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Seanad Éireann Order of Business | The National Maternity Hospital, Genocide of Uyghur Muslims, Re-Opening Ireland

14 June 2021

Just as we are cautiously reopening, in particular with outdoor hospitality returning, I commend all the businesses and individuals who are running such well-ordered establishments. I have had the opportunity to travel across Dublin Bay South a lot in recent weeks and it has been really great to see so many places reopening and such general delight at being able to socialise safely again out of doors. I commend Dublin City Council on many of the great initiatives it is taking in terms of pedestrianisation in city centre streets and in terms of working with others for really creative use of public spaces. I am thinking in particular of Rathgar village where really good public seating is accessible to all in the grounds of a church run in collaboration with the local authority. However, in my own area, in Portobello, we have had issues around consultation with Dublin City Council. I am certainly happy to be working with local residents now to try to resolve matters there and ensure we can create safe and accessible public spaces that all can enjoy without encroaching on the rights of people to live peacefully in a residential area. I will leave it at that, but we are working on that.

I ask for a debate on maternity healthcare and on women's health because, while we are seeing this welcome cautious reopening, there has been a real lagging behind when it comes to women going into maternity hospitals to give birth. Despite apparent agreement by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer that restrictions on partners attending and accompanying women into hospitals should end or should at least be alleviated, we are seeing and I heard even at the weekend reports from women who are in labour in hospital and yet cannot have their partners with them. It has in some cases led to very distressing experiences for women and it needs to be addressed. I would ask that we might have a debate on it. As it is something the Leader feels strongly about, she might contact the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health to see what can be done to ensure that if there is a directive that partners are allowed in, it should be complied with in maternity hospitals in a safe manner. This is at a time where there is huge public concern that I share about the proposed governance structures of the new national maternity hospital. This is a matter that has been allowed to continue for far too long and we have not heard reassuring intervention from the Minister for Health on it. We might have a debate on women's healthcare, in particular, on maternity healthcare and the new national maternity hospital, in this House. It would be a useful and constructive way to engage with the Minister for Health on these issues.

Finally, I want to ask for a debate on an international matter. Colleagues will have shared the same deep concern that I and others felt on hearing the Amnesty International report from last week about the dreadful abuse of Uighur Muslims in China. I refer to the awful systematic horrors that are being perpetrated on this small minority population in a region of China. I would ask the Leader that we might have a short debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs to express our deep concern about this.