and the elderly. We all have a part to play. Everyone should be involved. In my time as a public representative, I cannot recall a time when the Irish people were called upon to work together for the common good in such difficult and challenging circumstances but we are up to the challenge.
The Dáil and Seanad play their specific and significant parts in that challenging work. We can do our best and no more is expected of us than that. Of this crisis I say that this too will pass, but not before it has scarred our nation and hurt many of our people. As we begin this painful and challenging journey forward to a final resolution to the crisis, we do so with knowledge, with fortitude and with thanks to those who share the journey and share our burden. We parliamentarians must play our role in the short, medium and long term. As Ceann Comhairle, I will continue to work closely and productively with all sides of this House to ensure our contributions here in Dáil Éireann are meaningful, effective and are for the greater good.