The Order of Business is No. 71, motion 7, regarding Belarus, to be proposed by Senator Ward and to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 1, CervicalCheck Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2021 - all Stages, to be taken at 10.15 a.m. and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, to be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; the Second Stage debate to be confined to an opening contribution of eight minutes by the Minister, with contributions of five minutes from all Senators and a reply not exceeding seven minutes by the Minister; and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 2, motion for earlier signature of the CervicalCheck Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2021, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, the Workplace Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 12 p.m. or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 60 minutes by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; No. 4, the Land Development Agency Bill 2021 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 3, whichever is the later, with the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, to be brought to a conclusion after 150 minutes by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; and the proceedings to be interrupted after two hours for 15 minutes to allow for the sanitisation of the Chamber, with the order of debate resuming thereafter; No. 4a, Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.15 p.m. or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 4, whichever is the later, and to conclude after 165 minutes, with the contribution of the Minister not to exceed eight minutes, those of groups spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given not less than seven minutes to reply to the debate; and the proceedings to be interrupted after two hours for 15 minutes to allow for the sanitisation of the Chamber, with the order of the debate resuming thereafter; and No. 5, Statements on the Report of the Independent Review Group Jadotville, to be taken at 7.15 p.m. or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 4a, whichever is the later, and to conclude after 90 minutes, with the opening statement of the Minister not to exceed eight minutes, those of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed four minutes, and the Minister to be given not less than seven minutes to reply to the debate.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, to move No. 18 before No. 71, motion 7 on the Order Paper. I concur with the Cathaoirleach's remarks in regard to the passing of former Fianna Fáil Minister of State and Teachta Dála, Dr. Seán McCarthy. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and community and I wish them well in this very difficult time for them.
I want to raise two points this morning. The first point relates to the survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions on the cost of attending primary and secondary school in this State.
It found that more than a quarter of parents get into debt going back to school because of the high costs. The estimated cost of sending a child to primary school now is €1,200 per year, while the estimated cost of sending a child to secondary school is €1,500 per year. The cost of purchasing books is the most significant financial burden on parents. It averages approximately €200 annually per child. If a family has more than one child in school, it is a significant burden. The cost of extracurricular activities, in particular for primary school students, comes in at almost €200 as well, which adds a significant financial burden, especially so for families with more than one child.
The survey has found that many parents are using credit cards or other forms of credit to pay for the cost of going back to school, which is a significant problem that we need to address. Some schools do book rental schemes and others do not. The Minister for Education must examine the situation. Schools should be encouraged to a point, and then they should be asked to implement book rental schemes because that would ease the burden on so many parents and families across the State. I cannot understand how some schools can manage it and others cannot. The burden on parents could be a topic we might discuss in the new term.
The second issue I wish to discuss is the reopening of the hospitality sector, which is a hot topic and one that we discuss regularly. It is welcome to see that hospitality is opening in some form. It is not a full reopening for everybody. I have significant issues with the suggestion that somebody who has not had an opportunity to get a vaccine would be excluded from hospitality but would be allowed to work in the sector. There is an anomaly in that regard. I take note that the Government has changed slightly in that antigen testing will form part of the phase 3 reopening of hospitality so there is some movement in that respect.
Figures were released yesterday which indicate that if we had the same death rate as the EU average, then 3,200 more citizens would be dead in this country. If we had the same death rate as the UK, more than 4,000 more Irish citizens would be dead as of today. We should commend the Government on that front in terms of handling the Covid pandemic situation very well in terms of protecting lives, which is clearly the top priority of the Government.
We need clarity on two issues: the first relates to the CMO’s remarks yesterday that it is not advisable for young children to access indoor dining. We must be very careful, as there are many lone parents and families that have children of different ages. We require clarity on the comment. What we do not want is what happened at the beginning of the pandemic when it was suggested that children were super spreaders and people became afraid of children, which was a ridiculous situation. We do not want there to be any judgment or a frosty reception if a lone parent in particular brings a child to dine. We must get clarity on that.
The second and final issue relates to the timing of the introduction of antigen testing. When will phase 3 take effect?
On a point of clarification, is the proposal that No. 18 be taken before No. 71, motion 7 on the Order Paper?
I second that.
