Seanad debates

Thursday, 17 May 2012

British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly: Statements


12:00 pm

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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This is the first time either House has debated the subject matter since its inception in 1990 and it is useful and proper that we do so. The 44th plenary which was completed in this Chamber made history because it was the first time that the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, as a body, sat in any parliamentary chamber in either country. It is important to note that. The body which, was formed in 1990, had many notable members. When it was founded the former Taoiseach, the late Garret FitzGerald, and the current Taoiseach were members, as were some current Labour Party Ministers and the President, Michael D. Higgins. I should have explored the list in order that I would have it correct. In any event, they laid great foundations and the body has done useful work.

As I said, the 44th plenary took place in this Chamber last Monday and Tuesday. It was highly successful with a full and engaging programme. We should thank the House and the authorities in the Oireachtas, the Cathaoirleach and his staff for making the Chamber and all of the ancillary facilities available. The assembly members attending enjoyed the occasion. It was appropriate that the meeting took place on the anniversary of the Queen's momentous visit to Ireland. It provided us with a further opportunity to build on, enhance and deepen Anglo-Irish relations. It was the first time that the assembly had met in a parliamentary chamber and proved most worthwhile. The location was favourably commented on by the members from various parts of Ireland, Britain, the North, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Guernsey.

The theme of the plenary was "Making Business Easier Between Britain and Ireland" and the topic is close to the Cathaoirleach's heart. We heard addresses from the Taoiseach, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Minister for Health and the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works. The assembly also engaged with senior business leaders from the agrifood, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries on developing trade opportunities between the two jurisdictions, islands and countries. It was a new and innovative way to speak directly with key business people and to identify their priorities.

We heard a number of proposals that were endorsed by the assembly and I will refer to some of them. It arose from the discussion with the chairman and chief executive officer of Glen Dimplex, Seán O'Driscoll, who made the proposal that we conduct an annual British-Irish trade mission led by senior Government Members. He also proposed that it would be useful if the Taoiseach could lead the Irish trade mission one year and the British Prime Minister could lead one the following year when it came here and they could accompany business leaders, with the venue alternating between Britain and Ireland. The assembly endorsed his proposal.

He further proposed a requirement for a joint manufacturing cluster. Manufacturing strengthens an economy more than any other factor and acts as a multiplier of jobs. He also recommended that the potential of the energy sector be exploited such as for renewables, buildings and homes. Data on that sector was quoted and 50% of the energy consumed in Ireland and the UK is in buildings, 6 million homes are in fuel poverty and 50% of income is spent on fuels costing €40 million per annum to provide heat. He pointed out the enormous potential and opportunities for the sector and the potential for further direct job creation. We all know that the development and certainty of an energy policy, similar to that in the UK, is important. It would allow emerging businesses in the sector to plan and develop their businesses and UK counterparts could assist them.

The area of regulation was dealt with and we all know that a certain amount of regulation is necessary and welcome. However, we also know that there are some needless regulations imposed at enormous cost to business. Mr. O'Driscoll suggested that an inventory of all regulations should be undertaken to ascertain which ones can be streamlined or done away with and his proposal was adopted by the assembly.

Another assembly suggestion was to review and open up the Government's procurement policy to enable SMEs to compete for contracts more easily. The adoption of a social consideration was suggested when assessing tenders. Mr. Eoin Tonge from Greencore put forward the key message that Ireland and the UK are interdependent vis-À-vis proximity and a similar food culture. The relationship is huge and needs to be protected. He talked about the synergies across the UK and Ireland as it pertains to the food industry. Common standards were also mentioned and food regulation is necessary to create consumer confidence but duplication poses a difficulty. We need to ensure that we do not create false barriers to or for business.

With regard to EU regulations, a common approach should be adopted and expertise shared to ensure a similar local interpretation. We should also facilitate companies that work together to remove inefficiencies which is more important and pertinent in order for the UK and Ireland to co-operate as trading partners. Another assembly suggestion was the creation of links between companies in the food industry, particularly with educational institutions and Deputy Conway mentioned Waterford Institute of Technology.

