Seanad debates

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

1:00 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Before I call the Leader, I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who died in the two appalling incidents at the weekend. The deaths of ten people, five of them young children, at the halting site in Carrickmines in the early hours of Saturday morning was a devastating tragedy for the families and for the close-knit Traveller community to which they belong. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them and with those who survived the fire but are being treated in hospital.

The murder of Garda Tony Golden in Omeath underlines the dangers members of An Garda Síochána face on a daily basis as they protect our communities. I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to Garda Golden's wife, Nicola, to their three young children, and to their wider family. Our thoughts are also with the members of An Garda Síochána who have lost a colleague and a friend. The loss of Garda Golden, a gentle giant, a proud family man and a credit to the Garda Síochána, will be felt keenly in his native Ballina, County Mayo, where he excelled in hurling with Ballina Stephenites, and among the community on the Cooley Peninsula.

We must remember, too, the young woman who was also shot and is being treated in hospital. We wish her a full recovery. I call the Leader.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Before I announce the Order of Business, I join the Cathaoirleach in extending my deep and heartfelt sympathy to the ten people who died in the fire in Carrickmines at the weekend and to wish a speedy recovery to the two children who will be orphaned now as well. I extend my sympathy to all the families concerned. I also wish to pay tribute to the members of the fire and emergency services. I express my sympathy on the death of Garda Anthony Golden who was aged 36 and stationed at Omeath Garda station. He was shot while carrying out his duty as a guardian of the peace. I extend to his wife Nicola, their three young children and family my deepest sympathy, which I extend to the entire Garda family who are deeply saddened and shocked by the death of a colleague. We can speak on another occasion about the facts surrounding the shooting. It highlights the dangers gardaí face every day while on duty. I firmly believe there is a need for greater respect for the Garda community that have served us so well since the foundation of the State. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam dílis.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group in the Seanad, I extend my deepest sympathies on the terrible and tragic events over the weekend with the loss of ten people in the fire in Carrickmines which, as the Leader has said, has also left two children fighting for their lives. We wish those children a speedy recovery. It was a desperate and terrible tragedy and was the largest number of fatalities from a fire since the Stardust disaster. We remember also those families who still seek justice for their relatives who died in the Stardust disaster. I am sure the Government and the emergency services will carry out proper investigations in due course as to what happened in Carrickmines to ensure this type of incident cannot happen again. I pay tribute to the emergency services, the members of the fire brigade, the HSE National Ambulance Service and the gardaí who attended the scene and did everything they could to save as many lives as possible.

I pass on my deepest sympathies to the family of Garda Tony Golden, his young children, his wife and his parents, and to his colleagues on that brutal and disgusting murder in Omeath. It occurred just a couple of short years after the demise of a colleague of his, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was also murdered in the line of duty in the same area. Unfortunately, his murderers are still at large. For me, as I am sure for every other colleague, the murder reinforces the crucial job the Garda and emergency services carry out day to day in the service of this State and protecting this State against criminals. All we can hope is that these events do not recur. We must look at how we can protect gardaí further when working in the line of duty. Our main thoughts are with Garda Tony Golden's family, friends and colleagues on what is an absolutely awful tragedy for those in County Louth, especially in Omeath. My thoughts and prayers and those of my party colleagues are with them and with the relatives of the ten people, five of whom were children, who perished in the awful fire that took place in Carrickmines over the weekend.

With that in mind, I do not propose to go through any other business. We will have budget statements afterwards and we will discuss other matters of political discourse over the coming days. I confine my comments to those two very serious items. I wish and hope that some solace is given to the families and, on behalf of myself and my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, I wish them our deepest sympathies.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Leader has omitted to include the Order of business.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Yes. The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on budget 2016, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed six minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 6.55 p.m.

I call for Members to stand for a minute's silence as a mark of respect to those who died in those circumstances at the weekend.

