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 Header Item Implications of Brexit for Irish Ports: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy] Now we are being asked to praise Fine Gael for putting it back on the capital plan. It may be open in ten years. Representatives of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have come before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on a number of occasions. They have regularly said they did not get sufficient funding over the past five or six years to enable them to propose roads to be put through the planning process. For this reason, they have been unable to have roads shovel-ready when additional funding has become available. The Minister seems content with Ireland's current designation under the core and comprehensive network. I remind him that under our current designation, just 5% of TEN-T is available. This would hardly build footpaths in some towns and villages in the regions.

Regardless of Brexit, our ports and airports are key to our connectivity as an island nation. Our exporters need greater security. The Government is failing abysmally in this regard. I mention as an example what the Minister is doing regarding Dublin Airport. He wasted 18 months making the Irish Aviation Authority the competent authority to deal with noise regulation. When he came before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport this morning, we learned - lo and behold - that the Department of the Taoiseach is now involved. I assume that Department has had to get involved because the Taoiseach does not believe or trust that the Minister can deliver Fingal County Council as the competent authority so that Dublin Airport can get a second runway before the current runway reaches full capacity.

I note that the Minister's Independent Alliance colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, has joined us in the Chamber. I remind the House that the programme for Government which the Independent Alliance helped to write, and to which the Minister and the Minister of State signed up, includes the following commitment: "In the first three months the new Government will apply to the European Union for the revision of the TEN-T CORE Network". Two years on, why has that not yet happened? I suggest that the Minister needs to forget about Stepaside Garda station and about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Instead, he should concentrate on his own brief.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Deputy is a spokesman for the Law Library.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Last October, Commissioner Bulc clearly indicated her willingness to look favourably on a review of the TEN-T network. Nine months on, the Department has yet to make a comprehensive submission. This submission should not be delayed any further. It should have happened by now. We need greater investment in our transport network. We need more balanced regional development. Our exporters need security and need to be supported. The Government needs to secure a review of the TEN-T network so that the designation can be extended. That will help. The EU is willing to facilitate this. The only people who are unwilling to do so are the Minister and his Government colleagues.

  Amendment put.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Vótáil.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 12 June 2018.

Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I understand the Chief Whip, Deputy McHugh, has a proposal to put to the House.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Tá brón orm cur isteach ar ghnó an Tí, ach tá moladh le déanamh agam. Notwithstanding yesterday's Order of Business, it is proposed that statements on the urgent need for water conservation shall be taken tomorrow on the conclusion or adjournment of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016, the statements shall conclude after 45 minutes, if not previously concluded, and shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or Members nominated in their stead, of five minutes each with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. If the statements have not concluded by 5 p.m., Topical Issues shall be taken on their conclusion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Government's revised proposal agreed? Agreed.

Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

  It is my great pleasure to introduce the Bill. I was pleased last December when the Government announced that eligibility for a GP service without fees was to be extended to everyone who receives a carer's allowance payment. Following further examination of the proposal, the Minister for Health confirmed in April that this measure should also be extended to people who receive carer’s benefit. The purpose of this Bill is to provide a general medical and surgical service free of charge to people who receive half-rate or full-rate carer's allowance or carer's benefit. The Bill will result in approximately 14,000 additional people being eligible for a GP visit card, thereby enabling them to access vital GP services without having to consider their ability to pay for this service.

  We all agree that carers are the backbone of the caring profession in Ireland. Their selfless dedication to providing hours of unpaid care to their loved ones and families is a major contribution to the provision of care in every community. Each caring role is different. Becoming a carer is a life-changing experience. It can be sudden for some carers, while for others it happens gradually over time as the care needs of their loved ones increase. For some carers, the time spent caring is a period of weeks while for others it lasts a number of years. Despite these differences, all carers begin the journey for the same reason. They are motivated by their love for the person they are looking after and the need to ensure they are provided with the necessary care and support they require.

  The contribution of carers to our society is measured as part of the census. According to the 2016 census, more than 195,000 people, or 4.1% of the population, provide unpaid assistance to others. This represented an increase of more than 8,000 people since the 2011 census. A total of 6.6 million hours of care is provided each week, with some of this care being provided on a 24-7 basis by family members or unpaid carers. As the census figures have shown, there is an ever-increasing need for care. This need, which is being met by unpaid carers, can be expected to increase as our population continues to grow and the proportion of people living longer continues to increase. The CSO projects that the population aged 65 and over will increase by 59% by 2031. The number of people living to the age of 85 or more is forecast to increase by 97% over the same timeframe.

  While the number of persons living longer is something to be celebrated, we must acknowledge that it is likely to place further demands on family members and friends to undertake caring roles. Studies emanating from the Irish longitudinal study on ageing have shown that more women will be caring for dependent children and elderly parents while also playing a more active role in the workforce and that this generation will become more relevant as our population continues to age. The impact on the health and well-being of carers is likely to increase as more and more unpaid care is provided by family members and loved ones. Therefore, the provision of a free GP service is another important step by the Government to provide much needed supports to carers.

  I would like to reflect on the development of the first national carers strategy, which was published by the previous Government in 2012. It recognised the significant contribution and commitment that family carers make and the concerns they face. The strategy sets the direction for future policies, services and supports provided to carers by Departments and agencies. When I reviewed the strategy recently, I noted that its vision statement reads:

Carers will be recognised and respected as key care partners. They will be supported to maintain their own health and well-being and to care with confidence. They will be empowered to participate as fully as possible in economic and social life.

I am sure Deputies will agree that the measure we are debating supports carers in maintaining their health and well-being and caring with confidence.

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