Friday, 16 July 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
As this is our last day, I extend my thanks to the Cathaoirleach for the way in which he has conducted proceedings throughout the year. I express the appreciation of all the members of our Sinn Féin group in that regard. Equally, I extend my gratitude to the Leader. While it is fair to say that we do not agree a lot of the time, the approach she has taken has always been constructive. It is worthy of recognition and I appreciate it. I again express that sentiment on behalf of our entire group. Most importantly, I thank all the staff of the Seanad, particularly Martin Groves, Bridget Doody and their team. I also thank the team in the Leader’s office, Orla Murray and all her colleagues. It has been an especially challenging year for them. It has especially been so in the last couple of weeks, given the amount of legislation and the number of late nights which have resulted. It is important to put that on record on the record.
I also give a shout-out to the IT staff. I do not know about the rest of the Members of the House, but when I have been working from home the people in the IT department have come to my rescue on more than one occasion. I also thank the people who film us every day. I will bring in one disappointing note that not everyone may be aware of. The people working on filming lose their jobs every summer. They do not have permanent jobs. They are let go and rehired again. We must address, as a group, the idea that we have people employed on precarious contracts working in this building. It is completely unacceptable. I ask for all-party support to address this aspect. I also wish Senator Annie Hoey well on her big day. I extend my good wishes to everybody in the Chamber. While we have had a fair degree of debate, I hope that everybody appreciates that it has always been political and never personal. That is the approach of the Sinn Féin team and the approach of everybody in this Chamber. That is the way it must be.
In the time I have left, I raise a concern for when we return. The Leader will be aware that there has been a fair degree of concern about the directly-elected mayor of Limerick. To be frank, there seems to be cross-party recognition that the role now is not what it should be. It appears that it will be a role which will be very expensive and have little power and responsibility. All the power seems to be directed towards the new role of director general, a role which will attract pay of no less than €171,000 a year. The people of Limerick voted for a directly-elected mayor. They want that mayor to have the powers to tackle key issues like housing, transport and planning for our city’s future. Unfortunately, those powers are not there now. It is, of course, in the Government’s gift to grant them. It is an extremely important issue because other cities are going to look to Limerick to see how this initiative works out. If we end up not releasing those powers from central government, then it will be a disappointment not just for the people of Limerick but for the future of direct local democracy. Therefore, I ask for a debate on this issue.
Turning to the later debate on the Health (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2021, the one area which concerns me is that enough thought does not seem to have been given to the front-line workers and the young workers, in particular, as we reopen. For the most part, they are unvaccinated. It does not seem that enough thought has been given to this aspect. It was hugely disappointing to see that those young workers and their unions were completely excluded from those talks with the hospitality sector. I direct people to an excellent article in the Irish Examinertoday by Denis Cotter. He takes a strong line against the hospitality lobbyists, whom he feels did not represent many small businesses. There is something to be said for that argument. Above all, however, I ask that we bear in mind the vulnerability of our young workers labouring on the front line of hospitality. As we reopen, proper thought does not seem to have been given to how we are going to protect those people.
Again, I thank everyone and I wish everyone well for the summer.