Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Order of Business
I hope it will not be a frosty Order of Business. The Order of Business is No. 1, Protection of Employment (Measures to Counter False Self-Employment) Bill 2018 – Second Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to be adjourned after two hours, if not previously concluded.
This is in one sense a sad day for the Seanad. In another sense it is a kind of a joyous day for somebody who has decided to seek another life outside of politics. It is Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh's final day and I take the liberty of overriding the Order of Business to allow him to speak first, if that is in order. Agreed? Agreed.
Is ócáid iontach brónach ar bealach amháin ach áthasach ar bealach eile go bhfuil sé i gcesit agam a chur in úil duit i scríbhinn níos deireanaí go bhfuil mé ag éirí as mo shuíocháin Seanad. I am going to be resigning my seat later this afternoon. I am hearing the decision is sending reverberations through Parliament already because it is thinking of closing down tomorrow. It might not be able to cope without me but I am sure it will recover.
Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh aíonnaí speisialta atá liom inniu anseo. Tá siad sa ghailearaí. Meallaigh agus na gasúir agus daoine as Gaillimh so tá Cairbre, Aoibhinn, Fáinte, Rian agus Síofra agus mo chara, Chris Davy, ag obair liom ins an oifig i nGaillimh agus tá roinnt daoine nárbh féidir leo taisteal inniu agus tá siad ag breathnú ar an idirlíon, go háirithe clann Meallaigh a thugann an-cúnamh dúinn sa bhaile agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh do gach duine a thug an deis dom a bheith anseo ar an gcéad lá riamh. I want to thank all of those who are watching at home or could not travel and those in the Gallery.
I thank those who gave me the opportunity to be here and elected me in the first place. It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve in the Seanad for seven years. I am conscious it is unusual that Senators get to resign their seats on their own volition. I am conscious of former Senators, Denis Landy and Jimmy Harte, who did not get that opportunity and I wish them well in everything they are doing.
I had a wonderful seven years and some amazing experiences in the House. I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Members of the Seanad and Dáil whom I have worked with. I also thank Mr. Martin Groves, Ms Bridget Doody, Ms Carol Judge, Ms Niamh O'Grady and foireann Oifig an tSeanaid for being a wonderful resource to me and great friends over the last number of years, as well as the secretariat and staff of all of the committees. People might not recognise the amount of work done behind the scenes to support the committees. They have been fantastic.
I thank the Parliamentary Reporters agus tá mo chara, Séamas, anseo. Bím i gcónaí ag breathnú ar éadain na Parliamentary Reporters. I often take a glance at the Parliamentary Reporters because they are very stoical in their position and tend not to react to what is going on, no matter what the shenanigans might be. However, I have often wondered what is going on inside their heads. I look forward to the memoirs of a number of them. They are still not giving anything away. Is iontach an obair a dhéanann siad.
I also thank an rannóg cumarsáide, the communications department, the sound team and the audiovisual team. We are all in the new era of Youtube, Facebook, etc. Without the work they do in recording us in the Seanad and on the committees, we would not be able to get ourselves out there. The Library and Research Service has been invaluable. We launched a report yesterday on island schools and it did amazing work on the background and on other projects. I thank the one-stop shop that helps us all and all of the administration staff in these Houses, including the Captain and the Superintendent. I say a special word of thanks to Mr. Colm O'Rourke and all of the ushers.I have made great friends with so many of the ushers over the years agus go háirithe don chuid sin atá ag foghlaim na Gaeilge. The catering and bar staff in these Houses are fantastic. They are exemplary and have been great friends over the years. The cleaning and maintenance people come in very early in the morning. I am the type of person who comes in early in the morning and I would often bump into them in the corridors and have a chat. I thank them. The porters have been very busy in the past number of days on my behalf bringing stuff in and out to the car. I also thank the printing and design team agus dream a thugann an-tacaíocht domsa mar gheall ar chursaí teanga comh maith an t-am ar fad ná rannóg an aistriúcháin agus táimíd buíoch dóibh sin. Na hiriseoirí polaitiúla - the political correspondents, the Dáil studio staff and the local and national media. I hope I have not left anybody else out. I thank them sincerely for all they have done. Tá an-áthas orm gur éirigh liom a bheith mar ghlór phobal Conn na Mara agus do Gaillimhe, do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta fad agus a bhí mé sa Seanad. One of my parting messages would be not to forget seachtain na Gaeilge ag tosaí an tseachtain seo chugainn so I would hope people would follow in the footsteps and try to use as much Irish as they can for seachtain na Gaeilge. You never know when my replacement is to be nominated. Members might think of persuading their party leaders to nominate somebody who might have cúpla focail as well to take up the mantle of the Irish language and speak on behalf of rural affairs, human rights and civil liberties, particularly the issue of direct provision, which was close to my heart and which I will be following.
This country has had an amazing role with regard to our diaspora in international affairs. I would like to think there are conflicts around the world where this Government or Governments to come could take a role to help keep and foster peace. I hope that this could happen even in the situation between Catalonia and Spain.
As elected representatives, we have an incredibly privileged role. It is a great honour but also a great challenge. It is important for me to acknowledge today that when one is an elected representative, one's life really is not one's own. Such people are in the goldfish bowl quite a lot. It is a very challenging life physically and mentally and affects everybody around them - their family, extended family, friends, etc. It is important to note that, which is why I have the height of respect for everybody in the Seanad and Dáil along with councillors because I know the pressures people are under and I think it is important to recognise the great work they do for their people. I have really enjoyed working with everybody here. We have had the odd spat here and there but I hope I have not offended anybody too much and if I have, my apologies.
My good friend, Senator Black, mentioned John O'Donohue last night, which got me thinking. The great John O'Donohue was a poet who lived in Connemara. I came across a quote of his which might be a nice parting word to leave with the House. He wrote:
Part of understanding the notion of Justice is to recognize the disproportions among which we live [...] it takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to really understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great duty and responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless.
Guím gach rath ar gach uile duine sa teach seo agus beimíd ag caint le chéile arís tá mé cinnte so go dtí go gcasfar lena chéile arís muid, go n-éirí an t-ádh libh.
Ar dtús, déarfaidh mé cúpla focal do Trevor Ó'Clochartaigh ar an ócáid seo. Bhí brón orm nuair a chuala mé an nuacht that Trevor was resigning from the Seanad - on his own terms. Not every person gets to leave office on their own terms.
