Thursday, 14 March 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the Special Committee on Climate Action, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; and No. 2, Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed) and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that only Committee Stage of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 be taken today on the basis that while we are broadly supportive of the Bill, we would like to see much more meaningful engagement with stakeholders.
At 11 a.m. an announcement will be made and 17 former British soldiers will hear whether they are to be prosecuted for opening fire on Bloody Sunday. We know that 14 innocent unarmed civil rights protesters were killed on that day. I hope that today the families of those victims get the justice they deserve. In my eyes, murder is murder and there is no way it can be hidden or that it falls under any other act. The Saville inquiry confirmed the troops were sent to the Bogside and that they killed peaceful protesters. This was one of the darkest days of our troubled history and I hope the families of the victims are happy with the determination made today. All eyes will be watching what happens and the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service.
I commend students throughout the country who will be striking tomorrow to demand action on climate change. This is being done because we have delayed. As politicians, we are not doing our best to ensure there is a reversal of the disastrous effects of climate change. The global strike tomorrow was started by a Swedish 16 year old schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, who began protesting outside her parliament in Sweden last August. We will not be thanked for our failures and history will judge us poorly on our inaction. I support the schoolchildren throughout the country. We should do more in the Seanad. We should have another debate on climate action and perhaps there are small steps we can take to improve the situation and reverse the damaging effects of climate change.
I second the proposal to amend the Order of Business to take only Committee Stage of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017. We could have tabled a proposal that the Bill not be discussed at all today but this is a compromise amendment we are putting to the Government. We debated the Bill two years ago. I have with me detailed submissions made by pretty much all the fishing representative organisations in the State.They are all opposed to the legislation, as currently presented, but not to the principle of it. They have specifically detailed their concerns. We know the British Government has indicated it is withdrawing within the next few months from the London Fisheries Convention.
Nothing was done for two years until last night. No efforts were made to address the fishing organisations' concerns. We will debate the amendments on Committee Stage, but before the Government deals with Report Stage, it must demonstrate it has engaged in meaningful consultation with the fishing organisations who presented to the Oireachtas committee, and whose contributions are all on the record, to address their genuine concerns. We need legislation that will protect the interests of all Irish fishermen across the Thirty-two Counties, around all of our coast. We all want small trawlers around our coast to have access to Irish waters, but loopholes developed over the years which will be reinstated through this legislation, and that is wrong. We need to defend the interests of Irish fishermen around our coast. We also need to defend our natural resources. We have allowed mussel seed beds, our natural precious resource, to be destroyed and lost. We need to reinstate those in a sensible way. I implore the Leader and those on the Government side to listen to the real concerns of fishermen and, in the next few weeks, the legislation could be reintroduced having addressed their concerns.
I support the proposal made by Senators Ardagh and Mac Lochlainn. I will not rehearse all the arguments that we will put forward later on but I agree entirely with Senator Mac Lochlainn's comments. Two years ago the Minister sought to give legal effect to a voisinageagreement that was found to have a weak legislative underpinning in terms of its operation over the decades. It is entirely wrong-headed of any Minister to come into this House and present us with the same legislation he presented to us two years ago and expect it to be passed here today. There has not been any meaningful consultation with fishing representatives, trawler owners or fishing communities on the impact of this legislation. There has not been even one small genuflection in the direction of consultation with the Members of this House who opposed the legislation on Committee Stage in March and May 2017. It is the height of political expediency on the part of the Minister to expect this House to pass this ill-conceived and wrong-headed legislation at this time when we consider this in the context of the UK's Government's commitment to remove itself from the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and in the context of Brexit, and when we do not know and have no clue what the future of the Irish fishing industry will look like post Brexit, the arrangements that will be in place or what a new Commons Fisheries Policy will look like.
I am prepared, through gritted teeth, to accept and compromise with the Minister that we would deal with Committee Stage today, but I am certainly not prepared and neither are my Labour Party colleagues to see it advance further given the circumstances in which we find ourselves and given the fact, as Senator Mac Lochlainn clearly stated, there has been no meaningful consultation with the businesses and with the communities who will be directly affected by this legislation. The reality is that the only obligation we have in this House and as a sovereign nation is to look after and represent the interests of fishing communities in this country. That is the issue of paramount importance, nothing else, and the Government should not be distracted or deflected from that obligation.
