Tag Archives: Dail debate

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Last night.

In the Dáil.

Sinn Féin’s motion to ensure the new National Maternity Hospital has “legally-guaranteed independence” from all non-medical influence in its clinical operations was carried.

During a debate on the motion, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly spoke about maternal deaths in Ireland, and the lack of inquests for the same.

She said:

“Regardless of the justifiable public outcry over the handling of the new national maternity hospital and the prospective ownership of that facility being given to a religious order, this motion is incredibly timely. There is no doubt that our maternity services are in desperate need of reform. It is something that we need to discuss. The best response that the Government can come up with is that we compare favourably to other countries. Do we, and if so, which countries? I would not like to be compared to them.

Let us look at some of the facts. Between 2011 and 2013 there were 27 maternal deaths. These were otherwise healthy women who went in and lost their lives in childbirth or shortly afterwards. There were inquests in only three of those cases.

In 2014, there were 365 reported cases of severe maternal morbidity, but our data is incomplete because not all of the maternity hospitals participated in that.

Between 2007 and 2015 the HSE incurred a staggering €66million in legal fees arising from maternity cases involving serious injury or death to women or babies. During the same period the HSE, through the State claims agency, paid out an even more staggering €282 million in damages in maternity cases. That is 116 times more paid out in legal settlements and fees than the extra €3 million that is being given to the new national maternity strategy. Unless that culture of litigation, denial, lack of accountability and lack of oversight is dealt with our problems will continue.

There is no doubt that one of the key reasons for our problems is the significant under-staffing level of midwives and doctors across the State. Meanwhile, reports and reviews into adverse incidents are either not made available publically or they are badly delayed. The review of adverse incidents in Portiuncula hospital, for example, was supposed to be available by mid-2015. We still do not have it.

We did discover last week, however, that the hospital was carrying out a secretive review of care, with a doctor even ignoring advice and saying that he did not see the reason why there should be any review at all. We have to deal with these issues, because our maternity services are consistently running at sub-optimal levels, which is undoubtedly leading to trauma for women and their families and to catastrophic outcomes because of the lack of accountability and the completely inadequate and non-binding HSE open disclosure policy.

What we need is a statutory duty of candour in order to deal with these cases. It is more than urgent. It is one of the reasons why I moved the Coroners Bill 2015 and why that is so critically needed, yet we still do not know whether the Government has passed a money message even though the Committee for Justice agreed more than six months ago that it would go to committee stage next week.

We need accountability and openness if our services are going to improve. The widowers who lost their wives and the mothers of their children can testify to the failures of our maternity services and the need to change.

We know from the eight inquests held between 2007 and 2015 into the deaths of women in our maternity services that vital information was withheld. They were often not privy to internal investigations and reports until the HSE was ordered to produce them in public hearings by the Coroner’s offices.

Although hospitals and the HSE indicated that they would change procedures and protocols, those were not implemented and carried through. That is utterly devastating for those families.

It is not an exaggeration to say that if the HSE recommendations issued on foot of the tragic death and inquest into the death of Tanya McCabe had been made enforceable national policy then Savita Halappanavar may not have died.

If the inquest into Dhara Kivlehan’s death had not been delayed for four years – she died in 2010 and the inquest was in 2014 – then Sally Rowlette, who died in 2013 in the same hospital of the same condition, leaving four children, may not have died. These are very urgent issues that need to be addressed. It shows systemic failures and a lack of openness in our system.

We know that there are countries across the EU which have much better health outcomes than we have. We need proper audit and genuine open disclosure. We have to have automatic inquests into maternal deaths in order for maternity services to improve.

It is unforgivable that in this day and age that fetal abnormality scans are not available as a matter of course to women. The Minister has told us over and over again that all hospital groups offer such scans, but the reality is that the scans have to be implemented by doctors. Women outside of major centres have to travel, and the consequence is that abnormalities are not always picked up. It is not good enough.