I pay tribute to Trevor for his work on the issue of the diaspora. I have attended many events with him. I know he has worked very hard on the issue of the undocumented in the US, the forgotten Irish in Great Britain and so many other areas, even the ones that are more difficult and challenging but are equally important for those who are returning such as driver licences and insurance. It is work for which one does not get any votes but that is not what he is in here for and it was not what he was doing over the past seven years. He was working very hard on behalf of everybody, most recently on the issue of Catalonia on behalf of humanity rather than the people of Galway West.
The fact that he was looking at issues outside his immediate electoral area and outside this island shows his breadth as a public representative. He is not retiring so it is not like he is leaving office and going off to sun himself on a beach. On the occasion of the closing of Moriarty's Bakery in Kenmare, which had been run by three brothers for 49 years, the brothers put a little handwritten note on the window thanking all their customers and said, "Now we must learn the lesson of how to spend time without spending money". I am afraid this is not the occasion for Senator Ó Clochartaigh at this time but I wish him the best in the future, as does everyone in the Fianna Fáil group.
I welcome the announcement that the Government will pay the fuel allowance. I know the Taoiseach was unable to confirm it yesterday in response to questioning from all sides. The Government needs to put in place a formula so that it does not have to take up so much Dáil time, as was the case yesterday, so that on occasions such as this where a red weather alert is likely, it is automatically included. I know the person responsible for advocacy and communications in Age Action Ireland and all the other agencies dealing with this issue welcomed that announcement but the Government needs to create a formula whereby this would become automatic rather than it turning into a political football. There is no need for that on an occasion such as this.
Speaking of political footballs, in exactly 14 minutes, we will see the release of the documents from the EU regarding Brexit proposals. We should bear in mind that what is proposed with regard to the North and South is the default position if the British Government cannot come up with any better ideas. However, as it has not come up with any better ideas since the vote in 2016, it is unlikely that it will do so now.
It was amazing to hear Gregory Campbell of the DUP bemoaning the fact that the EU has not put in the legislation it is proposing regarding the arrangement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. That is an internal UK market and issue and nothing to do with the EU. If it had included such language, it would be attacked by the Brexiteers for doing so. We must bear in mind that this is based on the agreement that was signed in December. I pay tribute to the Tánaiste and the Government for making sure it was robust and ensured that there would be no divergence between the North and South of Ireland. Hopefully, the language that will appear in exactly 12 minutes will show that, which will mean that there will be no return to the Border of the past. We must bear in mind that there are 275 Border crossings between the North and South of Ireland along a 499 km Border. During the Troubles, only 20 of those remained open. We do not want a return to that and a return to violence.
My niece and grandchild-----
Actually, she is my godchild. The thing about being my godchild is that she is the one who picks the nursing home so, obviously, she is up here on work experience. She is up here on work experience and is having a grand time. We were at the cinema last night. She will be picking my nursing home so everyone should make sure to treat her right.
I first met Senator Ó Clochartaigh when I came in here following a by-election in 2014. He is one of Ireland's gentlemen and a man I will miss dearly. I will miss his beautiful Irish, his smiling face and his helpful hand any time I ever needed it. He is a decent man and I wish him well. TG4's gain is our loss and Ireland's loss. I wish him the very best of luck. He was a really decent guy to be around.
I have rarely, if ever, spoken about issues pertaining to the Troubles. It is no secret that I served in the British Army. Sometimes I am accused of being a west Brit or whatever one wants to call it. A report on the radio on Sunday morning concerned the shooting of Aidan McAnespie in Northern Ireland. There have been many different comments about it. I was a soldier for ten years.I carried a weapon for most of those ten years. It is extremely difficult to have an accidental discharge of a weapon. That man was shot. According to some rumours, it was as a result of a ricochet. First, it would want to be a very lucky ricochet and second, the accidental discharge of the weapon is something that must be questioned and answered. An investigation was carried out by former Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley and that report was handed to the then Minister for Justice in 1988. I listened to that man's family speak on a radio programme on Sunday morning. If nothing else, they are entitled to have sight of that report. I have no idea what that young man was involved in. All I know is that he played football. That is the only thing I heard on that radio programme. The Garda report will tell whatever story there is to be told. If nothing else, the family are entitled to that. I call on the current Minister for Justice and Equality to release that report to the family, even if it means bringing the family into an office in Dublin and allowing them the courtesy to sit down and read the report.
With respect to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, in order for matters to move on there, I have believed all along that there must be some form of a truth commission. There must be a way where people can sit down and hear what happened to their loved ones. Whether charges would follow or not, I do not feel competent to comment on. However, at the very least, both unionists and nationalists are entitled to know why those they loved were killed. There are no accidental killings in this world. What happened was a terrible time in our history. We are coming into a time in our history, which is equally disturbing, namely, the commemoration of the Civil War. It is time for some reconciliation. I ask the Minister as a first step to release that report to the family.
First, I want to acknowledge Senator Ó Clochartaigh's last day in the House. He has been my colleague since I was elected to the Seanad. I welcome Mali and his family who are here today and the people from Galway who have travelled here. I know there are others on their way who got delayed as a result of the weather conditions.
Trevor has played an important part of our Sinn Féin team in the Seanad across many issues that have been mentioned, including the diaspora, Travellers' rights and many other issues that are not great vote-getters. That displays the type of person he is. We will certainly miss him within the Seanad team but this is a good and joyous day. It reminds us all that there is life outside politics and there are many other jobs that people in this Chamber could do. I congratulate Trevor on his new job. They have made a very wise choice at TG4 and I look forward to working with him in the future. I thank him and wish him the best of luck.
I thank Senator Craughwell for raising the issue of the Crowley report and demanding its release. The McAnespie family has waited long enough, indeed, far too long, and that needs to be done. We need to hear more voices, other than our own inside the republican movement, demanding that. I thank Miriam O'Callaghan for her RTÉ Radio 1 programme last Sunday. It was very important for people to hear it, and even for me as a parent who has two teenage boys who go to football matches all of the time. The thought of what happened to Aidan McAnespie resonates with many parents like me across this island.
