Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Order of Business
Fidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
We have quite a job on our hands to get the Lisbon reform treaty through the forthcoming referendum. If the Lisbon treaty fails, it will be due to the Government's inaction. Last Friday, along with five others, I carried out a survey on the streets of Galway with a sample of 115 people. Of those surveyed, 91% believed the Government had not adequately explained the Lisbon treaty, 35% will vote "No" and 34% are yet undecided. Our only chance to get the Lisbon treaty through is to persuade the undecided voters. What is more worrying is that the majority of those surveyed felt the EU has been good for Ireland. Almost one fifth of those people are voting "No" and another 25% are undecided.
Today's Irish Independent stated the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, plans to bring the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party into line on the referendum, which I welcome. He has, however, another problem on his hands because the Government has reneged on its promises on local issues such as Roscommon hospital. As a result, last night 600 people in Roscommon took a decision to vote "No" to the Lisbon treaty. The Government, not just Fine Gael, needs to deliver on the Lisbon treaty.
I welcome the bishops' pastoral letter, Vision '08, which states the Catholic church will stay in Catholic education if parents wish. This is a significant new departure for the Catholic church. Prior to this it ruled education with too tight a rein. I hope their pastoral letter is not too late.
I agree with Senator Alex White on the need for a debate on the patronage of schools. The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Willie Walsh, this morning said parents are turning away from town schools to country schools because town schools have more diverse populations. Parents need to know in the knowledge-based economy that their children will get results. There is quite a debate on our hands. I commend the bishops for having the courage to give leadership in this area when the Government has not done so.