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 Header Item Business of Dáil (Continued)
 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 958 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl] It is, at the end of the day, the Government's prerogative-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I agree.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl -----to decide what happens in its time.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Yesterday Deputies raised an issue about the time. The Taoiseach offered to give extra time and we agreed to that under the Standing Order this morning. Obviously, the Deputy has raised an issue we can reflect on.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Even postpone it to tomorrow or Friday.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh However, we have a very heavy schedule. We have moved many items of legislation around. We are tight for time up to Friday. However, the House has agreed at least to debate it. That was agreed yesterday and was agreed here today again.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I greatly appreciate the attitude of the Government Whip. This issue arose in the media over the weekend. It was only passed by the Government on Tuesday. We only saw the actual motion yesterday. Most of us have been doing research on it since. The British House of Lords published a report on the issue. It would be nice to have a bit of time to reflect on it before we are required to make a decision. We are simply asking that it be deferred for that reason.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl This is a motion, I take it.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Perhaps the solution would be to have the debate today and defer consideration of the motion until tomorrow. Would that be possible?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The issue is that people want to get things rammed in this week. That is the call of the House.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It will be in the voting bloc tomorrow anyway. The time for the debate has been allocated today. We moved a lot of other legislation around. It was agreed this morning to take the extra time. The Taoiseach offered the extra time yesterday.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Members want a chance to read these reports.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh There will be possibilities during the voting bloc tomorrow if that is agreed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The programme for Government makes clear commitments to patient safety. We are aware of the very tragic death of Mrs. Malak Thawley. Her husband Alan has been devastated and has called for an independent investigation into her untimely death. She had a blood vessel accidentally severed during routine surgery she was undergoing following an ectopic pregnancy. The coroner's inquest left many questions to be answered. He was denied access to medical records; phone logs; the full names, qualifications and expertise of the doctors and consultants involved in his late wife's care; the identity of other hospitals involved; statements, minutes of meetings etc.; Garda information; and feedback.

I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the list of issues. There was no blood in the laboratory, not enough blood in the theatre and so on.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Deputy. Time is up.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin If this happened in a regional hospital such as Portlaoise or Portiuncula University Hospital, an independent inquiry would take place. However, this has happened in Holles Street in a national hospital and people seem to be satisfied with an internal investigation, which at best has been opaque and has not been fully transparent with the family of the deceased.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Time is up.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I ask for the Minister, Deputy Harris, to meet Mr. Alan Thawley and for an external independent investigation to be conducted into the case. What occurred was appalling.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I obviously join others in expressing my condolences to Mr. Thawley, his family and anybody who has been affected by this tragic loss. A maternal death is always a very sad and tragic event. I know in all cases people do everything they can to avoid them happening. I express my condolences and deep sorrow to the family.

As the Deputy said, an inquest was carried out. Inquests by their nature are independent. It follows a court-type process where evidence is given. People, including doctors, are called to the stand and are asked questions. Therefore, an inquest is an independent inquiry and provides some answers. In addition to that, an independent or external case review could also be carried out. It is not that one contradicts the other. I know that the Minister, Deputy Harris, said he would reflect on the request.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I ask about the commitment in the programme for Government to improve "the uniformity, effectiveness and timeliness of support services to families and communities bereaved by suicide." Two weeks ago, UNICEF published a damning international report on child well-being, which revealed that the teenage suicide rate in this State is the fourth highest in the EU-OECD region. Professor Brendan Kelly of Trinity College told the Seanad Public Consultation Committee last week that it is almost impossible to get a hospital bed for a child or an adolescent struggling with mental health issues.

At the weekend it was reported that 44 children had been admitted to adult units in the first five months of this year, which is an increase on last year. My constituency has no child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, in the north Louth area. Community-based psychiatric services in Dundalk are practically non-existent, apart from Ladywell, which, despite the hard work of the staff there, is not fit for purpose.

Given the much talked-up summer economic statement today, will the Taoiseach commit to the provision of fully staffed and adequately funded mental health services? Will he ensure a significant increase in mental health funding in budget 2018?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The funding for mental health has increased considerably in recent years - by more than €100 million a year. It has increased this year from €826 million to €853 million. For example, the budget for the National Office for Suicide Prevention has more than doubled in recent years. We are now seeing a reduction in suicide rates. It is already the case that suicide rates in Ireland are below the average in Europe, although there is a particularly high level among young people and young males in particular.

Some 100 new assistant psychologist posts have recently been sanctioned. That is particularly for the early intervention primary care area. The contract has been signed for the new forensic mental health hospital in Portrane. It will replace a very old facility in Dundrum with a new state-of-the-art one that is now under construction. In the first five months of 2017, there have been 136 CAMHS admissions, of which 44 were child admissions to adult units and 92 to CAMHS units. The Mental Health Commission report for 2016 shows a downward trend of about 30% in the number of child and adolescent admissions to adult units, compared with 2015. However, I appreciate that we have taken a step backwards in recent months.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I raise a matter of legislation that touches on the point raised by Deputy Micheál Martin. In May, I raised the need for an amendment to the coroners legislation, an issue raised by many Members in the House. I believe there is now cross-party support for the need for mandatory inquests on all cases of maternal death. I was assured that was a priority - I have that in writing from the Tánaiste - and that work was under way to allow a debate on a coroners (amendment) Bill to take place before the end of this Dáil session. Clearly, that will now not happen. When will we have a chance to debate the coroners (amendment) Bill in the House?

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I acknowledge the urgency and importance of this legislation. What the leader of the Labour Party has said is accurate. I very much regret that the deadline of the end of term is most unlikely now to be met. I assure the Deputy and the House that every effort is being made at drafting stage to have this legislation signed off and published. I expect this will happen during the summer months. I urge all Members of the House to facilitate an early debate on this important issue in the autumn.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry My question relates to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. In the words of Tom Parlon of the Construction Industry Federation:

Irish cranes are Mickey Mouse compared to New York or Dubai cranes. ... We have a maximum height of 12 or 15 storeys. It's not rocket science to drive a crane here.

Tom Parlon's view is typical of construction employers-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy should not be quoting people who are not in the House.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry ----- whose real agenda is to maximise profits by cutting down on training time for crane drivers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl A question on promised legislation, please.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry It should be six months' training but workers are being put under pressure to do it after less than six days. This is a Mickey Mouse approach to health and safety. It is a key reason for the strike by crane drivers in recent weeks, a strike we fully support. Is the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation-----


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