Lastly, I wish to raise the issue of fuel poverty. I welcome what the Government has done, albeit late in the day, and I ask the Leader if he would arrange for us to have a proper discussion on fuel poverty in this Chamber and around the hidden problem in Ireland. Many very good reports have been done on this issue during the term of the previous Government and even at the height of the boom, reports on fuel poverty were being drawn up. We need to have a proper discussion on the availability of fuel, house insulation and on the people who fall through the gaps. I have found the local authority will say that this issue is the problem of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI. Even with respect to getting heating systems upgraded or house insulation for people, the local authority will say, "No, it does not fall within our remit." The SEAI will say, "No, it does not fall within our remit either." Meanwhile these people are left in vulnerable situations. I ask the Leader to arrange for us to have a full, sensible and wholesome debate on fuel poverty in this House.
I, too, would like to acknowledge the role played by my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh. While he was speaking, I thought back to the first day I arrived in Leinster House for the Seanad elections. I will never forget his warmth and kindness to me. I was very anxious that day, if I remember rightly, and thought I would be out of here in an hour but I was really surprised. His warmth has spread here, through the Seanad, and such warmth always spreads. When one walks into the Chamber, one sees the smile he would always give. My colleagues in the Civil Engagement group and I definitely will miss him very much. I have said that to him already. We have worked with him on many issues, including family reunification and Travellers' issues. He will be sorely missed.
It takes great courage to do something like this. Trevor and I talked about John O'Donohue last night, and, if it is in order, a Chathaoirligh, I would like to read out the second part of a poem written by the poet, John O'Donohue. It sums up what I believe Trevor is and his courage. The poem states:
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground.
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
That sums up Trevor and I thank him for the great work he has done.
I am not sure if we will have statements on councillors' conditions tonight but if not, I wish to put on record that many councillors have contacted me and the stories they told me concerning their issues are very upsetting. One woman this morning advised she has lost her job on foot of the amount of work that she was doing as a councillor and as a result, this woman, who is a single parent, is really struggling financially. I look forward to our having statements on councillors' conditions and discussing their issues because I am very concerned about what is happening with respect to them.
I pay tribute to the work of my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh. He thanked everybody in the House and I take this opportunity to thank him for the service he has done during the past seven years. I came across the Senator for the first time when I was a Minister of State and was dealing with a Commencement matter he had raised. He taught me a very good lesson, namely, that if one was up against him, irrespective of whether it concerned a Commencement matter or another matter, one came into this House prepared. I mean that in the nicest possible way.
With his retirement from politics today, there are winners and losers. TG4 is one of the winners. However, the citizens of the State are on the losing side because the Senator always presented his arguments, having researched them well, with good humour but one had to be ready for him when one came into the Chamber. That, to me, is a great compliment. The other winner is the Senator's family. They must have missed him greatly while he was up in Dublin when they had to deal with the pressures at home, and he probably missed them deeply.His family and friends, many of whom are in the Gallery today, are the winners. They will have him and his good humour back home with them a bit more often. I wish him the very best of luck. Go n-éirí an bóthar leat. I think that is a good attempt from somebody who has no Irish.
The weather is quite bad outside but the councils have been working extremely hard since last night. Dublin buses have been running on the roads. Those bus men had to get out of their beds early this morning to make sure that the buses were running to enable people to get to work. I compliment them for their diligence and hard work in keeping the city moving today.
Time and again I have raised the issue of short-term lets and the impact they are having on homelessness. A report was published recently about legislation enacted in Berlin which saw just over 4,000 short-term lets put back into use as longer-term residential accommodation for workers and families. The introduction of similar legislation here would have the same effect. I raise this matter because I received an email from correspondents in Cork that referred not just to the loss of such units to the housing stock but also the negative impact that high levels of short-term letting is having on their community. The correspondents referred to the "hollowing out" of a residential housing estate where residents who used to have neighbours now have short-term visitors and holiday makers. That is not in their interests or in the interests of good planning.
I wish Senator Ó Clochartaigh the very best in his new career. I also wish his family the best of luck. They are smiling and are obviously very happy to get him back. I thank them for lending Trevor to the Seanad and to public life over the last seven years.
I wish to be associated with the good wishes extended to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. He has beautiful Irish and it is lovely to listen to him speaking the language. He has a great ability to switch between Irish and English and it is absolutely fabulous to listen to him. When I was Cathaoirleach he posed a lot of problems for me because my Irish was very poor. He would table either a Commencement matter or an Adjournment matter almost every day and I would have to have a crash course, along with the former Clerk to the Seanad, Ms Deirdre Lane, with Martin Groves coming in to read out the matter. I decided that I would take Senator Ó Clochartaigh's matter every morning to get it out of the way but that did not solve my problem because he would table another one for the following day. Eventually I decided I would leave my notes here because it would often be the same matter and I was better able to communicate it. Senator Ó Clochartaigh was a great Senator who raised many important issues on the floor of the House for the betterment of the people of his area and the country. He was an outstanding public representative and I wish him well in his new job as communications manager with TG4. That organisation will benefit greatly from his experience. I wish him and his family well. I also wish him the best of luck in his new job.
I congratulate Senator Ó Clochartaigh on his new role and wish him the very best in the future and go n-éirí an t-ádh leat.
Senators will recall that last October I asked that a debate be organised about the issue of loneliness and social isolation in Ireland which are some of the greatest public health risks today. In December I formally requested the Government to establish a loneliness task force to tackle the epidemic of loneliness. I did so in this Chamber and also in formal correspondence with An Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and other Ministers. In the interim and in the absence of any response from the Government, I have now formally established a loneliness task force. This task force wants to increase awareness of the issue and to produce a set of recommendations for Government, State agencies and policy makers across the island of Ireland. The loneliness task force will produce a report on what is needed to tackle the epidemic of loneliness on an all-Ireland basis. I am happy to report that the task force will include a range of people from the community and voluntary sectors, including nursing, sport, business, medicine, youth work and psychiatry as well as from various NGOs. Much of the discussion about loneliness and isolation focuses on the elderly but loneliness is now just as prevalent among the young. Suggestions or proposals for the loneliness task force can be made via www.lonelinesstaskforce.com. These will be incorporated into the report which will be published in the coming months. The current extreme weather warnings further highlight the issue of loneliness and social isolation. Mar a deireann an seanfhocal, ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine. Under the shelter of each other, people survive. We are a kind and compassionate society but thousands of people are living lives of quiet desperation and loneliness. I hope the loneliness task force will bring energy and a sense of urgency to this most pressing issue. The discussion around the epidemic of loneliness needs to be turbo-charged. I look forward to bringing the recommendations of the loneliness task force to the House in the coming months.
