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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 991 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire] It was that when somebody is charged with a very serious violent offence, the Prison Service should examine any existing phone number lists it maintains for prisoners to see if there are phone numbers of relatives or people connected to the potential victim and they should be removed. That is appropriate. It can be easily done. If it had been done in this instance, that trauma would have been prevented.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Has the Minister any comment? Is it a matter for the Minister?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It does not sound unreasonable to me. I would be happy to engage with the Deputy, seek a report from the Prison Service and see how we can meet the concerns of Deputy Ó Laoghaire.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Eugene Murphy did not speak yesterday.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. The Taoiseach has been asked many questions about insurance and insurance reform. I acknowledge that the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy, has been in here trying to bring legislation forward but it seems to be very slow. I raise the matter today on the basis that we see now that local authorities have paid out over €43 million in the first nine months of the year which shows that by the end of the year, there will have been a significant increase in payouts this year. If people have a genuine case and a genuine cause, like everybody else in this House, I believe that they are entitled to make their case, but surely this is a crisis situation. Surely more of those cases should be fought in the courts. I merely want to know the Taoiseach's view on it. When can we expect to have the legislation brought into this House that will ensure that we do not have fraudulent situations, wherever that possible fraud may be coming from?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask that the response be brief. Is there proposed legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There is lots of different legislation happening in this area. The Judicial Council Act 2019 has been enacted. The Personal Injuries Commission will report, hopefully, sooner rather than later. I will not prejudge the outcome of that, but it is obviously under way. There is some other legislation in train. I refer to Private Members' legislation, originally put through by the former Deputy, Mr. Billy Kelleher, and then also by Deputy Michael McGrath. Legislation by Senator Ó Céidigh is being progressed and supported by Government as well. I welcome that the Law Reform Commission issued a paper today indicating that it may be constitutional for the Oireachtas to cap personal injury awards. We should consider doing that.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick I welcome the Minister for Health's announcement that as part of a suite of new measures to alleviate pressure on emergency departments in the country's public acute services, the fees in minor injuries units, MIUs, are to be reduced from €100 to €75. In County Louth, we have Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda which is under severe pressure. The only way to alleviate pressure is to restore the full services to Louth County Hospital. In Dundalk, children and families are passing Louth County Hospital, which had fantastic services but was closed down by the Fianna Fáil Government in 2010. It is time that we reopen and restore all full services to Louth County Hospital.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda is under a lot of pressure, as many hospitals around the country are. However, it is a hospital that has improved extraordinarily in the past couple of years and in some ways demonstrates what can be done. If one takes the hospitals in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, hospital group together, namely, Beaumont and Drogheda, that used always top the league tables in overcrowding and adds to them Connolly and Cavan hospitals, there are fewer patients on trolleys in that entire region in those four hospitals than in one hospital in Cork or one hospital in Limerick. It shows what can be done to reduce overcrowding with the right resources, as well as good management and good clinical leadership.

I pay tribute to the staff in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, for turning that hospital around in the past couple of years. When I was Minister for Health, it was always at the top of the league table when it came to overcrowding. Beaumont was too. Now they are the least overcrowded hospitals in the country. It shows what can be done. We need now to do that across the board.

As for Dundalk, another very good hospital, it has a great minor injury unit. I would like to see people use it more. I had the pleasure to visit it with the Deputy a number of years ago. However, the best advice that we have from our emergency consultant doctors is that we still have too many, not too few, emergency departments and that if one spreads one's resources and staff more thinly overall, the position will be worse, not better.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan Page 5 of the programme for Government states that the Government will focus on guaranteeing the sustainability of rural GP practices. There is a chronic shortage of GPs in Laois-Offaly. Indeed, I was contacted at the weekend by an upset parent who could not get access to a GP for her daughter who was home from college. We need urgent attention on this. A report showed that 100% of GPs in Laois cannot take on additional patients, while in Offaly, only 20% of GPs can take on additional patients. This is an issue that I have raised in this Chamber previously but we have seen no action. Will the Government convene an urgent stakeholder forum to address this crisis and what other actions will the Government take to ensure that it stands by the commitment in the programme for Government that there is access to rural GPs?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar GPs across the country are working hard and they are under a great deal of pressure. Such demand for healthcare is a consequence of a rising population and also an ageing population. However, they are under pressure and they are working really hard, and in my view they are doing a great job.

