Wednesday, 6 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I want to pay tribute to the absolute common sense of Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell, where she mentions the proposed reforestation of Ireland on a scale not seen since ancient times. This is something I raised, not yesterday but on the previous occasion, albeit not so much in respect of forestry. In the previous climate debate we had with the Minister, I spoke about very ambitious targets being put willy-nilly into the proposals to prevent the worst excesses of climate change. I spoke about the targets to have a certain million number of electronic cars by a certain date. I raised the same issue that Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell is raising, which is that if there is no relationship between goals and their achievability, that is, if one sets unachievable goals for people, the whole process is brought into disrepute. A signal is sent out that what one is really doing is box-ticking for the sake of some other authority in order that something looks good on paper. That might satisfy campaigners who are interested in virtue signalling around climate but it is no way to lead the public towards change that is needed. There must be honesty about what is achievable and one cannot be setting targets that look ridiculous on paper or are ridiculous in reality as one then brings the whole process into disrepute.
Somewhat in the same vein, I want to pick up what has been said in respect of our policy on asylum seekers and economic migrants, which was something that I had intended to speak on yesterday but because of the tributes to Gay Byrne, I decided to wait until today. Senator McDowell made some prophetic references yesterday to what is in his article in The Irish Timestoday. He is absolutely right to insist upon a distinction between asylum seekers and people who are fleeing poverty. To do so is not to evince any lack of sympathy for those who are seeking to escape poverty or to suggest that we should do nothing to help such people, it is simply to say that distinctions matter.