I welcome Senator Ó Clochartaigh's family to the Gallery. I have always found Senator Ó Clochartaigh to be a great colleague and friend. The first time I met him was at the famous count for the agricultural panel of Seanad Éireann. Senators Conway-Walsh, Ó Clochartaigh and myself filled the first three vacancies on the inside panel, which was unique in itself. Senator Ó Clochartaigh was then elected as a Sinn Féin Senator. In my case, I was coming into a situation about which I clearly did not have a clue. I had a fair idea but did not know how the whole thing worked and I certainly did not expect the vote that I ultimately got. One of the people who was there from very early on, sitting next to me, was Trevor and he explained the very complicated process to me. I learned a hell of a lot with him. I observed him over those few days and in the following weeks and he was always extremely helpful and supportive. There are not too many people in here that will show one the ropes but Trevor was one of them. Any time one asked him a question, he never made one feel stupid and he always explained how the system worked. I know from speaking to him and reading a bit about him that Trevor was involved in the Labour Party in Galway in the past. He has an amazing track record and many independent councillors from Galway speak of his absolute commitment to the disadvantaged, to equality and to justice. He is an advocate and I do not think he will ever stop being one. In fact, I know he will not stop because that is his style and his personality. Indeed, that goes for a lot of Members of this House. I wish him well and thank him for his friendship and his support for Members from all parties and none. That was clearly noticed and was very valuable. I wish him well in his new job and would ask him to take one thought with him. In terms of the work we do in this House, it is so important that the media gives us coverage, whether as Gaeilge or in English. I hope that he will use his experiences in here to get the message out about the importance of a fair and balanced account of what we do in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I wish him well personally. Whatever he does, he will do it well and to the best of his ability. He deserves his time out of here and as Senator Conway-Walsh said, there is another life. I am always amazed by politicians who say that there is another life outside politics but many of them do not seem to want to take that leap and get out. We might all consider that. I am relatively new here and do not intend leaving for a while. I wish Trevor well; he deserves every success in the future.
I would also like to be associated with the warm and well-deserved tributes to our colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh. He has been a great force for good in here as well as a wonderful champion of the Irish language and all things Gaelic.I sympathise with Senator Paddy Burke regarding what he said. I was in the Cathaoirleach's position a few times when Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised Commencement matters. My Gaelic is not as flúirseach as the Senator's but I did my best. We wish the Senator every success. I have no doubt he will be very successful with TG4. Please God we will meet him now and again. We will not lose contact.
I was struck earlier by the remarks of my colleague and friend Senator Mark Daly. I hope he does not see that nursing home any time soon. We would miss him if he were in there. I would promise to visit.
On a more serious matter, I share fully the Senator's view on regulatory alignment between the North and South. Please God we will have similar regulatory alignment between the east and west. We will say more about that anon.
I will contribute as well.
I want to say slán to Trevor. It will not really be slán as I will be over in the "wesht" at some stage. Coming from a Dublin-centric position and being steeped in Dublin, it is difficult to get out into the bog.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh keeps reminding me, Dubs and those who are caught in the urban centres of the beauty of our language, culture and what is "the bog" to the Dubs. The Senator has a great heart. He is a great human and I will miss him very much. Go raibh míle maith agat for all the help you gave me and for the divilment as well. It was enjoyable. I will see you soon.
I congratulate Dublin Region Homeless Executive on its response last night to the adverse weather conditions and on rough sleepers. I would like to find an alternative to the term "rough sleepers", however. It is not adequate. I refer to those sleeping outside. I was at a meeting in St. Catherine's community centre in Dublin 8 on Monday night. All the volunteers came in and set up from 60 to 80 beds in an area to encourage and welcome those who sleep outside. The response from the public has been incredible. The public have been encouraged by email, app, telephone and text to alert Peter McVerry Trust and Dublin Region Homeless Executive about vulnerable people sleeping outside. Considering the weather conditions that are still to come, including the storm and the freezing and snowy conditions, I appeal to those sleeping outside to avail themselves of any bed being offered for the moment because it gives life-saving warmth in this adverse period.
I join my colleagues in wishing Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh all the best. He is going back to familiar pastures in TG4. His family will probably return to some element of normality. A career in politics is very hard on families. People have made reference to being a politician. Whether we admit it or not, we actually enjoy it. We enjoy the buzz of being involved in politics but it is very rough on families. I pay tribute to the Senator's family.
We are in the midst of extreme weather. There are varying levels of severity in different parts of the country but it looks like the storm will hit all areas. The emergency task force, chaired by Mr. John Hogan, is up and running. The most important point is that people be kept safe. The one thing I learned from Storm Ophelia is that people need to stay indoors. Lives were lost on the last occasion, unfortunately. When walking across Dublin this morning, from the Merrion Street end, I noted the roads are in a treacherous state. The main thing is to heed the warning to stay indoors. The services are in place. People should not be afraid to make contact with the emergency services, regardless of circumstances, because that is what they are for. I hope the storm will pass and that people will be safe. The weather is very severe and it will get a lot worse.
I wish Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh every success and thank him for his tremendous service to Seanad Éireann over the past seven years. He has made a great contribution to public life here. His wonderful Gaelic is really impressive and an inspiration to others.
I happened to be out of the Chamber for ten years, from 1992 to 2002. I have no doubt that the Senator might be back here again after his stint with TG4. People should not write him off.
From my experience of this and the other Chamber, I have learned there are very few voluntary resignations. Very few want to leave when they get in here. They certainly do not want to leave because it is a very important institution. It is most fortunate that the present Government did not abolish it or we would be all gone. Senator Ó Clochartaigh would have had a premature departure. He would not be here to leave today. I welcome the Senator's family to the House. That he is leaving the Seanad is a loss to Connemara and the west. Senator Máire Devine should note there are more than bogs in the west. There are nice farms and beautiful landscape. I hope she comes down to become more familiar with the rest of the country outside the Pale.
