I congratulate former Senator Pearse Doherty on his election. It is important that the House does so. Perhaps it would be better to avoid mentioning that the main Government party came third in the by-election.
In light of comments made in the House last week, including by Senator Paul Bradford, I congratulate the ICTU on organising an effective, responsible and civic-minded demonstration on Saturday. The march afforded people an opportunity to express their viewpoint in a manner other than at the ballot box. The demonstration will not have harmed the negotiations in which the Government was involved at the time. If anything, it will have helped the Government. When done properly, demonstrations are welcome. As Senator Bradford correctly noted last week, it is appalling and gives the wrong impression when protests degenerate into incidents such as storming the gates of Government Buildings or Departments. They are welcome, however, when done in a responsible and civic-minded manner.
In light of the issues raised by Senator Fitzgerald when calling for an early debate on the recent deal, the Leader should provide time for debate on another issue which emerges from all that has taken place. An issue emerges in the middle of all this and I wish we had time to discuss it, as it was to discuss such issues this House was established. Matters such as neutrality, sovereignty and independence are being confused and made to appear almost synonymous in much of the debate. Neutrality was never meant to be a concept in which nations would stand idly by while a wrong was being done. Similarly, the concept of independence does not exclude or rule out our having a shared view on global or international issues, while sovereignty is not lost in accepting help from another country or member state. None of this would be the case anymore than if we were to stand in line to help another country or member state, financially or otherwise, we would be taking away some of its sovereignty. That is the vital test. We would not do such a thing but would help by showing good will. We should not confuse a threat to or loss of sovereignty with a loss of good government which is an entirely separate matter.
It is not good for the country to face into a general election with people feeling a new Government would not be able to rule with full sovereignty and independence. Of course, it will be stuck with whatever the current Government will leave it and that is a fair and important point to make. However, we do not want to say to the people that there is nothing left to rule, that this is no longer an independent country and that we can no longer make decisions for ourselves. That is patently not true. We should focus on how we have come to be where we are and I hope we will do this in the debate which Senator Fitzgerald has proposed. In that sense, the blame game must definitely be played because one cannot walk away from these matters without apportioning blame. However, we must also look forward and create a sense of optimism and enablement for the people as we face into a general election.