Friday, 30 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I welcome Senator Horkan to the Chamber. I am still finding my feet and ask him to take it easy on me and to tread carefully.
I want to speak on two matters. Today, outside Leinster House, there is a young girl called Fossie who is displaying a Fridays for Future banner and asking for climate and environmental education to become part of the core curriculum for primary and secondary schools. I support her in her endeavours and it is a shame someone so young must be out demonstrating every Friday. I admire her and thank her but there is no point in thanking her unless one is going to listen. The House could discuss, with the Department of Education, the possibility of making climate and environment education a core subject so that there is deeper understanding and a focus on action. We do not want children to bear the brunt of all the problems that we have created as adults so it is important that any information is age appropriate.
I wish to highlight something related to the great news yesterday about all of the opening up and everything being outdoor. It is important that local authorities are supported in having proper professional urban designers because if we do not get this right then things could go horribly wrong. In the first instance, it is great that there is a grant for cafés, restaurants and venues who serve indoors normally to get some funding towards furniture, awnings and stuff, but I urge that this is not done in a haphazard fashion.It should not be that only those who have space outside get to have seating. It must be done in a more cohesive, town-based way. That cannot be done by people who do not know how to design. We have seen it done very well in other countries across the Continent, where the local authorities manage it. However, for this to work properly, the local authorities will need extra staffing and bins. Many things need to happen other than the awarding of grants for extra furniture. If we do it right, it will be amazing and we will be a beautiful, clean country. If we get it wrong, as we saw in so many places last weekend, we will be sorry. Let us do it right. It should be mandatory for each local authority to have an urban designer of some kind involved in this work. It cannot be done by road engineers or technicians. It must be done by people who know how to do it properly and do it right. They should be given extra funding so that we do not see litter everywhere. More supports need to be given for the provision of reusable cups and other initiatives that we can start again as we become a post-Covid country.
I urge the House to support me on that. We should look at doing it fairly for all businesses and not just the ones that happen to have a lot of space outside. If we do not get the local authorities involved, it will not be done in a fair way.