I welcome the motion, but it does not go far enough. That is not a criticism, it is a point of observation. The national maternity strategy is far from flawless. The language in it is feeble. We talk about woman-led care, when there has been a deliberate decision not to have midwifery-led care because there is some seemingly mythical and highly polarised debate out there about midwifery care. I reject that. I would say that it is far more likely that expensive private obstetric practices are the ones who are worried about midwives. No one else is.

Midwifery-led care is the way forward. In Scotland, they have 18 free-standing or along side midwifery-led units serving a population the same as Ireland, yet we have two pilot schemes in Cavan and Drogheda.

There has not been a single sod turned to provide even one midwifery-led unit in Ireland, despite the national maternity strategy making promises on the issue over 14 months ago. The Scottish national maternity strategy provides that every woman will have continuity of care provided by a primary midwife who will provide the majority of her antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care. The input of an obstetrician is an addition, but the provision of care is centred on the midwife, which is best for the State, health outcomes for women and the public purse.

The national maternity strategy is non-statutory, which is a huge problem. It is only the third national document on national maternity services since the early 1950s, but because it is non-statutory, it is not binding. We can refer to A Vision for Change which is a lovely vision, but it does not tally with the reality.

The Government has one month in which to look at the maternity hospital and we will see what happens, but St. Vincent’s University Hospital was built with public money. Is it not ironic that, in 1972, Noel Browne was questioning the funnelling of public money and cash into a hospital for the Sisters of Mercy? There should be no debate on this issue. It has to be sorted out as it is a public hospital which was built with public money and should be publicly owned.

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

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People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith in the Dail this evening, holding abortion pills

This evening.

The Dáil is debating the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit bill to repeal the 8th amendment.

During the debate, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith held up abortion bills to highlight the hypocrisy of Ireland’s laws.

From Ms Smith’s contribution…

I’m stunned by the presence of those who think it’s so important for half the population that they’ve turned up and bothered to stay for this debate. We’ll see, as the evening progresses, how many of them stay away and how many of them turn up. But my guess is that it’s shame and mortification on U-turns that’s keeping most of them away and mortification on being called out on their own hypocrisy. And mortification and shame on the question of how women in this country have been treated and remain to be treated.”

“And I just quote one of them, known to this house, a woman called Amanda Mellet, who suffered from fatal foetal abnormality, and whom the UN human rights committee really attacked the Sate and this country, for cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment and discrimination, in violation of article 7 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, just to quote Amanda, ‘I still suffer from complicated grief and unresolved trauma, not from the termination but from the way I was forced to have it’.”

“I hope the day will soon come when women in Ireland will be able to access the health services they need in their own country where we can be with our loved ones, with our medical team and where we have our own familiar bed to go home and cry in. Subjecting women to so much additional pain and trauma must not continue. And I’m telling you, on that side of the house tonight, that’s exactly what you’re doing – with your tricks and your obfuscation and your twisting to push this bill down the road by a year.”

“You are forcing more Amanda Mellets to more pain and more trauma and I hope that’s as far as it goes because if there’s another Savita Halappanavar within the next year, then you’ll have to think long and hard about your position. We have a historical opportunity, for the first time in 33 years, to rid this country, and particularly women of this country, of literally a chain around their ovaries and their bodies and their lives. That amendment was put in to the constitution when I was a young woman, along with you Finian, Deputy McGrath, we were out campaigning against it.

“We now have a historical opportunity to undo that, and why? Because we have those young people [points to the public gallery], we have those young woman who weren’t even born when that amendment was inserted into the constitution. And they want the right to be able to say how they live their lives, how they control their bodies, what this government has to say to them. They never had a vote on whether that amendment should stay in the constitution or not and your amendment to our bill tonight, to kick it down the road at least one whole year, means that they probably won’t get that chance in the lifetime of this government, if the government lasts that time. And you’ve just guaranteed that to them.”

