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Order of Business

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Senator Paschal Mooney

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

In the past 24 hours, Members of the Seanad received a leaked report relating to overspending by the HSE. The Comptroller and Auditor General's office is involved and this is a very serious matter, as it raises questions yet again about the competency and efficiency of the HSE. A figure of €3 million seems to be involved in the overpayment of salaries. It seems extraordinary that in a country of this size, an organisation would not know staff and payment levels, as outlined in the leaked report. There is also a question mark surrounding excessive claims for expenses. I would like the Leader to address the issue and give some response to it. I listened to the Minister for Health on the radio this morning and, in a sense, he shuffled the matter away to one side. He indicated that, after all, it is only a draft report and little more than a puff of smoke. I find that extraordinary coming from the line Minister who has ultimate responsibility in the matter.
I have raised the issue of child care charges and facilities on a number of occasions. There now seem to be many irons in the fire in this respect. For example, last week at the Labour Party conference, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection committed the party to introducing the second year of free child care. Why should we have to wait for another election in this respect? This has been on the cards for several years and I would like to know Fine Gael's position, as it is a Fine Gael Minister, Deputy Reilly, who has responsibility for this. We should not have to wait for an election and the issue should not be part of an election manifesto to give what is absolutely crucial and essential to reducing the unacceptable financial burden on young families with children and child care needs.
Over the past 24 hours, the media have reported yet another attempt to use the primary school sector for after-school care. That raises fundamental questions. I have no difficulty with the idea in principle but I would like to know who will staff the after-school care service. What will be the attitude of the teaching staff in the schools and what financial impact will there be on parents? There are a number of issues involved and what particularly irritates me is that the Tánaiste is again reported today as saying that because of the recently produced revenue figures for the first two months of this year indicating an increase in the tax take, there is now an opportunity for investment, as she puts it, in education and the road network. I have no difficulty with those issues but in being specific about road networks while ignoring the entire west, it seems that it is a loss leader for the Labour Party if it focuses on the south west. I have no problem with those roads being upgraded, although there is a very serious issue surrounding the upgrading of portions of the N4 near Sligo around Castlebaldwin. It has been a scene of tragedy for many people because of the poor road network, although it is a national primary road.
There are a number of issues relating to child care but it is interesting that the Tánaiste did not refer to them this morning, having mentioned the issue last Saturday in her conference speech. She had the opportunity to address child care and the need to reduce costs for parents but did not do so. I ask that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs would come to the House to explain exactly what is Government policy in alleviating the financial burden on parents with regard to child care. It is vital that with all the debate that now seems ongoing in the area, we should get some sort of clarity in this House in order that there can be some hope for parents and child care workers, who demonstrated outside this House in recent weeks for further investment in the sector. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business in that respect.