Speaking today, Deputies Jerry Buttimer (FG) and John Halligan (Independent), along with Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour Party), have commended Senator Averil Power (FF) for organising a cross-party video message in support of the inclusive ‘St. Pat’s for All’ parade in New York City to mark St. Patrick’s Day.
The three Oireachtas members said today:
“We were all delighted to participate in this video, which was a collaborative project. Each of us was given the opportunity to change the lines provisionally given to us in the draft script and some of us did indeed do so. It was made clear to us at every stage that the intention was to agree on a wording that everyone was happy with.
“We regret that no representative from Sinn Féin took part, but we know that every effort was made by Senator Power to ensure that they would participate. We understand that the Sinn Féin representative did not wish to read out a particular message, but then refused an offer to read out a different line instead and made it clear that the party’s concern was in fact with the overall message of the script.
“We believe that the video message recorded by representatives of the four largest political groupings in the Oireachtas sends out a very important message in support of an inclusive parade, which celebrates among other Irish-American groups, members of the LGBT community, a group whose contribution to Irish-American society broadly deserves to be celebrated openly and proudly, along with the many other diverse groups that make up the modern global Irish community. We commend Senator Averil Power for taking this initiative to organise a cross-party message of support for the St. Pat’s for All parade organisers, and we wish them every success with their parade, and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”
Senator Ivana Bacik: I join with Senator O'Brien in thanking the Leader for outlining the format of the debates for next week. I welcome the fact that the focus will be on jobs, because a number of Members have called for a debate on this issue, and it is good to hear that the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will be here to discuss different aspects of the jobs strategy.
I welcome David Begg to the House, it is a pleasure to have the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions here. It is important to mark the 1913 Lock-out centenary in this way and that we speak also about its relevance to modern Ireland. I had to propose to a previous meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that Mr. Begg would address us, and it is great that he is here to do so. As the Leader has said, we have gone one better than the Lower House in our approach to marking the centenary.
I am personally delighted because I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Begg on the TASC democracy commission, which I view as a precursor to the constitutional convention in the sense that we looked at issues around participation in democracy and encouraging greater participation by young people in particular. We did important work on that issue. Mr. Begg has given a wonderful, clear and comprehensive overview of the complex history and the context of the Lock-out. There is no doubt it was a tragedy and a defeat. As Mr Begg mentioned, it was effectively an unconditional surrender and a betrayal of the working classes who had united in solidarity behind the charismatic and strongly revered Jim Larkin. Of course, he was equally loathed by those on the other side and, in many ways, he became a divisive figure. The Lock-out has achieved an iconic status and it was undoubtedly a pivotal moment in Irish history. One strand of historical work focuses on the personality of Larkin and the relationship he had with other leaders, such as Connolly and O'Brien. That highlights the splits and divide in the trade union movement which Mr. Begg described as a kind of civil war, which is one of enduring effects after 1913. That is only one interpretation of 1913 and it is often the interpretation of those who take an anti-trade union perspective. However, there is another important take on the Lock-out that has left a more lasting legacy to which Mr. Begg alluded. The widespread and common perception of 1913 is that it was a brutal put-down by a ruthless employer, William Martin Murphy, and his allies, of workers and their families who were living in appalling conditions and in starvation. Those conditions are so far removed, happily, from current circumstances that it is often hard to see the relevance. There is a renewed interest in the social context of the Lock-out. One only has to look at the revived interest in Strumpet City and recent cultural events, including the reopening of the house on Henrietta Street, the television programmes about tenement life and people's living conditions, and recent dramas in the fringe festival and in Dublin City Hall for culture night to see that.
All of these events have focused on people's living conditions at the time and the impact of the employers' tactics on women and children, in particular.
Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the decision made at yesterday's Cabinet meeting on water and on the establishment of Irish Water, an independent State-owned subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann group. It is clear. It is a big initiative and an important one. It will be the biggest State company formed in a long time.
Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the Minister to the House and am glad of the opportunity to renew this debate. We had a full debate on this issue six months ago. I commend Senators Zappone, Mac Conghail and van Turnhout, as well as the other Independent Senators, for bringing the debate to the floor of the House again. They have kept everyone on their toes as regards timing and have also kept this issue at the forefront of our minds.