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 Header Item Death of former Ceann Comhairle: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 965 No. 2

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Deputy Pat Deering: Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering I also wish to be associated with the previous remarks about Séamus Pattison. Coming from the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, he was a man who treated everybody the very same. No matter what party one was from, it made no difference to Séamus Pattison. Whether he was an MEP or a Minister of State, he always looked forward to coming home to look after his constituents. As the Taoiseach said, Christmas Day or St. Stephen's Day, Monday or Tuesday, it made no difference to Séamus Pattison. He left a huge mark in the constituency over many years. Reference was made to the fact that he won 12 elections in a row, which in itself is an outstanding achievement. Politics is the poorer for his passing. I pass on my regards to his family who are in the Visitors Gallery.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher On behalf of the Ceann Comhairle and on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Séamus Pattison, with whom I served for many years in this House.

I can only describe Séamus Pattison as a gentleman, a statesman and a proud Kilkenny man. There is great sadness as we gather here today to recall and celebrate the life of Séamus Pattison as a Member of this House for many years. He was a former Ceann Comhairle, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, a Minister of State, a Member of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe and, of course, a Member of this House from 1961 to 2007. Déanaim mo chomhbhrón le teaghlach Séamus Pattison, go háirithe Joe, atá anseo inniu, agus Carmel, bean chéile Joe.

Séamus Pattison served as a Member of Dáil Éireann for 46 years and eight months; he has the fifth longest service by anyone in the House. He devoted his life to public service and the betterment of his constituency and the communities of his counties and the State. Séamus Pattison was held in the highest respect by all who knew him. He was highly regarded by the Members of the House but particularly by the staff of the House for whom he had tremendous regard. He held the offices of Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle with distinction, fairness and impartiality. He had a unique style that was referred to earlier, which endeared him to all sides of the House. If we want to pay tribute to Séamus in the years ahead, when the Ceann Comhairle or I say "Now, now Deputies", I hope they will respond as they did for Séamus.

Séamus Pattison worked closely with Deputies from all parties in the House and he was a true gentleman of utmost character and regard. He respected everyone he encountered in his political career. He leaves a legacy that in many ways may never be equalled. His legacy is one to be extremely proud of, but his own modesty would never allow praise or accolades of any nature, such was his unassuming character.

Today, we honour a life given graciously and without hesitation to public service, to the people of his county and to the people of his country. His life was devoted to helping others. That was the career of Séamus Pattison. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam

  Members rose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal dílis.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The revelations by Martin Wall on Monday in The Irish Times, following the release of correspondence between the Government and the HSE through a freedom of information request, confirms what I have said for some time, that, in essence, there was a fundamental lack of transparency at the heart of the process for providing money for health in 2018. There is a clear attempt by the Government to cover up the truth on the challenges facing the health services in 2018. The Government published a spending plan for health in the full knowledge that it will not be sufficient. I am not talking about the usual toing and froing or the arguments and counter arguments between the Government and the HSE but clearly there has been an attempt to paper over the gaps and to hide the truth from the public. The attempt to paper over the disagreement was made by putting in a figure of €346 million in value for money savings. We now know, however, that in the days after the publication of the plan, the HSE director general said that the targets will not be realised. This was subsequently revealed by The Irish Times also.

  The correspondence shows that there was an understanding, or that assumptions were made, to keep off the books potentially hundreds of millions of euro in other risks. For example, there was no provision for pay pressures, €68 million of which was in the earlier draft. Was this a reference to the employees of hospices and disability organisations who had balloted for strike action and who have been denied their fair pay by the Government? The Government also instructed the HSE not to include any sum in the plan to deal with a carryover of its financial deficit from 2017. The director general of the HSE has estimated other significant challenges facing the HSE, but the Government clearly wanted the financial difficulties played down in the published service plan. Departmental correspondence states:

The financial challenges need to be addressed only once (in the financial section?). Details on the assumptions and arrangements to address financial challenge should be contained in the letter accompanying the NSP [national service plan] rather than included in the main document.

Decoded, the HSE is being told to bury the negative stuff as effectively as it can, and not to put it upfront because the public might see it too clearly.

  There are also revelations about Sláintecare. The Taoiseach has repeatedly said that the Government is committed to Sláintecare but the HSE director general has said the plan is challenging because he would have to develop the service plan "in the absence of an agreed implementation plan and transition funding for Sláintecare". A sum of €3 billion was supposed to have been provided. The HSE director general was told by the Department that he was "overly focused" on a transition fund as it has not been approved yet. Clearly, this reveals a fundamental lack of commitment to the implementation of Sláintecare.

  There is much more in this correspondence. The HSE pointed out that the plan would be challenging in terms of "performance and protecting patient safety". The Department's response was to warn the HSE that it was using "unacceptable language". Why has the Government gone to such lengths to prevent the truth from coming out and to prevent the HSE from telling it as it is with regard to the challenges facing the health services in 2018?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As I have said before in this House, the 2018 national service plan sets out a budget of almost €15 billion for the HSE. This is the largest budget for our public health service since the foundation of the State and it represents an increase of more than €600 million on 2017. This is a substantial increase in funding levels. This comes on top of a health service that was already well funded. When the total amount of health spend is divided by the number of people in the country, Ireland is among the top five countries in the world for health spend per head, and by some estimates Ireland is perhaps in the top one or two.

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