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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Will the Taoiseach confirm whether he has met Fingal County Council officials on this? They will require significant resourcing of expertise to enable them to fulfil the functions that will be outlined for them in the legislation that he wishes to pass. His lack of engagement on this issue for so long, which is possibly the most important issue on his desk for the past number of years, is striking. He is an expert on judges, Garda stations and the portfolios of other Ministers but the portfolio on which he is least decisive and proactive is his own, and it is critical to the economy and its future.

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

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I am talking about 2022 and not 2040 because this has been in the pipeline for some time and his failure to get the legislation through has worried and exasperated many people in the aviation industry for the past number of years.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is not all about Dublin. It is important that we acknowledge the essential role of our other major airports both in their regions-----

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The question was about Dublin.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming It is a Wanderly Wagon trip around the country.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and in their counties as well. The Minister will bring legislation before this House after the summer which will give effect to the new EU regulatory regime. He will propose that the new runway project be subjected to the rigor of that regulatory examination. The delay occurred for two reasons. There was a need to get legal advice from the Attorney General and others as to whether this could be done by primary or secondary legislation. We had hoped that it could be done by secondary legislation-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It could not. Any junior infant could have told the Taoiseach that it could not be done by secondary legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----but we had advice that it needs to be done by primary legislation. There were also discussions as to what would be the appropriate body to be the noise regulator - whether it should be the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, the CAR or Fingal County Council. It has been decided that it will be Fingal County Council. I do not know if the Minister has met with Fingal County Council officials but I certainly have and I do regularly, given that it is my own local authority.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach better tell him.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Minister has not met them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar What I would like to know from Fianna Fáil, the party that introduced the travel tax and did enormous damage-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The party that built the airport.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Order please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----to Irish aviation, to our airports and to tourism, is whether it will atone for those mistakes by now supporting the Government legislation-----

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Fine Gael did not want terminal 2 and it did not want a second runway.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and allowing us to fast-track it through the Dáil in the autumn.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien We know that and the Minister is on the record as well.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Cuirim fáilte roimh Mr. Robin Newton. I also give a special welcome to Mr. Paddy Agnew, a former Deputy for Louth, who is in the Public Gallery. He was elected to the Dáil 37 years ago on an anti H-Blocks ticket. This is the first time he has been in Leinster House. I am sure everybody will extend a warm welcome to him. We are delighted he is here. It took him a while but he got here in the end.

It has been confirmed that in the first financial report of the year released by the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive, HSE, recorded a deficit of more than €100 million in January and February of this year. Based on that trend, it is likely that the half-year deficit will fall somewhere between €220 million and €300 million and it might be double that for the year as a whole. It is against that backdrop that I want to raise the scandalous spending on agency staff in our health service. Figures released to my colleague, Deputy Louise O'Reilly, show that every day in 2017 the HSE spent more than €800,000 on agency doctors, nurses and other staff to fill positions that have been left vacant. That is close to €300 million for the year as a whole. That is, as the Taoiseach will agree, a colossal amount to spend on the hiring of temporary staff, which is always more expensive than directly employing personnel. It is a big strain on the health budget.

When we look at the roles temporary staff are filling, the extent of the problem becomes apparent. A total of €105 million spent on hiring agency doctors and dentists and that figure has doubled since Fine Gael came into office in 2011. Some hospitals' dependency on agency staff is mind-boggling. Letterkenny University Hospital spent more than €9 million on agency doctors, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise spent €8 million and University Hospital Limerick spent more than €5 million.


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