“Let me just quote to you: figures from very important research by important medical journals. A quarter of a million women have left this country, north and south, between the years of 1970 and 2015. Today, about 10 women a day leave this country to procure abortions and, five years on, the Women on Waves estimate that there are about 5,600 women have contacted them to get the abortion pill.”

“But the legacy of the 1980s, when Anne Lovett died giving birth, a 15-year-old giving birth in a graveyard in Longford, and the legacy of Savita Halappanavar and the legacy of Ms X, Ms Y and a whole plethora of pain and suffering that was brought on women in this country cannot continue. And if these women upstairs represent anything in this country, it will not continue. Because, despite your obfuscation and kicking to touch, this fight goes on. And this campaign to repeal the 8th amendment will not stop and you will get your answer on the street. You keep talking about the ‘centre will hold’, well they are the centre and they won’t hold your plan together for you, to continue the barbarism and the low moral values of the 1980s. You cannot tell them that you are the boss of them. It won’t be allowed continue.

“I want to make a few simple points about this wonderful Citizens’ Assembly that you guys and the Taoiseach came up with, in order to avoid really dealing with the question of women having control and having a say over their own lives. First of all, think about it: A Red C poll company, a well-off polling company based here in Dublin but also based internationally chooses 99 citizens to sit down and talk about, along with professionals from the legal and the medical profession, to talk about what’s good for women. What’s good for women? What’s good for me? Do I decide whether I can have a right to terminate a pregnancy? Or do 99 citizens and a doctor and a lawyer and a judge make that decision?”

“Well, put that versus what real democracy looks like? A constitutional referendum that puts before possibly three million voters in this country who are given a free choice to decide whether or not that oppressive amendment stays in the constitution or not. There is no part of the constitution that controls an aspect of a man’s health. There’s one part of the constitution that controls an aspect of a human being’s health and that is the 8th amendment and it utterly and totally discriminates against half the population.

“So, the so-called Citizens’ Assembly, with jolly TV, with a budget of €2billion with Q4P4 to do the publicity with Beatrice.ie to email, this wonderful Citizens’ Assembly is going to tell the vast majority of us how we should live and what we should think.”

I remember marching, when the X case was imprisoned against her will, by this State, demanding, with a sheet of paper, alongside tens of thousands of young girls who burst out of their schools, pushing aside their principals and the nuns, and came down to this house, at the Taoiseach’s end of it, day after day after day to demand: ‘let her go’. When it culminated in a big demonstration of tens of thousands on the streets, lo and behold, the Supreme Court changes its mind, so there you go, the independence of the judiciary versus the will of the people and it will be the will of the people that forces this house to make a decision and stop kicking it down the road the way it did with water charges, with the Nama legislation, with every other piece of challenging issue that came before you, kick it down the road and hope it doesn’t come back, you’re not going to do that with women and with women’s lives.”

It took 21 years for this house to legislate on the basis of the referendum that took place after the X case. 21 years: what a bunch of cowards. And the same bunch of cowards have absented themselves tonight from this house. Tens of thousands marched when Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life. Tens of thousands marched when  a bus strike was on and it lashed rain a few weeks ago and the demand was simple: we want to vote, we want to repeal the 8th amendment.”

Finally, I just want to illustrate more hypocrisy from people in this house, from the morality of the church, from the State in this country. The utter hypocrisy of close your eyes, close your ears, close your mouth, like the three monkeys and pretend it’s not happening. Abortion in this country is a reality, it has been a reality forever. And it will remain a reality. And, tragically, what will also remain a reality, are the serious cases like Savita, like Ms X, like Ms Y. And we have to ensure, and we really do have an opportunity and a duty now to ensure that you don’t get away with it, that you fight continues.”

This is the abortion pill. And this pill is very simple and very simple to obtain. You get it on the Women on Web, you get it over the internet. And loads of young women up there are doing that  – for a number of reasons: because it’s very safe, the World Health Organisation has tried and tried again and has said it is safe, it is affordable and you can get it here in this state.”

