Friday, March 23, 2007

Order of Business - 21st March 2007

Order of Business – 21st March 2007
Mr. Norris: I also support Senator Cox and I am glad her proposal has been seconded. I look forward to the vote. In particular, I welcome the manner in which she introduced the matter because she asked for a debate rather than making a knee-jerk response by demanding mandatory sentences. Members should listen to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, as this matter is problematic. The judge in question is a very fine judge and there may have been reasons for what he did in the knowledge that the sentence could be appealed against by the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, there is a human tragedy behind this issue, as well as the fact that a remarkable young woman was put through this process. She was extremely lucky to have the support of a valiant and dignified family.
I warn against automatically seeking mandatory sentences which are blunt instruments. This morning I listened to a programme on which a distinguished lawyer from Georgia recounted the story of a young man who was a fine athlete and student and who attended a party at which he had sex with his girlfriend. He was 17 years old, she was 15 and he received a mandatory sentence of ten years in prison. How does this improve society? It was a consensual act. It seems that this is what happens if one opts for the blunt instrument. It constitutes easy politics; in America people went for the "three strikes and you are out" policy. Consequently, a young man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for stealing a pizza.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: These issues can be raised in the debate.

Mr. Norris: In that case, I welcome the points made by Senator Cox, as well as the manner in which she raised the matter, which was highly appropriate.
I greatly welcome the interview given to An Phoblacht - not a journal I regularly take - by Mr. Gerry Adams. I make this point as someone who had threats issued against his life by republicans. It was a remarkable interview and I salute his courage. It is an extraordinary development when someone such as Gerry Adams states he will support the police and that Sinn Féin will join the police boards and support the forces of law and order. This constitutes a remarkable development and puts it up to Ian Paisley to bite the bullet, so to speak.
Perhaps, like Senator Leyden, I am reheating yesterday's breakfast, but Senator Brian Hayes made a contribution on the Abbey Theatre.

Mr. Dardis: This is regurgitation.

Mr. Norris: In tandem with Senator Hayes, I ask for a debate on the site of the theatre. It is unacceptable that capitalist buccaneers can hold the people of Dublin to ransom-----

Dr. Mansergh: Why does the Senator not join the company?

Mr. Norris: -----over a site that is of prime significance in the main thoroughfare of Dublin. The Abbey is the national theatre and should not be allowed to become the prisoner of vested financial interests in a development on the south side or in the financial services centre. As I noted yesterday, the ghost of Sean O'Casey will come back to haunt them.

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