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

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed] However, it is invariably the case that when we are described in the context of our membership, the public's consumption of it is very much one dimensional.

Like all of us, who my father was very much defined by where he came from. In that context, Carrigaphooca and Codrum were very much who my father was. He has been described as a son of the soil and someone who was interested in farming and agricultural matters. That is very much who he was. He carried that love, affection, commitment, understanding and dedication regarding those issues into public life and, I think, made a not insignificant contribution.

For my mother and sisters and, to my father's huge enjoyment, his grandchildren, some of whom are here, the man we miss is the family man - the father, son, brother, uncle and grandfather. In particular, his role as a grandfather brought him tremendous joy and satisfaction in his declining years. I thank all of my colleagues for the very kind tributes they have paid to him.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

  Members rose.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The programme for Government reads: "We support the expansion of Local Drug Taskforce projects". Funding was cut in the years up to 2014 and has remained at the same level since. As the Taoiseach knows, the task forces are funded by the Department of Health and the HSE, the budgets of which have increased significantly in that period. However, the same has not applied to the core funding of the drug task forces. The drug and alcohol task forces are well overdue an increase in core funding to support their existing programmes and projects, as well as emerging needs. Deputy Curran recently questioned the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. In her reply she stated: "Although we did not have a great deal of success in getting money via the budget, we have received more funding in the past couple of weeks. I intend to look into how to use that money in the next couple of weeks..." Deputy Curran who has responsibility for this area on our behalf and others in the field are anxious and clear that core funding must be increased. Therefore, the money mentioned should go towards meeting the core funding needs of the task forces involved.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is a matter for the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. There was an increase in funding for social inclusion and addiction services provided for in budget 2019. The increases are provided for in the budget and the Revised Estimates Volume. The Minister of State will examine the matter and make a determination on how best to spend the money.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The programme for Government commits to introducing measures to ensure the more efficient and timely recruitment of nurses. However, the HSE continues to pay hundreds of millions of euro in employing temporary agency staff. Last year saw the largest increase in spending on agency staff since 2014, up €26 million to a staggering €318 million. Since 2011, when Fine Gael took office, the Government has spent almost €2 billion on temporary staff to fill gaps in staffing because it has continuously failed to address the recruitment and retention crisis. Agency staff were originally intended to plug temporary and short-term gaps in rostering, but the figures prove that, far from being temporary, there is now a reliance on agency staff in the health service. Some hospitals' dependency on agency staff is significant. There is a figure of €9 million at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; €10 million at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise; and €11 million at University Hospital Limerick.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The Minister cannot plead ignorance or shirk blame. What plan is in place to end this misuse of taxpayers' money?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not agree that it is a misuse of taxpayers' money. The amount spent last year by the public health service on agency staff was €300 million. It is a lot of money, but it represents 4% of payroll in the health service.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin What is another €300 million?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Agency staff are often used to cover for staff on sick leave and maternity leave and overtime. Often, it is our own staff who work in agencies who are working overtime. Notwithstanding the fact that there was an increase in staff numbers in the health service last year, with an extra 800 nurses and midwives being recruited, there was a 20% increase in the spend on agency staff. Therefore, this idea that there is a connection between the number of staff we have and agency staff is incorrect.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Government has promised to advance the Judicial Council Bill 2017 to establish a new judicial council to promote high standards of conduct and investigate accusations of wrongdoing by judges. The Council of Europe has stated the lack of such a body is a major flaw in Ireland's judicial system and many judges have also called for one to be established. We now have a Bill, but it has been on the Seanad Order Paper for two years. The last time I raised this matter the Taoiseach stated it was because of delays in dealing with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, but it cannot be true that the 40 Bills in the Department of Justice and Equality cannot progress because one Bill is taking up a great deal of time. No Department could operate on that basis. Will the Minister for Justice and Equality clarify when we will see the Judicial Council Bill which is needed? Will he allow it to progress in parallel with other Bills? It is not unusual for more than one Bill from a Department to be before the Houses. The Minister could bring it to the Dáil if he does not want to bring it to the Seanad. It is important legislation and we are subject to international criticism for not having such a body.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy mentioned earlier that he was a long-standing Member of the House. I am sure he knows the practice and procedure not only of this House but also of the Upper House. I cannot allow legislation to be passed or processed. I am subject to the rules of the Houses. I am also subject to the Business Committee.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Bring the Bill here.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Start it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I share with Deputy Howlin a keenness and anxiety to progress the Judicial Council Bill. I spent more than two hours in the Seanad last evening discussing the judicial appointments Bill.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Minister is now an honorary Senator.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am due to be in the Seanad again at 3 p.m. to debate the same Bill.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Give the Minister a medal.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I spend a significant amount of my time in the Seanad taking its business. This House is restricted in the manner in which it can comment on business in the other House, but I will say there are some amendments to the Judicial Council Bill that I have at an advanced stage and that I intend to publish shortly. I hope the Seanad will facilitate an early debate of the Bill.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Bring it here.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I cannot do so.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Why?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have told the Deputies the reason.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Last night I spoke to Vera Twomey, a woman whose daughter, Ava, suffers from the extremely debilitating Dravet's syndrome. More than anyone in the country, Vera has brought to public notice the urgent need to provide access to medicinal cannabis for people with such conditions. Incredibly and despite the Taoiseach's promises to introduce a medicinal cannabis access programme, Vera still has to travel to Holland on a regular basis. When she went there recently, there was not a sufficient amount available to give her a three-month supply; therefore, she will have to return in three weeks' time with an ill daughter, her family and so on. She goes back and forward every few weeks because the Government has failed to put in place an access programme for medicinal cannabis to enable people like Vera and Ava to get it from their pharmacies. Is this promise ever going to be delivered on for the people who need to access it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I understand the Netherlands permits the export of cannabis dried herb, but it does not permit the commercial export of oil-based cannabis formulations, which is why we cannot import them. Dutch law does not allow us to do so. However, departmental officials are continuing to work intensively to find a supply of appropriate quality assured cannabis products for Irish patients.


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