Speech on Order of Business: Covid-19 and India, Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality, Cycling Facilities

26 April 2021

Ivana Bacik

Like others, I welcome the news we will be seeing some careful reopening today not only of golf courses, although there has been a focus on golf, but also the restart of other outdoor sports, including tennis, and, in particularly welcome news, we will see the return of outdoor training for underage kids in pods of 15 or fewer. That is welcome because its absence has been a loss for many children and teenagers for more than four months. That has been a gap in the programmes for health and well-being of our young people and children and I really welcome that return. I also welcome the reopening of Dublin Zoo and other outdoor heritage sites.

I agree that the reopening needs to be done carefully. We are all looking forward to further announcements later this week but all of us watching the awful and horrific news from India are conscious of the incredible risk and danger Covid-19 still poses worldwide. Everyone will share my concerns at the pictures and terrible stories from India. We must be mindful that many of our front-line healthcare workers are from India and must be suffering terribly as they watch family and friends back home in such dire straits. I urge the Government to do all it can to show solidarity with the people of India. I know there is a plan in place to send aid to support the extra supply of oxygen, the lack of which is a problem in India at the moment. We will support the Government in that from the Opposition benches and urge the Government to do as much as it can.

I welcome the Citizens' Assembly recommendations on women's rights, gender equality and women's participation in politics. I commend the members of the assembly, particularly the chairperson, Catherine Day, for their sterling work in forensically examining what can best be done through amendment of the Constitution, legislation or other means to increase women's participation in politics. We should debate the matter in this House as women comprise 40% of this House. We currently have the highest proportion of women in the Oireachtas since independence. I would like us to be the leaders on this matter and to debate how best to implement the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly.

I know the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission meets today. I have had a proposal for better facilities for bicycle parking in Leinster House, in particular shared bicycle parking, before the commission for many years now.

I know colleagues on all sides of the House who cycle in daily will, like myself, be anxious to know why we are not seeing better provision for cyclists and cycling, especially during a pandemic and as we face a climate crisis.

It is long overdue. I cannot understand why it has taken the commission and the OPW so long to move on this. I urge those at the meeting today to let us have decent bicycle parking facilities and encourage more Members of the Oireachtas to cycle to work.