Thursday, 11 July 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I join with colleagues in expressing my sympathy to the families of Brendan Grace and Noel Whelan. Noel Whelan contacted me and asked to meet me two days after I was elected to this House in 2014. He met me downtown and spent two hours with me, advising me and expressing his wishes and desires for how the Seanad would develop over the coming years. I thought it was a most generous act. I had never met the man before in my life although I met him several times afterwards. He was at the forefront of so many changes in society and he will be dearly missed. The summer around Ireland will not be the same without Brendan Grace. That has to be said.
This weekend we have commemoration ceremonies at Islandbridge on Saturday and at Collins Barracks on Sunday. The Islandbridge affair this year will be attended by a fairly large contingent from the former Ulster Defence Regiment, UDR. There are many different interpretations as to the history of the UDR. I had the privilege some weeks ago of addressing a gathering of the UDR. The topic I chose was collusion. I spoke openly about collusion during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and about the atrocities that were committed. I also spoke about the decent men and women who were members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, who got out of their houses in the evening and patrolled Northern Ireland, who guarded vital installations and made sure that terrorist movements around Northern Ireland were disrupted. That is not for one moment excusing the fact that terrorists were also involved in that organisation. However, there were decent men and women there who did what they thought was right. The interesting thing about the UDR establishment is the number of Catholics who were involved in the early days. They were run out of it, not by Protestants but by Catholics. I am delighted that some of them will attend Islandbridge this year. It is a great step forward.
I refer to the constant calls we are getting for a Border poll. People in Northern Ireland know the direction this country is moving in. They do not need to be goaded or constantly threatened. I was asked recently by a group of unionists in Northern Ireland if it was true that we would put them in concentration camps when the unification takes place. I was appalled to be asked that question but it is actually a belief that is held among some. I must compliment the Government on taking a softly, softly approach in the entire area of Northern Ireland and I ask for this to continue. Instead of talking about Border polls, we should start trying to find a way to get the communities to work together in Northern Ireland.