Meanwhile back at the Seanad… June 25, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in back at the Seanad, Irish Politics.
Ah, another week of fun and frolics. What does the second chamber of our bicameral legislature offer us? Well, one Senator is very certain he knows what’s going on in Irish political polling and the masterminds behind the current chaos in our political parties of the centre right and if you want to know about that scroll right to the end.
Another, a friend of the Cedar Lounge Revolution, is attacked outside Leinster House while another unlikely individual calls for stimulus…
Let us start with an outline of the financial crisis…
Senator Dan Boyle: The House would be served well by having a debate on the draft terms of reference for the commission of inquiry into the banking crisis. The Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service has received the draft terms of reference. Some Members of this House are members of that committee. A wider debate would help. However, I caution against the belief that all the questions can be answered by the commission and that all the ills can be cured. I am confident the role of the Department of Finance will be investigated. The questions that remain concern how it is to be investigated and how the findings will be acted upon.
I worry slightly that we are seeing a repetition of the debate that accompanied the introduction of the reports that Messrs Regling and Watson and the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Honohan, were asked to compile. We heard the same arguments about their terms of reference, namely, that they were not wide enough, and about the likelihood of their not revealing anything. I ask people to have faith in the process. Two excellent reports have been released and they will inform how a commission of inquiry will work. I am happy with how the process has worked to date and I am confident it will work itself through.
With regard to Anglo Irish Bank which we must debate on an ongoing basis, people seem to believe there was an approach that would have resulted in zero cost to the State. The fact is that it was licensed and regulated badly by the State and the responsibility has fallen on the State to determine how the cost can be minimised. The alternative cost figure, as outlined at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, pertained to an immediate wind-down of the bank, as advocated by Senator Bacik. This would cost the State €40 billion.
A good question… to which the response is…
Senator Dan Boyle: Finally, with regard to the debate this House will soon have on the Civil Partnership Bill, I have no difficulty with any citizen or group of citizens giving their opinion on what should be in the Bill, but the question of constitutionality is a matter for the courts. The question of whether this legislation is approved is a matter for this House and the Lower House. It will be on Report Stage in the Dáil in the next week and should be available for our consideration before the summer recess. I look forward to the debate on it.
Senator David Norris: I welcome the fact that a number of my colleagues have spoken out about the intervention of the bishops. I deplore it. They are, of course, entitled to their view and to express it publicly but to attempt once again nakedly to intervene in the political process is deplorable. I was one of the founders of the Southern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1970 which campaigned for full civil and human rights for Roman Catholics and Nationalists in Northern Ireland, particularly in employment and housing. It is really regrettable that their lordships should seek to intervene in this way. This morning I wrote to Cardinal Brady and offered to engage in a public debate with him. I have sent a copy of the letter to the director general of RTE. If the bishops want a public debate, I will be happy to give them one and ventilate all the issues involved. Can the Leader give us a clear timetable for this legislation? There appears to be some confusion between the Government parties.
Second, will the Leader ask his colleague, Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú to withdraw the disgraceful remarks he made about ten days ago in the House in which he compared the granting of civil and human rights to gay people in this country to the imposition of the penal laws? That was a most atrocious, grotesque and deliberate perversion of the truth. I say this with some authority. There was a Roman Catholic bishop in my family during the penal period and my mother’s family suffered considerably. It is an outrage that anybody should attempt to use that analogy.
Yesterday, an attempt was made to interview me about Bloomsday outside the gates to this House. A group of the storm troopers barged into the photograph and attempted to shout me down. I nearly lost my eye due to one of their placards——
Senator David Norris: They attempted in every way to prevent me having a say. They were also extremely personally abusive to me. If you, Senator Keaveney, find this entertaining, you are a lesser human being than I thought you were.
Senator Cecilia Keaveney: I wish to clarify that I was not being smug about anything. I was just pointing out that other people nearly lost their eyes as a result of abuse when trying to get into the House yesterday.
This rumbled on…
Senator Rónán Mullen: I welcome the easing of the blockade of Gaza. It is a tragedy that lives were lost in the run-up to this change of policy on the part of the Israeli Government. I am not naive enough to believe everyone in the flotilla was an honest broker, but I believe strongly that peaceful protestors with a human rights agenda deserve the full protection of national and international law. While I welcome this news, I lament the preceding tragedy.
