Category Archives: Active Citizenship

Active Citizenship means to play an active role in the society in which we live. It is about how we treat others whilst being accepting of differences and remaining conscious of the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion. It is about acknowledging that while we, as citizens, have rights but responsibilities also. By actively participating as citizens, together we can create the society we want – at home in the family, by volunteering in our community and by voting in elections and referendums.

Active Citizenship requires leadership. Therefore, it is important we choose our representatives carefully and those which we trust. Elected representatives must carry out their role in an accountable and open manner. By taking responsibility together for our society is the best way to make Ireland the ideal place where we want to live.

“Fears and concerns of the Unionist community need to be examined, understood and addressed comprehensively by all stakeholders in advance of any referendum”.

Unionist Concerns Fears of a United Ireland, the need to protect the peace process, build a vision for a shared island and a united people

This was a central recommendation of the report entitled ‘Brexit & the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland & Its People in Peace & Prosperity’ published in 2017. The report was adopted unanimously by the all-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Rapporteur for the report was Senator Mark Daly.

Senator Daly followed up on this recommendation by contacting many stakeholders in the Protestant/unionist/loyalist community, from church leaders and unionist politicians to former loyalist paramilitaries, to start the process of engagement to ascertain what their “fears and concerns” might be. This research report is the result of these contacts.

Mike Nesbitt, former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, articulates one of the fears of unionism: “the fear is that their identity will be denied”[1].

Reverend Kyle Paisley is of the view that there are other reasons for unionists rejecting the idea of re-unification than just religious or political ideas. The lack of unity in the six counties shows how difficult it would be to get unity in a thirty-two county Ireland. Issues such as economics and the NHS will be crucial in consideration of a United Ireland. “I think there are other, more practical reasons for their rejecting the idea of re-unification than just religious or political ideas. To begin with, if there is no unity in the six counties of Northern Ireland, how can there be heart-felt unity across thirty-two counties?”[2]

A unionist public representative who gave the submission on the basis of anonymity spells out clearly the kernel of the fear, “Unionists do not have fear about a United Ireland. Unionist fear is a United Ireland”. He also states what unionism is by saying it is about a belief in the existence of Northern Ireland and that “its interests are best served in the United Kingdom”. In addition, many unionists would see the breaking from the UK as “a historic complete and irreversible failure of their core politics and identity” and he goes on “any talk or discussion on a United Ireland by unionism is seen by many as tantamount to negotiating surrender” This public representative believes the other issues that concern unionists in any consideration of a United Ireland include economics, the NHS, the EU, terrorism and the glorification of terrorists and their activities in the Troubles, identity and symbols of that identity.[3]

Raymond McCord, a victim’s rights campaigner, believes that Brexit cannot be used as an excuse for a United Ireland. Based on his own personal experiences he does not trust politicians, North or South. The Government in the Republic, he believes, shows no interest in unionist victims. He will accept whatever result comes from any referendum, but he states, “how can we have a United Ireland when we don’t have a united people in Northern Ireland?”[4]

An anonymous Protestant/ Unionist/ Loyalist (PUL) community member living in the Greater Belfast area made a submission, in which they stated that they have “serious concerns of the consequences of the Republic of Ireland absorbing one million people into a country where they have lost their identity” and “I was born an Ulsterman and chose my identity as British and as such like my forefathers I do not identify with the Irish Culture”.[5]

Reverend Hamilton, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (2010-2011) states “It appears to be the case that those who seek a United Ireland have little skill in, or interest in, uniting communities and building relationships as the necessary conditions for deep political discourse of huge constitutional import”.  The Reverend goes on to say, “I have great resistance to a referendum in the foreseeable future, not least because of what has been learned (or not learned) from the recent referendum in the UK”.[6]

Trevor Ringland, former Irish International rugby player and co-chair of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party (2013-2014), in an interview with Mark Rainey of the Belfast Telegraph on the 22nd of April 2019 spoke about how there was “no space in New Ireland for me”[7].

The report on uniting Ireland from the Joint Committees on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement contained a submission by Dr James Wilson, who served in the British Army during the Troubles, which outlined some of the unionist’s fear of a United Ireland. This submission is available in full as Appendix 2 of this research. In it Dr Wilson outlined that, along with the normal concerns that all those in Northern Ireland share about a future all island heath service and the economy, there are real and genuine fears among the Unionist community in Northern Ireland that the land would be taken from them, there would be retribution on members of the security forces and their community’s identity would be lost.

