Senator Ian Marshall
I wish everyone Christmas wishes. It is lovely to see the House with so much goodwill. It abounds. It is unusual and nice to have such goodwill to all men and women.
I rise today to make specific reference to the recent developments in the political landscape in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Both jurisdictions have seen significant changes to personal and elected representatives. They have seen significant swings in the balance of power. No one, including the experts, saw much of this coming. No one could have predicted the monumental shift in support in Great Britain based on the information and indicators pre-election. However, many could see that there was a lot of apathy north of the Border. People were frustrated by the lack of an executive and a lack of government. They could be mobilised to demonstrate their frustration by shifting to the moderate middle ground. That is what they did en masse.
Change is sometimes good and change can sometimes move things on. Sometimes it can give an impetus to do things differently or to look at things in a different light. In fact, change could have given some of the larger players the nudge they need to go the extra mile, think outside the box and consider things previously unthinkable. Following a period where uncertainty was the order of the day, we must return a degree of normality to the business of politics and refocus on the bread-and-butter issues, including Brexit, with a greater degree of certainty and more clarity around the implications of any such exodus of the UK from the EU.
We have seen the result of the general election in Great Britain and the significant majority. Whatever side of the Brexit discussion we are on, we now have a situation where decisions can be taken, rightly or wrongly. We will be able to identify the decision-makers, engage with them, argue and debate with them, reason and row with them and at least begin to make plans for the future based on arguments. We can make the case for deals and arrangements that mitigate risk and develop opportunities in a new era of engagement between the UK and Ireland.
The relationship between the UK and Ireland is symbiotic and really important for both sides. In fact the interdependence, is important north, south, east and west. I do not believe for one minute that the UK Government, or the UK Prime Minister, would, or would have any desire to, act in such a way to hurt, damage or make poorer the citizens of the UK, especially those constituents who have now placed trust in his party. They would not hurt, damage or make poorer the people of Ireland due to the importance of this relationship across trade and business, sport and tourism and most especially the people on the two islands.
Taking these changes into consideration, it could be argued that we are much better placed this week compared to last week to get on and start planning. Furthermore, yesterday saw the launch of report of the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. That is a clear indication of the serious work to be undertaken by both civil servants and Members of both of Houses in an attempt to reduce the risk and prepare everyone for the potential changes that may be ahead. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, it is not about the plan, it is all about the planning because plans always have to change. At least Ireland has done, and continues to do, the planning, despite any changes that may be necessary.
Whatever faces this House and Government in the next few weeks it is imperative that we speak with one voice, stand shoulder to shoulder and ensure the best outcomes are achieved for this country. An impending general election should be regarded as something to stabilise the political system and present an opportunity to reset the sails to catch the wind. As Dolly Parton once said, we cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails. The one thing I am sure is that the sky will not fall in and the relationship and interdependence between the two islands will continue. However, everyone in this House needs to work hard to weather this storm.
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