It is not a case of calling for a debate or anything like that, but I wish to comment on the atrocious language that has been used by Members of the other House regarding some of the greatest atrocities that have been committed against mankind on the European Continent in the past 60 to 70 years. There were references to "Nazi Germany", "1930s Germany" and "the Weimar Republic". Other Deputies have used the term "Stalinist". Stalin murdered between 7 million and 9 million people. Language like this should be rarely used. I hope we will never need to use such language again and that we will never see acts like that again on the planet. They are the most serious words in the English language and should only be reserved to describe the most heinous crimes committed against our fellow man and woman. It is most disingenuous in the extreme for them to be thrown around for cheap headlines or to increase somebody's profile.
It is not ignorance, because everybody knows what happened during that era. Everybody knows the death, murder and destruction that was unleashed across the world throughout the Second World War by these regimes. It is not ignorance of history. They know the history and the meaning behind these words and yet they still used them. It has been happening for months now. It has been happening in radio interviews and in the Dáil Chamber. The situation kicked off properly this week and it has rightly been condemned by all sides of the House and everyone here. It is incumbent upon Members of this House and on those elected to Dáil Éireann to remember that language matters. The use of such language delegitimises the seriousness of those words. If we throw a word around enough times to describe a situation we do not agree with, then it enters discourse as an acceptable thing to say when it is not. It should be reserved for the worst atrocities, not something like a vaccine passport that one does not agree with. The worst thing about it is that they are cognisant of the history behind these words and yet they continue to do it. It is incumbent on everybody in the Oireachtas to call it out for what it is. It is totally and utterly wrong in the extreme and the more of us that speak out against it the better.
I wish to offer my sympathies as well to the former Senator and Deputy, Seán McCarthy. I also extend my sympathies on the deaths of the Independent councillor, Hugh Conlon, from Dunleer, and the retired Independent councillor, Jimmy Cudden, from Duleek who will be buried later this morning. I also extend my sympathies on the death of our Fianna Fáil colleague in Fingal County Council, Councillor Freddie Cooper, who passed away in recent weeks.
As a new Senator my first year in this House has been a learning curve. I am enjoying the challenge and I hope I am making some contribution to the House. I intend to bring my first Private Members' Bill to the House in the autumn. I believe it to be an issue that could potentially have cross-party support.
I wish to use my time today to talk about my colleagues on the other side of the House. I have never hidden my background in Fianna Fáil. My family connection to Fianna Fáil goes right back to the foundation of the State. I was a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive for four years. I loved every minute of the time I gave to Fianna Fáil but, unfortunately, there was no room for me to run for the party that I loved. I was not wanted. I say this because out of 180 Independent councillors, 87 are ex-Fianna Fáil. These unwelcomed men and women are some of the most hard-working community activists and local politicians in the country, yet Fianna Fáil did not want them. This is not unique to Fianna Fáil. Some of the remaining Independent councillors are ex-Fine Gael, ex-Sinn Féin, ex-Labour Party and ex-Green Party.
As I look from the outside in, I can say with my hand on my heart that I do not like to see what has happened to this once-great party. I do not like to see the internal party bickering, the constant negativity within the party that serves no purpose, only to divide. This country needs Fianna Fáil. It needs a Fianna Fáil Party of purpose, one that is relevant and that appreciates grassroots-level politics once again. It needs a party that will listen to the grass growing and know what is going on in every townland, parish, village and town.
While some may think we have never been more connected with social media, I would say differently. This country does not need a party that will put its finger in the air on any given day to see what direction the wind is blowing and decide which direction to go in. We have the Social Democrats for that. I so want Fianna Fáil-----
I am giving the Senator latitude on this but the Order of Business is supposed to be--
I am getting to it.
Senator Keogan has 18 seconds.
I do not want Fianna Fáil to abandon everything that has made us the nation that we are. Whether one likes it or not, we have a Christian ethos. We are nationalist, republican, cosmopolitan and we are constantly evolving as a people and as a nation. We know that Fianna Fáil is capable. Even in the darkest days it built this country up. Look how far we have come in the past 20 years. As we prepare for the recess, I hope this will give Fianna Fáil time to reflect, rebuild and rebrand, and return to be a better, more united party. It can prove to the Irish people that it can work together for the greater good of people and put aside the internal squabbles for leadership. Party members should put down their mobile phones at parliamentary party meetings and tog out to be the great party that it once was. This nation needs it and wants it.
