Fáiltím roimh an deis páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht seo. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais ag an bpáipéar ó Roinn na Gaeltachta a d’fhoilsigh an Rialtas. Is cáipéis thar a bheith suimiúil í, ag cur síos ar an tionchar uafásach a bheidh ag an mBreatimeacht ar chomhlachtaí sa Ghaeltacht, go háirithe na comhlachtaí beaga atá ag brath go huile agus go hiomlán ar a gcuid táirgí ag dul trasna na farraige go Sasana agus ar na hamhábhair ag teacht isteach. Beidh siad buailte go dona agus beidh siad thíos. Tá a fhios ag an Aire Stáit é sin.
I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, set out very clearly what is involved in this comprehensive Bill. It refers to no fewer than 41 Acts, which will give people watching the debate some idea of its scope. It has 21 Parts and 121 sections. One of the areas it addresses is family law, an issue in which, in a different life, I had a particular interest. The Bill seeks to continue the recognition, on a habitual basis, of certain divorces, judicial separations and annulments. It also seeks to preserve the status quo in respect of certain arrangements to do with healthcare provision, social protection, students and the common travel area. I welcome all of that. I also want to acknowledge, on the record of the House, the amount of work that has gone into this Bill and the previous omnibus Bill, which, by and large, remained on the shelf and for which the Minister said he was grateful. Gabhaim mo bhuíochas. Tá sé tuilte ag an Rialtas agus ag na daoine atá ag obair air seo nach bhfuil le feiceáil anseo sa Dáil.
Significantly, it is 100 years since the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was passed, copper-fastening partition, home rule and the division of Ireland, all of which have led to the situation we are in today, when that division persists. If anything comes out of Brexit, I hope it will be a reunited Ireland by peaceful means. Brexit means that part of our body has been cut off. I visited there last year on my way to ócáid ag Conradh na Gaeilge. Ceapaim go raibh an tAire Stáit é féin ann freisin ach níl mé cinnte. Ar mo bhealach suas, chuaigh mé trasna na teorann trí nó ceithre huaire. Chuaigh mé ar strae uair amháin. Chuir sé sin in iúl dom go soiléir an easpa teorann agus chomh tábhachtach atá sé nach rachaimid ar ais arís maidir leis an teorainn. When I travelled to Monaghan and crossed the Border a number of times, it brought home to me the importance of never going back to a hard border and the importance of reuniting that body with our body in a peaceful way. We will be a much better country for it and I hope that is what comes out of all of this.
Several speakers referred to Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's contribution. I listened carefully to his speech and went along with some of what he said. He started an analysis but he did not finish it. I hope some of the points he made will be the start of a debate. I certainly do not like polarised politics in any way but the question we really need to ask is how polarisation comes about. Taking that question on a practical level within the Dáil context, before moving on to a more general consideration, we have a Business Committee that is not quite functioning. "Tyranny" is a bit too strong a word to use, but it is true to say that the majority has power now and is not as interested any more in hearing the voices of the Opposition in a respectful way. Now that the three parties in government have their majority - I will call them the three sisters, like the three rivers in the south east, as we learned about them in school - they might exercise magnanimity and recognise the onus that is on them to behave in a different way. They should heed the message of the last election and the one before it that people want a different type of politics and a variety of voices in the Dáil.
We all represent our different constituencies as best we can. I have the greatest of respect for all Deputies and the amount of work they do but the polarisation to which Deputy Jim O'Callaghan referred does not come about by accident. It comes about because people feel disconnected from the political system. When large amounts of public money are put into employing spin doctors to run politics and for the very purpose of spinning, then we are in serious trouble. That is what causes a disconnect with ordinary people and encourages polarisation. I would like a debate on this issue and more contributions from Deputies, including Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, but we might use a mirror to reflect our role in the polarisation that exists. Using it to say that Fianna Fáil takes the middle ground and does not want polarisation will put a kind of a stopgap on any analysis. It is like starting to open the door but then shutting it tight again and it does not take us any further in examining why polarisation is happening.
The referendum on Brexit took place on 23 June 2016. It is easy to forget the date and that it is more than four years since the vote. I do not agree with the commentary of the vast majority of people in the Conservative Party or that of Nigel Farage.
I was concerned then, and have been concerned since, at the failure to analyse why ordinary people on the ground voted in the way they did. We must remember our intimate connection with England. It took our people when we did not look after them. It took people from mother and baby homes and from the industrial schools, including members of my own family. These were people who had ended up on the streets because this country utterly failed to look after them. We exported them. They did the best they could and they did us proud but we let them go. They left the industrial schools, of which there were two in Galway, one for women and one for men, at 16 years of age with the clothes on their backs and nothing else. I sometimes hear younger people talking. I do not like the divide between younger and older people because that is also bad.
Ireland was, to a great extent, made by those people. The remittances they sent back enabled us to go to school, to buy clothes, to go to college and so on. The economy about which we rave was not built on the back of IT alone, but on the backs of those who went abroad, who did not forget where they came from and who looked after their families left behind. All of that has been valued in monetary terms. At one stage, the number of Irish-born people living in England was 1 million. The latest figure my office could get showed there were 430,000 Irish-born people in the UK. I thank my staff for all their work. Perhaps the Minister of State may have a figure for the number of people who have parents or grandparents who were Irish. There is an integral connection between us and England. When we demonise a people, we do so at our peril. They made a democratic decision. Our efforts should have gone into dealing with that decision in the most positive way possible rather than demonising those people.
