Loneliness Taskforce

Loneliness Keith Swanick 18.12.17.jpeg.001

Last week I formally requested that the Government move to establish a Loneliness Taskforce or a Loneliness Commission. We all have our part to play in tackling loneliness, but Government and the state agencies play an important role.

My letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, ‘The nature and remit of such a Loneliness Taskforce or Loneliness Commission would be for Government to set out, but it should be practically based, focussed and time-specific. This would be to complement the incredible work of NGO’s already in this area.’

Tackling Loneliness

Short days and long dark nights can make loneliness worse for many people. This cold weather is a reminder to keep an eye out for neighbours, family and friends or those who may be living on their own. It often only takes a tiny gesture or a simple act to help alleviate loneliness. Together we can give loneliness the boot.

Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol

Minimum unit pricing of alcohol is a really important issue. The recent court ruling in the United Kingdom paves the way for the implementation of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament five years ago. As a country, Ireland needs to follow suit as a priority.

Courts Service (Amendment) Bill 2017

Can you believe that the Courts Service of Ireland continue to invest in the Tobacco Industry, money belonging to wards of court and to children under 18 who have received significant court awards. Approximately €1.675 billion is invested by the Courts Service across a range of categories, but it unconscionable that they invest even €1 in the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry is no friend to anyone, especially the people who are trying to quit. For over nine months I have been appealing to the Government to act to end this and I have also been in direct contact with the Courts Service.

An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald was Minister for Justice when I first brought it to her attention but nothing happened. Minister Charlie Flanagan took up the position and I again outlined the situation to him, but again nothing happened.

Due to the inaction from the Government, I have published legislation, the Courts Service (Amendment) Bill 2017 to make it illegal for the Courts Service to invest in the tobacco industry.

30th Anniversary of Enniskillen Bombing and tribute to former Senator Gordon Wilson

Today is the 30th anniversary of that ghastly attack in Enniskillen by the Provisional IRA.

The killing and injuring of so many civilians was a turning point in the Troubles and it did signal a renewed emphasis on peace.

The Hume-Adams dialogue recommenced and ultimately in 1997 Gerry Adams apologised for the bombing on behalf of the provisional movement.

Gordon Wilson lost his daughter Marie that day and his response to this atrocity was remarkable. In a BBC interview he recounted the last words of his dying daughter.

“She held my hand tightly and gripped me as hard as she could.

“She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much’.

“Those were her exact words to me and those were the last words I ever heard her say.

“But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge.

“Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life.

“She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession.

“She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again.

“I will pray for these men tonight and every night.”

This message of reconciliation and the call for no retaliation was a sign of a true Christian.

Born in Manorhamilton in Leitrim, Gordon ran his family drapery shop in Enniskillen, yet he became an unexpected campaigner for peace.  He was nominated as a Member of Seanad Éireann in February 1993 by the Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil Albert Reynolds.

Who’s afraid of peace?  – this was the question that Albert Reynolds asked.

Gordon Wilson was not afraid of peace his death in 1995 was an immense loss to Ireland.

Seanad Éireann 8.11.2017