It was important that the body met here and it was a success and it dealt with the points outlined by the Taoiseach. He was very strong in pointing out that Britain is our nearest neighbour and closest ally and that the body, and now the assembly, has done much good work in establishing closer links and great co-operation over the years. It has gone beyond what was imagined in its early years and our task now is to build on that. The relationship between the two islands has exceeded what the body was initially set up to assist with, namely, the central issue of the North of Ireland, and that is important. The President hosted a reception for the assembly and made similar interesting points in his address. I will leave it to other colleagues to address those points.

1:00 pm

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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The work of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly plays an extremely important role in fostering the relationship between the two islands. As my colleague from Kerry has pointed out, the issue of trade has now become more focused at these meetings. Once upon a time Britain was our largest trading partner and it is as important to all of our manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland as we are to it. As certain issues in the North have receded, such as the violence that blighted this island for so long, we can now focus on the issues of mutual concern and benefit to both populations. That does not mean that we cannot raise such matters as some colleagues did today in the chamber on the Order of Business when they spoke about justice and justice delayed. Today is the anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and we have been denied justice for it. As my colleagues, Senators Mary M. White and Jim Walsh have pointed out, nobody has been brought to trial for the atrocity where more people lost their lives than in any other single atrocity during the Troubles. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is so important because we can raise these issues with our parliamentary colleagues in Westminster and seek justice for those who have been denied it for so long.

As my colleague has pointed out, trade issues are increasingly important and should be.

He has proposed that a trade delegation should be led by senior Ministers and the Taoiseach. That would be very important in expanding these links. I am pleased that Mr. Naughton has taken up the challenge of being the first president of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce. That positive development will be good for the economies of both islands.

I mentioned on Tuesday that I welcome the use of the Seanad Chamber for the deliberations and discussions of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on issues of concern to Ireland and Britain. I have proposed to the Minister that this Chamber be used next year during The Gathering for a meeting of members of the Westminster Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the assemblies in America, the Parliament of Australia and the Parliament of New Zealand who are of Irish descent. We should invite them to come back to Ireland to discuss issues of mutual concern. The Members of the Seanad and the other House should be involved in those discussions with our colleagues from other parliaments. This Chamber would be the ideal location for such a debate.

I welcome the ongoing work of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I wish it continued success. I know it has issued a number of reports on certain topics. We would like progress to be made on those matters. If we discuss our problems and try to find solutions, we can achieve a better outcome for our citizens. I refer not only to economic matters, but also to the justice that has been denied to so many citizens and communities from all parts of this island.

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Labour)
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It was with great interest that I saw the Seanad Chamber in all its glory when I turned on my television the other day. When I noticed that every chair in the House was filled, I wondered whether somebody had failed to tell me about something. When I realised that the Chamber was being used for the 44th plenary session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, I was glad it was getting that kind of coverage.

Senator Daly mentioned that today marks the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. Some 33 civilians were murdered and approximately 300 people were injured in that horrible atrocity. It has to be noted that nobody has ever been convicted of those crimes. We should keep pursuing the matter.

I was pleased to see the Seanad Chamber full of parliamentarians from Britain and Ireland. Since 2001, parliamentarians from Northern Ireland, the National Assembly for Wales, the Scottish Parliament and the assemblies in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey have participated in the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It goes to show how far we have moved with our neighbours across the water. We have developed a much more cordial relationship with them. We have a closer working relationship as well.

The British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, has said the mutual dependence of our economies is widely recognised on both sides of the Irish Sea. He has mentioned that the value of Britain's exports to Ireland exceeds the combined value of its exports to the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. That shows how much we depend on one another. It is important for us to continue to work together. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is an important cog in that regard because it brings parliamentarians together.

I note that this week's session of the assembly was addressed by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar. He spoke about the historic visit to this country of Queen Elizabeth. He mentioned that the Olympic flame, which is an internationally recognised symbol of unity, co-operation and friendship, will be carried through the streets of this city and other cities and towns on both parts of the island. This fantastic event for the country, North and South, will have to be welcomed.

