Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Maire DevineMaire Devine (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Gabhann buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach, although it is a pity that it may be the final time I say that for a long time. The House is often called, including by me over the years, a kind of retirement home for the bewildered. It is where wannabe Deputies cut their teeth before seeking the supposedly coveted title of "Deputy" and, less kindly, is often considered to be a chamber of elitist misfits. The Twenty-fifth Seanad, of which I have been privileged and proud to have been a Member, has been the most diverse. It has contained the highest number of female Senators, as I am sure Senators Bacik and Marie-Louise O'Donnell will be aware. Often, there is greater kindness and humanity when more women are in a group. Senator Ó Céidigh talked about the fact that many of us have come from working class families and have made our way to this august Chamber. While we may never have envisaged that, we have a right to belong, to have a voice through our accents and the life experience that we have to share with our nation, and to make it a better place for all. For that, Seanad reform needs to take place - I am looking at Senator O'Reilly - and I imagine that the lack of it will be one of the regrets of the Twenty-fifth Seanad.Along with Senator Freeman, I found the most engaging and often quite shocking committee was the Joint Committee on Future of Mental Health Care. It was the most learning, enjoyable and disappointing experience. However, we did Trojan work and it was a shame to see its report just sit on a shelf. We know what needs to happen for the well-being of our nation and our children in particular, along with the loss of vital services we need. Like Senator Freeman, I hope it will not be forgotten but implemented. I hope the cries of many families trying to access the services in question will be listened to.

My legislation providing the right to consent to mental health treatment for 16 and 17 year olds is sitting on Committee Stage, as is the advanced care directive. It is up to the next Seanad to pull it out and see it through.

I gave my maiden speech in June 2016, paying tribute to my nursing colleagues, the 100,000 nurses and midwives across this island. The World Health Organization has designated 2020 to be the year of the nurse and midwife, the first time ever. I had written a motion prior to the dissolution of the Dáil. I hope the Seanad will provide a celebratory event to show our respect and thanks to our much-needed front-line nursing staff.

A united Ireland will be a major issue in the next Seanad. I know we have our differences about planning for it. We would be sticking our head in the sand if we did not address it, however. We need that conversation as it is already happening nationally. I wish the Twenty-sixth Seanad well in what will be an exciting journey for the lot of us in this State where we can work together, understand each other and build a different society that benefits all. A united Ireland will be on the agenda by the end of the next Seanad. We may even be having the referendum on it.

I thank the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, the staff, ushers and everybody here. I hope to see them the next time. Who knows how things will pan out? I loved the adventure and contributing to the Seanad. I kind of loved most of you as well.


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