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Senator Bacik comments on the Paramilitary Wing of the Catholic Church and calls for a Debate on the Role of the Equality Authority

12 November 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I ask the Leader for a debate on the conduct of business in the Seanad. Many of us on this side have been severely critical of the absence of legislation before the House, but that does not mean we are critical of debates and statements. We all accept there are some important debates that must be had and in the course of making statements on issues we can express ourselves fully. That is important, but there is a need for balance between legislation, which is our primary function, and statements on issues. Where we have statements on issues we participate fully. I take issue with those on the other side who suggest that, on the fishing issue, for example, we have not been fully participative. I participated in debates on fishing a number of times last year and got the Minister to do a U-turn on cockle dredging in Waterford Harbour. I am delighted that was as a result of debates on fishing, and such debates can have an important effect.

On what we can say in debates, we are entitled as legislators to criticise Cardinal Brady when he strays into criticising the Legislature or legislation that we may pass. It is also perfectly right that we criticise newspapers we see as representing the equivalent of the paramilitary wing of the Catholic church, which the Alive! newspaper represents. It is a newspaper that puts forward very extreme views with which many moderate Catholics disagree.

I ask for a debate on the role of the Equality Authority in light of the swinging cuts that have been made. We need to have the Minister in the House to answer questions on why the authority has been singled out in this way, given the good work it has done.

I am grateful to Senator Quinn for pointing out a report on page two of The Irish Times on the EU management committee on fruit and vegetables, which is changing its views on the minimum rules and standards for the shape and size of vegetables. My colleagues may remember the big outcry when the EU declared that bananas had to be straight. I am afraid to say that among the long list of fruit and vegetables that will be covered by the new rule, bananas are not included, so straight bananas will continue to be an EU requirement.