As Senator Paul Coghlan said, the theme of the session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was making business easier between Great Britain and Ireland. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, made an interesting point in his remarks when he referred to the opportunity to attract high-value, high-spending visitors to both islands from rapidly growing countries like Brazil, Russia, China and India. He said he wants to find a way to facilitate that. The common travel agreement for our own citizens is beneficial to us, but it does not help a person from China who wants to visit Dublin. Such a person would need a separate visa for every country in Europe, even if he or she wanted to cross the Border to see the Bushmills distillery or the Giant's Causeway. The Minister's announcement of the provision of a visa waiver in such circumstances is an important step forward.

I am glad the next session of the assembly to be held in Ireland will take place in the spring of next year and will tie in with the massive Gathering extravaganza that has been promised. As part of that event, people from all corners of the globe will be encouraged to come back to Ireland. It will be vital to get people to come back here and to invest in our country. I look forward to that.

I am not a member of the assembly, unfortunately. I would have had an interest in it. I was glad to be asked to contribute to this morning's debate. I am impressed by the extent to which the assembly is sensitive to people's sensibilities in advance of the various centenary celebrations in the coming years. I have to give a plug to my party's involvement in one of the first of those celebrations this year - the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Labour Party. Given that the centenaries of momentous occasions like the Battle of the Somme and the 1916 Rising could provoke division rather than understanding, it is important that the advisory group on centenary celebrations will consider the context and the tone of those celebrations and will make sure such events are marked on an all-island basis, as much as possible. When the group is making its recommendations, it needs to take account of the fact that events like the 1916 Rising, the 1913 Lockout and the Battle of the Somme were part of a bigger global picture, especially as we often tend to be insular about our history.

Having spoken to some of those who attended this week's session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, it seems to have been a successful occasion. I wish the assembly continued success. The work it has done since its foundation to promote understanding and peace between our peoples cannot be under-estimated. We have come a long way since its foundation. We must welcome that and wish it continued success into the future.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I endorse all the statements made by my colleagues. This is a marvellous time in British-Irish relations and the work of the interparliamentary body is to be commended by all sides of this House. When one thinks of some of the wonderful things that have happened, one could say the "Bull" Hayes was not the only person who shed a tear on that memorable day in Croke Park when God Save the Queen was sung before that wonderful match. The work of Mr. Seán Kelly to ensure this came about was magnificent.

When we think of parliamentary relations between Ireland and the UK, it is certain we sent some pretty good hitters over there - the Bantry Band, commemorated in the Leas-Chathaoirleach's home town, Edmund Burke, Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Henry Grattan and Edward Carson. We have really made a mark on the parliamentary institutions of the adjoining island. Any obstacles that exist in regard to trade and energy policy, which were noted by Senator Paul Coghlan, will, I am sure, be removed.

The Taoiseach spoke about our close links. It is a little over a year since the Queen's visit, which had a marvellous impact. Among my own constituents, many of whom live in England, I found it was probably one of the happiest days of their lives to see Her Majesty being received everywhere in Dublin, including in Trinity College, and it made them feel very proud of their associations with this country. They will be having a good outing this Saturday night at Twickenham, with two Irish teams in the sell-out European final fixture. This has brought Ireland to a place on the world stage which we have not seen the like of before.

The joint effort of the two communities to run the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture is a wonderful idea which I hope succeeds. I was grateful for the hospitality of Mr. Speaker Hay and Ms Sheila McLelland in Stormont, where the hospitality and friendship are wonderful.

Reference was made to President Higgins, who also hosted an event. One of the first invitations he received from outside the country was to give a lecture at the London School of Economics. Those contacts between universities mentioned by Senator Coghlan are continuing all the time and it is a wonderful era in that regard.

I welcome the appointment of Mr. Martin Naughton as president of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce. It is hard to think of a better man to do that job, given he has had businesses on both sides of the Border and in the UK for a long time.