I thank Martin Groves, Bridget Doody and all the staff, you Chair, and the Leader for putting up with my rants at times, and my Independent colleagues. I thank Gráinne, Ruth, Mark and Shauna for helping me to do the job as best I can. I thank the Leader for putting up with me today.
Ciúnas. I remind Senators that the Order of Business is about the business before the House today.
It was the last report.
That was significant latitude.
I thank Senator Keogan for her thoughts and input on the Order of Business. However, I remind her that it is about the legislation and items before us today.
It is also important Members have an opportunity to acknowledge when they make mistakes and show remorse for them.
I made no mistake.
I call on the Leader of the Green Party group, Senator Pauline O’Reilly.
It will be hard to follow that love note to Fianna Fáil, so I will not try.
I thank Senator Ward for putting the motion on Belarus on the Order Paper today. Obviously, we, in the Green Party, as well as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are supportive of that. It will be taken without debate, but it is important the Seanad recognises the important role that human rights defenders play across the globe. The shocking stories coming out Belarus cannot go unmentioned. I know they will be raised in a committee later today. Anything we, in the Green Party, can do, we are happy to do. Ireland is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. Belarus is also a member of the OSCE, so there are many avenues for us to follow. However, we cannot allow the fact human rights abuses are taking place to go unmentioned.
I want to raise the issue of school transport. The difficulty is that this is our final week sitting before school starts again. I would like the Leader to get in touch with the Department of Education to have a proper look at school transport. It comes up every year that children cannot get onto school buses, because they have to live a certain distance from their school. We discussed this at the Committee on Climate Action this week. If we are to see the kind of change we need in transport, children are the first port of call. The passengers in 30% of cars on our roads during rush hour are children being driven to school. We could, therefore, have a huge impact on our carbon footprint if we could get that right. However, it takes all Departments working together, including the Department of Education. School buses should be free and freely available to everyone, regardless of how far away from the school children live.
More and more children and their parents are making choices about what school they want to go to. It is right that we have that freedom. However, this means that they need to have transport, regardless of where the school is. I have raised this issue before. In terms of ethos, there are restrictions. A child could live within 1 km or 2 km two of a school, but it could be too dangerous for them to get on a bike or to walk on a footpath. That needs to be changed by the Department of Transport. Even for short distances, children should be able to get onto a school bus so that they can get to school safely.
The British Government announcement yesterday that it would introduce legislation to cover up the role in the conflict in the North, in the form of a statute of limitations, has united opinion in this country in an unprecedented manner. The Irish Government, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Unionist Party have all called on the British Government not to proceed with this unilateral and self-serving action. The main relatives' organisations, Relatives for Justice and Wave Trauma Centre, who campaign for justice and truth, have also called on the British Government to abandon its amnesty-based plans. There is a deep sense among relatives' organisations that the British Government has put its narrow interests ahead of their interests and, indeed, of the interests of the peace and political processes. It is protecting a small number of political and military figures from the scrutiny that would arise from a process that would help tens of thousands of people who have endured much pain for many decades.
It is infuriating to have to listen to the British Government's deceitful attempts to excuse its actions by claiming it is in the interests of those killed by British Crown forces, or loyalists acting in collusion with British forces, to deny them access to the truth and justice. It is equally infuriating, especially for relatives' organisations, to have their concerns summarily dismissed in such an off-hand manner.
The British Government did not consult anyone, other than the British military and those lobbying on its behalf, before it announced its statute of limitations decision. Its decision effectively undermines the Stormont House Agreement, an agreement that was negotiated between the Irish and British Governments, and had the support of all of the main parties in the North. As journalist Julian O'Neill said, if the British Government proceeds with its plans it will effectively close down police investigations, ombudsman investigations, prosecutions, inquests, civil actions and Operation Kenova.
It is little wonder, then, that the Relatives for Justice organisation would describe yesterday as "the single worst day for all victims during our peace process". It described the proposal as "the mother of all cover-ups". As John Finucane, MP, son of the murdered human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane, said "the British government made it clear that victims do not matter to them". As always, British interests come before everything else. It cares nothing for victims, or for truth and justice.