It is important to put on the record of the House that notwithstanding what one might think from the newspapers or the media, we now have more GPs in Ireland than ever before, more GPs who have a got a General Medical Services, GMS, contract with the HSE than ever before and more GPs on the Medical Council specialist register than ever before. The number of GPs in Ireland is going up, not down.

As for what we will do to make sure that continues, we are increasing the number of GPs we are training every year. The number of training places is now being increased every year. I am pleased to see the number of young doctors applying to get on a GP training scheme was at its highest ever level this year. It demonstrates to me that confidence in medicine and general practice as a career is being restored. More young doctors applied to get on the GP training scheme than in any year in the history of the State, and that is a good sign.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Neville did not get an opportunity yesterday.

Deputy Tom Neville: Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Promised legislation to change the treatment of family farms and businesses under the nursing home support scheme, that is, fair deal, passed pre-legislative scrutiny two weeks ago. When will Second Stage be taken and will it be marked priority legislation in respect of farms and businesses, particularly in County Limerick, for which it has considerable significance?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher It is an appropriate question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Pre-legislative scrutiny took place in November and a report is being prepared. Once that is completed, it will go to the Attorney General's office for drafting.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher That is what the Questions on Promised Legislation slot is meant for.

  There are three Members who contributed yesterday. There will be no statements. Deputy Michael Collins has no more than 30 seconds, but there could be less.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins On the programme for Government, page 122,-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Thirty seconds now.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Okay. We had severe winds and rain on Sunday night last. Irish trawlers from west Cork came home to tie-up in Castletownbere and other piers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher A question.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins What has shocked fishermen throughout the country was where dozens of foreign vessels took shelter between Bantry and Castletownbere. No one begrudges any foreign vessel taking shelter in a storm but when up to 50 massive foreign trawlers are in for shelter in Castletownbere it is no wonder this has led to an outcry by fishermen. I will cut my contribution short.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy will be cut short.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins Every fisherman or woman knows he or she is in serious trouble. I have called for a stand-alone Minister for fisheries to concentrate the Government 100% on Irish fisheries. Will the Taoiseach immediately appoint a Minister for fisheries?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Perhaps the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, would get back to his southern colleague.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Minister, Deputy Creed, is not here but I will ask him to check it out and respond to the Deputy. I would hope that in the event of a storm we would offer a safe harbour and safe port to ships no matter what country they come from. It is the decent thing to do.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy McConalogue has 30 seconds.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue In relation to the commitment in chapter 5 of the programme for Government to increase bed capacity in hospitals, I refer to Ms Lorraine Miller, a young mother who is fighting cancer and who has been in Letterkenny University Hospital for 13 days awaiting transfer to the oncology unit in St. James's Hospital. I give her details here in the Dáil today because her husband, Stephen, had to go on Highland Radio this morning, out of frustration and concern for her care, to raise the fact that she has been waiting 13 days for a transfer to the unit where she needs to be. Will the Taoiseach intervene to ensure this lady gets the treatment that she requires and gets an immediate transfer to St. James's?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I understand the Taoiseach already has the details.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am very sorry to hear about that case and I hope it is resolved soon. It is, of course, illegal for me or the Minister for Health to intervene to direct the HSE to do anything when it comes to an individual case, according to the Health Act which the Deputy's party wrote.

The Deputy is correct in saying that we do not have enough bed capacity. That is absolutely true. We used to have 12,000 beds in our hospital system. We had 12,000 in 2005. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party in government, for ideological and policy reasons, took 2,000 beds out of our system and brought it down to 10,000. As soon as we had the money, in 2014-2015, my party and the Labour Party reversed that. We are now back up to 11,000 beds. We need 2,000 more.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Malcolm Byrne has 30 seconds.

Deputy Malcolm Byrne: Information on Malcolm Byrne Zoom on Malcolm Byrne In the context of the commitment in the programme for Government to establish an independent electoral commission, does the Taoiseach envisage that such a commission would have a role in overseeing a situation where a political party distributed fake letters, such as those as we have seen in the Foyle constituency in the North's election?


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