I am in support of the proposal made by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour Party colleagues that we defer dealing with the legislation or only deal with Committee Stage of it today. We met the Minister in recent days. This legislation was debated two years ago and shelved because of the Brexit negotiations and I do not understand why at this critical and emergency stage in the Brexit negotiations the Minister has sought to bring it on to the agenda today. It is untimely.
I would prefer if the legislation was not debated today, but short of that I support the previous speakers who have called for Committee Stage only to be taken today. The reason I call for that is that the Minister has not consulted the industry or the fishermen other than a last-minute phone call last night. We are not prepared for this and neither is the Minister. We are doing the wrong thing with this legislation. As previous speakers said, loopholes have formed during recent years, so the legislation is not robust. To try to shove it in a few hours before the recess and force the legislation through is not correct. I support my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party, and as part of the Civil Engagement Group we will supporting the call either to put off the taking of the legislation or to deal with Committee Stage only today.
The most recent analysis from the Central Statistics Office estimates that more than a million people in Ireland volunteer regularly. We all know individual volunteers and voluntary organisations that are doing fantastic work in our local communities. We also know that we would be much worse off without them. This work is supported by a network of volunteer centres throughout the country. Their primary function is to match individuals and groups interested in volunteering with appropriate volunteering opportunities. The volunteer centres offer advice and support to volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations throughout a range of services, including information provision, consultation and Garda vetting.
Volunteer centres in Longford-Westmeath have major concerns regarding their funding. The Department of Rural and Community Development published a report of a group chaired by Dermot McLaughlin called Developing Funding Criteria for Volunteer Centres in Ireland. The report states that €121,000 is the minimum funding necessary for these centres to operate. Twelve centres are falling below that figure, including two in my home area in Longford-Westmeath. They are receiving considerably less than that amount. These centres have been told that the funding would be increased to the minimum level identified by the Department. However, when they got their allocation of funding this year, the amounts were the same as last year. If the Department has made a commitment to the centres, I believe it will pay those centres, but operating with such uncertainty presents challenges to the centres and distracts them from the very important and valuable work they do. I have written to the Minister, Deputy Ring, and the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, and now I ask the Leader to use his good office to invite one or other of them to come to the House to ensure those involved in these vital centres will receive adequate funding and be given an indication of the timeline involved. We should be doing everything we possibly can to support these centres. We can help by providing them with adequate funding and removing any uncertainty.
I wish to raise the issue of Irish unity, particularly in the context of the launch last month of Trade Unionists for a New and United Ireland in the Communications Workers Union. I was delighted to see many colleagues from trade union movement at the launch, members of Sinn Féin, members of the Labour Party, members of other parties of the left and those who are not affiliated to any party. More than 150 trade union activists and officials have signed up to this organisation. They are going to hold a conference on 27 April next to discuss what a new and united Ireland should look like, making sure that we do not make the mistakes of the past, the carnival of reaction unleashed in this country through partition, just as Connolly predicted, which forgot about workers and workers' rights for far too long.It is great to see this initiative take place, which stands in direct contrast with the lack of debate, consultation and thought on a united Ireland across the Houses of the Oireachtas, despite the best efforts of my party colleagues. Brian Feeney put it very well in the Irish Newsyesterday; a Border poll is coming down the line. He was very critical of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for refusing to engage on the issue. If my colleagues in the trade union movement can recognise the need for a debate to begin to plan for a what a new and united Ireland should look like and to engage on the issue on an all-party and no-party basis, surely the Seanad has the wit and the wisdom to engage in that debate. The refusal today of the Government to support a Green Paper on Irish unity is disgraceful. Surely, we must all come together to think about that debate and to provide our input. The Leader is an active trade unionist and will probably want to attend the conference on 27 April at the Communication Workers Union to give the Fine Gael perspective on what workers' rights should be in a new and united Ireland. I look forward to his contribution on the day.
It is entirely appropriate.
I join other speakers in commending primary and secondary school pupils who will be in front of Leinster House tomorrow for the strike for climate. In the Visitors Gallery today, we have rang a sé from Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School. Many of its pupils will be taking part in the strike for climate. I welcome them to the Gallery. It is a school that is close to my heart and I am delighted to see them.
