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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, 12 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 983 No. 5

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That is a fitting contribution on which to conclude.

  Members rose.

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

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Twelve Deputies' names are carried over from yesterday and in excess of 24 Deputies are offering to contribute.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have asked this question on a number of occasions. It is time for full transparency and a comprehensive response. The question relates to the commitment made by the Minister for Health nearly two years ago to introduce a compassionate access programme in respect of medical cannabis. The Taoiseach will be aware that the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, recommended quite a long time ago the introduction of a compassionate access programme in respect of drug-resistant epilepsy, people who get sick from chemotherapy, and spasticity among multiple sclerosis sufferers. Approximately 14 import licences have been given to various individuals. Many have been waiting and waiting for the introduction of the access programme but we are no wiser now, so long on. I ask the Taoiseach to outline the Government's position on the introduction of the compassionate access programme. If he does not have the details now, will he provide me with a comprehensive response as soon as possible?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is being worked on by the Minister and the Department of Health. I do not have an up-to-date position but I will certainly make sure it is provided to the Deputy.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Yesterday, the supplementary Scally report issued. I commend Dr. Scally on the work he is doing under very difficult circumstances. A number of sections jump out in the report, not least the chapter relating to the procurement of laboratory services. The report raises a number of serious questions, including why the HSE reduced the weighting for quality assurance and capacity and increased the weighting for costs in the tendering process. That is an important issue. The rationale for reducing the emphasis on quality and capacity in favour of increasing emphasis on cost needs to be explained in full. The report also raises other issues in regard to laboratories subcontracting other laboratories without the knowledge of the HSE, and questions are asked in respect of retrospective accreditation. Does the Taoiseach support a call for time to be made available in the Dáil for statements on this issue so we can get answers to these serious questions?

The Scally report is critical of the lack of payment for the work put in by the relatives of those directly affected by this scandal and who are now involved in transforming the system. From a Government perspective, will consideration be given to this payment in the time ahead?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The answer is "Yes" on both accounts but the ordering of business is a matter for the Business Committee.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I want to ask the Taoiseach a question on the programme for Government commitment on environmental protection. As he will know, the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant treats approximately 40% of public wastewater. It has been operating over capacity for some time and it is not now compliant with national and EU environmental regulations. The most recent EPA report states we are not addressing the deficiencies in wastewater treatment infrastructure at a fast enough pace and that our health is at risk.

Half of our waste discharges do not meet pollution and health standards. Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas and wastewater in 38 towns and villages across the country. What is the Government going to do to address these genuine inadequacies in wastewater treatment? When can we have a solution for the wastewater treatment plant in Ringsend and the problems in the 38 towns?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am afraid I do not have any detailed information on Ringsend. That is a Dublin City Council operation. I cannot answer questions for the city council.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It does not get the capital investment. That is provided by Irish Water, as the Taoiseach knows.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar On the wider picture, a significant Irish Water capital investment programme worth €10 billion is under way. It is impossible to do everything in one year, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, but it is part of Project Ireland 2040. It is a massive investment programme. It has helped to reduce the number of boil water notices and the number of leaks around the country. It will improve circumstances with regard to wastewater.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny I want to follow up on Deputy Micheál Martin's question. It is two and a half years since the report came out. It was commissioned by the HPRA. Its main recommendation was that the cannabis access programme be set up. Since then, there has been no access programme. In the past two and half years, 16 licences have been granted to 16 individuals in the State. Of those 16 licences, three have involved financial reimbursement. There are, therefore, 13 other families who have not been reimbursed. A family contacted me over the past few weeks. Mary and Joe Stevens, who live in Waterford, were granted a licence last December for their daughter, Cassandra, and they were given notification yesterday by the HSE that they would not be reimbursed. The cost is €9,000 per year. The family still has to go to another jurisdiction, namely, Holland, to get the medication. As of August, however, the family will not be able to afford the medication for their daughter. According to their words and the clinical notes, we have learned that the product has made a dramatic difference to the daughter's life.

This is so important. I have been banging this drum for the past three years. I am so frustrated. My frustration does not compare with the frustration of the families. Is there a commencement date for the cannabis access programme?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Same reply.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny That is terrible. That is absolutely terrible. For three years-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am sorry but the reply cannot be any different from that of seven minutes ago.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny Surely the Taoiseach can give a better answer than that. That is terrible. I have been banging this drum for two and a half years and the Taoiseach gives an answer like that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Taoiseach might communicate with Deputy Kenny. Could he correspond?

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny That is unbelievable. It is so disrespectful.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will be happy to ensure the Minister for Health provides the Deputy with an updated response, which will be the same reply.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Last November, the Taoiseach told this House he was appointing a task force to deal with the serious issues of unemployment and degradation in Tipperary town. I have raised this with him since. I spoke to him in his office only two weeks ago. The task force was appointed in name only. Ms Alison Harvey, whom I wish well, was appointed and had initial meetings but not one red cent has been approved by the Government to support the task force and enable her to collaborate and engage with all the groups involved - Jobs for Tipp, The March for Tipp, TIRD and many other community groups. We have a new chief executive in the district in Tipperary town. We look forward to engaging with the council, all the groups and the newly elected councillors but one cannot proceed without money. The Taoiseach told me he would revert to me. I received a reply to a parliamentary question late last night from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who stated there are applications in. Reference was made to other issues that apply here, there and everywhere, as the

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, told me recently, but there is no dedicated fund so Ms Harvey and her team may do the proper investigative and collaborative work to which the people of Tipperary town and the rest of the area are entitled. The Taoiseach should put his money where his mouth is and please support this very valuable initiative. We do not want to be misled any further.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I agree Ms Harvey will need funding for her task force. It is impossible for her to do her work without funding support. I understand several Departments are discussing which Department will fund the task force or the proportions in which they will fund it, but the matter will be resolved.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Dr. Gabriel Scally was very critical of the current remedies in place for screening misdiagnosis and the fact that women and families are forced down the legal route. There is a specific reference to this in A Programme for a Partnership Government.

As the Taoiseach will be aware, there is a second misdiagnosis issue, namely, the hearing impairment misdiagnosis of 49 children in counties Roscommon and Mayo. In this case, the HSE has admitted responsibility and issued an apology, yet the parents are being forced down the legal route to gain access to the services required for their children because the HSE cannot provide the funding and the State Claims Agency will act only after a long and protracted process.


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