In my own constituency, in 1931, the college historical society asked Douglas Hyde whether he would become president of the society. He said he would, but on one condition, namely, that the society had to ask Edward Carson first. It was most interesting that the future President of Ireland nominated the leader of the Unionist Party to be head of a student discussion and debating society. We have recovered all of that spirit and camaraderie in recent times.

It was a wonderful idea to use this Chamber as the centre of the debates. One can only wish the work of the interparliamentary body every success and award to it and to the previous Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, to Mr. Tony Blair, who did such great work, and to the current leaders in Northern Ireland the thanks and appreciation of everybody here. While we have had our problems on the economic front, relations between the two countries and between North and South have never been better. Full credit to all concerned.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I am pleased to make my contribution as a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. As has been said, we were in this Chamber for the very historic occasion of the 44th plenary session, which I was privileged to attend. The assembly consists of members of the parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Oireachtas, as well as five representatives from the Scottish Parliament, five from the National Assembly for Wales, five from the Northern Ireland Assembly and one each from the States of Jersey, the States of Guernsey and the Tynwald of the Isle of Man. Working together, the assembly has since it was founded done Trojan work to promote peace, justice and reconciliation throughout all of the islands.

Many speakers have focused on the atrocities that have happened and, particularly given the dates concerned, on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the Loughinisland massacre, and the fact the FAI has agreed the wearing of armbands for Euro 2012, rightly so. There was acute instability on these islands at that time. We must look to the work of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the Justice for the Forgotten group and the peace commission. All of those groups on this island and the other islands should be brought to this House for a further debate on peace and reconciliation and how we could move forward on that.

Historically, the assembly has its origins in the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, which initially consisted of 25 members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and 25 members of the Oireachtas. In 1998 the British-Irish Council was established under strand three of the Good Friday Agreement. The council, or the assembly, as it is today known today, brings together Ministers from the British and Irish Governments and from all of the administrations in the various parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. In addition, Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement stated that, as well as intergovernmental links, "the elected institutions of the members will be encouraged to develop inter-parliamentary links, perhaps building on the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body".

In 2001 the body was enlarged to include representatives of the various legislative bodies. I would like to see this enlarged further to include a local authority grouping. We all know the fantastic community and voluntary groups working on the ground with the local authorities, and such an add-on to the assembly could serve to flesh it out further. While there was a group at local authority level some years ago, it has been disbanded. I would like to see such a grouping reinvigorated and re-established under this body.

The committees that comprise the assembly meet regularly, although they could perhaps meet more regularly and take on extra work. At the most recent plenary this week, a wide range of issues were discussed and studied by the respective committees, including the role of business in supporting business and tourism, the report on SMEs, the food sector in Britain and Ireland, health provision and British-Irish economic relations.

Committee D, of which I am a member, discussed the findings of its report on flooding in Britain and Ireland. During the plenary meeting of the assembly in Brighton in October 2011, severe flooding occurred in Dublin and in England. Given the operation of river basin management and the links between North and South, we presented a report on flooding at the plenary session, with recommendations which give plenty of food for thought. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, who is responsible for the OPW, was present. He is in regular contact with the river agencies in Northern Ireland and, indeed, there is a legal requirement for cross-Border co-operation as well as east-west co-operation.

The levels of co-operation between the local authorities is good. I have just come from an Oireachtas committee meeting on the new water authority, where one of the recommendations is for an all-Ireland strategy on water provision. I will be taking that up at the next meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

The Taoiseacy said in his address to the assembly members on Monday that Britain is our closest ally. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, commented that Britain was by some distance our most important trading partner and a transit point for trade and travel with much of the rest of Europe and the world.  It is difficult to argue with these views. British-Irish relations are imperative in terms of business and trade and it is imperative that all Governments play their parts to ensure that our relationship with our nearest neighbour continues to grow and strengthen.

We had a number of guest speakers from the business and food sectors, including Mr. Sean O'Driscoll, CEO of Glen Dimplex; Mr. Eoin Tonge, director of Greencore; Ms Sally Storey, vice president of GlaxoSmithKline Ireland; and Ms Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School, who also wears many other hats. All of the speakers acknowledged the opportunities for creating stronger links with Britain. In particular, I noted Darina Allen believes there should be huge potential for the creation of jobs in food sector tourism.