I hope the Leader will come back to the issue of archive retention after the recess. The Retention of Records Bill 2019 was approved by Cabinet recently. The Bill is of real concern because it is suggested that very important records of child sex abuse perpetrated within institutions as investigated by the Laffoy commission, the Ryan commission, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and others are to be sealed and kept from any public scrutiny for 75 years. It is an extraordinary proposal by the Government and it is hard to understand why such a lengthy period has been identified. Why is it not the normal archive retention period of 30 years? Catriona Crowe, formerly of the National Archives, and other historians have expressed serious concern about this and there is an online petition about it. I urge colleagues to support my call to oppose the Bill and for questions to be raised as to why this lengthy period is being proposed for such important records regarding national issues we need to be able to address and to have our historians address within a shorter period than 75 years.
I will respond first to Senator Gavan's interesting comments. We must look at all aspects of an agreed Ireland. When I talk about the Commonwealth, I know it was a Fine Gael-led Government which declared the Republic in 1949. A consequence was the passage of the Ireland Act 1949 in Westminster which recognised, in effect, the Northern Ireland state for the first time. It was Tim Pat Coogan who said, rightly, that it brought on the Border campaign in the 1950s. While I appreciate where Senator Gavan is coming from, we have to be very careful. What I said yesterday rings true. Perhaps calling for a Border poll now is the wrong thing to do. I have talked to businesses and representatives of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in London. They thought the time to call for a Border poll would be in ten or 15 years, which would give people space. Brexit has caused huge hurt, anger and anxiety. While people have every right to call for a Border poll, we need space for now. I look forward to the conference on 27 April. If I can make it, I would love to attend.
Regarding a long extension process, what is happening in Westminster is incredible. It looks today as if the Prime Minister will request an Article 50 extension. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, has rightly said that we are in favour of a long extension but it is up to the EU. On 21 March, a European Council will take place and it will determine much regarding where we are going. We are grinding down the clock and I believe the withdrawal agreement is the best of a bad lot. While we would like to see a second referendum, we cannot be sure where that would go, given the way things are in the UK. There is no good side to Brexit for this country.
I thank the Senators and Deputies who attended the dementia information meeting in the audiovisual room yesterday. The stories of people suffering with dementia really hit home. There was a fantastic number of Deputies, Senators and their staff in attendance. This is no criticism of the Leader but I am sad to inform him that notwithstanding the undertaking the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, gave before Christmas to meet the all-party committee on dementia and Alzheimer's, no meeting has taken place. Meanwhile, over 1,000 people have been diagnosed with dementia. There was no acknowledgement in the HSE service plan for 2019 of the need to increase dementia services. I ask the Leader to use his good offices to insist the Minister for Health prioritises a meeting with the all-party group on dementia from both Houses and prioritises as well the improvement of services for families with loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's. I ask for that meeting to take place as soon as possible.
I want to touch on the proposed amendment to the Order of Business, which I support fully. It is a cross-party proposal, which should be accepted by the Government side. It is sensible. The rationale behind the amendment was vindicated by the Minister himself last night when he reached out to some of the fishermen in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the legislation. That was an acknowledgement in itself that for two years, he did nothing. At the 11th hour, he sought to reach out to the fishermen, which indicates the need for consultation here. The amendment is a compromise that should be accepted by the Government. Following Committee Stage, meaningful consultation should take place with fishermen around our coast and no attempt should be made to proceed on Report Stage in this House prior to such consultations taking place. The context is the hugely damaging effect of the proposed legislation to our natural resources. I hope the Leader is willing to accept that sensible and pragmatic compromise. I wish all Members a very happy St. Patrick's Day.
Like Senator Ó Domhnaill, I wish everyone well on Lá Fhéile Pádraig, in particular those people participating in parades around the country. I hope the weather is a lot more clement than it has been in the past.I wish them and all those attending well. It is a great occasion.
I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to come to the House to discuss issues relating to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. I previously spoke in the House about the fact that recycled concrete cannot be used in construction or in farming. I also want to ask the Minister about issues relating to the EPA in the context of the Drehid landfill site in County Kildare. It is one of the largest landfill sites in the country and is operated by Bord na Móna. In recent years, the amount of material going into that landfill has exceeded the amounts permitted under licence. As a consequence, the local community is suffering, particularly the people who live on the approach routes to the site. It is estimated that it would cost €13 million to bring the approach roads back up to the condition they were in previously. I ask that the Minister would come into the House to answer questions on the role of the EPA. Legislation is in place that gives the agency teeth but it is like a gummy dog. It is useless.
