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Order of Business

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Senator Ivana Bacik

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I welcome yesterday's launch of the campaign to re-elect President Michael D. Higgins to the Áras. He has served an exemplary term of office of seven years with enormous respect and support from all over the country. I look forward to working hard during the campaign to secure his re-election.
I also welcome the announcement by the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, that he is bringing the legislation to give effect to the referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment to the Cabinet. It is anticipated that the legislation will be before the Dáil next week. I reiterate what I said previously on the issue, namely, that I hope we will have the Bill before this House as soon as it comes through the Dáil. I think you indicated previously, a Chathaoirligh, that that might be following the mid-term break. It is incumbent on all of us to give effect to the clearly expressed wishes of the people to ensure that services are available to women from 1 January 2019 and that the legislation passes without delay in this House. I look forward to working with all parties and all colleagues on that legislation.
Will the Leader also provide a debate on higher education? I attended a briefing from the Irish Universities Association yesterday, as did many other colleagues. It is important that we take note of its call on the Government to increase core current funding for universities, specifically by €130 million, given that State funding for students has fallen significantly by 50% since 2008. The representatives present at the meeting told us how concerned they are at the impact the reduction in funding has had and will have on the quality of education in a sector that we badly need in order to drive forward the economy. The association supplied us with a quote from the Taoiseach from June 2017 when he said: "We need to drive this sector forward, give it autonomy and resource it adequately." That is very welcome. I hope we can have a debate on the issue and that we will see the funding increase in the budget.
On a university theme also, I commend the Trinity College Historical Society on last night's debate, which I was delighted and honoured to chair, on the right to die. The guest speaker was Tom Curran, whose partner, Marie Fleming, died tragically of MS after a long campaign in which they took cases to the High Court and the Supreme Court seeking recognition of a right to assisted suicide in this country. That is an issue on which we have never legislated but the justice committee is due to report shortly on the issue and a potential amendment to the 1993 Criminal Law (Suicide) Act to provide for assisted suicide. It is urgent.
Another person present at last night's debate was Gail O’Rorke, who remains the only person ever prosecuted under section 2 of the 1993 Act for assisted suicide. She was acquitted, but her case illustrates the difficulty we have with the current law, the lack of compassion it shows and the need to ensure that we legislate. I call on the Leader for a debate in this House on the justice committee report when it is published. Last night's student debate was instructive to me in illustrating the various issues and concerns that arise, in particular to ensure safeguards against abuses in any legislation, but to ensure that we act with compassion to meet the needs of people with terminal illness and others whose needs are currently not being met in this country.