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 Header Item Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth] Politicians like Seymour nurtured that peace and they nurtured economic prosperity for the Border counties. Seymour took a keen interest in cross-Border structures. Much of his political career was focused on reconciliation, a very honourable attribute to which we should all aspire. My deepest sympathies go to his niece and nephews, Kirsten, Andrew and Alistair, and to the family of Brendan McGahon.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I want to acknowledge the family and friends of our late colleagues, Seymour Crawford and Brendan McGahon, and extend our sympathies to them. While I did not know Brendan personally, I heard the stories of a very colourful and outspoken character, which is probably in contrast to the more reserved approach Seymour always adopted.

I would not be standing here today were it not for Seymour Crawford. As has been stated, he was the person who introduced me to politics in 2003, when I was co-opted onto Monaghan County Council in his place. He took a chance on a woman with no history or involvement in politics, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me. Seymour was not just a political mentor, he was a good neighbour and a very good friend. He was an extremely hard-working Deputy and he served the people of Cavan and Monaghan with great distinction in Dáil Éireann from 1982 until his retirement in 2011. Anybody who knew Seymour will know he was a gentle giant. He was steeped in agriculture and a man of the land and of the people - he really was a man of the people and all things rural. He was extremely good-natured and he would always go beyond in his efforts to help his constituents, whether that meant helping farmers in preparing their accounts, filling up a medical card application or just being there when they needed him.

Politics and helping people were Seymour's passion. He was at his happiest when he was out and about, meeting people. Even after his retirement he would continue his house calls to old friends and he loved nothing more than recounting past political battles. Above all else, Seymour was a very successful politician and he never lost an election. He would have been the first to say that the secret to his success was the very loyal group of people helping him out across Monaghan and Cavan, particularly in his home area of Aghabog. He introduced the political bug into that small rural community when he was elected to Monaghan County Council back in 1991 and, from that day to this, there has been an unbroken period of political representation from Aghabog.

It is a very proud history for a small community and I know it is something of which Seymour's family and friends, some of whom are in the Gallery today, are very proud. I often say that we will find the best canvassers in the country in Aghabog because Seymour trained them so well. He did not take "No" for an answer. He would keep going into the late hours and he would say, "We will get another house done." It was those same people who worked so hard with Seymour through his career and during his various campaigns who rallied around to help when he passed away last October. I want to acknowledge, in particular, Seymour's nephews, Andrew and Alistair, his niece, Kirsten, and his many friends, including Paddy Reilly and Maura Greenan, who helped look after Drumkeen when Seymour was in Dublin.

I know it has been a tough few months but the one thing that has shone through is the esteem and affection people all across Cavan and Monaghan had for Seymour Crawford. He was held in very high esteem by everyone in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Seymour leaves behind a legacy of hard work, decency, passion and commitment to serving the people who elected him. It is one that everybody elected to this House and to public office should aspire to.

  Members rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government announced that the new human papillomavirus, HPV, test - I may have inadvertently called it the "HPV vaccine" earlier - would be available last September, and that the programme relating to it would eventually replace the current programme. Unfortunately, this target was missed and it was then set for January. However, January has come and gone and it has not been announced. There does not appear to be any alternative date yet for the test or the new programme to be available. At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Health this morning, officials stated that the delay in the roll-out of the new HPV test was due to a decision taken by the Minister and the additional backlog and workload that has resulted. Their focus now is to try to eliminate the backlog. Is this the case? Can the Government give a date for when the new HPV test will be introduced? The officials could not commit to its introduction in the entirety of 2019.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The funding was allocated in the budget and the HSE service plan in order to do it this year, although I appreciate that simply allocating the funding is not the same as making it happen. I am advised that the preparatory work for the switch is under way. Laboratory capacity planning is a key part of this and its finalisation is dependent on the conclusion of contractual arrangements with MedLab and the Coombe. This will allow the programme to determine the required capacity to be procured and will inform the timeline for the switch. Based on that information, it would be wrong of me to provide a date that I cannot necessarily stand over.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach gave a date last September.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I did so in good faith. Having learned from that experience, I am not going to give a date unless I have an assurance from CervicalCheck that the date can be delivered. What I can say is that the funding is provided and is in the service plan and in the budget, and the policy decision to do it is made.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty In June of last year, the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board sent a memo to the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, outlining the benefits to be gained by the members of that board continuing to serve for another term. In July, the board was informed that the Minister had accepted its memo and had written to the chairperson to confirm that all of the individuals involved were to be reappointed to the board. We now know that the scale and trajectory of the overruns at the national children's hospital were known to the board during that period. We know there was an overrun of €95 million in June, rising to €191 million in August. It is clear from the minutes that the board also had concerns regarding the ability of the main contractor, BAM, to deliver the project. Yet, it appears the Minister reappointed the entire board without question. Did the Minister conduct a performance review of the board members before reappointing all of them? Did he have any details or engagement with the members before he reappointed the entire board or with the project? Did he discuss with the chairperson how the project was running before he reappointed an entire board?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar No legislation is promised on this matter. The appointment of that board is not in the programme for Government and all the questions are for the Minister. I suggest that if the Deputy wants to ask questions of the Minister, he will have an opportunity to do so later today.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 allows public servants to continue working up to the age of 70, if they so choose. Community employment, CE, schemes, as the Taoiseach will know, provide essential services across towns, villages and parishes. They are publicly funded and provide employment and retraining opportunities with excellent social outcomes. There are currently 44 CE supervisors aged between 65 and 66. I am aware of one scheme where the supervisor is being made to retire in April. The ad for a replacement for that person has been up for a month, with no applicants or inquiries. Will the Government apply the Act to CE supervisors, given that it has broad support in this House and would allow people to work until they are 70? Will it end the age discrimination that applies to this unique group of people?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That legislation is enacted. As CE supervisors are not public servants, however, they are not covered by the legislation. It is, therefore, up to the employer in each case to decide whether it should be applied.

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