I wish to send out St. Patrick's Day greetings to everyone. I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend.
Members will be aware that tomorrow at midday striking school students will protest outside Leinster House demanding more action on climate change. Last week the audiovisual room was packed for a presentation by school students who have set up a country-wide network. They are determined to leave their classrooms and to strike tomorrow for climate action. They are asking us as their leaders and elders to be more proactive in addressing what is an urgent issue. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has estimated that we have about 12 years to act. It is frightening to think that in 12 years we will be facing irreversible climate change if we do not act. The opportunity to act must be grasped today. The students striking tomorrow are part of a world wide youth movement initiated by Ms Greta Thunberg who began protesting alone outside the Swedish Parliament. The movement has grown, particularly in the United States of America, where President Trump's robust climate change denials are a cause for alarm. I urge everyone in the House to support this movement. I disagree with Ms Teresa May's view that the strike is "disruptive". Such action is important in the context of learning and teaching about climate change.
I found the remarks of Senator Paul Gavan very interesting and I totally agree with him about a new Ireland. However, I do not think we should be seen to be pushing for a united Ireland right now. All of that will happen in its own good time. The Good Friday Agreement provides the proper basis for a united Ireland to come about, in its own good time, by consent. All of our leaders and former leaders have been wise on this, including the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin and the former Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern. I heard the latter speak very recently on the subject. Our leaders are all in agreement that demographics will take care of things. What we need is unity of hearts and minds and I believe that what Sinn Féin is doing is good and I wish the party well.
Senator Feighan referred to what is happening in Britain at the moment. I had the honour of accompanying him to an event in the UK two days ago. It is very important that we continue to build friendships between parliamentarians on both sides and if Brexit actually happens, that will be even more important. The British are in a frightful mess at the moment. It seems to me that the Prime Minister is a beaten docket, so to speak. She will certainly push the withdrawal agreement again next week, if and when the Parliament decides to apply for an extension. However, it seems that the Government does not know what length of extension it wants. At this stage, it is the Parliament rather than the Executive that will decide what happens. Perhaps that is healthy in terms of democracy. All we can do is wish them wisdom. It seems to me that within the two major parties in Britain there is a multiplicity of differing views. Hopefully they can be wise in coming to a decision but I do not think they will be able to come to an immediate decision. We will have time again to deal with this issue.
I wish the Cathaoirleach and all Members of this House a very happy St. Patrick's Day. A very important game will be played in Croke Park on Sunday. May the better team win and I am hoping that it will be Dr. Crokes.
It is interesting to note that at the start of the Order of Business today almost everybody spoke about the actual Order of Business in the House, which is somewhat unusual. I support the proposal from Senators Ardagh, Nash, Bacik, MacLochlainn and others that we deal only with Committee Stage of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 today. I heard the Taoiseach earlier this week complaining that this Bill is being delayed in the Seanad. I would like the Leader to clarify that it is not the Seanad that is delaying this Bill. The issue is that the Minister did not bring the Bill back to the House. It is not the case that the Seanad has been stalling the legislation or slowing it down. I think I am right in saying that the Taoiseach said that the Government does not have a majority and, therefore, it is everyone else's fault but the delay is not our fault.
I remember sitting in the Chair in the original Chamber with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed. I had never heard of the word "voisinage" previously and had to go off and find out exactly what it meant. That was a long time ago. It is not fair on the Leader, on his office or on anyone in this House to say that it is the Seanad that delayed this legislation because that is not true.
When I spoke here on Tuesday on the Order of Business about the Boeing 737 MAX 8, I asked for reflection on what was a very serious situation. I am glad to see that Boeing has now taken the decision to ground the entire fleet for the moment, in response to legitimate concerns. Hopefully, the company can fix the glitch. Boeing has been a very successful company for many years. Hopefully there will be no further loss of life and the company will be able to sort out the problem.