I welcome the clear and firm statement from the Irish Government in response to the British Government's statement. The Irish Government has thankfully made it clear that the Stormont House Agreement is the framework for making progress on legacy; that the proposals from the British Government are not the basis for dealing with legacy cases; and that the way forward is through a collective approach. It is clear that the barrier to justice for all of those impacted by the conflict lays first and foremost at the door of Westminster. It is not on this island.
I would urge the Irish Government to continue to pressure the British Government to implement the Stormont House Agreement and to pursue all avenues, including internationally, to ensure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.
I thank the Cathaoirleach, the ushers, the staff of Leinster House, Mr. Martin Groves and Ms Bridget Doody for all their help. We are still newbies. This is our first year, as Senator Keogan said, after her love poem to Fianna Fáil. It was great for us to have that assistance throughout our first year.
When I saw Jadotville listed on the Order of Business I was very happy. Maybe the Cathaoirleach has some information on what is happening. We will have statements tonight but we have not yet seen the report. I would really appreciate if that report could be circulated as soon as possible to all Members of the House. Last November, the Cathaoirleach facilitated a debate on Jadotville. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, came into the House to announce the independent commission. We all wait in anticipation today. Hopefully, tonight, there will be some good news for the heroes of Jadotville.
I thank Senator Ward for his motion on Belarus. Maybe we will have time in the autumn to debate what is happening in Belarus.
Given that we are all enjoying the good weather, and the forecast is for more good weather this weekend, I want to raise an issue currently being promoted by Water Safety Ireland. We are all aware of the great fun that a day at the beach, at a local river or at a watercourse can bring to so many. However, we also need to be aware of the dangers of water and we must all respect it. In a conversation with my colleague, Councillor Níall McNelis, in Galway, he informed me that Clare County Council passed by-laws last month banning the use of inflatable devices from the designated bathing areas. Waterford City and County Council banned them two weeks before that. Cork County Council has placed a number of warning signs on its beaches in an attempt to influence behaviour, so that we can on all enjoy the summer safely at those locations. We all know those inflatables are sold as toys and not as life-saving devices. We must all be aware of that. It is vital that we all recognise that and stay safe while enjoying our terrific watercourses this weekend, and over the coming months.
I want to use the opportunity to once again emphasise the importance of lifebuoys at all our water and bathing locations. I recently asked Waterways Ireland to place lifebuoys along the new magnificent blueway from Athy to Robertstown. These should be placed along all our blueways, running as they do along watercourses. Consideration should be given to working with local communities along these routes to provide defibrillators, where possible. Unfortunately, we are all aware of locations where a life-saving buoy has been stolen, tossed away or put out of use. I am sure that we would all appeal to those minded to doing this to leave those lifebuoys where they are located. You may never know the hour or day that you will be the one who needs it. When you look around, it may be too late at that stage.
I want to highlight the "RTÉ Investigates" programme that aired a couple of weeks ago on Thursday, 1 July 2021.
As we all know, it was a harrowing documentary that shared some of the urgent concerns of care workers, adult safeguarding experts and family members of those who had lost loved ones in a nursing home setting to Covid. It was difficult to watch as, once again, the high levels of neglect in nursing homes throughout the country in the midst of the pandemic when so many people among us needed support and care were highlighted. Again, our institutions failed them in the worst way possible. The programme accurately reflected the severe incidences of neglect that are occurring throughout the country every day.
This is an urgent human rights issue. There is no legislation to prevent abuse and neglect of adults at risk. We cannot allow another programme with such shocking findings to stimulate conversations for a number of days and then, once again, be forgotten. We saw similar findings in 2014 with the "RTÉ Investigates" programme on Áras Attracta. Due to the ongoing media attention in regard to Covid-19, the most recent programme has not gained the necessary media attraction to stimulate engagement on this issue. This is a human rights issue and it needs to be raised repeatedly in this House.
The shocking reality is Covid-19 claimed the lives of more than 2,000 nursing home residents. The programme explored the shocking findings of serious neglect in nursing homes, the failure to provide adequate isolation settings and adequate pandemic health regulations. Covid-positive and Covid-negative residents were placed in the same wards and their breakfast was served at 6.30 a.m. when some residents were still half asleep. The programmers spoke to a brave and grieving woman named Christine Thompson, who is the daughter of Kathleen Thompson, who, tragically, was among 21 residents in a Cork nursing home with 51 beds who were confirmed to have died from the virus during the third wave of the pandemic. A shocking finding in the programme that shook me was a conversation with a whistleblower who was assigned as a care worker during the third wave of the pandemic. She said she had noticed problems during the changing of incontinence pads. She said:
I observed a care worker taking off pads. We would go to each room. The pad was just taken off and another pad was put on. There was no personal care, no washing or anything done.
