Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


9:30 am

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I was also very disappointed by the decision regarding the supervised injection facility. A plan B is urgently needed. However, I note that while we may be disappointed by that High Court decision, as others may be about other decisions, it is also very important that, regardless of our feelings on the matter, we recognise the independence of, and checks and balances within, our judicial and planning systems. I say that in the context of the many statements we hear that the system needs to change. That system is part of a democracy. It is very difficult and we will often be disappointed by specific decisions but those are battles that we then need to win in the narrative, in engaging with people and in producing alternatives. It is important that as part of the architecture of democracy in the State, we bear in mind the importance of that independent judicial system. That is not to compromise anybody who will speak about this matter but to remind us of that fact as we go into the autumn. On the importance of our planning architecture, I will say the same thing I always say, which is that policy is about the decisions we make and how we live together. Part of that decision-making structure is citizens' involvement in the planning process.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for an imaginative and ambitious chairing of this Chamber in a very difficult year. He is still finding new ways to bring the Seanad forward. I thank the Leader for a very fair and strong engagement with all of us. I thank and commend all my colleagues across every party and those of no party, as legislators and parliamentarians, for what they have each brought to a very challenging year. I thank the staff, including Martin and Bridget, all of the Seanad Office staff and all the staff in the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, OPLA. I join the calls for fair conditions for those who work in, and with, this House, including the broadcasting unit and our secretarial assistants.

In the past year, we have very often dealt with matters that connected with the challenges of the day, week, month and the present moment. That is what happens in a crisis. However, when we come back in the autumn we will need to look to the future. While we have all been battling the changing landscape around Covid and its immediate challenges, the bigger discussion is about what happens next and what kind of island and Europe we will have next. All over the country, discussions are taking place locally about what kind of city, town or community we want to have. Those are very important discussions that will need to be centre stage, be they on climate, housing or reimagining care and our public services. I hope that in the autumn we will be able to turn our minds towards putting a stamp on the discussion about what the future should be. If we do not do so, we will find that it has already been tied up and decided and may again be more of the same. It is very important that we keep that transformative thinking and put an imprint on it.

I am very honoured to represent this House and Parliament in Europe as part of the future of Europe initiative, which involves parliamentarians from each national parliament discussing with citizens, and others, what the future of Europe should be. It is important that not just parliamentarians but everyone and, indeed, all the citizens of Ireland should have an input into discussions on the future of Europe. I call on people to engage and submit ideas on the website so they are part of the discussion on shaping the places in which they will live. I urge all Members, as parliamentarians, to take a moment to look, think and add their very good ideas too.

My final point is on an issue that will shape what kind of world we come back to in the autumn. It is the decision that will be made on 27 July and whether Ireland will be one of a tiny handful of countries that will stop the temporary sharing of intellectual property to allow a scaling up of vaccine manufacture and access. The vulnerable should not be set against workers and businesses. Everybody benefits if we scale up vaccine manufacturing and, crucially, millions of lives around the world may be saved if we do so. I ask that Ireland will not be one of the few countries that will go down in history as unnecessarily prolonging this global pandemic by one or two years. That decision will be made on 27 July. I hope that Ireland does the right thing.


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