Monday, 22 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the Cathaoirleach for his comments about Greece's national day and echo them.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to take No. 12 to introduce my Organisation of Working Time (Reproductive Health Related Leave) Bill before No. 1. I have spoken about this legislation before. Colleagues will know that much of the Bill is largely technical and designed to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and the statutory framework relating to it. The key substantive provision in the Bill is to provide for the first time for explicit recognition for reproductive health related matters where they require leave, such as early miscarriage and IVF treatments, and to provide a small amount of paid leave for that. I commend the work of the INTO and, in particular, Councillor Alison Gilliland, with whom I have worked over a couple of years to bring this Bill forward.
I thank the Leader for giving Government time for the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018, which passed Second Stage in this House and is currently on Committee Stage. It is a Labour Party Private Members' Bill that provides a route to citizenship for children born in Ireland. I have been glad to receive cross-party support from Government colleagues on it but I am disappointed to learn it will be opposed by Government when it Committee Stage is taken on Friday. I ask the Leader to speak with the Minister for Justice to see if she can enable it to go through to Report Stage. She has been collegiate in working with me on bringing forward aspects of the legislation. Aspects of it will be brought into law later this year but I would be disappointed to see it being voted down by Government parties, particularly as Fianna Fáil and Green Party senators had supported it on Second Stage when it was last voted upon by the previous Seanad.
I support calls for a debate on the so-called living with Covid framework and the Government's plan for the future. It is interesting to hear Government Senators speak on the need to give people hope. That is quite right. All of us are utterly dismayed and dejected at the ongoing high level of figures, at last night's figure of over 700 confirmed infections and at the number of tragic deaths that are still occurring. Our schools are not yet fully open. Senator Chambers is right that there should be a vaccine bonus for those who are fully vaccinated but we need as a priority to make sure all our children get back to schools. It is a very short summer term, only eight weeks in secondary schools, as anyone who has children in secondary school will be well aware. It is important that children from first to fourth year who have been deprived of classes until now, other than online, get back to school on 12 April. That has to be a priority and after that we need a plan and a timeframe from Government to give people hope. We have been enduring these restrictions for three months. We should have implemented much tougher ones earlier. It is good to see mandatory hotel quarantine now in place but what people need is even a tentative timeframe to bring us through this next difficult phase.