This horrifying ill-treatment and neglect echoes the equally harrowing findings from the "RTÉ Investigates" programme into Áras Attracta. It is another damning indictment of the State's failure to safeguard adults at risk. The stories are now many and all too familiar.
In 2017, together with former Senator Colette Kelleher and my colleagues in the Civil Engagement Group, I sponsored the Adult Safeguarding Bill 2017, which sought to establish Ireland's first independent safeguarding authority for adults at risk. This Bill provided for a range of measures and mechanisms to address the gaps in our regulatory framework and to ensure no person slips through the cracks. Sadly, it has yet to become law. I am pleased to say I am drafting a new adult safeguarding Bill to be brought forward later this year, having consulted with civil society organisations and experts in the field. I intend to introduce the new Bill on adult safeguarding to provide for robust and effective measures to prevent abuse and neglect, to support people to protect themselves when harm occurs, and to put human rights at the core of our safeguarding framework. Throughout this process, I will be listening carefully to the views and unique perspectives of individuals with lived experiences, their families, front-line social workers and civil society.
I call on the Government to address this issue with the utmost urgency and to take swift and decisive action to ensure the tragic events revealed by the "RTÉ Investigates" programme never happen again. I hope with all my heart the Government will support our efforts to introduce this much-needed legislation.
I made an error earlier. The leader of the Fianna Fáil group was to share her time with the Whip, Senator Gallagher. I will allow the Senator 30 seconds to make a brief contribution.
I want to voice my total disgust at the British Government decision yesterday to stop all pre-1998 prosecutions arising from the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This decision of the British Government has given an amnesty to the British Army and security forces in the North and to all paramilitaries. For the families of those killed in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, in which 34 people lost their lives, Bloody Sunday, Derry and many others this means they are being told to go away and to stop annoying the British Government. I can assure you the families will not go away. The Irish Government must do all in its power to ensure the British Government is stopped in its tracks and that it does the decent thing for once.
I join in the remarks of Senator Gallagher and other Members who raised this issue. The proposal of the British Government to give an amnesty is not the application of the rule of law; it is the application of the rule of the jungle. I agree with the Government, as I am sure do all Senators, that the proposal goes against all of the agreements we have had with the British Government and it is breaking international agreements. We have seen this happen in regard to Brexit and we are now seeing it with regard to the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.
I invite the Leader to respond on the Order of Business.
To Senator Gallagher and Senator Boylan, I can only assume we all feel the same way with regard to the unilateral decision or intention relayed to us yesterday by Westminster and a Conservative Government. The statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, was incredibly strong and he speaks for all of us. As stated by Senator Boylan, the Stormont House Agreement is a treaty negotiated between all parties. It is the only framework that will be tolerated and used to deal with the legacy issues. Justice for the victims and the families left behind in respect of those tragedies and activities will be only dealt with by the framework agreed by all parties to address legacy issues. I acknowledge people's upset this morning.
Senator Black spoke about the "RTÉ Investigates" programme, which was raised by other colleagues the week it aired. It was incredible, harrowing television to watch in terms of the pain and grief families are going through and will probably continue to go through until they get answers that we do not have now. I join in the call made by my colleague, Deputy O'Dowd, at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party last night for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in our nursing homes in the early days and up until last Christmas. I would go so far as to say we need a public inquiry into the State's handling of Covid-19, but not to point fingers or to lay blame because everybody was floundering. Our nursing homes, private and public, were left bereft of staff. Without staff, all of the awfulness described in the programme came to be reality, although that does not justify it. We need to learn from all of the mistakes the State and the agencies and organisations of the State made in the past year. I have a terrible fear that although this is a horrendous pandemic and we are still in the middle of it, it will not be the last one for many of our children. We definitely need to have public inquiries to make sure we learn the lessons from what we have been through in the past 12 months.