In addition, I support Sean O'Driscoll's suggestion that we should have a rotating trade mission to the United Kingdom every second year. According to his suggestion, Ireland and Britain would host trade missions from each other in alternating years, so there would be an Irish trade mission to the UK every second year. Ireland is also an important export market for the UK and I believe there would be interest from Britain in engaging with Ireland on a more formalised basis on this. In the past couple of months, Ireland engaged in high profile trade missions to the US and China, which have been instrumental in generating business for Irish companies and promoting Ireland as a country in which to invest. These trade missions are a highly effective way of displaying our wares to a dedicated audience. Britain is our nearest neighbour and by far our largest trading partner. I agree with Mr. O'Driscoll that this form of trade mission to Britain would be an effective way of promoting Ireland.

Few Irish companies have had as much success as the four we had in the House. While it is clearly important from an economic and environmental trading perspective that we maintain and reinforce our links with the United Kingdom, it is equally important that we cherish and value our shared heritage, culture and geographic ties. It is not so long since relations were so estranged that there was little or no cross co-operation or dialogue. A DUP Member of the Legislative Assembly, Jim Wells, said when he spoke in this Chamber on the historic occasion of the 44th plenary that if he had been told 20 years ago that he would visit Leinster House and speak here, he would not have believed it. That speaks volumes for everybody who was in the Chamber on the day. Also, who would have thought that the Queen would visit Ireland in 2011?

Progress has been made at political level in promoting peace and better relations North and South and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly plays a huge part in what we do in this regard. I look forward to the next meeting of the assembly and believe the outlook for the future of relations with Britain is very positive. Networking with members, be they political or non-political is invaluable. This group has done significant work for peace and reconciliation on this island.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Fine Gael)
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I too welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the 44th meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I am well acquainted with this group and had the privilege from 1995-1997 of being the Irish co-chairman of what was then known as the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. My colleague on the British side at the time was the then Conservative MP, Peter Temple Morris. Now, having done a little political side turn, he is a life peer representing the Labour Party.

What the people who set up this body in the late 1980s or early 1990s - the likes of Jim Tunney, Peter Barry, Michael Mates and Peter Brooks - put in place has turned out to be a most effective element of parliamentary business. We often hear the phrase "talk is cheap" and we often hear politics and political assemblies being deemed to be nothing more than talking shops. However, this was a talking shop which worked and produced results. The great benefit of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, as it was, and now the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, was that it brought people together who previously would not even meet with each other or engage in any degree of political dialogue and through ongoing meetings, sub-committee and plenary meetings over the course of ten to 15 years, people who were foes became friends.

People sometimes criticise politicians for the social occasions which often flow from formal politics, but I recall many social occasions at which members from either end of the political spectrum were comfortable wining, dining and singing along with people from the other end. Complex problems such as the Northern Ireland problem can only be resolved by dialogue and friendship and the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, now Assembly, played a strong role in that regard. I was delighted to be associated with it for the few years I was. The work, however, must continue, because the building of peace is slow and its bedding down is even slower. We cannot rest on our laurels and the ongoing dialogue between east-west and North-South must continue.

I know there was a busy schedule of work before the assembly this week and I am aware it concentrated on many issues, including the commemorations project being led by former Senator and Deputy, Maurice Manning. This project must be handled very carefully because different days and dates mean different things for many people. Respect and consideration must be at the core of all of the commemorations, whether the Battle of the Somme, the Ulster Covenant, the First World War or the 1916 Rising. All of these issues must be handled with great care. Seven or eight years ago, I requested we begin planning for the commemoration of the 1916 Rising and I tried to take into account all sides of the equation. I am happy that is happening now and that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, is showing leadership on that.