Dr Wilson’s previous findings are more comprehensively analysed in research and focus groups which Senator Daly commissioned Dr Wilson to undertake specifically for this research report. Dr Wilson conducted this research among members of the Independent Orange Order, a Loyalist flute band, UDR/Irish Guard veterans and a focus group at the East Belfast Mission. What it makes clear is the “mother of all fears” for the Unionist community is “effectively our home would become a foreign state”. Within that overarching fear is the belief that they could not “really be British in a United Ireland” that they would be “assimilation” and they would effectively become “second class”, “planter citizens” in a United Ireland. There is also a fear of “Triumphalism” by nationalists and republicans. The pressing need to address these and all the other fears in the unionist community in advance of a referendum is clear.[8]

In some of the submissions, the fear of violence is spoken about. There is an urgent need to address the loss of memory of harm uncovered in this research among the ‘Agreement Generation’ and in other groups who could be exploited by some to use violence to try to maintain the status quo. The Agreement Generation is classed as those born during or just after the peace process. Senator Daly worked with the UNESCO World chairs in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement Dr Pat Dolan, Dr Mark Brennan and Michael Ortiz, senior advisor on counter terrorism at the National Security Council in the Obama administration and the first US Diplomat appointed by the State Department on the issue of countering violent extremism who devised a strategy to be implemented in Northern Ireland. The research “Northern Ireland Returning to Violence as a Result of a Hard Border due to Brexit or a Rushed Border Poll: Risk to Youth” is included in full as Appendix 3 of this research. This report and its recommendations urgently need to be examined by the Irish Government.

Dr James Wilson, in his introduction to the research specially commissioned for this report by Senator Mark Daly, focuses on the views in relation to the issue of a United Ireland of some of the demographic represented by the 18% of the population in Northern Ireland who would find this “almost impossible to accept”, as reported in the 2014 NILT Survey’s Political Allegiances Module[9]. Some of the views of this 18% we have highlighted previously and Dr Wilson’s focus group findings are published later in this report. In contrast, 82% of the unionist community “would happily accept the democratic decision”, “would not like it but could live with it” or “don’t know” which is just 7%[10]. Notably, Rev Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, has said, “The only thing that will take us into a united Ireland is a vote of the majority of the people. As a democrat, I’ll accept that.”[11]

Many of the submissions, including that of Dr Wilson’s focus groups, referenced a fear of a United Ireland being that of triumphant nationalism. This fear is not without foundation and that is why we in the South must change not only our vision of a United Ireland but also how we speak about it. Language was a key component of negotiating the Good Friday Agreement and it remains key component of the peace process. With hard work, we must move from the language of the past such as a ‘United Ireland’ and all the dread and fear which it creates in the minds of our unionist friends and neighbours. We must instead change to the language of the need to protect the peace process, build a vision for a shared island and a united people in a New Agreed Ireland.

The Brexit referendum has taught us an important lesson: you do not hold a referendum until every possible outcome has been examined and prepared for, where possible. In his submission Raymond McCord explains the work he is currently undertaking to allow clarity on this issue “I have a challenge in the courts of Belfast and Dublin relating to a Border Poll. I am not calling for a Border Poll, what I am calling for is legislation to be put in place that a Border Poll can and must be held when certain conditions are met. Those conditions must be set out and abided by all.”[12]

This research has shown now is the time for the Irish Government to address the unionist communities’ fears and concerns of a united Ireland. It is clear the Irish Government must follow through on the recommendations contained in the Joint Oireachtas Committee of the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement report entitled “Brexit and the Future of Ireland, uniting Ireland and it’s people in peace and prosperity”.

The Government should establish a New Ireland Forum 2 as recommended in the Joint Committee’s report, not only to set a pathway to achieve the peaceful reunification of Ireland but more importantly uniting the people who call this island home.

In order to create the new future, we all wish to see for the coming generations we must embrace true reconciliation in the knowledge that true reconciliation means giving up all hope of a better past for the aspiration and hope of a better future for the coming generations.

