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State Visits (Continued)

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] Has there been discussion or is there scope for the Pontiff to meet delegations or people from the North who might travel for such meetings? I do not know if the Taoiseach can answer that but I will put it to him. Will he give some sense of the kinds of interactions he will have with the Pope and what events he will attend? Will he be at Knock or in the Phoenix Park? What will be the extent of the Taoiseach's engagement?

Outside of theology, what discussions will the Taoiseach have with the Pope and what matters does he intend to raise with him? Does he propose to raise the mother and baby homes, the Magdalen laundries and all of those experiences? Does he intend to raise the fact that so many victims and survivors feel very let down by church authorities? I raise these matters very conscious of the fact that we are legislators and we operate in the secular sphere. It is not for us to issue instructions to the church but certainly where church actions encroach on the public space and where damage has been done, it would only be right and proper that the Taoiseach would raise such cases with the Pope. Does he intend doing that?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. He has told us the events management unit of the Office of Public Works, OPW, will manage the Phoenix Park event, which will be the biggest, with 500,000 people. I know from my time in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that in advance of the visits of Heads of State, including Queen Elizabeth II and US President Obama, there was a comprehensive estimate of costs, including Garda overtime costs. They were approved in advance. Has such an estimate been carried out for this and what is the indicative cost for Garda overtime and from the OPW for management, transport, looking after the park, corralling and all the other required elements? The event on 26 August involves engagement with civic groups. It is a long event, from noon to 3 p.m., and it will involve a speech by Pope Francis. The Taoiseach has the programme but he does not control it. Will there be formal engagement between the groups and the Pontiff? Will there be an exchange of views or do we have any idea as to how that will be structured?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Any fair assessment would conclude there is a warm public response to the Pope's visit in August. He is coming here in exactly the spirit we would hope for from the leader of the world's largest organised religion and faith on this island. This is an important opportunity for our society to demonstrate that it respects the faith and sincerity of people at a time when significant progress on important matters has occurred. I hope reports of people trying to get hold of hundreds of tickets to block people from going to the main events are untrue. If such actions occurred, they would be petty, intolerant and certainly the opposite of progressive.

An area in which Pope Francis has demonstrated exceptional personal leadership is his advocacy for the rights and humanity of migrants. He is doing this at a time when people claiming to represent Europe's Christian heritage are promoting a deep intolerance. We can look at what is happening in Hungary and the commentary from political leaders in some European Union member states, which is a cause for real concern. Ireland's representatives did not attend the weekend's mini-summit but this week's European Council will address the matter of migration in detail. Will the Taoiseach assure us that Ireland will speak up in support of the brave stance of Chancellor Merkel in welcoming large numbers of migrants and remain committed to showing solidarity, irrespective of whether the resettlement system is maintained? We have not fulfilled the commitments we have given thus far with respect to refugees. At a moment when some leaders are queuing to try to exploit and increase fears of migrants, Ireland has a duty to speak up against them. What does the Taoiseach propose to say on the matter in the next two days?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The visit of the Pope will be an important event for those of the Catholic faith in this country and they have every right to celebrate his visit and the occasions around it. I acknowledge Deputy Micheál Martin's comments that Pope Francis has spoken in a very progressive manner on migration against a frightening background of a rise in far right xenophobic and anti-migrant political forces in Europe. That is positive. The Pope has also spoken positively about the need to address global poverty and on behalf of the people of Palestine. We should be respectful of the visit and the celebration of those who are of that faith. However, it is also important that this would not prevent us from asking important questions of the Vatican. The questions that matter most to people who felt they have been hurt by the church and its role in the likes of the adoption scandals and particularly in clerical abuse relate to the Vatican files on what it knew, when it knew and what it did about reports of clerical sex abuse. That is terribly important. The survivors and victims of clerical sex abuse deserve that and we must ask those hard questions. There have been reports and tribunals here but those questions must be asked of the Vatican itself.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Pope Francis will be a very welcome visitor to Ireland, particularly for people of the Catholic faith and of Christian faiths in general. Will the Taoiseach give us details of the budget allocated in respect of the reinstatement of the Phoenix Park after the Pope's visit? There will be 600,000 people in the park and that will put enormous pressure on the ecosystem. We have seen recently what happened with two very successful events, the Ed Sheeran concerts and the Bloom festival, which involved fractions of the number of people going to see the Pope. Has a budget been tied down to reinstate the park?

Second, I refer to the Taoiseach's interaction with Pope Francis when he arrives. Will the Taoiseach raise the matters that have caused such grave scandal in Ireland generally and particularly in the Catholic Church relating to its treatment of different groups of people? Will the Taoiseach confirm that when the Pope visited Ireland previously, the visitors stayed in the nunciature at the Navan Road? Barely a stone's throw from that nunciature is St. Patrick's Home on the Navan Road, which was one of the largest mother and baby homes in Europe. It probably has a significant history connected to the adoption scandal Members have discussed in recent weeks. Between 2,000 and 2,500 babies in Glasnevin Cemetery died in that home, or at least they are the burials we know of. There are people who stand, week in and week out, at the gates of Leinster House. These are a number of women who were in St. Patrick's Home and still feel enormous hurt, as many do because of what happened to them in that home.

Will the Taoiseach raise this matter with the Pope? He could tell Catholic parishes all over the country to open up and welcome back people who may have been given up for adoption out of their parishes. He is a man who has sought to reach out to people in difficulty. He would welcome such an approach from the Taoiseach that would provide some level of both recognition and healing in respect of the many wrongs done to many different people. In particular, could the Pope lay a few flowers at St. Patrick's Home on the Navan Road? It would be very appropriate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher If we are to adhere to the time, the Taoiseach only has three minutes to respond.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The event at Dublin Castle will of course be space-limited but it is intended to invite all officeholders and party group leaders from both the Dáil and Seanad. The Government would support a visit to Northern Ireland.

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