Seanad debates

Thursday, 20 December 2018

11:50 am

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

On behalf of the Civil Engagement Group, I join in thanking all of the staff in the Seanad who have accommodated us in having many late night sittings. We have had moments of contestation and co-operation in the Houses this year. I thank all those who supported my motion on Yemen last night. All sides in the Seanad making the conflict in Yemen an issue was important. For me, one of the most positive aspects of that co-operation has been the co-operation with others, including Senators McFadden and Bacik, in the Vótáil 100 committee to mark the centenary of women's suffrage. This year we have seen forward steps for women's equality in Ireland. What was important about Vótáil 100 and the commemoration year was that we did not only look a century back but we looked to our ambition for the future.

In that regard, I note I have some regret about the motion which will be taken today without debate in respect of a joint sitting to mark the centenary of the First Dáil on 21 January. I am glad to see that we will mark the declaration of independence, the message to the free nations and the democratic programme of the First Dáil.

I am disappointed to see that Seanad groups, including the Civil Engagement group and the Independent group, will not, as in some other joint sittings we have had, have an opportunity to contribute. Of course we will support the sitting. We will not seek to block it in any way.

I wish to emphasise that responsibility for deepening democracy, particularly at this moment, rests with both Houses and on all of us as Members of the Oireachtas. I hope we will deliver Seanad reform next year in order that we might deepen the democracy of this House. It is important that during the joint sitting, we recognise, as we did when we marked the centenary of women's suffrage, the challenges of the future and the threats to democracy that exist. We should recognise that all parts of the Oireachtas have a significant role to play in addressing the challenges relating to democracy and in fulfilling the programme of the First Dáil, which outlined that the first duty of the State is to children. My colleague has spoken about homelessness. We have heard from others across the House about our justice system. Many of the issues that have been raised on the Order of Business speak to the fact that we have unfinished work in terms of the programme of the First Dáil and in the context of our duty as legislators.

I look forward to working with everybody next year. I thank others for their co-operation this year. We will need to broaden our ambition for democracy and for the citizens of Ireland next year.

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