I listened with a wry sense of amusement to various contributions on the statement of the Catholic bishops on the civil partnerships legislation. I was surprised that no one had referred to the four church leaders in Northern Ireland seeking to meet the main banks——
Senator Rónán Mullen: ——the lending policies of which, the leaders claim, are putting small and medium-sized businesses and their employees at risk. Would Senators Bacik and Norris condemn this as inappropriate interference by church leaders in the running of our banks?
Senator Rónán Mullen: Does he agree that the Labour Party, as a party which, according to one opinion poll, now enjoys the largest portion of public support, would be better served by allowing people to call for a public debate instead of excluding them?
That call for stimulus?
Senator Eoghan Harris: I support Senators Coffey and Buttimer in their call for a jobs stimulus programme. Members will be aware that by and large I have supported the Government all the way through. I am a great believer in the principle of join the army, wear the boots. I support its anti-recession policy.
Senator Eoghan Harris: I support the Government’s anti-recession policy. However, I put it to the Leader that, because there are internal problems in Fine Gael, it is no time for complacency on the part of the Government as to the extent of public shock on the news that Anglo Irish Bank is throwing away €22 billion. This is most important. It is what I call an iceberg situation. The Government has hit something like an iceberg on this one. It will not go away and it is connected to the wider question of job stimulus and banking behaviour. In that regard, I do not know — I am not an economist — whether we can let it go or whether we just must take the hit, but I do know that, politically, the public will require now a movement on job creation from the banks, especially for small businesses which have their backs against the wall. I strongly recommend that the Government looks at matters such as recourse mortgaging, as in the United States where one can sell one’s house and give the bank what one can after it is sold, whereas here one cannot as the bank holds the deeds and will not let one sell the house and therefore there is no market. The Government is not paralysed. It should take on board the need for a small persons’ and small business banking system and do whatever needs to be done politically, or else it will rue the day.
Here’s a question, this was the week that the Saville report was released. The response from some was intriguing.
Senator Eoghan Harris: If anything has eased the pain of the Troubles in the North, it is acts of empathy with the other side, walking in other people’s shoes. I remember, in particular, when Mr. Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin moved towards the Protestant community in regard to the First World War and how deeply and profoundly it affected him. I am somewhat concerned that in our tributes to Lord Saville and Mr. David Cameron we forget that those who died in Derry were not the only ones who died. Mr. Tommie Gorman who showed all the power, empathy and emotional intelligence he has shown all his life, including during the Troubles, reminded us last night of what had happened at Teebane, Whiterock, on Bloody Friday and in the La Mon restaurant bombing.
I still remember the night I saw on the road the false teeth that belonged to a Protestant workman who was taken out of a van at Whiterock and gunned down. I ask Members to understand the feelings of the Protestant community when they look at what happened in Derry yesterday. It was a moving and wonderful occasion for the Nationalist people. However, everything is connected in this world — “only connect”, said Shakespeare — and the Protestant community must have felt left out in a way. It would not be good for Seanad Éireann to convey the feeling that we are unaware of or are insensitive to the other tradition and what it suffered.
There’s that, no question about it.
On a tangential point I’m also curious about which incident at Whiterock he refers to. I’ve searched for it online and been unable to find it. Does anyone have any light to shed on it? Is he confusing it with the Teebane massacre.
Meanwhile, who are the masterminds behind the recent political turmoil, and what, what motivates them?
Senator Terry Leyden: I welcome the decision by the Government of Israel to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million people are in an open prison. In fact, it is very similar to a concentration camp. What is happening in that region is tragic. However, this is a tribute to the nine Turkish volunteers who sacrificed their lives on behalf of the 1.5 million people in Gaza and travelled on the flotilla with others, including people from Ireland. The decision is a step in the right direction. I appeal to Hamas not to resume sending missiles into southern Israel. They are provocative actions against a country which will respond, and not with an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That is the reaction of the Israeli Government to Hamas in the region. It is a step in the right direction and I commend Deputy Micheál Martin’s work in this regard.
It would be useful to have a debate on opinion polls and how they are compiled. I raise this with regard to section 59 of the Electoral Act 2000. As far as I recall, it was amended in this House. I believe last Friday’s opinion poll was manipulated in favour of the Labour Party against Fianna Fáil and, indeed, undermined Deputy Enda Kenny’s leadership of the Fine Gael Party. The Irish Times——
Senator Terry Leyden: There was a proposal to ban them for the week before general elections were held but this was defeated at that time. The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll was flawed and flukey. Those concerned now admit that they will review the situation because Fianna Fáil’s position is far stronger than shown in that poll——
The Irish Times, lobbying for a Labour government. With their reputation?
If only he were right…