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Confidence in the Minister for Health: Motion (Continued)

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Brady: Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady] It is now time for Fianna Fáil to put up or shut up on this issue, once and for all.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I put it to the Minister, Deputy Harris, that this no-confidence motion is every bit as much about his predecessors, the current Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and Senator James Reilly, as it is about him. It is first and foremost about Fine Gael's ideology towards healthcare delivery and citizens' entitlement to it.

  The HSE, as it stands, is not fit for purpose. Fine Gael said this in 2011 in its five-point plan. It said it would eliminate long waiting lists and end the unfair public-private two-tier system to replace it with universal health insurance system. Eight years later these words ring very hollow for all those who have suffered, are suffering and will continue to suffer in this shambolic health system. It is too late for those who have passed on, specifically Emma Mhic Mhathúna and other brave women.

  Recent and current issues I am working on, which have proved to me why I should have no confidence in the Minister and in the Government, include: the cervical cancer scandal; the urgent need of approval of Spinraza; the in loco parentis clause; the unprecedented waiting lists for children for the assessment of needs; the impending closures of services for the Irish Deaf Society; the failure to ratify the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and proposed cuts to staffing levels in all the major disability umbrella organisations. It is not only the major issues. I also add the commitments the Minister, Deputy Harris, made to me personally and reneged on, including his agreement to meet representatives of Debra Ireland who advocate for children who suffer from epidermolysis bullosa, EB.

  That five-point plan also stated that hospital funding would be radically overhauled so the money would follow the patient. Something radical has certainly taken place. There has been a radical increase in the cost of the national children's hospital from the figure the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, said would be €650 million, to the current €1.5 billion with an inevitable further increase.

  I have no confidence in the Minister, Deputy Harris, to deliver for people or for patients and I have no confidence in his Government.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire In reality this motion is a statement of fact. Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Minister for Health. Procedurally, it will be a relatively tight vote in any event. All the evidence suggests that the vast majority of those abstaining do not have confidence either. The Fianna Fáil Deputies will cry "Brexit prevents us from doing anything," even though practically every statement they make implies that the Minister should go. Deputy Donnelly lists the myriad failings practically daily. Brexit does not and cannot mean that this Government and Ministers get a free pass and a blank cheque in the meantime. That is what Fianna Fáil and Deputy Micheál Martin are facilitating here. By rights the Taoiseach should recognise the failings himself.

It is the role of the Opposition, and it appears all the Opposition parties agree, to hold the Government to account as Fine Gael used to do when it was in opposition. It tabled or supported a motion of no confidence in the Fianna Fáil Government at a minimum once a year between 2004 and 2011, and rightly so. Some of those Ministers were as bad as the current Ministers.

This motion is not about an election. It is about a crisis in health that gets more and more out of control each day with record waiting lists, the Government exacerbating and drawing out a dispute with nurses and, most specifically, a €450 million overrun in the national children's hospital. Despite what the Taoiseach said, this overrun will have real implications for major projects in health and elsewhere.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny My colleagues have adequately outlined the many reasons Deputy Harris should be removed as Minister for Health. Unless some Fianna Fáil Deputies manage to grow a spine in the next half an hour, the Minister will stay in position with their blessing and under Deputy Micheál Martin’s instruction. Why would Deputy Micheál Martin want to keep Deputy Harris in the position? Why does he not want accountability? Maybe it is because he simply does not believe in accountability.

This is Deputy Micheál Martin’s 30th year in the Dáil. Over that time he stood firmly with former Members Charlie Haughey and Bertie Ahern as evidence mounted over corrupt payments. He did not seek accountability then and he does not seek it now. During his 14 years as a Minister, time and again, he ducked and dived, avoiding accountability at every turn. When asked if he bore any responsibility for the illegal nursing home charges scandal, which cost the State €486 million, he said "No, I do not". There is also the issue of his cronyism in appointing board members to the Irish Blood Transfusion Board at a critical juncture when public confidence was shaken following the hepatitis C scandal. Then there was the overseeing of the FÁS expenses scandal when despite being aware of a gross waste of public funds he took no action to stop it.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne What has this got to do with the Minister, Deputy Harris?

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris What about the €6,000 you got in 2004 and the €1,600-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny The comparisons with recent scandals involving the Minister, Deputy Harris, do not need to be expanded on. In each case, Deputy Micheál Martin blamed others. He blamed officials, civil servants and advisers-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny -----but he never took responsibility for these scandals as Minister. The simple reality is Deputy Micheál Martin does not believe in accountability in public life nor does Fianna Fáil. His primary legacy is the HSE itself, a body he established, in which he managed to translate his personal failings into an institution with systemic failings. This body continues to affect every man, woman and child in the State and is an organisation behind which every Minister of Health since has hidden when they come into power.

The motion we are debating tonight seeks to hold the Minister, Deputy Harris, to account for his failures. He may, however, quite reasonably look across the Chamber at Deputy Micheál Martin and others as the source of many of his current woes. Tonight it looks like Fianna Fáil will again help to provide cover for a failing Minister. It will again scupper attempts by the real Opposition to provide accountability in Irish public life.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne It does not sound like it.

Deputy Jackie Cahill: Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill Accountability?

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny The Minister, Deputy Harris, should go but so too should Deputy Micheál Martin. It is time for accountability and it is time to realise that the people deserve better.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we have some order for Deputy Ellis?

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis It is hard to know where to begin with the failures of the Minister. Many have already been outlined in detail by my colleagues but I wonder if the Minister is paying attention to what people are saying. If his tweets this morning show anything it is the same old arrogance of this Government propped up by Fianna Fáil. The Minister tweeted "Bring it on" about a debate on a vote of no confidence in him. This is the height of arrogance. One would think that with so many documented failures in the health service, for which he is directly responsible, the Minister would have shown a little humility. I would like the Minister to come to Dublin North-West to show that same arrogance to the elderly, to mothers and to the disabled-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis -----to listen to what they say.   In his arrogance, the Minister tried to manage the news around the catastrophic failure of the overspend on the national children's hospital.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The Minister must not try to shut down debate throughout the country on the cost of this overspend to local communities.

Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock Deputy Ellis should practise what he preaches.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis How dare the Taoiseach suggest that those who raise concerns and fears that health projects in their areas will be delayed or not go ahead are being unscrupulous or insincere? I am sincerely concerned that health projects in my constituency-----

Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock Because you delayed them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy Ellis's time is up. Will he please resume his seat?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis It was because of the incompetence of this Minister for Health. I will not stop raising concerns and I will not have the Taoiseach or his Minister accuse me of being unscrupulous for looking after the interests of my constituents.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Will the Deputy resume his seat, please?

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Could all Members please just calm down a little bit?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Without a doubt, being the Minister for Health is one of the toughest jobs in government.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae You ran away with it.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He ran away with himself.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is also one of the most important jobs in the country because it affects so many lives. It is also good experience for higher office. It helps one to understand what a crisis is and what it is not and how to deal with many at the same time.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis One after the other.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is noteworthy that three of the four main party leaders in the Dáil are former Ministers for Health. The other Member who is proposing this motion has never held ministerial office and has no real understanding of the day-to-day dilemmas faced by Ministers-----

Deputy John Brady: Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady What about policies?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----whether it is being pressurised to act before one has full and accurate information, or being expected to make decisions before one has the time to consider all the options, and having to choose between two or three imperfect choices, knowing full well that no choice will satisfy the critics.


Last Updated: 15/06/2020 08:34:06 First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page