Speech on Order of Business: Prison Conditions, Labour's Born Here Belong Here Bill & International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2020

24 November 2020

Ivana Bacik

I support Senator Boyhan's call for a debate on prison conditions in light of the horrific revelations from the report of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on the dreadful plight of a prisoner in Cloverhill Prison. It is a relatively new prison, so it is quite a shocking report. I urge that we would have a debate on prison conditions as a matter of urgency.

I thank the Leader for ensuring we have a debate today on domestic and gender-based violence, given this week we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2020 and gender-based violence. I note, as Senator O'Loughlin has acknowledged, that there is a Labour Party Bill before the Dáil which would prohibit and make it a criminal offence to publish and disseminate the sort of horrific sexual images that have been in the newspapers and the media recently. That Bill is before the Dáil next week. My colleague, Deputy Howlin, who pioneered the Bill, told me it is hoped it will be with the Seanad before Christmas. I ask the Leader to ensure that it is prioritised. It is essential that we pass that legislation on so-called revenge porn or image-based sexual abuse.

I also seek the support of the Leader for the Born Here Belong Here campaign, about which I have spoken before. Today at noon the Labour Party is launching a petition in support of the Labour Youth campaign, Born Here Belong Here, which was initiated in memory of our very sadly deceased colleague, Cormac Ó Braonáin, who tragically died in Dublin about this time last year. He had been spearheading the campaign to ensure we would give a pathway to regularisation and citizenship for children born in Ireland, which, as the Leader will know, is what the Labour Party immigration Bill seeks to do. The Bill passed Second Stage in the Seanad in November 2018 with the support of two of the three parties now in government, namely, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. We are seeking Government support this time around to ensure the Bill will pass Committee Stage. It is a modest proposal but it would give a pathway to citizenship for the children born in Ireland, whose number is small but significant, who face awful uncertainty and fear of an order of deportation hanging over their heads and the heads of their families even though they were born in Ireland and, for most of them, Ireland is the only home they know. At a time when the Government has been rightly been seeking regularisation of status for undocumented Irish people, particularly in the US, we need to be generous in our approach to citizenship here. There is huge public support for this. It is over 16 years since the passage in 2004 of the referendum on citizenship that abolished birth right citizenship. Public opinion has changed and moved on. There is a recognition now that in a spirit of generosity and solidarity, we need to ensure accessible pathways to citizenship for children born here. I urge the Leader and all Government Senators to support the Bill when it comes before the House on Committee Stage next week.