Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Order of Business - 20th March 2007

Order of Business – 20th March 2007
Mr. Norris: I agree with my colleague, Senator Ryan, that we should recognise this terrible and shameful day, the fourth anniversary of the declaration of what this House has described as an illegal, immoral and unjustifiable war. The regime which made that declaration has since shown itself to be deeply criminal and shameful in terms of the way in which the values of the West have been destroyed or undermined. It is inexcusable that attempts were made to undermine the United Nations, subvert the Geneva conventions and introduce legislation to justify torture. Equally inexcusable was the depiction of this country by President Bush as having provided support. The people of Ireland did not wish that, nor did the 100,000 protestors who took to the streets of Dublin. Today, the United Nations rapporteur has pointed out the abject failure of the world to recognise the humanitarian disaster that is taking place in Iraq. I speak as somebody who consistently opposed Saddam Hussein and who went across the desert at the risk my own life to beard Tariq Aziz in his den on the subject of human rights.
We should have a debate on the health service. I have suspended criticism of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, because I believe she is a courageous woman who has put her head into the lion's mouth. However, given the events of the past few weeks, we need to debate what is clearly becoming a two-tier system. This week, a woman spoke on television about her smear test, which was delayed for six months because she was a public patient.

An Cathaoirleach: Order.

Mr. Norris: Was I doing something wrong?

An Cathaoirleach: I was not referring to the Senator.

Mr. Norris: How unusual.

An Cathaoirleach: I was bringing the House to order, not the Senator.

Mr. Norris: I wish the Cathaoirleach could bring the health service to order. The aforementioned women was basically sentenced to death by our system for the crime of being poor and unable to afford health service treatment through private means. That should not be tolerated. It is a reproach to us, as representatives of the people, that the life expectancy of those with cystic fibrosis is ten years shorter here in the Republic than it is 90 miles up the road in the North of Ireland.

I call for a debate on the Abbey Theatre, an issue on which I have put down a motion. I have just learned from the radio that the Government is proposing to provide €750,000 to refurbish the theatre's foyer. As it has already announced its intention to shift the theatre from its historic site, that seems an absurd and imprudent waste of money. Let us have a debate about the appropriate site for the theatre. Let us not have it whisked off to some middle class financial services centre on the docks which the decent people of Dublin will not bother to attend. The spirit of Sean O'Casey would turn in his grave at the idea that this historic site is being abandoned and the theatre is not being relocated to the Carlton site. Why are the provisions of the Constitution that provide for the common good not applied? Why are those buccaneering capitalists not being pushed off the Carlton site so that it can be used it for the good of the people of Ireland? Andrews Lane Theatre is gone and the Olympia Theatre has been turned back into a music hall, which means there is almost nothing in the city centre. What will happen to the site of the Abbey Theatre? Why will the Government not take up the offer of the late Daithí Hanly who kept the stones of the entire building? They are available to the people. Rebuild the old Abbey and make it a site for a theatre museum in a city that has so often celebrated drama.

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