For the first time in Northern Ireland’s 100-year history, a republican party has come out on top in elections to its Assembly, while a middle-ground increasingly transferring to parties favouring constitutional change has seen a huge surge in votes. Given clear growing interest both North and South in preparing for reunification, is now not the time to extend speaking rights in the Dáil to Northern representatives?
While allowing Northern MPs to speak in the Dáil would itself constitute a reaffirmation of the Irish Government’s commitment to deepening all-island relations in the interest of reunification, the extension of speaking rights is also demanded by the present political situation north of the border. With the DUP’s deeply irresponsible refusal to form an Executive following the electoral success of Sinn Féin and the Alliance party, the people of Northern Ireland are left without any clear voice just as Westminster moves to unilaterally alter the NI protocol against the majority’s expressed wishes.
Allowing Northern MPs to take part in Dáil debates would provide them with an invaluable opportunity to voice the concerns of their constituents and ensure that the true breadth of Northern feeling is heard — not just the view of the DUP, who appear so present in Westminster only because of Sinn Féin’s long-standing policy of abstentionism. It might also go some way towards addressing concerns of representation regarding the Protocol, as Northern MPs could contribute to debate in an EU member-state.
Indeed, the 2021 attendance of Alliance MP Stephan Farry at the joint Oireachtas committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement suggests that the opportunity to speak in Dublin would be taken up by more than nationalists alone.
Extending speaking rights in the Dáil to the North’s 18 members of parliament (MPs) has long been Sinn Féin and Aontú policy. Yet it is by no means a partisan proposal; the 1998 all-party committee on the Constitution tasked with examining the question of Northern representation also recommended in 2002 that Northern MPs “be given a limited right of audience within the Dáil”.
Following these Assembly elections, one thing is clear: Northern nationalism is confident and the middle-ground persuadable. If the Irish government truly wants to create the “shared island” spoken of so frequently by the Taoiseach, then surely the extension of Dáil speaking rights would be an appropriate first step.
Fionnán Uíbh Eachach
The decision by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), led by Jeffrey Donaldson, to block the formation of a powersharing Executive in the Northern Assembly triggers recollection of the sad days everyone hoped had passed by.
The DUP refusal to take part in a government with a Sinn Féin first minister is another exercise of throwing bricks into the democratic electoral process to thwart democracy.
This brick throwing exercise by the DUP brings to mind Mark Twain’s famous story, ‘Party Cries’ about his visit to Armagh for dedication of St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral in 1883. Twain writes: “About one-half of the people in Northern Ireland are Protestants and the other half Catholics. Each party does all it can to make its own doctrines popular and draw the affections of the irreligious toward them. One hears constantly of the most touching instances of this zeal.” After the cathedral dedication, Twain describes that when the Catholics started home again, “the roadways were lined with groups of meek and lowly Protestants who stoned them till all the region round about was marked with blood. I thought that only Catholics argued in that way, but it seems to be a mistake. Every man in the community is a missionary and carries a brick to admonish the erring with.” The Ulster poet, John Hewitt captures an image of his homeland in his poem-play The Bloody Brae: “Heaven is here, and Hell is here beside it…/ And violence breeds like the thistle blown over the world.” But there is reason to hope that an increasing number of citizens might take heart with the words of another poet from Northern Ireland:
History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up.
And hope and history rhyme.
( The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney)
We, Wicklow constituents, call on Minister Stephen Donnelly to delay any imminent Cabinet decision on the new National Maternity Hospital relocation deal until an adequate review of the contracts has occurred and all outstanding documents and answers have been provided.
Legal opinion on the contracts are not of one mind. Many of those highlighting concerns do so from a place of professional expertise and with supporting evidence.
Documents such as maps referenced in the published lease have not been made publicly available. Additional documents that appear to be missing include, but are not limited to, the indemnity agreement between St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the Sisters of Charity, and the detailed correspondence between the Sisters of Charity and the Vatican. If there are no hidden conditions on the transfer of Elm Park to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG then there should be no issue with publishing this correspondence. As Minister Donnelly admitted, there is deep public distrust and surely this must be resolved? Any patients of the new maternity hospital should not fear a Catholic influence in their healthcare and should not distrust the medical care they will one day receive.
If changes are made to the contracts given the expert feedback that you have received, and has been discussed in the public realm, it would be appropriate and right that the updated documents are reviewed. This project will cost the taxpayer at least €800m. Due diligence should be comprehensive and any outstanding concerns resolved.
Minister James Reilly announced the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital in 2013. Since then, the National Maternity Hospital, the Sisters of Charity and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group have been embroiled in a decade of negotiations. Surely, it is only right that our duly elected Government representatives are given ample time to review this deal on behalf of the Women of Wicklow and Ireland?
At the end of the day it is the Women of Wicklow who will benefit or pay the consequences of this deal. This deal should not proceed while so many questions remain.
Kiera O’Toole (South Wicklow Together for Yes) Sarah Murphy (North Wicklow Together for Choice and Equality) Dave McGlinn (West Wicklow Together for Yes) Mary Diskin (President Bray & District of Trade Unions) Cllr Lourda Scott (Cathaoirleach Greystones MD) Cllr Mary Kavanagh (Wicklow) Cllr Joe Behan (Bray East & Bray West) Jennifer Whitmore TD (Wicklow) Sandy Connolly (Better Maternity Care)
According to reports, one message emanating from the IBEC sponsored Dublin Climate Summit this week was that scientists need to be more sensitive to the needs of society and business. Clearly there still exists amongst our so called leaders a delusion and ignorance on the function of science in society. Science is the process whereby we seek out the facts that underpin our understanding of how nature and the physical world works. The recent IPCC report was the collation by more than 1,000 scientists of data from 34,000 studies, objectively analysed using accepted statistical methods, which tells us we are heading for a cliff edge.
Not only that, the irrefutable fact is that the main driver of this accelerating deterioration is our current economic model of unsustainable growth.
As we face into the greatest existential crisis that has faced mankind outside of nuclear annihilation, to hear business leadership effectively ask that scientists manage their expectations is depressing. Coming on the back of Leo Varadkar’s statement that the state will go after sensible targets, it begs the question as to what planet these individuals are living on?
It’s certainly not the one in which India is suffering ever more extreme heatwaves, or one where the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) has indicated we are likely to suffer greater than 1.5C warming before the end of this decade.
Our business leaders would do well to educate themselves on the cientific method, one of humanities greatest achievements, and understand that it’s only output is truth.