[1] 4.1 Submission by Ulster Unionist Party Leader Michael Nesbitt (2012-2017)

[2] 4.2 Submission by Reverend Kyle Paisley

[3] 4.5 Submission by an Anonymous Unionist Public Representative

[4] 4.7 ‘Unionism versus a “United” Ireland’, Raymond McCord

 

[5] 4.5 Submission by an Anonymous Unionist Public Representative

[6] 4.4 Submission from The Very Reverend Dr Norman Hamilton

[7] 4.3 Submission from Trevor Ringland

[8] 4.8 ‘Brexit and The Future of Ireland: The fears of Northern Protestants concerning unity’, Dr James Wilson. Report commissioned by Senator Mark Daly

 

 

[9] Northern Ireland Life & Times Survey, https://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2014/Political_Attitudes/FUTURE1.html

[10] Ibid

[11] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/we-are-not-going-to-be-bribed-out-of-the-united-kingdom-orange-order-chief-1.3951739

[12] 4.7 ‘Unionism versus a “United” Ireland’, Raymond McCord

Advertisements

Comments Off on “Fears and concerns of the Unionist community need to be examined, understood and addressed comprehensively by all stakeholders in advance of any referendum”.

Filed under Active Citizenship

Senator Daly calls on the Minister for Health to allow information sharing to help Organ Donation

Needless to say, I am disappointed that the Minister of Health is not here to discuss the issues of organ donation and organ donor awareness. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, was also unable to come to take this matter. It is a matter of life and death for some. The specific issue I raised last year has not been advanced by either Minister. I thank Mr. Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association for coming to listen to the response that will be given by the Department of Health, if not the Minister.

On 13 March I asked for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House in order that we could find out why he had not signed the statutory instrument to allow the HSE access to the driving licence registry to see the names of people who had indicated on their driving licence that they would like to be an organ donor. He cited two reasons on that occasion, one of which was related to the issue of data protection under EU law, while the other was Brexit. He was too busy in dealing with it. In May 2018 we informed him that, according to research conducted by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, he was able to share the data. The Schedule to the legislation could be amended to allow the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, under section 63 of the Finance Act, to make a regulation to make the database available. When the Minister, Deputy Ross, told us that he was not able to share the information because of EU data protection law, he was not aware that the previous Minister, Deputy Donohoe, had shared data in the driving licence registry with everybody, from car manufacturers to the Health and Safety Authority, the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland, eFlow, a private company, the Road Safety Authority, the National Transport Authority, the National Consumer Agency and the local authorities. People approved by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, commercial services and the office of the provost marshal of the military police have access to it. Tribunals of inquiry also have access to it, as do the Office of Official Assignees in Bankruptcy and the Courts Service, yet the HSE and the national transplant authority do not.

We asked the Minister to come in again and he has not shown up today but he replied on 22 March that it is not a data protection issue and the issue is the Department of Health has not requested that the national organ transplantation unit have access to information from the driver’s licence registry. A year ago, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said that he would ask the HSE to give me its views and see if progress can be made in a constructive way. Has the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport engaged with the HSE on this issue and when will he be asked to sign the statutory instrument that will allow the HSE to have access to the drivers licence registry so that people will know if their loved ones want to be an organ donor?

It should be borne in mind that figures supplied by the Irish Kidney Association to me show that when asked by a professional in organ co-ordination and transplantation if they would consider donating their loved one’s organs, the figure internationally is approximately 52%. When supplied with information that their loved one wanted to be an organ donor, the organ donor rate in families increases to 92%. The only place we currently have a registry is in National Driver Licence Service. I have outlined all of the other organisations that have access to this registry. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is clearly blaming the Minister for Health and his Department by saying that they quite simply have not asked for this information.

Will the Department of Health ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for this information in order that it will be available to healthcare professionals, organ donor co-ordinators and the families of the donors so that they can make an informed decision when considering to donate organs?

I thank the Senator for raising this issue and for the opportunity to speak on it in the Seanad on behalf of my colleague, Minister for Health.

It is appropriate that we are debating this issue during Organ Donor Awareness Week.

Organ donation is among the most selfless acts we can bestow on one another. The improvement in the quality of life for organ recipients and their families cannot be overstated. We have a duty to do everything we can to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from organ donation. Work is continuing to finalise the general scheme of a Human Tissue Bill and to deliver on the commitment in the programme for Government to provide for a soft opt-out system of consent for organ donation and an associated register.

