Order of Business - Seanad Eireann (Tuesday, 15 July 2014)

Posted on July 15, 2014

Order of Business (Tuesday, 15 July 2014)

I join Senator Darragh O'Brien in congratulating the new Ministers of State, although I understand they have not yet been formally appointed, and offering my commiseration to those who have lost office.

I agree with Senator O'Brien regarding the ordering of business in the House this month. As all colleagues know, it is not a unique feature of this Government. In fact, it has been a recurring theme every July to have legislation crammed into the schedule. There are 11 Bills before the House this week for our consideration and we are all agreed that this is not a good way to do business. It is an understandable human impetus to seek to get legislation through or at least initiated before the summer recess, but it does not make for good legislation. This is not to assign any blame to the Leader or his office, because that is not where the problem is arising. The legislation is coming from Departments. It is important that we should lay down a marker on this issue on a cross-party basis.

I reiterate my call for a debate on the situation in the Middle East as soon as we return in September. We all hope the situation will not have deteriorated further by then for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The offer by Egypt to broker a ceasefire is very welcome, as is the indication by the Israeli Government of a willingness to accept such a move. We are as one in hoping there will be no escalation of the conflict and, in particular, that Israel will not mount any sort of ground offensive. People in Gaza, particularly women and children, have suffered enough in the past week. That 180 are dead is an appalling tragedy.

I commend the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and other non-governmental organisations on their participation in the United Nations Human Rights Committee hearings in Geneva yesterday and today, at which the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is answering questions on Ireland's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I was in the ICCL's green room yesterday, together with representatives of a range of NGOs, to watch the committee's proceedings. It is a welcome example of transparency in the political process to see not only the Minister but also Irish NGOs participating in those hearings.

I will conclude by noting several pieces of good news. First, I welcome the appointment by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, of Ms Mary Robinson as Special Envoy on Climate Change. It is a well deserved achievement for our former colleague in the Seanad and former Trinity College colleague for some of us. Second, I welcome the coming into effect today of the Protected Disclosures Act 2013. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, expressed his hope this morning in an interview with RTE that this legislation will usher in a new culture where whistleblowers will not only be protected but given credit for exposing wrongdoing in their organisations. Finally, on a more local note, I welcome the passing by Dublin City Council of Councillor Dermot Lacey's motion seeking to protect the red and white Pigeon House chimneys, which were apparently under threat. Most people in Dublin and elsewhere in the country would hope to see them preserved because they are an iconic symbol of the city and one of the most notable landmarks for anybody arriving into Dublin by sea or air. I very much welcome the steps being taken to seek their preservation.

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