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Senator Bacik speaking on Stem Cell Research at UCC

29 October 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I welcome the distinguished members of the Ugandan judiciary who are guests of my colleague, Professor William Binchy from Trinity College Law School.

I would welcome a debate on embryonic stem cell research, but I would like it to be conducted from a position of education and in an informed manner, not in a spirit of ignorance which, unfortunately, we have heard informing the debate today. I have heard suggestions that UCC has taken some pre-emptive step in allowing stem cell research, but the reality is that until now any researcher at UCC could import embryonic stem cells.

What has happened is that in the absence of legislation, UCC has had to move and it has introduced a more restrictive regime and has done so in a responsible and measured fashion. I am not an expert on medical research, nor are the other speakers here, but I am very much persuaded by the fact that the academics on the board of UCC, the persons engaged in the research on the medical side, are supporting the policy. People from an ideological position, particularly the religious side, such as the Archbishop of Cashel and Emily, opposed it.

Today, there is a more pressing issue. I support calls for a debate not on stem cell research but on education cuts. There will be people outside these Houses tonight, parents and teachers alike, who are extremely angered and distressed by the proposed cutbacks in education, which will have a severe impact on our children in primary education. We should have a debate not only on the impact of the cutbacks, but also on the role of the Government's junior partner in this, because the Green Party appear to lack backbone on education cutbacks. As one of their own councillors has said, there no longer seems to be a bottom line. They will tolerate any cutback that has a draconian effect on children.

We have heard of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, and it seems the Green Party will sit idly in Government while class sizes increase, children with special needs and language needs have their services cut. Children in general will suffer badly as a result of the cutbacks and, therefore, we urgently need this debate.