I wish Senator Ó Clochartaigh well with TG4. He was employed by it before as a producer. Ros na Rún was one of his great productions. TG4 is a great station. It is a tremendous Irish station. It is a real station for Ireland and shows great imagination. I am very pleased that previous Fianna Fáil Governments brought in TG4.
Let us be clear about it.
We also got rid of section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act. The Senator should be aware of that also. It was a ridiculous Act.
The bad weather reminds me of 1982, when the late Garret FitzGerald was out in Tenerife. The storm came-----
Senator Leyden took four minutes instead of two. If everybody goes off on these tangents and takes three or four minutes, we have no orders of the House. I ask Senators to be reasonable. Another 11 Senators are offering to speak, so it is not a quiet day.
I add my words of compliment to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I like to regard him as a friend. He represents the best side of Sinn Féin through his interest in human rights, justice and equality, matters about which he spoke with great knowledge and passion. I am not at all surprised that he chose a quote John O'Donohue on justice and equality. I have always found the Senator gentlemanly and courteous in all his dealings. I wish him well. Níl mo chuid Gaeilge flúirseach ar fad, but I speak it occasionally in the House out of deference to people such as Senator Ó Clochartaigh who use this House to speak the most beautiful Irish. One could listen to him for ever. His Irish is also understandable. He articulates it and one knows where he is going and what the meaning is.
I wish him well with TG4, which is an excellent station. The TG4 documentaries are the best that are broadcast in this country; they are absolutely superb. Many of the programmes that have discussions and so on also have subtitles to help viewers who do not know a word here and then. He is continuing one element, at least, of his work with TG4.
Speaking as a trade unionist, I ask the Cathaoirleach to use his good offices to ensure that Members who cannot come to the House because of the weather - Leinster House being closed and everything else - should get credit in terms of fobbing in. If we are disbarred from the place, it is not our fault if we cannot come here and fob in. There should be some flexibility here. We should get credit for it. Many workers get paid during the snow. The whole fobbing-in thing is a complete and utter nonsense in any event. None of the Ministers have to do it and the secretaries do not have to do it. It is a complete and utter sham and nonsense. The public is not in the slightest bit impressed by it.
Aontaím go h-iomlán leat Senator Norris, tá an fobbing-in seo craiceáilte. Ní bhéadh sé ar siúl i bunscoil nó meánscoil in aon áit sa tír agus ba cheart dúinn dearmad a dhéanamh air. A Trevor, tá aithne againn ar a chéile le scór go leith blianta anois agus thosaigh muid ag cur aithne ar a chéile nuair a raibh tú ag plé le dráma sa taibhdhearc, Lynch, i 1980 nó mar sin. Tá an t-ádh linn uilig, tá an t-ádh liom agus tá an t-ádh le do chlann go bhfuil Trevor inár saol. Tá mé lán-dáiríre faoi sin. Is tú duine de na daoine is mó meas agam air sa domhan seo. Tá fíor mheas agam ort agus tá a fhios agat sin a Trevor. Is duine le Gaeilge thú, duine don Ghaeltacht, don tír, don cultúr agus duine dár gcuid féin. Tá cúpla rud eile faoi Trevor. Ní amháin gur fear ag plé le drámaí é, scríobhneoir ros na rún, aisteoir, ag plé le chúrsaí oideachais ach chas Trevor agus mé lena chéile freisin agus muid ag plé le ionad spioradálta a chur le chéile in Átha an Rí.
Déarfaidh mé anois cúpla focail i mBéarla agus cuireann sé díomá mór orm a Trevor nach mbeimíd le chéile ó thaobh forbairt na Gaeilge agus na teanga an oiread agus a bhí le bliain agus píosa anuas sa teach seo mar tá a fhios agam go bhfuil croí gach uile duine anseo sa teanga agus sa chultúr agus teastaíonn cúpla ceannródaí, cinnirí ar nós tusa leis sin a choinneáil lárnach. Nár lagadh Dia thú. Tá a fhios agam go mbeimíd inár chairde ar feadh an saol agus feicfidh mé go minic thú i gConn na Mara le cúnamh Dé agus tá mé ag súil go mór leis sin agus mar a dúirt mé, is tusa duine de na daoine is mó meas agam air gur chas mé leo riamh agus le cúnamh Dé go n-éireoidh leat.
I have a whiteboard at home and Senator Ó Clochartaigh reminds me of a statement I have written on it for me, "Success is not what you have, but it's who you are." To me, that sums up Senator Ó Clochartaigh. He is fundamental on his principles. He knows where he is at and everybody knows where he is at. He has his beliefs. When we are talking about bad weather and so on, one needs that safe harbour. Senator Ó Clochartaigh is true to his beliefs. I refer to his belief in us as a nation and as a people, in our language and culture, in where we are going and in helping and supporting the underprivileged who are not as privileged as we ourselves, a matter for which he has an absolute passion. That comes out time and time again. In my view, he is a true leader. We in Connemara are fortunate to have somebody like him. I really look forward to our continued friendship.
If I may, I will take one minute to go on to something else. This is a request to the Leader. I am really keen that we invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to come to the House to explain RTÉ's strategy to us. I am quite concerned about our public broadcasting station. It has significant funding issues. I have figures here but I do not have the time to go into them.
The other thing from Senator Ó Clochartaigh's point of view, it is time we had a comh-nasctha between TG4 and Raidió Na Gaeltachta. Both of them should be on a single campus and should be working as lamh a chéile. We should have an even stronger force in respect of the Irish language and culture for all, including Irish people abroad. My son who lives in Chicago links into it as often as he possibly can.
I also extend to Senator Ó Clochartaigh every good wish for the future. I met him when he was first elected to the House seven years ago. He brought a huge interest in media and the arts. He came from very much a community background. I was my party's spokesperson on the Irish language and a friend of Senator Ó Clochartaigh's interviewed me and, let us say, she found me out in some ways. I was smiling to myself and thinking, "Good man, Trevor, you understand where it's at." I wish the Senator every success with TG4. On the downside, he will have no excuses when he is asked to do family duties. He can no longer say he is away to deal with political matters or anything like that. I wish him every success. As their team are reigning all-Ireland hurling champions, people in Galway have another six months to enjoy themselves. Needless to say, Roscommon are Nestor Cup champions until 2018 as well.
