Speech on Order of Business: Direct Provision and the Gender Pay Gap

7 July 2020

IB 07.07 Pay Gap and DP_Moment

It is good to be facing back into the resumption of legislative business in as near to normal a setting as we can. I am delighted to speak as the leader of the Labour group and to welcome our four other members, all new Senators - Annie Hoey, Rebecca Moynihan, Marie Sherlock and Mark Wall. We are a group that is 80% women, four out of five, so I am delighted about that. This is a Seanad that is 40% women. That is something that is worth stating and being proud of because the Dáil remains stubbornly unrepresentative of women, with only 22% of Deputies being women. We need to ensure that we are a representative House, one that represents Ireland in its diversity and that we are inclusive in all ways. I welcome also Senator Eileen Flynn, who is a Taoiseach's nominee.

I also pay tribute to the many front-line workers who have done so much in recent months to fight Covid. All of us are thinking in these times of the more than 1,700 people who died and the 25,000 plus who have suffered infection from Covid, and all the terrible suffering that has been undergone. We know that this is not over yet. Like other group leaders I welcome the launch today of the Covid app. I wish the incoming Government well in what is a hugely challenging time. We in the Labour group will offer a constructive opposition. There is much in the programme for Government that we welcome. I have mentioned issues such as diversity and inclusion.I am glad to be the Labour Party spokesperson on children, equality and inclusion and, therefore, to deal with the Department of the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, whom I wish the very best with his challenging brief. I hope we will see great progress made on some of the promises made in the programme for Government, particularly on the abolition of Direct Provision. I ask the Leader for a debate with the new Minister in due course in this House on aspects of his brief, particularly the promise or commitment to abolish Direct Provision and what will take its place.

I would also like a debate on the gender pay gap, on which the Labour Party group brought forward legislation in the last Seanad. It was passed in this House without opposition from the Government. Unfortunately, we never saw it progress beyond Second Stage in the Dáil. Last week, we saw a very critical report by the Council of Europe on Ireland's record on tackling the stubborn gender pay gap of approximately 14% that persists between the earnings of women and men. This is something the Seanad can lead on. I ask the Leader for a debate on how to make progress in tackling the gender pay gap and ensuring we achieve a more equal Ireland for all.

I shall finish by wishing the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, well. I know he has undergone quite a lot of horrible targeted abuse over recent weeks, including today, on social media. He will be a really strong and superb Minister. I am not biased just because he is a former student of mine and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin's Law School.