The aim is to make organ donation the norm in Ireland in situations where the opportunity arises. Under the soft opt-out system, consent will be deemed, unless the person has, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor after death. However, it is proposed that even though consent is deemed, the next-of-kin will always be consulted prior to removing any organ. If the next-of-kin objects to the organ donation, the donation will not proceed. The best way to ensure that a person’s wish to become an organ donor is realised is to have a conversation with one’s family and to make one’s wishes clearly known to them.

The proposed opt-out register for organ donation will create a clear and easily communicable choice to individuals to either opt-out of deceased organ donation entirely, or to allow deemed consent to apply. Signing up to the opt-out register will be a definitive expression of the person’s wish not to become an organ donor after death.

The Senator’s proposal to share code 115 on a driver’s licence in respect of organ donation with the HSE’s Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland would not guarantee that the person’s wish to become an organ donor would be carried out. This is also the situation in regard to organ donor cards. The decision to donate organs in the case of a deceased person rests with the next of kin. Health service personnel will not proceed to transplant organs without the permission of family members, irrespective of whether the deceased person carried an organ donor card or had ticked code 115 on their driving licence.

Furthermore, due to the need for medical practitioners to be informed about the medical history of the potential donor to ensure the safety of the recipient, the co-operation of the family will always be required as part of a safe organ donation process. An opt-out register will make organ donation the clear default option, and signal to citizens the move towards organ donation being the norm. The general scheme of a human tissue Bill is being finalised at present and will be submitted to Government shortly.

I do not want the Minister of State to take this personally, if that is not the worst answer I have heard to a question put in the Seanad, it is fairly close.

Some 1 million people in this country have registered that they would like to be to be organ donors. That information is available in the Government system. This will increase organ donor rates from 52% to 92% if the family are informed that their loved one wants to be an organ donor. The Government is saying it will not do this and make this information available to families, the health services or doctors and nurses so that families can be assisted in making one of the most traumatic decisions that anyone can ever make. When people sign up for a driver’s licence and indicate that they want to be an organ donor, they want to share that information.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is saying that it is available to the HSE if it asks. What the HSE, the Department of Health, the Minister for Health and the Minister of State are saying is that they do not want this information to be available to the doctors, nurses and the families.

As I stated earlier, this is not the worst reply I have ever heard in this House but it is pretty close. People are dying as they await organ transplants. It is costing the State hundreds of millions of euro in dialysis and so on with people waiting in the system and taking up beds. That is not the reason we should do it; the reason we should do it is it would save lives. If making that information available saved one life, would it not be worth doing? Yet the Department of Health is saying that it does not want this.

Has the Senator a question?

This is not the worst reply but it is pretty close.

I have no interest in engaging with the Senator in the politics that he wants to engage in on this issue. I want to distance myself from his interpretation of what I have said in suggesting that the Minister, the Department or I do not want this to proceed. He knows this is only playing politics with the issue and if he wants to do that, that is fine.

Let me be clear, I am not playing politics. This is not party politics or political—–

The Senator had an opportunity to put a supplementary question and he is being disorderly now.

—–but is about people who are waiting for organs. The Minister of State is just reading a reply—–

The Senator knows that he is not allowed to interrupt and he will have to find another way of pursuing this further. He is out of order.

—–that is prepared by the Department and I am just saying it is a terrible reply. Is that going to help somebody waiting on the transplant list?

I ask the Senator to please resume his seat and not to abuse this House.

I am not abusing this House. That reply is one of the worst I have ever heard.

I ask the Senator to resume his seat and obey the Chair. That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. I call the Minister of State again, without interruption.

The Government is totally committed to increasing organ donation and transplantation rates to the benefit the patients and their families. We welcome the Senator’s support for our efforts to increase the rate of deceased organ donation. Deceased organ donation, however, cannot proceed without the support of next of kin, as I outlined in my previous contribution, even in circumstances where the deceased person had an organ donor card or had indicated his or her wish to be an organ donor on his or her driver’s licence. The Minister’s proposals to introduce a soft opt-out system of consent for deceased organ donation are one of a number of measures being taken to increase transplant rates. The Department continues to work with HSE’s Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland, intensive care units, ICUs, and the transplant hotels, which are Beaumont, the Mater and St. Vincent’s hospitals, in building upon the achievements of recent years.