Today is a very significant day. We have the draft legal text on Brexit, which effectively ensures the North of Ireland is included in the EU customs union unless a solution is found. We find ourselves back in, for want of better words, a very historical, dangerous and interesting place. It reminds me of nearly 100 years ago. We might have had one of the bitterest civil wars between orange and green if the First World War had not broken out. In 1921, Churchill said, "How is it that the great English parties are shaken to their foundations, and even shattered, almost every generation, by contact with Irish affairs?" We must get this right. We need to prepare for the worst. We are in a very dangerous and difficult situation. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Sligo this weekend. This brings parliamentarians from across the UK and Ireland together. We need to work much harder - not that we are going back to the previous situation. I always said that the Irish regard Brexit as the British politicians accidentally shooting themselves in our foot. I have always felt the Border on the island of Ireland would be the Achilles heel of Brexit. There is only one solution if the British want to have their cake and eat it, which is to have another vote on Brexit and to remain in the EU.
Due to the cancellation of our visit to bring Constance Markievicz's portrait to the House of Commons, I am lucky enough to be here and join in giving míle buíochas. I get very nervous when I speak Irish. I will probably speak it more when Senator Ó Clochartaigh is no longer here because I will be less nervous. I have real gratitude for the contribution Senator Ó Clochartaigh has made. I have been lucky enough to know him for many years - since his early days running for the Údarás in Connemara - and I know the huge commitment he has always had to his place, to Connemara, to Galway and to Ireland. He has always combined the latter with a commitment to issues of justice in the wider world. We have seen this in the way he, for example, has championed the cause of civil society in Catalonia and the importance of the expression of culture and identity for people around the world. Having known him for years, it has been a real privilege to work very closely with him - even more closely in recent months - and to see what he brings in terms of thought and determination. He has a kind of tenacious look when he really follows through on something. One can see it when he says he will follow up on and take a grip of an issue. I have huge respect, admiration and great affection for him. As well as knowing him as a fellow traveller, I also know him as a person. While his departure is a huge loss to the Seanad; it is a great gain for TG4. There has never been a more appropriate time for us to be aware of the importance of the Fourth Estate and the role of the media as an independent, sometimes critical, analytical voice which can not only bring multiple perspectives together but also dive behind the debate and look deeper. The media have a huge, important role which we need to look to, reaffirm and debate. There are concerns, which I will not go into now, regarding some of the debates we have had recently and some of the issues raised by Senator Ó Céidigh in terms of our national broadcasters and how we can ensure that they are properly supported. Again, I join in the congratulations to Senator Ó Clochartaigh.
To comment on the snow, I absolutely endorse the concerns everyone has raised in the context of ensuring that we protect the homeless. Measures are being taken. I am concerned about those dependent on home care because I think people can suffer when home helps cannot visit during such difficult days. Perhaps it behoves us - after we have dealt with these immediate emergencies - to look again at this issue and double down on the focus on climate change, on which this House, to be fair, has had some good debate and focus. Climate change is related to these climactic events and what is happening in Ireland. Similar and even more devastatingly difficult things are happening to people in many other parts of the world. We need to consider that wider issue as well ensuring the protection of vulnerable people in Ireland in the immediate term.
I wish Senator Ó Clochartaigh well. I first met him 11 years ago, I think, when I worked as a SIPTU official in Connemara, That was my first job. I was struck then by his huge commitment to his community and the community enterprise he was managing at the time. Then I met him over the years at various Sinn Féin events and followed and admired his work here in recent years. He has made a huge contribution. I am amazed by the number of people Senator Ó Clochartaigh managed to get around after the last election. I was one of those people. One is like a fish out of water here when one arrives first, and I really appreciated Senator Ó Clochartaigh's generosity in guiding me around the place and providing advice. People were right to mention remembering his commitment to real causes in terms of social justice at home and abroad and the fact that he has known he is leaving for the past number of weeks but has been consistent to the end in his support for the causes he has always supported during his seven years here. His departure will be a huge loss to the Seanad and a huge gain to TG4.
I wish to reflect on another matter. The House will remember when TG4 was first set up. By the way, I think it had a little more to do with Michael D. Higgins than Fianna Fáil, but we will not get into that today.
There was much carping and nay-saying from certain quarters of the media and talk of how it was a waste of taxpayers' money. Thankfully, we do not hear that nonsense anymore, the reason being that TG4 has been an unqualified success. The station will only go from strength to strength with Senator Ó Clochartaigh's assistance now. I wish Senator Ó Clochartaigh well. He is a comrade, a republican and a socialist. Well done.
Very briefly, I join colleagues in wishing Senator Ó Clochartaigh well. I think everyone of us is here with the sole ambition to effect change to make people's lives better and deliver better services. Every time Senator Ó Clochartaigh spoke it was about trying to improve a situation and to effect that change. Some of us will leave this House without being able to have the same influence over effecting change. The great thing about the move Senator Ó Clochartaigh is making is that I think he will continue to push forward in his new job the change and the contribution he wishes to make to help to improve people's lives. I thank him for the contribution he has made to the House and the contribution I know he will make into the future. I join colleagues in wishing him and his family every success in his future endeavours. His family will be able to see him a lot more now that he will be at home more often. Unfortunately, life in politics does not help in that regard. I wish him well and thank him for the contribution he has made.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh has made a remarkable contribution to this House during his term. I had the opportunity to get to know Senator Ó Clochartaigh first when I was a Member of the previous Dáil and then probably even better when I became a Minister of State. On many occasions when I was here dealing with issues of industrial relations, pay policy and trying to improve the pay and terms and conditions of working people across Ireland, contributions were routinely made by Senator Ó Clochartaigh that were not simply routine in that sense of the word. They were considered, thoughtful, intelligent contributions that served this House well, served Senator Ó Clochartaigh and his party well and served the purpose of improving legislation for working people in this country well. That is the essence of Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. He represents, dare I say it, the best traditions of labour and Sinn Féin, that is, true republican socialist principles, and brings a very committed and determined perspective to the House. I will give an example of Senator Ó Clochartaigh's commitment. As my colleague, Senator Gavan, mentioned earlier, for a number of weeks now Senator Ó Clochartaigh has known that his time in the House was coming to an end, but this did not mean he was any less convinced about the causes he was pursuing. Just two weeks ago Senator Ó Clochartaigh and I met a group working on an initiative that he organised in Galway to improve the pay and terms and conditions of, in some cases, exploited workers in the hospitality sector in the region that he represents. This convinced me that this was not simply a political campaign Senator Ó Clochartaigh was involved in but something he was determined to see through to the end because of his instincts, his beliefs and his good politics - good politics, I have no doubt, learned in his community with his family. I wish him and his family every success in the future and I really hope he will not be a stranger in the future to me or to the good friends he has made in this House. I wish him well.