Members rose.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Has Senator Darragh O'Brien finished?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Absolutely. I thank the Cathaoirleach.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I would like, on behalf of the Labour Party group, to join the Leader and Senator Darragh O'Brien in expressing sincere sympathy to the families of those bereaved so tragically at the weekend in the two incidents which people have already described. First, to the ten victims of the appalling fire in Carrickmines in south Dublin, including five children, and others who were injured and, second, to the family and community of Garda Anthony Golden who was killed so tragically in Omeath in the line of duty and to express sincere condolences to the families of all concerned. As others have said we will have statements on the budget. We have all been listening to its content and will be able to discuss it later.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I echo everything that has been said so sincerely by our colleagues concerning the loss of lives at Carrickmines and Omeath. This is the House of the people and if there is anything that we, the Members, can do for those bereaved people they can call upon us. I am sure there will be expressions of solidarity with them on the days of the funerals. I welcome the fact that the Government is to fly the flags on public buildings at half mast on those days. In their time of loss they have our prayers, as Senator Darragh O'Brien has said, and they are in our thoughts and we are here to help. If that can be any consolation to those families I am sure there will be many people listening in Leinster House and they will help.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I join with the Leader, the leader of the Opposition, Senator Bacik and Senator Barrett. Some of us were in the Dáil Chamber for the Budget Statement. Of course sympathy was expressed and there was a minute's silence in the Lower House which was eerie and very powerful, as was the minute's silence proposed by our Leader which reflected the same solace, togetherness and support for the people who perished in Carrickmines, members of the Traveller community who live in very difficult conditions, children and parents of both families. It does not bear thinking about. The last time we had a fire of that nature, as Senator Darragh O'Brien has rightly pointed out, was the Stardust in the early 1980s. We can all remember that as very young people at the time.

The tragedy in Carrickmines was followed by the killing of Anthony Golden in Omeath. As the Fine Gael spokesperson on justice, I often speak about the Garda Síochána and pay tribute to it for the enormity of the job it does and the sacrifices it makes. In this case Anthony Golden has paid the ultimate sacrifice by losing his life, the 88th member of the Garda Síochána to do so since the since the foundation of the force. All we can do is convey our sympathy to his wife, Nicola, and their three children, to the entire force of An Garda Síochána, the people of County Louth, the people of Ireland and all former members of An Garda Síochána. The Garda is a community and a family which does enormous good for the people of this country and we must stand with them in solidarity at this very difficult time.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Certainly it was a weekend of tragedy for families throughout the country, when the ten family members at Carrickmines, County Dublin, perished. They were Thomas and Sylvia Connors, their children Jim, Christy and baby Mary, and William Lynch and Tara Gilbert and their daughters Kelsey and Jodie, and William's brother, Jimmy Lynch.So many people from that family have died that it is unbelievable that they would carry on with so many losses. There were also Jodie and Jimmy Lynch and his brother Willie. The fire in Carrickmines was an accident. That is the only consolation. Unfortunately, they were living in atrocious conditions and I am delighted that the Government has moved to carry out inspections of all sites throughout the country. There are some very bad situations.

I also offer my sympathies to Nicola and the three beautiful children on the death of Garda Tony Golden from Culleens, outside Ballina. I also offer my sympathies to his family, his colleagues, the Commissioner, members of the Garda Representative Association and all members of the force. They have lost a great and very loyal member, a community policeman who went to assist Siobhán Phillipson that day and was confronted with a situation in which he was shot dead and Ms Phillips is now in hospital. She has two children as well. These young children, without their fathers, now face a very uncertain future. Garda Golden was the 88th member of An Garda Síochána to die in the service of the State. We should always continue, as we do in this House, to have utter respect for members of the Garda Síochána, who are prepared every day to sacrifice lives to protect the people of this country. It is a very sad, tragic situation. Investigations will be carried out into what happened on this fateful day. We join our colleagues in expressing our deepest sympathy to all concerned.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I heartily concur with the expressions of sympathy led by the Cathaoirleach, Senator O'Brien and others. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families of all involved, to the family of Garda Tony Golden and to the entire Garda Síochána. As Senator O'Brien said, I do not think any other words would be appropriate at this time. We should, perhaps, adjourn now and discuss the budget in due course.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I join my colleagues in the expressions of sympathy to the unfortunate victims of the horrific fire in Carrickmines, County Dublin, and to the wife, children and extended family of Garda Tony Golden, a native of Ballina in County Mayo. It brings to mind, unfortunately, the horrific incident that occurred less than three years ago, where Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, a native of my own county, Cavan, was brutally murdered. There is a common theme running through both these horrific murders, namely, that these individuals call themselves republicans. I call them thugs and murdering psychopaths. The sooner they are put off the streets and off our island, the better. As Senator Coghlan has stated, there will be another day to discuss these matters. Today is not that day. Suffice it to say that I extend my deepest sympathies to the families affected by both these horrific incidents.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I, too, will confine my comments to expressions of sympathy to all the families involved in the tragedies of last week, the fire at Carrickmines and the untimely death of Garda Tony Golden, which was a terrible ordeal. It was the second death of a Garda in that area, which is very troubling. In addition, a priest, Fr. O'Donoghue, lost his life in a fire during the week. I just want to add my voice to the expressions of sympathy for these people.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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Like everybody else here, I add my condolences to the people in Carrickmines, to Garda Golden's family and to the family of the homeless man who died in Dublin over the weekend. The people in Carrickmines live just down the road from me. It was a halting site that was well in off the road. They were people who minded their own business, who went about their daily lives. To see two families wiped out so quickly and to see two young children orphaned is very tragic.There are points we could make today but, as Senator Paul Coghlan stated, this is not the time for recriminations.

