Seanad debates

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


3:30 pm

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I endorse Senator Maria Byrne's comments on the march as I attended it as well. There were 4,500 people marching on what was definitely the wettest day of the year so far. There is great strength of feeling about the incinerator so I support the call for a debate.

Last week, I attended the Council of Europe, which was a nice break from the continuing pain and chaos of Brexit. To follow Senator McDowell's comments, this is another institution to which we really pay scant attention in either House, which is a real pity. I pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Joe O'Reilly, who has done a terrific job representing us there for a number of years. Great work goes on dealing with human rights issues but none of this feeds back into either Chamber. There is no reporting structure or mechanism. We had a television crew there last week, which was welcome, but really and truly most people are not aware of the important work that goes on, particularly with our own team of an ambassador and full-time staff.

I draw attention to migration, which is the subject of a big debate in Europe. The figures are quite stark as there are 70 million refugees without anywhere to live. With climate change, 200 million more refugees are expected between now and 2050.We need to be prepared to play our part actively because we cannot continue with a situation where people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. So far this year, 1,000 people have drowned and 20,000 souls have died in the Mediterranean in the past six years. That is shocking and, unfortunately, the reason for it - I have to call this as it is - is that the European Union is acting as a fortress. We need only look at the despicable deal done with Turkey to keep refugees out of sight and out of mind and the warlords in Libya that we are funding. Interestingly, the Council of Europe condemned the funding of warlords in Libya and that country's coastguard last week. We are all a part of this, including Ireland. There is no debate about that.

I want to draw attention to the fact that, despite those stark figures, Ireland has taken in a little over 5,200 people in the past five years. In the context of the current crisis, where 77,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year alone, that number is pitiful. I realise this issue is not easy for any of us and there are no votes in it. We have completely failed as a country to fulfil our duty to bring in the requisite number of migrants and refugees. These are desperate people who are fleeing wars that have often been created by the West and supported through our local airport in Shannon.

I ask for a debate on the issue of migration and refugees, in particular, the very poor record of the Government in this area. When I spoke to my colleagues in Europe last week they were genuinely shocked to hear how little this country had done compared with other countries. When one considers the burden that faces Italy, Spain and Greece, we have not been at the races. We have not turned up to support our European colleagues.


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