Wednesday, 11 May 2022
Ceisteanna - Questions
I thank all Deputies for raising the various issues in the context of this group of questions.
On Deputy Boyd Barrett’s question, it is my view that there should be a citizens’ assembly in relation to all aspects of neutrality. In the first instance, however, we have committed to citizens’ assemblies on education and drugs. We will be examining the timeline around a citizens’ assembly on neutrality. We have to get Government agreement on that. Conscious of the war in Ukraine, it is my view that we should try to maintain unity of purpose in relation to the war across all of the various strands of Government policy on and responses to Ukraine; in relation to the European Union in terms of our humanitarian response and facilitation of the EU peace facility; in terms of our humanitarian aid to Ukraine, amounting to €20 million, which we have sent through the UN's international agencies to facilitate that contribution; and in terms of supporting Ukraine’s application to join the European Union. I want to maintain the broadest possible unity of purpose across society. If we were to have a premature debate on military neutrality, that in itself could take the focus away from where it needs to be right now, which is on the humanitarian crisis and dealing with accommodation and access to services in this country. We do that well. That is my view.
I do not necessarily accept Deputy Boyd Barrett’s view, which he put so starkly, that there is a contrast in standards in respect of different issues, conflicts and behaviours in different parts of the world. I do not want to get into scale but what is happening in Ukraine represents the worst humanitarian crisis historically since the Second World War. Those are not my words but the words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, and the United Nations. This is not a comparable situation, even though what is going on in Palestine is shocking too. I have been a strong, outspoken critic of-----