Like many other speakers, I rise mainly to pay tribute to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I had a chance last night to talk to him briefly, to celebrate his time here and to discover that when I used to go to the Gaeltacht, I used to stay in a house that is located next door, I think, to his mother-in-law's home. That was how small Ireland was a long time ago, when I was in the Gaeltacht in Carraroe, and I had a great time there. When I chaired the debates on Údarás na Gaeltachta and the statements on the Irish language, enough of the Irish came back to me that I managed to convince a few people that I am not too bad an Irish speaker when I put my mind to it. I pay tribute to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. He has always been a man of great integrity and great intellect. He spoke on so many different topics - regardless of the content - very fluently in Irish and in English. He also spoke so well and so knowledgeably. Rarely did I find myself disagreeing with him on most things he said. I do not know whether that says more about me or him.I found his style of speaking and delivery very impressive. It has already been said TG4's gain is our loss. I wish the Senator and his family well in the future.
Bearing in mind the weather conditions, we should pay tribute to all of those in the local authorities and the emergency services who will have to go out to work and for the great work they have done so far. The worst of the weather is still to come. I thank the Leader for the pragmatic approach he is taking to the Order of Business to allow people to go home earlier in order that they will not have to travel in the worst of the weather. It is the right decision. I do not believe we can ask everybody else to stay at home and then proceed to continue working in the Houses, perhaps putting staff and Members at risk when travelling.
A report was issued this morning by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, and his Department on the price monitoring of waste collection. We have not discussed the matter in the House for some time, but I see that quite a lot of companies are still providing a service at a flat rate. I believe that when Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council introduced a pay-by-weight system in 2005, it was the result of an EU directive on the polluter pays principle. The more a person dumps, the more he or she pays and the less he or she dumps, the less he or she pays. It seems, however, that many waste companies are still providing services at a flat rate. This may suit some people who generate lots of waste, but it is completely at variance with what we are supposed to be doing to encourage recycling and people to produce less waste. I, therefore, call on the Leader to schedule a debate with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the issues of waste charging and recycling.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh, agus ba mhaith liom féin cur leis na focla atá ráite faoi mo chara Trevor Ó Clochartaigh go dtí an pointe seo. Tá mé ag dul chun beannachtaí a fhágail leat ach níl mé ag dul chun slán a fhágáil leat ag an phointe seo. Mar a dúirt roinnt mhaith de na seanadóirí beidh agus tá ról thar a bheith tábhachtach agat i saol na Gaeilge, saol na tíre agus is ceart agus is cóir go bhfuil tú ag filleadh ar ais siar go Conn na Mara le bheith ag glacadh suas an ról tábhachtach a bheidh agat le TG4. Is cinéal match-up thar a bheith ceart é an post seo duitse. Cosúil le TG4 tá dearcadh náisiúnta agat. Tchínn tú an tír ina iomlán. Tá meas agus grá agat don tír ina iomlán agus beidh tú ag obair ar son leasú an tír ina iomlán. Guím gach rath ort a chara agus tá a fhios agam go mbeimíd i dteagmháil as seo amach.
I acknowledge the meeting last night between the Taoiseach and a representative group from civic nationalism in the North who had written to him recently. It is important that the meeting has taken place, not just because of the announcements made today on the legal text of Brexit but also because of the political fallout within the Six Counties. As the saying goes, it is good to talk and the more, the better as it will be mutually beneficial for the Taoiseach and the group that met him which involves eminent people. I have referred to the fact that the legal text of Brexit has been issued today and there is a lot in it which we need to absorb and on which we need to reflect to ensure that as we move forward the Good Friday Agreement will remains Ireland's Northern Star in choppy waters. The Government has certainly been working on the issue. Having regard to the break in business, I ask the Leader to allow for statements on Brexit if the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, or another Minister is available. I am aware that Ministers will soon be heading off to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, which is fair enough, but given the significance and importance of this issue, we need a slot to enable Members to be updated and have an opportunity to ask questions on the broader important issues surrounding the Good Friday Agreement and how it falls within the context of Brexit.
I wish Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh well and to be associated with the comments made by Senators across the Chamber. I first met Trevor at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology when I studied film and television production in Galway, a UNESCO City of Film. I campaigned with him and the party during the February election at the time. I had been designing leaflets for the party for three years, but the Senator's election leaflet was the first of mine ever to go to print. I still keep a copy of it at home. If I recall correctly, I stayed up all night to get it to print for 9 a.m., which was probably a reflection of how well the campaign was run. I am sorry that the Senator's membership of the party came to an end and wish him every success in TG4. It is a beautiful station that knows its brand and which does extraordinary things on screen. Thankfully, it was a station that had been designed for all of the island, not just the Gaeltacht regions, as mooted at the time.
Go raibh maith agat a Sheanadóir Ó'Clochartaigh. Ar son gach ball den Seanad ba mhaith liom ádh mór a ghuí ort ar an ócáid mor seo. Is mór an trua dúinn go bhfuil tú ag éirí as do phost mar sheanadóir. Tá a fhios agam gur comhghleacaí agus cara iontach thú i rith an tréimhse a chaith tú anseo i dTeach Laighean. Gan trácht ar an léargas agus an cineáltas a léirigh tú agus tú ag labhairt sa díospóireachtaí san teach seo. Ag an am céanna, ní mór dúinn a aithint gur athrú an-dearfach duit féín agus do do chlann atá ann agus go bhfuil tú ag tnúth leis an tseans chun do cheangal leis na healaíne agus saol an chraolacháin a leathnú.
