Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Feargal Quinn Zoom on Feargal Quinn] One of the problems is that it is possible to open a private hospital without a licence and there being a guarantee that such a facility will be inspected. I was unaware that this was the case. People need licences for their dogs and televisions sets and in order that they might drive their cars. It is horrific, therefore, that one does not require a licence to open and operate a hospital. If the figures to which I refer are correct - those who produced them do not claim they are accurate - it appears that between ten and 20 people die each week from the diseases in question. This means that hundreds are dying each year. The report also suggests 31% of all doctors do not wash their hands when they are visiting hospitals. I do not know whether this information has been thrown out in order to encourage discussion. However, the matter is worthy of debate and the Minister of Health should be invited to come before the House in order to assist Members in their deliberations on it.

Senator Michael Mullins: Information on Michael Mullins Zoom on Michael Mullins I agree with a great deal of what Senator Jim Walsh stated about benchmarking in the public service and the need to examine the salaries, rates of pay and allowances of everyone in the service, from politicians right down. The country is seriously broken and there is a massive deficit between income and expenditure. Unless we bite the bullet now, we will be obliged to grapple with this problem for many decades. I was alarmed by a report in one of this morning's newspapers on the operation of a supplementary payroll system at Tallaght Hospital between 2005 and 2010. Under the system in question, huge salary top-ups were given to various individuals who worked at the hospital. They ranged from €25,000 to €249,000 in the five year period in question. One individual's salary of €802,000 was topped up by €225,000. There is no documentation available by means of which it might be possible to explain the rationale for these payments. That is the broken system the Government is trying to fix. There is a need for calm among public service and other unions as we try to come to terms with the country's appalling financial situation. If the case to which I refer is an example of what happened during the Celtic tiger era, heaven knows what else is hiding underneath the surface about which we do not yet know.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú Will the Leader consider arranging an early debate on Northern Ireland? Such a debate would be both timely and helpful. All decent people on the island welcome the progress made and changes for the better which have emanated from the Good Friday Agreement. I would go so far as to say that, from a global point of view, the agreement is probably unique in the context of conflict resolution. At same time, however, it requires constant attention and nurturing. We need to identify areas in which difficulties might arise in the future. The prisoner issue is one which requires attention.

  I was a member of an all-party delegation which visited some of the prisoners in question last week. Any fair-minded person who hears what some of the prisoners told us during our visit would immediately be able to identify the fact that a number of human rights issues arise and that there is a lack of due process. One of the high profile prisoners we visited - she is being held at a psychiatric hospital - is Ms Marion Price. She is extremely frail and confined to bed and it is quite evident that she does not pose a threat to anyone. There is an underlying and important issue at stake, as Ms Price received a royal pardon. That fact is not denied, but the British Administration has indicated that the pardon has been lost, which is very difficult to understand. If there had been a pardon, Ms Price could not have been arrested in the manner in which she was because she is not a political activist in any sense of the word. For this reason, we must ensure action is taken in respect of her.

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