You can also get 14 years for procuring it, for taking it and for helping yourself to have an abortion at home. And I think that, probably, if they put their hands up, a load of them, that you could arrest them and fill two wings of Mountjoy [Prison] with. You could arrest me for having it and give me 14 years but you ain’t going to do it because what’s on your books and what’s in your laws, you know that if you dare to implement it, you would hell, fire and brimstone down on top of this house and in wider society. Cause we’ve moved on, we’ve moved on, we’re away from the 1980s, away from the Dark Ages and we ain’t going back there. And this will continue and you will continue to deny that abortion is already a reality in this country and it will be for tens of thousands of women.”

“I have to say that I was extraordinarily angry with the Independents in particular, in the Government and the measures they took today to kick for touch on this. But my anger is nothing compared to the anger that was felt outside at a relatively decent-sized demonstration at half past five this evening. Young women are furious with you. They’re furious with Katherine Zappone who mainly got elected on the basis of marriage equality, repeal the 8th, all of the good liberal, free-thinking things that people to get in. They’re furious with you Finian McGrath, they’re furious with John Halligan and they’re furious with every single one of the TDs and Senators who committed to repealing the 8th amendment in advance of the election, are you going to do what Pat Rabbitte did? ‘You make promises just to get elected’ and then you don’t implement them?”

“Well, if you keep nodding your head, you’ll probably be nodding your head for another year because if the case is that the so-called 99 wise men and women will come back and tell me what to do with my life, by the end of next June, they’ll already have witnessed at least 3,000 women being exited from this country in order to procure an abortion and more tens of thousands of women in the likely future, procuring this simple pill.”

“At least the pill is affordable. For many women, including those in direct provision, they don’t even have the option to leave the country. Many women don’t have the money, they don’t have the support at home, they can’t get time off their job, they can’t get a childminder. Rich women can do it. Working-class and poor women can’t and, disgracefully, we have imprisoned hundreds of women in direct provision centres who have no right to leave this country and return to it.”

Previously: Reasoned Action

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Independent TD Mattie McGrath (top)  and Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan (centre right), acting as Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil last night and an internal Anglo Irish Bank email from 2010 (above)

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, from Tipperary, was the final TD to contribute to the Dáil debate on the Commission of Investigation into certain IBRC transactions last night.

He started to speak about the 2012 sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien’s company, Millington, when Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan – acting for Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett – interrupted him and warned him that certain people could take action against the Houses of the Oireachtas.

At one point during the debate, Mr McGrath, addressing Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Environment Minister Alan Kelly, read from an email.

He also referred to Denis O’Brien as Mr X.

Mattie McGrath: “I’m delighted that the Minister is here tonight and I know he’s tried hard, since he came in to Government to try and sort out the banking mess but there are huge questions that have arisen.
And I’ve some questions here for the minister tonight as well. In March 2012, an O’Brien special-purpose vehicle, Millington Ltd, was bidding €50 million in cash for Siteserv. The company we hear so much about today. And don’t look so perplexed minister, I’ve some questions that I’ve…”

Bernard Durkan: “I just want to warn you, deputy, I don’t want the debate moved into what is the subject matter of the origins of the debate so that just because issues in the public domain,some of them, I don’t want new issues, and new material, to be brought into it. So, and the House should always be aware, the House should always be aware, that members have absolute privilege and you can exercise that absolute privilege. However, that doesn’t stop a member of the public, outside, from taking an action against the Houses.”

McGrath: “I didn’t say he could and I hope you’ll allow my time. So, I don’t know, are we here to trash it out or not.”

Durkan: “You know the rules of the House.”

