Thursday, 12 May 2022
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Barry Ward (Fine Gael)
Two days ago I raised the spectre of the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the fact that he is a former security minister there and that he has been involved in the past in crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations, particularly in 2019 and since then. Overnight, we see the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen as an expansion of that crackdown on those who were involved in the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations. It is another indication, as if we needed it, of Beijing in particular and, through Beijing, the Hong Kong Administration's absolute determination to suppress any discussion, opposition or political freedom of expression. It is tremendously important that Ireland takes a stand on this and makes it known to Beijing and Hong Kong that it is not acceptable and that Ireland is absolutely opposed to that type of behaviour. I hope we can do that and perhaps, if it is possible, we can invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the House to discuss that subject as well.
This morning I had the pleasure of going to my alma mater, St. Laurence College in Loughlinstown, which is hosting a community day. There was a fantastic atmosphere with lots of community organisations there. They included local sports clubs such as St. Joseph's soccer club in Sallynoggin, Cuala GAA from Dalkey and the Leinster Rugby women's academy with their rugby skills. Emily McKeown, the women's development officer, and Ailsa Hughes, an Irish international scrum half, were showing the skills to young girls and boys from St. Laurence's and the surrounding area and exposing them to rugby. I had a conversation with them and I was struck by how little they are resourced in real terms in helping women's sports advance in this country. There is a misconception that somehow there is a greater interest in men-only sports and they therefore get attention that is beyond what is reasonable. There is a growing interest in women's sports, particularly international rugby. I was at some of the international matches this year and they are every bit as competitive, if not more so. They are very well attended and they are great events.
Could we have a debate about what resources the State is specifically targeting at women's sports, internationally and professionally or semi-professionally, and also women's participation in sport, which is well below the level at which it should be? We should be pushing for a much stronger agenda for women's sport in this country and we should invite the Minister to the House for a discussion on that subject.