With respect to the late Garda Golden, the Garda family are a close-knit group. Indeed, when my brother, who was a garda, died, the N11 was closed in order to allow his funeral travel out to Shanagarry. Today, the families and loved ones of gardaí who are going on duty this evening will be thinking about whether their fathers and mothers will return home later tonight. It will take some days for those feelings to pass. We must remember the Garda is one of the few police forces in the world that is unarmed and that officers walk into perilous situations every day of the week. Few of us ever give them a second thought because we rarely, if ever, need them. However, there are those who do need them, such as that woman who was in distress at the weekend. There was a garda willing to travel to her house and assist her and, sadly, he lost his own life while doing so. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I, too, wish to join in the expressions of sympathy. Garda Golden was the 88th garda to die on duty in 93 years. It is one death too many. Like the late Garda Golden, every one of the gardaí who have died over the years served the force well. It is extremely sad. It is important that we convey our sympathies to his wife, Nicola, and to his immediate family.

I also would like to join in extending my sympathy to the families of those who died in the tragedy at Carrickmines. Ten people died, five adults and five children. It brings home the need for us all to be mindful of one another in terms of where we live and work. Last year we highlighted the number of deaths that occurred as a result of farming accidents. Senator Moloney referred earlier to a person in Kerry who died in a fire. These incidents highlight the need to focus on this issue and on how to make places safer. Whether it is our homes or the other accommodation - such as apartments or Traveller accommodation - in which we live, we need to focus and take action. It is a matter that we should discuss. It is important that we convey our sympathies to the families. This is a huge tragedy and a major loss for everyone involved.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I also wish to join colleagues in extending my deepest sympathy to the Lynch, Connors and Gilbert families who lost ten members of their families in the appalling tragedy in Carrickmines. It certainly brings home to us how fragile life is and how lives can be snuffed out in an instant as a result of an appalling accident. I think of the extended Traveller family throughout the country, some of whom, in my town of Ballinasloe, lost relatives in Carrickmines at the weekend. I also think of the two children who are fighting for their lives and hope they make a full recovery.

I want to join in the expressions of praise for the emergency services and I think of the awful trauma that they face on an ongoing basis when called out to such horrific accidents. I am glad that every support will be given to those families and that all accommodation on halting sites will be examined. I also am pleased that counselling services are being made available to the many members of the families which have been impacted upon as a result of this appalling tragedy.

I also join others in expressing sympathy and offering our prayers and support to Nicola Golden on the loss of her husband, Tony, who was shot in a senseless killing in Omeath at the weekend, and to her three children and his extended family. He served the State well. He was a true gentleman who was only concerned for family and colleagues and the community that he served so well.I share the anger of my colleague who referred to the need to discuss the availability of weaponry. We think of the families concerned. I hope the support they receive from the communities in which they live will be of some comfort to them. As Senator Barrett stated, we hope that anything the families require of the State, including the Legislature, will be forthcoming.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I add my words of sympathy to all the families affected by the dreadful weekend of tragedies. I convey my sympathies to the families of the ten people who lost their lives in the horrific accident in Carrickmines. As Senator Mullins stated, we must also praise the members of the emergency services who arrived at a horrific scene on Saturday. I also express sympathy to the family of the gentleman who died over the weekend in Westmoreland Street.

