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Snippet Contents:

We have known deadly disease on our island before. In the 1800s, the Great Hunger saw millions emigrate or die of famine, diphtheria, cholera, fever and smallpox. In the last century, TB or consumption destroyed thousands of lives. It may be folk memory now, but its legacy lingers on. It took the vision of a socialist, Deputy Noël Browne, to deliver the infrastructure and the drive that tackled that insidious disease, but the vision of a social public health system was blocked by vested interests. It has yet to be realised. We must not repeat the same mistake that was made then, the mistake of not finishing his job. This emergency tells us we need to build an Irish national health service of which we can all be proud.
That work should have started today. Instead, we are again papering over the cracks. In times of crisis we turn to the State. We still have some way to go before we can end our two-tier health system. Today I am just as concerned about our two-tier economy. This Government promised a shared future. When he was campaigning against Fine Gael the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, promised us an Ireland for all. Instead we have two Irelands. Billions of euro have been committed in supports for businesses while there are cuts for workers on the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. There is absolutely no shame about it. We were told there would be no cuts, but a form of austerity is back for those who can least afford it.
The time has come to reimagine this State. That is why the Labour Party has proposed a package of measures worth much more than €11 billion in capital and current spending to plug the gaps in our services and to do whatever it takes to save jobs and lives. Our focus is unapologetically on the interests of working people. Right when we needed a radical response, a different approach, a shared national effort, the dividing lines have been drawn. After four years of the difficult on-again, off-again engagement that was the confidence and supply agreement, the wedding ceremony finally came in June. Today the marriage was consummated, but the wedding speeches did not live up to expectations. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have now become one, for better or for worse. For the sake of the country I hope that the next few months beat their disastrous honeymoon period of self-inflicted cock-ups, exploding clown cars and comical games of one-upmanship. We do not need to do a deep dive through departmental records to uncover any major policy differences between the two Ministers present. If we did, we simply would not be able to find them, because there are none. They are so tight policy-wise that by the time this Government is over we will be wondering which Minister is which. Fianna Fáil has been subsumed by Fine Gael. The merger is complete and Fianna Fáil's long-cherished identity is gone.
All of that being said, it would be churlish of me and my party colleagues not to recognise that there is much to welcome in this package. Who does not want to see extra resources targeted at health, housing, education and wage supports? Will it be enough, however, to stave off the twin threats of Covid-19 and the prospect of a no trade deal Brexit?