Friday, 16 July 2021
Mandatory Hotel Quarantine Extension: Motion
This is a sweeping measure. It probably quite rightly belongs in the realm of draconian measures. In my humble opinion and following advice, however, it is absolutely necessary. I and the Green Party grouping in Seanad Éireann will, therefore, support this in the interests of safety for all.
As the Minister said previously, no Minister enjoys or relishes introducing such measures but they have at their heart the public health considerations. In the context of the immediately preceding debate on indoor hospitality, this one is far more draconian in its make-up. At least in the previous one, a person can still enjoy dining or a drink outside. People do not have that choice in respect of this. They do not have that choice in certain circumstances. One just cannot board an aeroplane because there is obviously no outdoor terrace facility on the wing of an aeroplane. It would be very breezy, cold and dangerous. It is part of the overall jigsaw of protecting people.
In my humble opinion, it engages civil rights issues. Civil rights advocates are perfectly within their remit to question these. We live in a democracy. This is in line with public health advice, however. I agree when the Minister and a previous speaker, Senator Conway, said solidarity is at the heart of this. The Minister said in the previous debate that differentiation is different from discrimination. Perhaps I am one of the privileged ones who can now, for instance, dine or have a drink or meal inside. It sounds a little bit like tokenism to decide to stay outside, although no one should hold their breath because any prolific socialising days I had are long since over with having young children. I am going to try to make it outdoors, however, to stand with those who just cannot get indoors at the moment. It is a short-term, measured balance, which is not ideal. It is either that, however, or up to 160,000 or more jobs are on the line that we will never get back.
This is, therefore, all about proportionality and reasonableness. It is a measured, pragmatic approach that no one relishes but it must be done. As I said, therefore, I confirm that the Green Party grouping is happy to support this motion. We make no apologies for seeking it to come back before the House today. I do not mean this pejoratively but in a sense, I would categorise it as draconian. It was, therefore, a good balance and checks exercise in a legislative assembly democracy to bring it back to renew it. Doing that will instil confidence among the people of Ireland that it is not an unfettered, unbridled power that will run away on people. I can assure the people concerned that each and every legislator here is firmly keeping his or her eyes on this and monitoring the situation. We do not enjoy introducing such measures but if the expert advice tells us we should do it, I, for one, will not depart from such advice.
I commend the Minister on the continued roll-out of the vaccination programme, which is like a campaign at this stage. He is a campaigning Minister. I am hoping, in a few weeks' time, we will see a huge seismic turn for the better in this whole campaign. As the Minister well knows, vaccination is key.