I must address an issue that has come to light in the last few minutes, namely, the news that one former British soldier is to be charged over the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972, when 13 people died on the day and one died subsequently. There are 17 surviving soldiers and two members of the Official IRA who are not being prosecuted because it has been suggested that there is not enough evidence to do so. Given that Lord Saville's report concluded that all 14 victims were killed unlawfully and illegally, it is surprising that only one soldier is to be prosecuted. That said, I welcome the fact that there is sufficient evidence against one person to merit prosecution. Murder is murder and one cannot go around killing people just because one happens to be wearing a uniform. I am surprised that the number to be prosecuted is so low and am sure other Members will comment on that too.
We have been talking about Brexit all week. We did a lot of good work yesterday on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019. We all hope that the legislation will not have to be implemented. In the context of a no-deal Brexit, it would be smuggler's charter if there was no border between the Republic and the North but there was a border between this island and the rest of the UK. The European Commission spokesperson, on the subject of the no-deal vote in Westminster, said that it was a bit like the crew of the Titanic asking the iceberg to move. It seems that a level of intransigence persists across the water.I appeal to all right-thinking and intelligent Members of the British Parliament in Westminster to reflect on the future of their country and its relationship with its nearest neighbours, including Ireland, and to move to a position that is less of a lose-lose situation for us all.
I intended to wish everybody a happy St. Patrick's Day, but Senators Lawlor and Ó Domhnaill got in ahead of me. Of course, St. Patrick was Welsh, which people often forget. He came to Ireland and drove out almost all of the snakes.
I wish to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who died in the R116 Coast Guard tragedy on this day two years ago. I refer to the families of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy and those of Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, whose bodies are still missing. Tonight, I will join the community in Blacksod and Erris to commemorate their lives.
This morning, the eyes of the world are on Derry. On behalf of Sinn Féin, I pay tribute to the families of those who died on Bloody Sunday, whose long and painful campaign for truth and justice has led us to this day. As I speak, news is breaking that one former British soldier of the 18 suspects will be prosecuted, for one murder and four attempted murders. Our thoughts and solidarity are with the families as they digest the news coming through and the disappointment they may feel about it. Their determination and dignity through the past 47 years has been remarkable and an inspiration to many others who seek justice around the globe.
I am also mindful of the families of those killed in Ballymurphy and the other families who are still struggling for justice. Kay Duddy, the sister of Jackie Duddy, stated on RTÉ radio this morning that this is not about revenge; it is about justice.
It would be appropriate for the Tánaiste to come to the House today and for there to be an opportunity to make statements on the decision to prosecute only one former British soldier. I propose that we amend the Order of Business accordingly.
Regardless of the decision today, it is worth remembering the words of David Cameron, who stated in 2010:
the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong. Lord Saville concludes that the soldiers of the support company who went into the Bogside did so as a result of an order which should not have been given by their commander. ... He finds that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers of support company was armed with a firearm.
In spite of that, a para commander recently referred to Bloody Sunday as "a job well done".
However, today is about the families. Our thoughts, prayers and solidarity are with those families who have suffered so much for the past 47 years.
As the Taoiseach hands Donald Trump a bowl of shamrock today to mark St. Patrick's Day, we must remember that the Irish in America are immigrants. We have a history of emigration. Many people left this land on coffin ships or because of sectarian strife, unemployment or poverty. There are Irish people all over the world, including, of course, in America. On St. Patrick's Day, we should remember immigrants everywhere. In that regard, we should remind Irish Americans in particular that the Irish went through exactly the same situation that immigrants in America are going through today. They suffered the same type of discrimination and religious bias. In effect, immigrants today travel on the same coffin ships. When the Irish went to America, people tried to put up walls against them. It is hypocritical for any Irish American - Republican or Democrat - to wear the green on St. Patrick's Day and also support Donald Trump and his xenophobic, racist policies. There will be a gathering at the Famine memorial at 3 o'clock on St. Patrick's Day to pay tribute to immigrants everywhere and to restate our historical and moral responsibility, as Irish people standing between what I would call the racist lie of Brexit and the racist liar, Trump, to stand for something more profound and decent than what is happening in the UK and the USA at this time. I encourage as many people as possible to attend and take an Irish stand against racism.
