Friday, 17 December 2004
Order of Business.
Jim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
I agree with Senator Maurice Hayes that we should not get too exercised over the issue of the Supreme Court decision in Colombia because I have a deep suspicion it will be an academic exercise. However, we await developments and if there is a need for a debate in the new year, we can have it then.
We should have a debate early in the new session on the issue of toll roads, particularly the M50. A very bad deal was struck with NTR by the Government and the State. The toll contract is a cash cow and the consumer is not getting a good deal. While we know of the 20% increases, the issue is not so much the direct cost but the latent cost of transport being significantly delayed on the M50 because the toll booth is almost like putting a gate across a main artery. It is fineto place toll booths on long, perhaps 50 km, stretches of motorway. However, to place them on a short stretch around the city is wrong. We are making a similar mistake with the bypass in Waterford. This policy will turn out to be counterproductive to the objective of investing millions of euro in road networks.
I am prompted to raise a further issue by Joe Duffy's radio show yesterday when heinterviewed the granddaughter of ThomasMacDonagh. It caused me to reflect on the manner in which his family feel disenchanted that the State does not give due recognition to the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. This arises in the context of the demolition of the tower blocks at Ballymun, which commemorated the names of the seven signatories of the proclamation. The Leader might arrange a debate in the new year during which we could discuss this issue and make appropriate suggestions as to what might be done to remedy this lack of recognition. For any self-respecting republic to turn its back on its founding fathers would be a sad development.
We need to address this. The 75th anniversary of 1916 was a poor show and it is important we do not allow this to recur for the centenary. Some may object to this on the grounds that it offends certain sensitivities among the Unionist population. However, as we mature in politics on the island, it is up to us to have respect for Unionist traditions and for the more enlightened members of the Unionist community to also have respect for ours.
I join in the justified tributes to Paddy Behan. I have always found him an absolute gentleman, as have other speakers. I join with you, a Chathaoirligh, in wishing the compliments of the season to everybody.