HISTORY WAS MADE at Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, as an Irish Sign Language interpreter was made available to a group of members of the Deaf community present in the Dáil public gallery.
There had been controversy earlier this week over whether a request from the Irish Deaf Society for an interpreter had been turned down, but Ceann Cómhairle Seán Barrett received acclaim all round for sorting it out.
Tánaiste Joan Burton, facing her last round of Leaders’ Questions before the summer break, even had a special message for the history-making group in the gallery, signing “Welcome” to them at the opening of her remarks.
‘Limp and lily-livered’
After the shocking deaths, yesterday, of four Palestinian children playing football on a beach, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Gaza would dominate the agenda.
Charlie McConalogue took the captain’s armband for Fianna Fáil today, and – after some indecision on his part – asked Burton how the government intends to respond to the Gaza crisis.
The Labour leader’s response was predictable enough – supporting an extended ceasefire, condemning violence on all sides, warning Irish citizens in the area to heed consular advice.
But it got under the skin of Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, all the same.
The party’s Deputy Leader was so taken aback by the Tánaiste’s response – which she called “limp and lily-livered” – that she abandoned her original topic, the mother and baby homes controversy.
For the second week in a row, when asked about Palestinian citizens, you revert to giving advice to Irish citizens in the area.The crux of this is the Israeli state’s failure to abide by international law.It is long past time that the Irish government said to the Israeli administration, ‘You cannot act with impunity.’
Independent TD Catherine Murphy, for her part, pushed the Tánaiste to agree to a further referendum on the abortion issue. Perhaps not surprisingly, she declined to do so.
Taking a stand
There was a last-minute wildcard in store, immediately after Leaders’ Questions this afternoon.
During the Order of Business, Gerry Adams sought a debate on Gaza to be held in the Dáil tomorrow, with support from Fianna Fáil and Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins.
The move was defeated in a vote, but Adams subsequently took the rather unusual step of calling for TDs to stand – physically, not figuratively – “in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the Middle East.”
His request was accepted, and the Dáil stood.
It’s possible there may be some spontaneous activity in Dáil Éireann tomorrow, but as far as Leaders’ Questions goes – sin sin, until September.