On the issue raised by Senator Wall, when the Minister told me he was releasing the report this week, I knew this was the House to do it. During the past year of my membership of this House, I have heard many of colleagues speak passionately about the Jadotville soldiers, and so this is definitely the place to do it. The report comprises 500 pages. There are 45 pages in the executive summary. It will be released at 12 noon and circulated to Senators by email. I hope it delivers for all of the requests that have been made by Senators in the House over the past year and, in particular, the requests of the families and the last remaining gentleman who should be so well honoured for his service to the State. I look forward to that debate later.
Senator Pauline O'Reilly raised the issue of school transport and Senator Chambers raised the issue of the survey in regard to back to school costs. I am privileged to be in this campus serving the people for the past ten years. It is déjà vu in terms of the reports we get every year on the same issues. This time next year, we will be talking about school transport, school books, uniforms, crests and school bags again. Nothing changes. One of the most frustrating things about public life is how slowly the wheels move. While our children will be back at school before we return to this House in September, this is an issue on which we need to focus to try to bring about change. As suggested by Senator O'Reilly in relation to school transport, it is logical in terms of the climate challenges we face that our children would walk, cycle, scoot or take public transport to school rather than be driven there in trails of cars by mothers, fathers and so on. It is crazy that school buses on which there are free placements are passing out cars in which parents are driving their children to school. We need a new way of thinking. I will try to arrange that debate as quickly as I can when we return in September.
I do not know where to start with Senator Keogan's contribution. As a person who has been a member of my political party since I was born - I did not have any choice; I was born into it through my father and grandmother - I know she feels that way about politics too. Her passion and loyalty to a party of which she has not been a member in a long time is testament to the kind of public representative she is. I thank her for her contribution. I am sure my Fianna Fáil colleagues are very grateful for her love-bombing.
I will finish up with two items. First, I am happy to accept the amendment to the Order of Business this morning from Senator Chambers. She opened the discussion we had about hospitality and Senator McGahan spoke about some of the words that were used in the debate yesterday. I do not believe anybody is happy about the legislation that was passed in the Dáil yesterday and that will, please God, be passed here tomorrow to try to get some of our businesses and employees back to work. It does disenfranchise some people. I do not believe that is something any of us want to do willingly. However, the other two choices - the rock and the hard place we are between - are to open up everything and allow the virus to rip through our young people, who have made so many sacrifices over the past 15 months, or keep everything closed and perhaps close down for good some of those businesses that have been closed for the past year. We really are between a rock and a hard place.
Senator Chambers is correct, however. We need to talk with urgency, from tomorrow or whenever the President signs the Bill, about how we get those people who are disenfranchised by this legislation to not be disenfranchised. The only way we can do that is by supporting Professor Mary Horgan. We need an urgency with the use of antigen testing in hospitality and transport, however. To be honest with Members, we have not seen that urgency in the past six, eight or ten months. That must be demanded by all of us and not forgotten when we go off on our recess tomorrow. I know we are all tired and everybody has worked incredibly hard under difficult circumstances for the past couple of months.
The message that has been sent out for the past year are that our children are safe in schools and have nothing to worry about. The message that was sent out yesterday by the CMO is that our children are no longer safe. Our summer camps are closed because they are not safe and yet, in six weeks, we are going to send messages to parents to the effect that it is safe to send our children back to school. It is either safe or it is not. Our message must be consistent. I know the virus keeps changing and we have to adapt. Our message has to at least be consistent and it has not been. I urge all Senators to continue to make that an issue over the next couple of weeks, as well as supporting the use of antigen testing in order that our disenfranchised friends, neighbours and relations are not disenfranchised for any more than the shortest time they need to be.
I recall former Deputy, Olivia Mitchell, when we had a meeting here approximately ten years ago, saying that words are all we have. That is really important. I thought it was a mad thing for her to say at the time given that we were in the Houses of power and I was new. Words are all we have, however. In this House and in the Dáil, words are what we use to express how we feel and to form legislation. They need to be used carefully and mindfully. I do not believe that some of our colleagues did that yesterday. That is doing a real disservice to what we do in the Seanad and in Dáil Éireann.
Senator Chambers has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 18 be taken before No. 71, motion 7." The amendment has been seconded by Senator Gallagher. The Leader has indicated that she is prepared to accept the amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.