On a personal level, I am sad that Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh is leaving the Seanad. It is an unusual occurrence that two Senators are leaving within three months of each other. They became friends of mine during the years. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has been a huge asset to this establishment. His dedication to his work and compassion have been incredible and, at times, passionate. I am aware that he actually grew up in Huddersfield. In my younger days I emigrated and spent some time in London to try to make a few bob to pay my way through college. Therefore, I understand what it is like to move on. Seven of the eleven members of my family emigrated at some stage, four of whom are still abroad. The Senator came back and made a life here with his family. I welcome his family to the Chamber. I am sure they will be delighted to have him back also. After many years, when I decided not to run again for the Dáil for the seventh or eight time, my daughter posted on Facebook that she had her father back again. The Senator's family will reclaim him again and he will be a huge bonus to TG4 which is a successful channel with which I link frequently. I do not have Sky or any of the fancy channels. The Senator might impress on TG4 its importance to people living in rural Ireland in showing Gaelic games - hurling and football - and some rugby games. It also shows club games, which is very important. I hope this coverage can be continued. It galls me when I want to see a hurling or football match and I have to pay to view it. I hope we can put a stop to this because it goes against the grain and hurts deeply that we have to pay a company based in another country to watch our native games. I wish the Senator every success. Some time, when I frequent the Aran Islands or Connemara - I love going to the west - I may impose on him to have a coffee. Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leat as do seirbhís mar Seanadóir agus sonas a ghuí ort don todhchaí.
With those few words I ask the Leader to respond to what has been a rather elongated Order of Business which I allowed in order to pay tribute to a good Gaeilgeoir and a friend to us all.
Go raibh maith agat a Chathaoirleach agus ar mo shon féin agus ar son mo páirtí Fine Gael, ba mhaith liom mo buíochas agus mo tacaíocht a thabhairt don Seanadóir Ó'Clochartaigh. Is ea lá corraitheach ar son an Seanadóir Ó'Clochartaigh. Tá sé ag éirí as a shuíocháin mar Seanadóir, níl sé marbh, tá sé beo fós agus beidh sé beo le blianta fada ó shin. Fear macánta, uasal agus an-cairdiúil atá ann. Fear an-gnóthach ar son an teanga agus an cultúr, a man who brought great passion and dedication to the promotion of the Irish language and our culture agus beidh stráitéis Gaeilge an seachtain seo chugainn ar son seachtain na Gaeilge.I welcome Mali and the family members and friends from Galway who are in the Visitors' Gallery. Usually when anyone retires from the Chamber it is at election time. It is unusual that two Members have retired in quick succession.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh leaves as a man of integrity, whose passion, dedication and commitment to public service is upheld. He has fought admirably on many different issues, involving human rights and the most vulnerable in our society, and above all for people, north, south, east and west. In this House he was a person of conviction, who could argue and have a difference of opinion but who could park that beyond the white lines of the Chamber to work with, and advocate on behalf of, people. That is the sign of a man of decency and honour, one full of humanity. I wish him well in his new post. I am sorry I missed last night's celebrations. I heard from Members that it was a convivial evening-----
-----that went on particularly long. Senator Ó Clochartaigh deserves to be acknowledged and to have a celebration, not just on leaving here but in commencing the next chapter of his life. That is equally important because he can advocate for and promulgate our language and culture in TG4, which is a wonderful asset to the nation, not just for its sport, language and cultural broadcasts but in making our language accessible to all citizens. Senator Ó Clochartaigh undersold himself in quoting John O’Donohue. His voice was heard clearly and the most important thing a politician can do is come in here with integrity, compassion and conviction, and be heard.
I wish him well in his new post and I wish his family well. We will miss him. I got to know him better when he moved to an office close to mine. I hope that in these last few hours as a Senator he will not describe himself as a former Senator. He was a person who made change, who helped to bring change about and inspired many members of staff and Members of this House to use the Irish language. He challenged people like me, who took the honours Irish paper in the leaving certificate, to use it more. There were occasions when, unlike Senator Paddy Burke, I had no idea what he was saying. It was wonderful to hear Senator Ó Clochartaigh ag labhairt ár dteanga dúchais because it gives us a sense of importance and what Senator Ó Céidigh described as a sense of place. A country without its people, its sense of place and its language is nothing. It is dead. For as long as Senator Ó Clochartaigh will be written and spoken about as an iarr-Seanadóir he will be associated not just with the Irish language but also the pursuit of human rights. As a republican on this side of the House I shared many of Senator Ó Clochartaigh's views. I hope he will remember fondly his time here. As the Cathaoirleach said, he will be reclaimed by his family but I hope he can escape it from time to time as well and continue his advocacy for, and promulgation of, the Irish language. I wish him well, go n-éirigh an bothar leis.
Senators Mark Daly, Coghlan, Feighan and Ó Domhnaill referred to Brexit. The draft document has been published. This is an important day for our country. I accept what Senator Ó Domhnaill says about the need for an update in the House. I have requested that either the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy McEntee, come to the House in the coming weeks. That may not be possible next week but we will endeavour to do that as soon as possible. We are of one mind in this House that we should all work to make the North of our country part of the customs union. As the Taoiseach said this morning, if the British Government does not like option C it should put forward another option. Since the British people made their decision on Brexit the Government has worked to ensure that our island was viewed as one. As Senator Mark Daly rightly said there are so many crossings to the North of the country that it is impossible to even contemplate a return to a hard border.
We have all expressed the view that this must be avoided. I do not wish to be sectarian but the DUP does not speak for all the people in the North of our country. There are others with a different viewpoint, in unionism and nationalism, and they must be heard as well. It is important from the business, economic, cultural and community points of view that our country stand as one on not returning to a hard border. Today's document, which outlines how the North can remain within the customs union and the Single Market, is an important one that we should all read. Equally, Michel Barnier, in his response to the publication, speaks about the backstop of option C being the only guarantee. It is important that the commitments made in December are upheld. We will have that debate in the coming weeks.
Senators Humphreys, Devine, O'Donnell and Horkan raised the issue of the weather. I thank all Members of the House, particularly the leaders, the staff and the Cathaoirleach for their co-operation in allowing us to adjourn early today. That was facilitated by the status red weather alert but also by the Commissioner's inability to travel tomorrow. I make no apology to the Members and staff of the House. My obligation is to have them travel home safely. That is why we are adjourning. We will reconvene next Tuesday and will have the debates on different issues raised today, such as fuel poverty and the fuel allowance.
I ask the indulgence of the House to end the Order of Business now. It is Senator Ó Clochartaigh's day and rather than giving a long discourse I wish him well. I will respond in due course to the other contributions. I wish Senator Ó Clochartaigh every success in his new chapter. He is a very decent, honourable man.