McGrath: “I know the rules of the House, but I think that was upheld by my good, learned colleague from Tipperary [Judge Donald Binchy] last week in the High Court. This is what’s going on. I mean, given that Mr X, sure were all know who he is, owed €500 million to IBRC in March 2012, why did that bank not ask him to pay down this debt by €50 million rather than giving him money to purchase Siteserv? Simple question.
Given that Mr X owed IBRC and IBRC were not concerned that Mr X was funding the purchase with more debt from other banks, making IBRC’s lending positive situation unsustainable, simple questions. What steps were taken by the board of IBRC to gain a full picture of Mr X’s Irish and international borrowings, before entering into the Siteserv deal?
If you or I walked into the bank, or Minister Noonan, and we owed them ten grand and we wanted a loan of €4,000, we’d have to ask the questions. So it doesn’t seem to have…there are two levels here of what’s going on, two different rules.”
Other IBRC customers were being put out of business or tiny bits and pieces in relation to what was going on.
…And what’s more worrying is is an internal email that I have here from two senior managers in IBRC. I won’t name them as you’ve asked me to, but the content of the email is strange. “You want to send me over your one, your one on Nama, if you do, if you did for this.” “I will lash it out later.” “Have a quick look at Mr X, there will be fireworks.” Internal. There. From your minutes. You said you couldn’t find them, they’re all there. I have them here I can hand them to you and documents to go with them.”

Last Night: Meanwhile, In The Dail



[Fine Gael TDs Jerry Buttimer and Labour’s John Lyons, above]

During Topical Issues in the Dáil yesterday, several TDs, from different parties, expressed their concerns to Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte in relation to the €85,000 RTÉ paid to John Waters and members of the Iona Institute.
Minister Rabbitte responded saying he had “no role in managing editorial matters, making decisions around programming or dealing with litigation claims. I therefore have no intention of interfering in RTÉ’s management of this specific file.”

From the debate:

[Labour TD John Lyons]

“I want to ask some questions in relation to the issue for RTÉ to pay out a reported €85,000, in the time that I’ve left, I want to ask: was there one person in charge of this issue? One point of contact, from the moment that they decided to deal with this issue, until they paid out this compensation? And, on what decision did they decide to pay out this compensation? It’s quite clear Ceann Comhairle from the information I’ve received from various sources that, and including from the managing director in his own press release, where he says that the legal position was far from clear. Well the question I have for RTÉ, here today is, if the position was far from clear and they had various pieces of legal advice given to them over a number of weeks, stating basically that they shouldn’t pay to that they should pay, on what basis did they decide to pay this money out. Finally, Ceann Comhairle, cause I know I’m over time, what I want to say is, I know that the legal advice that RTÉ used, sought to pay out this money, is a privileged position and we are not entitled to it, but I believe there has to be a political will, in the interest of the national public, to find out on what basis they paid this out. Because I certainly believe that RTÉ were wrong to pay out this money on what was, essentially, an anti-gay prejudice issue that people were challenged on. Thank you, Ceann Comhairle.”


“I really just want to say at this stage, because I actually have this one minute left, you know,  there’s two people in here I think at the moment who knows what homophobia feels like, who knows what it’s like to be called a queer, to be called a fag, to be called a gay. Only recently, I think, just before Christmas, I walked from my own house, around the the Centra where a bunch of teenagers called me gay or some other name they call us, you know, I thought, you know I was living in a society where this stuff isn’t acceptable any more. But yet, when people challenge people on these issues and that’s what Rory O’Neill did on the Saturday Night Show: he called it what it is. When it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck. And I think RTÉ were completely wrong and bang out of order when they got numerous types of legal advice, saying in fact perhaps that they should not even pursue and give any sort of compensation out. RTÉ got it wrong and everybody in the public knows they got it wrong and RTÉ need to come out and let us know that they got it wrong. Otherwise there will not be confidence in our national broadcaster to mediate any debate with confidence, particularly around issues that affect my life and the people who love me and love all the other people who aren’t treated properly in this society”

[Fine Gael Jerry Buttimer]

