Senator Ivana Bacik: Last week, as Deputy Leader, I dealt with a number of issues around the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the response of the Government to the GSOC controversy and, on Thursday, the dossier that was provided by Sergeant Maurice McCabe. I said at that point that we should have a debate on policing generally and I would like to renew the call for such a debate. I know they have not yet been confirmed but I would like to welcome the reports today from Cabinet that a barrister-----
Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O’Sullivan, to the House. I thank her for coming to deal with the motion on homelessness. I commend my colleague, Senator Aideen Hayden, who drafted and proposed the motion. I commend her on her great work with Threshold on the issue of homelessness and housing policy. Some people from Threshold are in the Visitors Gallery. I acknowledge the presence in the Gallery earlier of Councillor Dermot Lacey, the leader of the Labour Party group of councillors in Dublin City Council. I know he has a particular interest in the topic given that Dublin City Council councillors recently reversed proposed budget cuts to the homelessness budget in Dublin, a welcome move. That was an initiative led and championed by the Labour Party group and I welcome that.
We all acknowledge the immense difficulty of the problem of homelessness. Senator Mooney put it fairly when he spoke of it as an endless problem. Previous Governments in times of economic boom sought, with the best will in the world, to tackle the problem but were unable to eliminate homelessness. This Government has an ambitious policy objective to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. I welcome the fact that the Government has remained committed to that even in the face of economic difficulties. The Government homelessness policy statement from last year states that homelessness:
...has proved to be an enduring and difficult problem for many of the people affected, and for society as a whole. Central and local government and the voluntary sector have devoted considerable resources and effort to the issue and real progress has been made.
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.
Speaking exclusively to the Irish Mirror, the barrister and Trinity law lecturer slammed the Government for wasting millions on a costly referendum when “substantial” reforms could have been made without it.
Putting her weight behind our Keep The Seanad campaign, Senator Bacik insisted: “I believe the Seanad is working and while I accept it could do better, our fundamental role is scrutiny and I think that’s what we do best.