Seanad debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

1:00 pm

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. I agree with Senators Hoey and Ó Donnghaile that we should get clarity as soon as possible concerning the direct provision centre in Cahersiveen. I suggest to the Acting Leader that a statement might be provided on the matter to this House, preferably on the Order of Business tomorrow.

Last week, when we discussed the very successful European stimulus package agreed by the European Council of Ministers, I pointed out that although this was a great example of European solidarity, the principles of the European Union are based on solidarity but also on the rule of law and human rights.I expressed concern that funding should only be granted to those countries that follow through on the expression of those values. I raised in particular my concern about Poland and Hungary. Since I raised that issue last week we have seen a further deterioration in respect for these values in those countries. Poland has decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty aimed at preventing violence against women. Its justice minister said that the document was harmful as it required schools to teach children about gender. In Hungary, we saw the closure of the last independent news site, the Index news site, where the editor was effectively fired and 70 journalists had to quit. A country without a free press is not a democracy. I do not believe the European Governments went far enough in insisting that the funding to be made available under the €1.8 trillion deal should be linked to these values. I hope the European Parliament is a lot stronger on it. I ask the Acting Leader to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise concerns about these issues and the continuing deterioration of respect for human rights in Poland and Hungary. We in this House cannot start to talk about the importance of human rights and how they are dealt with in oppressive regimes like China, Venezuela or the Philippines while failing to ensure those rights are respected within the European Union.

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