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Meanwhile… back at the Senate! The famed courtesy and legendary quality of debate of the upper house on display yet again… May 31, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Social Policy.

I had to laugh reading the Irish Times report of a clash between Ronan Mullen and David Norris in the Senate.

Actually, it’s telling, isn’t it considering this piece on the socially conservative right, to see our most public elected exponent of same in conflict with one of our more clearly socially liberal politicians.

DAVID NORRIS (Ind) clashed bitterly with fellow Independent Ronan Mullen over the exemption of the churches from the operations of equality legislation.

When Mr Mullen suggested that those raising this issue, which were extraneous to the needs and concerns of the victims of abuse in institutions, ran the risk of being accused of acting cynically or manipulatively at a time when “we are all struggling to deal with the grim reality”, Mr Norris angrily retorted: “That is a classic smear from you, you smug hypocrite!”

Hmmm… hardly unparliamentary, but perhaps a little more heated than the usual discourse in our Second chamber. Those who have met Mullen will attest that in person he’s actually rather pleasant, whatever some of his views (as indeed is Norris). Still, it must be difficult for him given the current situation.

The details of the relevant legislation:

Mr Norris had earlier proposed, unsuccessfully, that the House debate a motion he and Independent colleagues Joe O’Toole, Ivana Bacik, Shane Ross and Feargal Quinn put forward, calling on the House to request the Government to re-examine the exemption, which he contended was unsustainable, especially given the latest revelations about abuse.

He wanted Seanad leader Donie Cassidy to give leadership on this matter. “I know there are significant elements in his own party, including at ministerial level, who completely agree with the position we have taken. The issue should be discussed.”

And the core of the philosophical differences are evident here:

Mr Mullen said he did not see Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act as protecting the privileges of any church.

Mr Norris: “It puts them above the law; that’s a privilege.”

Mr Mullen: “I see it as protecting the rights of different groups in society, in conscience, to an education that reflects their ethos.”


Here are the relevant transcripts of Wednesday and a sort of reprise the next day… Enjoy or weep… the choice is ours.

Senator Rónán Mullen: I compliment my colleagues on raising the issue of alcohol. I was present at the NUI Galway alumni event at which the Ard-Stiúrthóir of the GAA spoke and I raised the issue of alcohol advertising in connection with GAA events. Let us be clear, the reason alcoholic drinks companies advertise or connect themselves with sporting organisations and activities is to piggyback on the glamour associated with sport. No one is as sensible of the glamour associated with sport as young people. I am reminded of the courageous point of principle taken by people such as Dr. Mick Loftus, a former president of the GAA. I wish there were others like him who see clearly that alcohol is a serious problem in our society. I call for a specific Seanad debate on alcohol advertising. We could make a great contribution by having that debate soon.

Unlike my colleague, Senator O’Toole, I felt hope when I saw the Christian Brothers’ statement. Time will tell which of us is right. I read into it that there was a preparedness to be generous. Time will tell. I warned yesterday of my fears that a kind of anti-Catholic bigotry would re-emerge under another guise. I have concerns about people raising extraneous issues. For example, my colleague, Senator Norris, does not like section 37 of the Employment Equality Act. I do not see that as protecting the privileges of any church.

Senator David Norris: It does, because it puts them above the law. That is a privilege.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Mullen should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Senator Rónán Mullen: I see it as protecting the rights of different groups in society, in conscience, to an education that reflects their ethos. People who raise such issues at this time, which are extraneous to the needs and concerns of victims, in particular, run the risk of being accused of being cynical or manipulative at a time when we are all struggling to deal with a grim reality.

Senator David Norris: That is a classic smear from you, you smug hypocrite.

An Cathaoirleach: Please. Senator Mullen should be allowed to speak without interruption. We are taking questions to the Leader. Time is running out.

Senator David Norris: I object to my reputation being taken in that way. It is quite disgusting and repellent.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Mullen has the floor and his time is up. We are having questions to the Leader.

Senator Rónán Mullen: I do not intend to take anybody’s reputation but I am asking——

Senator David Norris: You do it all the time in a sly kind of way, but you will not get away with it with me.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris should not interrupt, please.

Senator David Norris: I am not having my reputation sullied.

An Cathaoirleach: Please.

Senator David Norris: If the Cathaoirleach does not protect me I will protect myself.

Senator Rónán Mullen: In the light of that I will reserve any further comment for the substantive debate.

And the next day…

Senator Jim Walsh: I was hoping to contribute after Senator Norris because he made a very disparaging remark to one of his colleagues yesterday. It was typical of Senator Norris, but unworthy—–

An Cathaoirleach: We will not go over yesterday’s business again.

Senator Jim Walsh: —–of any Senator. We should be able to debate these issues. Senator Norris’s ego needs to be reined in somewhat. Even his colleagues on that side are saying that it is out of control.

Senator David Norris: Perhaps I should be reined in with a lasso.

An Cathaoirleach: This is not relevant to the Order of Business. Members should put questions to the Leader on the Order of Business and should not speak against or for other Members.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Hear, hear.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Put a question.

Senator Eugene Regan: Senator Walsh should respect the Chair.

Senator Jim Walsh: It is relevant because I am dealing with a matter that was raised yesterday on the Order of Business. I would welcome a debate on equality matters. The equality agenda, while good, has been hijacked by sectoral interests.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator’s time is up.

Senator Jim Walsh: I was appalled that a pub on the north side of Dublin was destroyed by a group from the Traveller community that ran out of control. We need to debate that issue. Publicans, who have an obligation to run and manage their premises, are not in a position to decide on who they will serve because the equality legislation is not being used as intended.

Senator David Norris: That an is untruth. Travellers are entitled to be treated as individuals, not as a single group.

Senator Jim Walsh: If the Senator listened more instead of mouthing off in the smug, bigoted way that he did, it would enhance the debates in the Seanad.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I am horrified by the details of the horrific death of the troubled teen, Melissa Mahon, a 14 year old girl. When we look at the facts of the case, it seems everyone has failed this child, including her family, the monster who took her life and also the HSE. To be taken into care in this State should mean care, and care that works.

Melissa is the 20th child to die in State care in this country in the last nine years, a terrible indictment of our State system. We know who the troubled teens are—–

An Cathaoirleach: This is a matter still before the court and not yet fully decided. I do not want comment on it.


1. Gavin - May 31, 2009

Hi, you might find it easier to use Kildare Street, you can directly link to the debate, or to individual speeches:

The debate:


Norris quote:


Hope it’s of use!


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