I am happy to be able to speak this evening. I understand the point about Storm Emma and ensuring health and safety in the House. I am on the Business Committee and I supported the closure. However, I have a major issue with the Citizens' Assembly. This House is the citizens' assembly. Is é seo an top line, mar a deirtear, an Dáil agus an Seanad, and the people elect us.
The Citizens' Assembly was a contrived setup from day one in order for the Government to slip around an issue that it could not deal with upfront. Set up the Citizens' Assembly and call in 99 people. The Government has been found out. There is a housing crisis. If someone builds a house on bad foundations, it will crack and fall. Eleven counties were left out of it, including mine, Deputy Danny Healy-Rae's and many other rural counties. How could that be fair? Surely the basic prerequisite for RED C was to have one person - not even two people - from each county, yet it did not do that. The first day the assembly met, a person who was invited had to resign from it because of his political connections and canvassing on many issues, including repeal of the eighth amendment.
Why were so many substitutes needed? I am not saying anything about the people who joined the assembly. They were hand-picked. I am talking about the system. RED C was then caught with its pants down around its knees because it had failed in its duty to have a proper selection process. Thousands of people contacted me and the Minister of State seeking an independent inquiry. Instead, RED C is inquiring into itself and the mistakes it made. By its own admission, 99 people would never be representative of the voting populace. It was never going to happen, so that was a farce from day one.
The assembly is considering other issues, but it was mainly set up for one reason, that being, the first one that it dealt with so zealously and with so much haste. It then passed that issue on to a contrived Oireachtas committee, but we are dealing with the assembly now. I have a reply to a parliamentary question on my person that states that it cost €1.8 million to service the assembly up to the end of 2017. How much more will it cost and why do we bother having elections to elect people? Like Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and others, I have the privilege for the moment to have been elected by the people of my county, but not to be ignored by a cabal that was wrongly formed in order to arrive at a contrived answer. When I met Deputy Enda Kenny the night before he was elected Taoiseach, he told me not to worry about the eighth amendment. I discussed it with him. I told him that I could not support his Government. He said we would have a citizens' assembly, then an Oireachtas committee and a free vote and everything would be hunky-dory, but the people can see what is going on.
This extension of time is just another part of that. This is the second time.
The prerequisite was honesty and that the integrity of the process should be upheld. RED C got found out on the question of the substitutes. I have asked why we needed so many substitutes. Why did people desert it after a certain time? Was it because they dealt with the issue they wanted to deal with which was the eighth amendment? One gets what one wishes for in this game. When there is a contrived and poor foundation and poor set-up, this is what we end up with - a kind of a mess, which is what it is. I have no gripe with any of the people on it - I do not know who or what they are - but I have a gripe with the way it was established and with the way they were contacted and the way they presented so zealously and enthusiastically. We needed so many substitutes. I want to find out. The Minister might tell me how many substitutes were required and why RED C could not even get that many - picking the 12 substitutes or whatever. Why could they not get them right and have a fair, honest, transparent, decent and workmanlike arrangement to get the people required? There are plenty of people out there who I am sure would be willing if they were asked.
It is like the so-called Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which could not get a pro-life doctor yet one of them addressed 100,000 people last Saturday week in Dublin and she said she was not asked. Neither were countless others. It was contrived and it was a cabal as I call it.
It is not democratic. This is a democratically elected House. Na hAirí Stáit might want to be laughing and joking away. They should laugh away if they want to and be disrespectful. The people are waiting.