Improvements to our organ procurement service will continue to be achieved through improved infrastructure in ICUs, a more robust organ retrieval service, and through transplant centres achieving high conversion rates from opportunities that are presented. The legislation will be accompanied by a publicity campaign which will aim to ensure that individuals understand the opt-out system and to encourage individuals to have the conversation and make their wishes on organ donation known to their next of kin and to other family members.

Finally, I encourage everybody to consider becoming an organ donor and to make their loved ones aware of their intention in this regard.

Comments Off on Senator Daly calls on the Minister for Health to allow information sharing to help Organ Donation

Filed under Active Citizenship

Work deaths Bill ‘needs action’

corporate-manslaughter-bill

The Corporate Manslaughter Bill, which has been making its way through the Oireachtas since 2016, is designed to plug a hole in the Irish statue books in relation to corporate accountability.

Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly has insisted the Bill must be progressed and he raised the issue of corporate manslaughter in the Seanad as the jury in the Hillsborough trial retired to consider verdict.

‘This is a timely reminder of the need for corporate responsibility as we have seen many times before, unfortunately, through tragedy. This Bill is about addressing the current gap which exists within Irish law that fails to hold corporate entities and State agencies criminally liable for unlawful deaths that occurred as a result of their actions or negligence,’ said the senator.

A 2005 Law Reform Commission Report identified a gap in Irish legislation in relation to corporate manslaughter and recommended a similar Bill, the Criminal Justice (Corporate Manslaughter) Bill be introduced. But it was never progressed.

Senator Daly said the Bill currently before the Oireachtas will have the ability to hold corporations to account even in situations where no one individual is found to be responsible.

He added: ‘The Bill will also allow for prison terms to be handed down if a court deems it necessary. I believe that the real impact of passing this legislation will be felt by a change in outlook and approach among senior management.

‘If they can be held accountable for their actions or their failure to act, it may cause them to think and care more about their actions.’ In January the son of a victim of 1979’s Whiddy Island disaster accused the State of treating Irish workers as second-class citizens by failing to pass legislation on corporate manslaughter.

Attending a Mass to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the oil tanker fire disaster, in which 51 people died, Michael Kingston said that other people should not have to go through what his family had suffered.

The Government press office has not yet replied to a request for comment.

Comments Off on Work deaths Bill ‘needs action’

Filed under Active Citizenship

Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Government to allow progress on the Corporate Manslaughter Bill

In the coming weeks, Fianna Fáil will propose an amendment to the Order of Business in respect of the issue of corporate manslaughter. The relevant legislation was first proposed by the Law Reform Commission in 2005 as a result of the hepatitis C scandal in which blood products which were contaminated with hepatitis C were knowingly distributed to women. Thousands of women were infected and hundreds died as a result, yet no one went to prison. The man who knew the blood products were contaminated did nothing about it. I raise this issue again because we have brought our Bill forward again. The officials in the Department of Justice and Equality have refused to meet me, despite the Minister’s pledges that they would do so. They have concerns about the Bill. The part they are concerned about is that under which people would actually go to prison as a result of corporate manslaughter. In the North, there were arrests over incidents at a nightclub. We have seen court action resulting from the Hillsborough tragedy in which nearly 100 Liverpool fans died as a result of corporate neglect on the part of the police. The person in charge is facing prosecution and possible conviction. If the hepatitis C scandal happened again, nobody would go to prison because the Government has refused to allow the legislation to move forward. I wish to ask the Leader why that is the case. I suspect it is because many senior officials in a lot of Departments are afraid that at some stage they might face prosecution under the legislation as a result of their inaction.

Comments Off on Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Government to allow progress on the Corporate Manslaughter Bill

Filed under Active Citizenship

Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Minister for housing to explain the 10,000 homeless

Under this Government, we have reached the tragic landmark of 10,000 people being homeless . I note the continuous activity masquerading as action on the part of the Minister with responsibility for homelessness. I would call him the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he was providing any, but we will just have to call it as it is. On his watch, homelessness has become an acceptable face of Government policy. We will be looking for another debate on this issue. It goes with other promises like Fine Gael’s pledge to end the trolley crisis. We need to hear what the Minister has to say for himself about this issue.

Comments Off on Speech: Senator Daly calls on the Minister for housing to explain the 10,000 homeless

Filed under Active Citizenship