With regard to America, I do not agree with some of the comments that have been made. I congratulate Joe Biden. It is great that Trump will eventually go, although he has not gone yet. The question must again be asked how millions and millions of people lost faith in the Democratic Party. That is a serious question. The analysis of, and response to, that question will not come from demonising these people or from saying that those in the middle states of America are ignorant and illiterate and do not know anything. It is frightening for me. I know the Cathaoirleach Gníomhach and I do not always agree on things, but we certainly agree on the importance of facts and debate. When I speak here, I often cite the fact that I spent an hour or two listening to Science Foundation Ireland lecturing us on the importance of evidence in forming our opinions. We need to look at the evidence in America to understand why significant millions decided that the better option was Trump rather than Clinton in 2016 or rather than Biden on this occasion. Therein lies the question for us. They did not trust the political system, as some here do not. It was not the case that they thought Trump was better but that they thought he was more in your face and that the other side was not telling the truth.
If there is any lesson in this for us, it is that we must stop spinning. We must stop paying advisers. Ministers must stand up, say what they believe in and tell us about the very hard work their Departments are doing, which they stand over. If they later believe it was wrong, they should come back to the House and say so. We all make mistakes. The Government should get rid of the advisers and the spin. That is my advice in this regard.
I will mention one last thing before moving on to the Bill. I really look forward to the day on which we go through an omnibus Bill on the eradication of poverty with a pen, as I have done in respect of the Brexit Bills. The eradication of poverty is firstly the right thing to do, but our economy will also thrive if poverty is eradicated. Can the Minister of State imagine if the same effort that has gone into Brexit had gone into that or into eradicating the housing crisis, which is absolutely consequent on failed market policies? I have no doubt but that those who led the Brexit debate are neoliberals who have absolutely no interest in equality. When I speak about people being disengaged, I am speaking about ordinary people on the ground who no longer believe those in power. Therein lies the danger.
The spending review to which I referred is particularly worrying. I ask the Minister of State and the Government to have a look at it. I have praised its authors, Rebecca Ryder and Sharon Barry, because it is important to do so. The spending review is subtitled "An assessment of the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 on Údarás na Gaeltachta and its client companies". It is absolutely startling. It states that "Gaeltacht companies are significantly more exposed to a disorderly Brexit than the Irish economy in general, due to their reliance on the UK as both an export market and a source of raw materials". The Brexit planning, into which the Government had put its efforts and which was welcome, was displaced by Covid. One can understand that but the spending review is now saying that it is too late for any more preparation and that it is time to deal with the consequences of Brexit and, post Brexit, to help companies, and smaller ones in particular.
Some 85% of Gaeltacht companies have fewer than ten employees. Another figure that jumps out is that 82% have not availed of any Brexit supports. I will not use all my time to read out figures but this review is crystal clear, written in plain English and easy for someone who is not good with figures to understand. It highlights that Brexit will affect some people and some areas disproportionately. The Gaeltacht is one of the areas atá thíos. Tá sí buailte go dona ó thaobh an Bhreatimeachta.
The review mentions the efforts of Údarás na Gaeltachta, which happened to be before the Joint Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community yesterday. It has done Trojan work, obair na gcapall, agus tá ionaid Gteic curtha chun cinn aige. It has found locations for Gteic and so on. This spending review says that "The lack of broadband and digital infrastructure in Gaeltacht regions is a major barrier to innovation and competitiveness". Market diversification is absolutely essential and these companies need help with that. The review also says that, although I may be paraphrasing it incorrectly, the Government has offered a lot of assistance through different packages, but the take-up has been dismally low. What is now needed is flexibility to refocus those packages. Údarás na Gaeltachta could work to repurpose some of the unexpended funds under the Brexit loans scheme, for example, for enhanced bespoke supports. That is what is needed here. We must target and look at bespoke solutions for the Gaeltacht.
I will go back to the Irish language to conclude. Mar is eol don Aire Stáit - níl aon ghá le leácht uaimse toisc go nglacaim go bhfuil an tAire Stáit ar an eolas faoi sin - go bhfuil an Ghaeilge thar a bheith goilliúnach. Táimid in am na cinniúna. Tá Bille os ár gcomhair, nó beidh i gceann cúpla seachtain, agus beidh an coiste ag obair go dian maidir leis. Níl ansin ach rud thar a bheith bunúsach chun cearta bunúsacha atá ag gach duine sa tír a úsáideann an Bhéarla a chinntiú. Faraor, níl na cearta sin ag daoine a úsáideann an Ghaeilge. Tá trí rud fite fuaite le chéile. Tá sé sin aitheanta ag chuile rialtas. Tá an fhreagracht curtha ar an údarás ó thaobh na tríonóide de fhreagrachtaí sin: an pobal, an teanga, agus cúrsaí fostaíochta, Gael-eagar. Tá siad go léir fite fuaite le chéile. Má tá na saineolaithe ag rá go bhfuilimid i dtrioblóid ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, anois tá saineolaithe i gcúrsaí airgid ag tabhairt aitheantais do na fadhbanna ar an talamh. Níos tábhachtaí arís, tá siad ag tabhairt réiteach orthu. They are identifying problems and providing solutions.
Nuair atá an tAire Stáit ag rá a chúpla focal, bheinn buíoch dá bhféadfadh sé cúpla focal a rá faoi na figiúirí agus na facts atá anseo agus faoi cé chomh goilliúnach agus atá an Ghaeltacht.