Address to Seanad √Čireann by Mr. David Begg

Wednesday, 25th September 2013

I too wish to join in the welcome to David Begg and thank him for his very interesting address. Like all Members I have plenty to say about how present-day Ireland compares with the Ireland of the 1913 Lock-out. I refer to areas such as child poverty, socioeconomic disparities, the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights, sub-standard housing and accommodation – Priory Hall and the ghettoisation of direct provision – vested interests, property development and the relationship with banks. It is interesting to note that at the turn of the 20th century it was lawful to hit one’s dog, one’s wife and one’s child. Sadly, in 2013 it is still lawful to hit one’s child – and arguably, someone else’s child – in the absence of an explicit ban on corporal punishment of children in the home and in alternative day-care settings. This is, perhaps, a subject for a further discussion. However, it is interesting to highlight the rights of children.

Because of time constraints I will limit my contribution to the following comments. I commend the ICTU 1913 committee on the Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout project, which was delivered in collaboration with Dublin City Council and the Irish Heritage Trust. I met the Irish Heritage Trust this morning and I was informed that the project received a community grant and the trust is looking for a reinstatement of community grants. In August I had the pleasure of visiting 14 Henrietta Street. It is no exaggeration to say that I felt completely transported during that hour. The poverty, disease, desperation, pride, spirit and fight portrayed by the actors were tangible to all present. Will this become a permanent project, and how can we support it? The way in which the arts were brought together for such an experience is tremendously powerful, both for the people of Ireland and for visitors to the country.

I was delighted by the decision of Dublin City Council to name the Marlborough Street bridge after Rosie Hackett in recognition of her dedication to the trade union movement and her struggle for workers’ rights. It is very important to recognise the role of women.

It is also very important to recognise that Rosie Hackett was just a girl of 18 when she helped to organise the strike in protest against the poor working conditions in Jacob’s factory. To galvanise and lead as many as 300 women at such a young age is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the potential of the young to be the driving force behind positive change. We need to keep this firmly in mind when we speak of youth activism and we see organisations such as SpunOut, which has been in the news this week, the National Youth Council of Ireland and all its member organisations.

Mr. Begg mentioned the figures for those not in education, employment or training, NEETs, which is an obvious concern, as well as the youth guarantee, so what can we do to support this youth activism? Rosie Hackett was 18 when she was involved in that strike and there are many Rosie Hacketts today that we should support as we look to bring about positive change in Ireland.