On what has been stated about today's decision in regard to Bloody Sunday, it is a very emotional day for everybody in this country. Obviously, it is extremely emotional for the people of Derry. It should send a reminder to those in Britain and the British Parliament as to why the issue of Brexit and the Border is so important. The hands of various British Governments are all over what happened in this land for many generations. They were big players in the hurt, pain, violence, murder and bloodshed. The current British Parliament needs to understand that it is part of repairing that. Any British politician who accuses anybody over here of playing games or using the Border as a tool does not understand the hurt, pain, loss and suffering that has taken place in this land over the past 40 or 50 years. I ask MPs on any side of the House of Commons to use this day, as the people in Derry reflect, to reflect on what happened in this land over those 40 or 50 years and to understand why Brexit is such an important issue here and that the return of a hard border is unconscionable to all those who call themselves Irish. They should reflect on the people of Derry. It is important to be calm and compassionate regarding today's decision to charge one individual. However, we must remind those in Britain that this is not a game; it is life and death. It is much more important than the games that are being played in the House of Commons at the moment.
I join Senators on both sides of the House in calling on the Leader not to pursue holding all Stages of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 today. I again call on him not to use this House for the optics of getting the legislation through in a rushed manner. As colleagues pointed out, it is nearly two years since the Bill was last before the Seanad. That is not the fault of anyone on this side of the House or of most Senators on the Leader's side of the House. The Minister and the Government chose to sit on their hands and not reflect on the many amendments tabled to the Bill. I ask the Minister to take Committee Stage today. I apologise; I meant to refer to the Leader. I was a little premature. We will not have to call him "Minister" for another 12 months or so. I ask him to take Committee Stage of the Bill today. As Senators Ardagh and Mac Lochlainn pointed out, those on this side of the House will reluctantly agree to take that Stage of the Bill. The Minister rushing to the telephone yesterday evening to consult the various organisations does not constitute a meaningful engagement. Meaningful engagement involves sitting down around a table with the various concerned bodies to discuss those concerns. If the Minister does so and there is a satisfactory outcome to that engagement, we will agree to take Report and Final Stages in the week that the Seanad returns after the break.However, we will only do so if it is meaningful consultation.
When the joint committee system was introduced in the Oireachtas, fisheries was not to be included until the Cathaoirleach insisted it was included with the committee on agriculture. I commend him on the work he has done through the years for fisheries and fishermen. I also commend my colleague in the Lower House, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, who has continually raised this issue but got blank replies from various Ministers.
I agree with my colleagues on Bloody Sunday. Fourteen people were murdered in 1972 and now a soldier has been charged with the unlawful killing of only two of those people. I agree with Senator Conway-Walsh that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade should come to the House but only if he is available. This is too important an issue to have anyone other than the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Taoiseach deal with it in this House. Assuming they are not in the country, on the first week we come back, I want at least the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss this issue. I would also like some questions addressed by British forces. The soldier in question was carrying out orders. Who gave the order? Why are they not before the courts?
I formally second Senator Conway-Walsh's amendment that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade come to the House today. I heard what Senator Wilson said and I will listen intently to what the Leader will say in this regard. It does warrant that level of response from the Irish Government.
With the greatest respect, I cannot nor would I dare speak on behalf of the Bloody Sunday families. However, I believe they expect the Irish Government to come out on the record on this most pivotal day. We must look at this in its broader context. As colleagues have acknowledged, all of our heads and our hearts are in Derry today. This is not just a traumatic and deeply hurtful day for the families involved in Bloody Sunday. This sits in the context of the ongoing inquest into the murders in Ballymurphy by the Parachute Regiment which is taking place in the Belfast High Court. At the beginning of it, I was joined by a range of Seanad colleagues from across the Chamber. What is emerging from the Ballymurphy inquest is harrowing. Fr. Hugh Mullan, a local priest, who went to the assistance of his parishioners carrying a white flag, much like the iconic image from Derry, was shot in the head and killed by the Parachute Regiment.
All of us need to reflect again on that wider context. Last week, in the British House of Commons, the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, said British soldiers acted in a dignified and appropriate way. I wonder more was this a strategic decision to cause further hurt and trauma but also to prepare us for what we heard today.
Michael Finucane, the son of Pat Finucane, was involved in a significant finding in a judgment in the British Supreme Court a few weeks ago. He said today's decision is extremely worrying because of the circumstances of the killings and Saville's comments about the circumstances thereof. In his opinion, there is a big question over the Public Prosecution Service, PPS, comment that the evidence was not sufficient.
