Wednesday, 27 April 2022
Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
Before calling on the Deputy Leader to propose the Order of Business, I would like to welcome the ambassador from the Netherlands here today. Today is Koningsdag, or King’s Day, which is the national holiday in the Netherlands celebrating the birth of King Willem-Alexander. On Koningsdag, the Dutch turn their country orange in the same way as we turn the world green on our national day. Of course, the Irish flag of green, white and orange - which is behind us here - is a symbol of our links, with the orange of our national flag representing the unionist or Protestant tradition, being inspired, of course, by King William of Orange from the Netherlands.
The link and friendship between the Irish and the Dutch is long-standing and deep. Diplomatic relations between Ireland and the Netherlands were established in 1945 and the Irish embassy in the Hague was opened in 1950, with the first ever Irish ambassador, Josephine McNeill, being one of the few women envoys in the world at that time.
The Brexit vote in 2016 is deeply regretted then and now by both ourselves and the Netherlands. Even before Brexit, Ireland and the Netherlands were working closely on issues in the European Union. Of course, those connections go much further back between our two countries. As seafaring nations that have a long tradition with interaction in the world, it is wonderful to know that the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands is called Brandaris. I think I got that pronunciation just about right. Of course, it was inspired by a Kerry man, St. Brendan. Our maritime traditions and relations have developed throughout the centuries. Due to Brexit, there are now 25 direct sailings between Ireland and Dutch ports every week.
The state visit by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima in 2019 further strengthened and deepened the relationships between our two countries. King Willem-Alexander's relationships go back much further. As a young boy, he used to visit Kenmare and the village of Sneem in County Kerry. We look forward to welcoming him back to my home town soon. I wish the Dutch ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Adriaan Palm, all the Dutch people living in the Kenmare and Sneem areas and the Dutch people living in Ireland, at home and around the world a very happy Koningsdag. I thank the ambassador for being with us here today.
I will call on the Deputy Leader to propose the Order of Business but before doing so, people will remember that during the recess, we lost a former Member of the Seanad. Jimmy Leonard, who was a Member of the Fifteenth Seanad, died on Wednesday, 13 April. Jimmy had a long and distinguished career in public service at a national and local level. He was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1981 on the Administrative Panel. He served seven terms in Dáil Éireann as a Deputy for Cavan-Monaghan. He was also a councillor for many years. He had a deep understanding of rural Ireland and worked tirelessly for his constituents. He was from a farming background and worked in the Monaghan co-operative. He also championed the needs of the disadvantaged and was a loyal worker for his community. He believed in peace and was a powerful advocate for cross-Border co-operation during the darkest days of the Troubles. This is evident in his membership in the New Ireland Forum and the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body.
At this sad time, my thoughts are with his family. On behalf of the House, I wish to convey my sincere sympathies to his wife, Tess; children, Raymond, Joe, Colette, Ann and Ciarán; and his extended family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.