Friday, 18 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I echo the words of well wishes for Christmas and the new year. I did not wish to bring in a sombre tone but while we reflect upon what a year it has been, unfortunately, we are still in this year and it remains a very worrying and unsure period for people, not least heading into the Christmas break. I wish to use the platform afforded to me here this morning to encourage people to remain steadfast in adhering to the consistent and long-standing public health advice on the Covid-19 pandemic that is familiar to us all. I am sure the Leader saw in the North last night the introduction of comprehensive new restrictions, which I believe are necessary. I commend my party vice president and joint First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, for her clear communication of those new restrictions and her public engagement both last night and this morning. I understand there will be North-South engagement later this afternoon. I have said consistently that we need to see that clear, comprehensive all-Ireland strategy, planning, engagement and community, which will be key over the Christmas period.
That said, people in this State also need clarity. We are heading into a wind-down for the Christmas break. Businesses, business leaders, community leaders, healthcare workers, carers, families and private citizens all need to hear what, if any, new restrictions will be put in place. The Cabinet should meet as a matter of urgency over the weekend to ensure that the message is communicated, updated and co-ordinated in a way that meets the needs of people in the context of the ever-changing and ever-evolving situation.
We are just hours away from the Brexit deadline. It is something that we have worked on comprehensively as a Seanad in this term and in the previous term, not least through the work of the Seanad select committee on Brexit. I wish continued success and best wishes to the Government in its efforts on this, but in particular to the EU team. There is no good that can come from Brexit. There are only varying degrees of harm that will be caused to this island. At least we have a glimmer of hope with the adherence to the withdrawal agreement and the Irish protocol, but it is an unsure and uncertain time for people right across the island in the context of Brexit.
In closing, I wish everyone a Nollaig shona agus athbhliain faoi mhaise and wish everyone well. I look forward to seeing everyone in the new term, suitably refreshed and ready to go. It is a very busy time for us. It will be laden with expectation given what we are coming through at the moment. I look forward to working with all colleagues across the House and wish them all every success.