We all remember that joyous sense of relief that came down upon Derry on the day of the publication of the Saville inquiry. It has now gone to a deep sense of hurt, loss and a feeling of a great injustice being further inflicted upon these families. We will watch with interest and with solidarity with the families. It is urgently required for the Irish Government to give the House its views on this decision concerning Bloody Sunday and on the broader context of legacy issues.
I support my colleagues on the taking of the fisheries Bill. It needs to be done correctly. While the delay is unbelievable, it does not mean we should rush without proper consideration.
On the news out of Derry this morning and the decision by the British establishment to make a scapegoat of one soldier, the order for what happened in Derry in 1972 went way up the chain of command. We know the then British Prime Minister was aware of British soldiers going around in civilian cars and civilian clothes shooting nationalists randomly. We know that went all the way to the top. In a memo uncovered by the Pat Finucane Centre, it stated when they were disbanding that unit, in future it should operate within the law. That was an acknowledgement that what they were doing was outside the law.
What has happened in Derry now has re-traumatised the city and the families. A statement from the UK defence Minister this morning said the soldiers acted with courage and they were defending and peacemakers in Northern Ireland. We know people were murdered. Joan Connolly in Ballymurphy was shot three times in the face at point blank range but nobody was prosecuted for her murder. The British establishment does not care. It will certainly make every effort to ensure nobody is prosecuted for her murder.
Although the Taoiseach is in Washington, he needs to make a clear statement on this. This is British injustice at its finest. Families are again denied the right to see the people who murdered their loved ones face justice. Just because one is in a uniform, does not mean one is immune from the laws of the land. One should not be in any way immune from prosecution. Apparently, because one is in a British Army uniform, one can kill and murder anyone one wants and will not face justice. Our Government needs to take a stand on this. The Taoiseach should make a statement today that this will not be tolerated and has to be taken further by the Irish Government.
I thank the 18 Members for their contribution to the Order of Business.
To Senators Horkan, Conway-Walsh, Ó Ríordáin, Wilson, Ó Donnghaile and Mark Daly, it is a time for calm reflection and to take on board the announcement by the PPS in the North this morning. It is also important we remember the 14 people killed so tragically and their families. It is also important to thank these families for their contributions, the sacrifices they have made, the passion they have brought and the way in which they held themselves with dignity in the intervening years.
As Senator Ó Donnghaile said, all of us remember the publication of the Saville inquiry and what it meant. Today is a bit confusing, however. I have not got all the details but the point made by Senator Ó Ríordáin is one on which we should reflect, namely, the hand of the UK has a strong influence on our history and what has happened in our country. Equally, it is important we do not react in a way that would jeopardise what we have achieved so far on this island in terms of peace, reconciliation and healing.
I know the families of the 14 people killed will have been looking for more than one soldier to be prosecuted. I know from the report that Soldier F has been charged with two murders and four attempted murders. People on all sides will find it extraordinary that the insufficient evidence argument was presented.Rather than divide the House this morning, I have put in a request to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on foot of Senator Conway-Walsh's proposal. The Minister is not in Dublin today but I have a commitment from him and the Department that he will be in the House for statements on the report on Wednesday, 27 March at 4 p.m. I hope the Senator will not divide the House on a very important and sensitive issue, on which I have given my bona fides. I understand where the Senator is coming from but the matter is too important for that. Members on this side of the House, who are also republicans, want to see justice and to see people held to account. We also recognise the words of Jackie Duddy's sister this morning, that this is about justice and about healing, peace and reconciliation.
As the Senator said, it is also important to remember the families of those who died in the R116 tragedy, namely, the Fitzpatrick, Duffy, Ormsby and Smith families. It is important to remember and acknowledge the sacrifice the four people made. As Senator McFadden said, it is about remembering volunteers and the community spirit in Blacksod and in Mayo and Erris. There was huge outreach from the community which held the nation captive and warmed the nation as it grieved. It was St. Patrick's weekend and there was a dark chill in the country from the tragedy. I believe Senators Conway-Walsh, Swanick and Mulherin will be there tonight and I hope they commend the people there on their community activism and volunteerism.
I am disappointed with the decision of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin Members to put down an amendment to the Order of Business. Senators Ardagh, Mac Lochlainn, Nash, Bacik, Ó Domhnaill, Horkan, Wilson and Mark Daly spoke on the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017. All of us want to protect our fishermen and the fishing industry and the Minister, Deputy Creed, is doing that. A Government amendment on Report Stage will insist on the size of a boat on both sides and will ban vessels of 18 m. I appreciate the sincerity of comments made by Members opposite but this Bill is time-critical. Are we happy to have Irish fishermen arrested? Do we want to continue the partitionist mentality by this Bill?