I pay tribute to Garda Anthony Golden, who lived in my home village of Blackrock, County Louth, where his funeral will take place on Thursday. From all the reports I have read about his actions on Sunday, Garda Golden was an astonishingly brave man. I called to the Garda station this morning before travelling to Dublin and ahead of the prayer service, which was held at 11 a.m. It is surreal to think that it was less than three years ago that we all signed a book of condolence for the late Garda Adrian Donohoe. At that time, we hoped and prayed that something like that would never happen again. The whole community has been shaken to its core by the events of last weekend.

The Garda is still dealing with the death of Garda Adrian Donohoe. My thoughts go out to his wife, Caroline, and their two children, who must be feeling for the Golden family today. I also extend my sympathy to Garda Golden's wife, Nicola, their three young children, Garda Golden's family in County Mayo, and his mother-in-law, Nicola's mother, Iris O'Sullivan, who also lives in Blackrock. I pay tribute to the gardaí in Dundalk, who do a great job.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I also express condolence to the families of all the victims of the weekend's events. We in south Dublin will have ten funerals. The accident in Carrickmines was so horrific that the suffering of the victims and those who have been left behind does not bear thinking about. I offer my sympathy to the families and friends of those who died: Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert and their children, Kelsey and Jodie, Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children, Jim, Christy and six-month-old Mary, and Willie Lynch's brother, Jimmy. I also offer my sympathy to the extended community in Carrickmines and Bray and the Traveller friends of the families living in neighbouring districts, who are doing Trojan work providing services and facilities to the families, including counselling. The council will also help out, and I am aware that an online fund has been established by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to help with the costs of ten funerals, which will be an expensive business.

I pay tribute to Garda Tony Golden. May he rest in peace. I extend my sympathies to his wife and three children. Garda Golden's death brings home to us again that gardaí put their lives in danger every day of the week. Detective Adrian Donohoe's wife must be feeling for Nicola, Garda Golden's wife, and her children. I sympathise with the family of Garda Tony Golden, who are from County Mayo.There is so much one could say about it and there is so much that has to be done. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government announced today that every local authority will have to carry out a review, as we do not want a recurrence of this type of accident. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam dílis.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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I extend my sympathy to those unfortunate people who lost their lives in the horrific accident in Carrickmines at the weekend and also to Tony Golden, a man I knew personally and who worked in the communities of Carlingford, Omeath and the wider Cooley Peninsula. I extend my sympathies to Tony Golden's Garda colleagues in the Omeath-Carlingford branch and to gardaí in the wider Dundalk area. He was a true community garda. I read a description of him as a gentle giant and I endorse that statement. He was a gentle giant who went about his duties quietly and with great dignity. I had the privilege of knowing him and had a cup of tea with him only two weeks ago in Carlingford. He paid the ultimate price of his own life in going to help someone in his community who was suffering violence in her own home. People ask what would have happened if he had had the assistance of three or four gardaí. I believe they would have paid the same price. It was a truly devastating evening in the parish of Omeath and Carlingford, where we were celebrating the wonderful sporting feats of our rugby team that same Sunday. To hear the news was devastating. I extend my sympathies to his wife and family and to his wider family in County Mayo.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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I support Senator Brennan in his comments on Garda Tony Golden, who lived four or five doors away from me in the village of Blackrock in County Louth. He was a wonderful person. Sometimes one says that and it means nothing, but in this case it is absolutely true. He was a man of outstanding integrity and a great family man who liked nothing better than to spend his spare time with his three beautiful little children. My heart goes out to his wife Nicola, who is from the village, and the extended family on their great loss.

Sometimes, we do not appreciate enough the risks gardaí take in protecting us, the people. They go out and do this work so that we can sleep safely in our beds. I offer my sympathy and condolences to all members of the force. They must be feeling terrible today at the loss of their colleague such a short time after the loss of another of their colleagues, Adrian Donohoe, whose child I enrolled in the national school when I was teaching in Bellurgan. Today is not the day to see what solutions we can find to these problems, but Senator Paul Coghlan and others drafted a report calling for a beefed-up special tasks unit to deal with criminality. I supported that recommendation at the time and I support it now not because of this horrific and unacceptable tragedy, but because we need to combat the fallout from the Troubles, where some criminals have taken over the trade in misery that has been ongoing for so long.

Order of Business agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 4.42 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.