I call on the Minister and on my party and everybody else to begin to plan now for the commemoration of what was probably the greatest tragedy on this island, the Irish Civil War. It has been the source of bitterness, division and strange politics on this island since the early 1920s. As a country, a nation and a Parliament, we are great at lecturing others on peacemaking and on how to move on. However, we have a big job of politics, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Party members in particular, in reflecting upon the Civil War. We cannot replay it because what is written is written and what is done is done. We must consider how we grow, develop and move on. It is great that when the 1916 centenary will be commemorated, we will have an island at peace with itself and with its neighbours. I hope that by 1921 and 1922, when we are commemorating and reflecting on the centenary of the Irish Civil War, we will have arrived at a stage of grown-up politics and that political parties will recognise the reality that the divisions which divided brother from brother, neighbour from neighbour and family from family are well over and that we must now look at the new allegiances and political alignments that must flow from that. This will be a big project for us and we can learn from the work done by groups such as the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in tackling and considering the past in a reflective and sensitive manner, while deciding that the future cannot be a prisoner of the past. I look forward to engaging on that in some small way and to seeing the two Civil War parties decide to let bygones be bygones.

I congratulate the current co-chairmen of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on the work they did during the week. I watched some of the proceedings on the monitors and believe there was a great level of engagement. In its previous incarnation, the body consisted of 25 Members from the House of Commons and House of Lords and 25 Members from Leinster House and that may have been a sharper and more precise grouping. However, the addition of the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey groups adds to the flavour and helps colour the jigsaw. All of these people coming together to talk - maybe talk shop - produces results and helps trade, tourism and relationships. Just 25 or 30 years ago, the majority of people in the Republic had never travelled to Northern Ireland. I recall asking people at Fine Gael meetings over the years how many had travelled abroad. Almost 100% would have visited Britain, 20% to 30% had been to the United States but only 5% or 10% had been to Northern Ireland. That mental barrier has broken down but that does not mean we can end the dialogue or discontinue the economic, social and political projects.

I congratulate all who were involved in the plenary. It was great that the Seanad Chamber was used as a venue for meetings, although I hope it is not a sign that it will become an antique house for extraneous bodies. There are interesting similarities between BIPA and the Seanad. While BIPA does not have the power to make big decisions or overturn governments' proposals or legislation, it can exert an influence through dialogue and constructive engagement. The Seanad must approach its work in the same way. The two bodies can learn from each other.

I understand the assembly will hold its next plenary in Scotland but its sub-committees meet frequently and its members are very active even if their work is not well publicised. They do valuable work which has made a genuine difference. Long may that continue.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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It is good to hear the views of Senator Bradford, as a distinguished co-chair of BIPA. The Senator urged the committee of which I am a member to exercise caution as we enter the decade of commemoration.

I thank the current co-chairs of the assembly, Deputy McHugh and Laurence Robinson, MP, for the great body of work they managed to deliver. Tewkesbury, the constituency which Mr. Robinson represents in Parliament, encompasses the famous Cheltenham racecourse with which a number of Members will be familiar. He has extended a general invitation and I believe the Taoiseach intends to visit next year.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Will he visit Killarney race course?

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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That is another day's work. I thank the Senators who contributed to the debate. Senators Heffernan, Keane, Daly and Barrett made worthy contributions. There was a degree of duplication in some of our remarks but we touched on most of what needed to be said. This is the first occasion in which time was set aside not only in this House, but also in the Dáil to discuss a plenary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. This was also the first time in which both a Taoiseach and a President addressed a plenary. The President hosted a wonderful reception in Áras an Uachtaráin and gave a highly significant speech. He made several interesting statements and also complimented this Chamber's ceiling and chairs. I know he made a great impression on our visitors from around the islands. The great thing about Britain and Ireland is that we have moved on to this stage. There is further work to be done but we have been co-operating in Europe for the last 40 years. There is no doubt that we have reached a new level of maturity.

Among the speakers was Darina Allen, who is a food genius. Bord Bia and Tourism Ireland also deserve our thanks. I hope we have properly thanked everyone involved. I am grateful to the Leas-Chathaoirleach for giving me the time to speak.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I was about to say the Senator was challenging my indulgence.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I hope I only seldom do that.

Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 1.50 p.m.