6 October 2005 Edition
Morgan thrown out in Dáil row over Irish Ferries
SF raise Rossport 5, Irish Ferries and criticise Labour/FG on response to IRA move
The Dáil resumed on Wednesday 28 September against the historic backdrop of the IRA putting its weapons beyond use and the schedule was revised to include statements about the North on Wednesday 28 October.
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláín TD described the move as a "massive development" and paid tribute to IRA Volunteers for their "courageous and unprecedented step" in formally ending the armed campaign and putting arms beyond use. "For many members and supporters of Sinn Féin it appears that republicans yet again have had to leap first. But we in the leadership of Sinn Féin have said clearly that this development must be seen for what it is — an act of faith in the ability of Irish republicans to move forward together to our goal of Irish unity and independence by peaceful means."
Petulant Pat Rabbitte
While most other party leaders in the house broadly welcomed the IRA move and called on unionist paramilitaries to follow suit, the petulant Pat Rabbitte, the Labour Party leader could not resist a rant. He described the move as "the seven-years-late delivery of arms that should never have been acquired or used in the first place". Ó Caoláin hit back saying: "The reaction of the Reverend Ian Paisley was predictable. So too were the begrudging contributions made today by Deputies Kenny and Rabbitte. The hypocrisy of the latter on the issue of arms decommissioning and making partition history were particularly hard to listen to."
Protests at the gates
TDs arriving back to Leinster House were greeted at the Kildare Street gate by a number of homeless people who had camped outside the previous night in protest at the lack of social housing in the 26 Counties and recent deaths of homeless people on the streets of the capital. It was one of a number of protests on issues such as the Rossport 5, Aer Lingus pensions and deportations. The Sinn Féin TDs and party leader Gerry Adams, in Dublin to accompany Martin Ferris to a meeting with the Rossport 5 in Cloverhill Prison earlier that day, spent an hour outside meeting the various groups.
Sinn Féin TDs submitted questions challenging Minister Noel Dempsey's handling of the Rossport affair. Party spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris said: "It is time that the injunction against the men was lifted by Shell. It is time the government intervened to ensure the gas is processed offshore and it is time that there was a full re-negotiation of the deal which has seen natural resources worth billions of euros handed away to multinational corporations."
Arthur Morgan raised the issue of the exploitation of workers by Irish Ferries, suggesting that the issue be dealt with at a European level. Replying that he was "quiet taken with the idea of dealing with this at European Level", Minister of State for Labour Affairs Tony Killeen went on to claim that there was little the Government could do. Arthur Morgan responded saying: "Rhetoric about respecting workers rights, whether it be in ferries or elsewhere, is not worth a damn if you are willing to stand idly by and allow Irish Ferries to exploit workers in this way."
Dodgy deal on 'super prison'
Minister of State at the Department of Justice Frank Fahey was upset when Sinn Féin's Aengus O Snodaigh said the controversial purchase of the Thornton Hall site for Michael McDowell's 'super-prison' might have been corrupt and demanded that he withdraw the remark. But O Snodaigh said the desperate defence of the Minister made him even more suspicious about the deal.
But sparks really flew the following Tuesday 4 October when Arthur Morgan again raised the issue of Irish Ferris with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and demanded the time be put aside to discuss a Sinn Féin motion on the matter. The motion called on the European Commission to urgently introduce a European Ferries Directive, to deal with ships operating in European waters under flags of convenience.
Pointing out that the government claimed they could do nothing about the situation, Morgan, who is Sin Féin's spokeperson on employment and workers rights, said: "Here is an opportunity for the government to do something positive.
"I am asking the government to give over time to discuss this motion and adopt it in order to increase pressure on the European Commission to proceed with a Ferries Directive that was abandoned last year following a failure to reach agreement at the Council of Ministers.
"A Ferries Directive will not be delivered overnight nor does it represent a solution to the crisis at Irish Ferries but what is happening at Irish Ferries, including previous evidence of maltreatment of workers illustrates the urgent necessity for such a Directive.
"It is not good enough for the government to continually repeat their rhetoric about supporting workers' rights while at the same time standing idly by and allowing Irish Ferries to exploit workers in this way. I would urge the government to adopt this motion and all parties in the house to support it."
But Ceann Comhairle Rory O'Hanlon would not allow the Sinn Féin motion to be debated and when Arthur Morgan persisted on the issue, claiming it was too serious to ignore, he was ejected from the Dáil chamber.