The Government is seeking to restore the rights of our Northern neighbours, which our own fishermen have enjoyed and enjoy at the moment. It is right to pass the Bill today and Members opposite know that. Do we really want a hard border for our fishermen?
The 29 March deadline is approaching. Rather than add to the chaos of Brexit, Members opposite should reflect on themselves and their behaviour around this Bill. The Minister is very willing to engage with the fishing industry, as he has done 40 times.
I will reluctantly accept the amendment of Senator Ardagh and we will have Report Stage on the Tuesday on which we return.
Senators Ardagh and Bacik raised the issue of climate change and I welcome the students who are here. We have a rolling series of debates on climate change and we will continue with those in the next couple of weeks. Senator McFadden made a very thought-provoking contribution on the CSO estimates on volunteering. It is important that commitments are honoured and I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House on that subject.
Senators Gavan, Coghlan and Feighan raised the issue of preparing for unity. We are all preparing for unity and it is an aspiration we all hope to see in our lifetime. It is important, however, that we prepare properly and Senator Gavan's contribution on the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, when set against the contributions of his colleagues, was extraordinary. My party has created a group to engage in the North of our country and I am very proud to be a member of that group. I look forward to engaging in the North as we have done in the past. It is important to plan and to look to the future. It is also important that we engage with all traditions and beliefs in the North and I would be happy to have a debate on this in the coming weeks.
Senator Bacik also raised the Retention of Records Bill 2019, which will be in the Dáil the week after next and will come back to us after that. Senator Humphreys asked about dementia. I am disappointed there has not been a meeting. I have asked for the meeting and have spoken in person with the Minister on it, as has Senator McFadden. Dementia is an issue that affects every family and it is a very emotional, worrying and troubling issue for them so it is important to work in a cross-party way to build consensus about dementia care. I will continue to push for the meeting.
Senator Lawlor raised an issue for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I welcome Senator Horkan's comments and I am glad that members of the aviation authority around the world listen to the Order of Business in the Seanad. He is right to say that we cannot compromise on passenger safety. I welcome the decision and hope that Boeing finds the right answers in regard to what happened in the tragedy. Senator Ó Ríordáin referred to migration and Irish emigrants. The Senator spoke about people leaving, but is it not great that we also have emigrants returning home? Equally, it is important that this week we have people from our country celebrating being Irish and having open access to many different media, markets and outlets to promote and market Ireland.
I hope Senator Warfield will agree that a significant moment is taking place today when the Taoiseach and his partner will meet Vice President Pence. This sends a strong message to Vice President Pence and to those who have different views around the LGBT community. I wish the Taoiseach and his partner well in their meeting. I hope the Vice President will change his views on conversion therapy and his outlook around LGBT people as a consequence of not just today's meeting but of future engagement with those of us who are LGBT. I would warmly welcome the Vice President to the Seanad as well giving him an opportunity to address the House so that we could enhance his education further.
I wish the Cathoirleach safe travel on his journey to Russia. Guím Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig ar gach duine, do chlann agus do mhuintir na foirne an tseachtain seo, agus go mbeimid beo ag an am seo arís, gabhaim buíochas le gach duine.
Go raibh maith agat féin.
Senator Ardagh proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That Report and Final Stages of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 will not be taken today." Is that agreed? Agreed. The Leader said there will be a debate on it the week after next.
Senator Conway-Walsh proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the prosecution decision in relation to Bloody Sunday be taken today." Is she pressing the amendment or will she accept what the Leader said that there will be a debate the week after next?
We will agree to it on the basis that we have agreed a specific date, that is, 27 March. We would ask that sufficient time be allowed to debate and discuss this properly. It is hugely important the Dublin Government does not leave the people in the North behind, as it has promised, and certainly to not leave the people of Derry behind.
I am very conscious of that. I do not want to divide the House on a very important issue. The Minister's office has come back with the date of Wednesday, 27 March at 4 p.m. At the group meeting, we can discuss the amount of time Senators require and I will be happy to work with all Senators on that.