“I do believe, minister, RTÉ were erroneous and were wrong in what they did. I think they folded too quickly and I would like to ask you, who advised, what was the nature of the advice? What was their intent in the advice in terms of their…why did they fold up tents so quickly and were they involved in any other organisations other than advising RTÉ? Our public service broadcaster has an obligation to provide balanced, responsible, fair transmission of social matters and social issues and it must also, as a public service broadcaster, facilitate fair and balanced debate on matters of absolute public importance. And central to this obligation, ceann comhairle, I believe must be an entitlement of those participating on programmes on RTÉ, to voice honestly-held opinions and make fair comment. RTÉ must act as a fair arbitrator and stand by the right of people on its platform, to voice honestly-held opinions, otherwise it acts to undermine its public service remit. And Ceann Comhairle, I contrast, the role of RTÉ in its duty in this case, with what happened in the Abbey Theatre a couple of weeks ago, where the whole issue of homophobia and the whole issue of LGBT rights was fully explored on the stage of the Abbey. Yet you contrast that with RTÉ, where it parked, at the first opportunity, a debate on this. What would happen if we were discussing racism? Would somebody who was accused of racism have to come on and defend themselves?”


“Minister, RTÉ got it wrong, they got it completely wrong and they folder their tent in and in this house, this week Ceann Comhairle, in this Oireachtas, we were  told, as gay people, that it’s a matter of social reengineering by the Gay Ideological Movement, and I’m quoting from a member in the Seanad. And Ceann Comhairle, let me put it on the record in this house, as I’ve done before. I speak here, not just as a gay person but as a member of society who wants to be treated equally. I’ve been beaten, spat, chased, harassed and mocked like Deputy Lyons because of who I am. I was born with a gift given to me and I’ve spent most of my life struggling and finding a place in my own country, which I love, to be accepted and to see the support from my fellow colleagues here in this house, and from you Ceann Comhairle is a demonstration of how our society is gone and come forward. But I will not, Ceann Comhairle, in a tolerant, respectful debate allow people who spout hatred, intolerance to be left go unchecked.”

[Sinn Féin TD Michael Colreavy]

“I could go into debate on what these people have said and written and how it could be identified as homophobic, however I’m willing to rely on Rory O’Neill and his alter ego, Panti, as the leading figure in Ireland’s LGBT movement, to know what homophobia is. I’m a straight, middle-aged man and I won’t pretend that I know how members of the LGBT movement are made to feel everyday when they face articles in newspapers, comments on the radio, abuse on the street and even accusations within the chambers of this institution but what I will discuss is RTÉ’s censorship of Rory O’Neill and the debate surrounding homophobia. The Government has promised a referendum on marriage equality in 2015, following a recommendation by a majority of the constitution convention, to amend the constitution, to allow same-sex marriage. Now, those who publicaly advocate an inequality cannot hide behind defamation legislation when they are called out on their views to seek to gain public support for. The demand of significant sums of public money by such individuals, or group, in place of a right to reply, sets a deeply worrying precedent. Now this country has a poor history of censorship. For many years, some of our great authors suffered at the hands of this censorship board. Section 31 kept republicans such as myself off the airwaves for many years. RTÉ has this tradition of facilitating censorship and as the public service broadcaster, it’s deeply worrying to see this rear it’s head again. It should not be the case that those who call homophobia out for what it is that should suffer the censorship.”

[United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly]

“I don’t know why RTÉ handed over money in this regard because nothing inaccurate was said and that is a critical point. The people and the organisation who benefited from this payout have clearly argued that LGBT people should be treated differently and that is nothing else, other than homophobia. And to call it anything else is in my opinion an abuse of language. Now Brendan O’Connor’s apology remarkably said that it is an important part of democratic debate, that people should be entitled to hold dissenting views on controversial subjects, and that is absolutely the case. But that means that you also have to have the right to express a different opinion on that dissenting view, and call it by it’s proper name and, as Deputy Buttimer said, if someone is known to be a racist, has expressed racist views and we call them a racist are we to then turn around and apologise for calling them by their right name. Now this issue has enormous consequences for Irish society and we, as a parliament, have to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate homophobia and unless this issue is addressed, the only conclusion that people will draw is that, if you have big pockets then you can use them to stifle debate and control opinion and Irish people don’t want to live in a society like that.”

[Independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan]

“Hopefully, something good will come out of this. One good thing that has come out of it is that we get people like Michael Colreavy, or myself, from Leitrim, or from Roscommon, who can proudly stand up here and say we want to defend gay rights. Forty years ago, you’d have been worried going home if you did what Michael did here today. And that is massive progress, it really, really is. And the idea…it would be nice if there was no homophobia but pretending there isn’t doesn’t make it all go away. And that speech that was made in the Abbey Theatre explained it so beautifully and the fact that we’re all homophobic, we are. But it’s a case of working on it and trying to learn about the whole situation and fighting against it and, in the end, everyone gets their rights. But, sadly, some people are more homophobic than others and some people don’t seem to make any effort to deal with that homophobia and I think it’s sad that you’re now being denied the right to even use the word.”

[Independent TD Catherine Murphy]

“Ceann comhairle, for the last couple of weeks, some of us have thought we’ve been living in a parallel universe. A huge debate has been taking place online through sites like The Journal, Broadsheet, the Twitter and Facebook, the mainstream media, print media, largely, absent from that debate. The head of television, in RTÉ yesterday, explained to staff why they apologised and paid €85,000, that screams to me of discontent within RTÉ, it’s obvious that many of the station’s personnel know that there are times that defending the principles behind public service broadcasting ranks higher than the fear of litigation. John Waters, Breda O’Brien and the Iona Institute can all be described as opinion formers. They’ve made themselves part of the public discourse, I stress public discourse on such issues as same-sex marriage and frequently present gay people’s relationships as less then, as a starting point. For that to go, without challenge is about setting the parameters of the debate to their advantage and that’s at a time when we’re going to have a referendum next year and I think that that is, timewise, of critical importance. So why the rush by RTÉ to apologise and pay? Was it because they were aware of that those complaining had deep pockets and the ability to mount a credible legal challenge? If so, you must ask the question: how did those pockets get so filled? The second issue is: one of the people making complaints, one of the complaints that came was from John Waters who was then a board member of RTÉ’s regulating body, the BAI. Is it not a massive conflict of interest and was RTÉ under additional duress. Why did the BAI suddenly change their code of conduct on the 22nd of January, the day, the same day RTÉ agreed the payout? Is that the reason John Waters resigned from the BAI, on the 24th? Or did you, minister, ask him to resign? Given the massive payout and the obvious conflict of interest, minister, do you believe, as I do, that he should return that money to RTÉ?

[Independent TD Mick Wallace]

“I too watched Panti Bliss’s speech at the Abbey Theatre and it is powerful, it is very powerful. One would think that RTÉ had an obligation to facilitate free and open debate. In this instance it failed miserably, some people now more offended by the word ‘homophobia’ than they are by homophobia itself. This is censorship. In a press release last week, minister, you said that homophobia is too loaded a term to be used to categorise those who hold contrary views on what is a matter of legitimate public debate. I would like to point out that it is not for heterosexuals to define what homophobia is. We do not have the right to tell gay people what does or doesn’t constitute homophobia. This was eloquently summed up by Panti Bliss in her Abbey Theatre speech last weekend when she said ‘so now Irish gay people find ourselves in a ludicrous situation where not only are we not allowed to say publicaly what we feel oppressed by, we are not even allowed to think it because our definition has been disallowed by our betters. The word homophobia is no longer available to gay people, which is a spectacular, neat Orwellian trick because now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia, homophobes are’. Does the minister think that these contrary views, as he calls them, have no impact? Does he believe there is no link between discriminatory comments about gay people and physical attacks on gay people? Where does the minister think those that commit physical acts of violence against gay people get their ideas from. To quote Breda O’Brien ‘equality must take second place to the common good’. Does the minister honestly think these words have no impact on gay people?