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 Header Item Confidence in the Minister for Health: Motion (Continued)
 Header Item Visit of Maltese Delegation
 Header Item Confidence in Minister for Health: Motion (Resumed)

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness] I ask the Government, in the face of Brexit, to wind itself down in an orderly way. It is an utter failure in what it has done and I would support a vote of no confidence in the Government itself because the Minister cannot be left on his own. The rest of the Government also bought into the matter and were present when the Minister told the story about the overspend and so on. What is forgotten in this debate is not the national sabotage that has been described but rather the sabotage of people's rights, namely, to a home or not to have one's house repossessed by a vulture fund. Although we may not like Ben Gilroy, his and others' rights have been ignored and he is in the lock-up. The Government has ignored many rights.

Fine Gael claims to be the party of accountability but when voting for the recent Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was put forward by my party, Fine Gael refused to support it. I no longer know why we support the Government or why we sit on our hands and allow it to function. Both the public and the majority of the House have had enough of the Government and, therefore, it should go.

Debate adjourned.

Visit of Maltese Delegation

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Before proceeding, on my own behalf and on behalf of Deputies, I offer a céad míle fáilte, a most sincere welcome, to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion of Malta, Mr. Carmelo Abela. The Minister and his officials are accompanied by H.E. Mr. Leonard Sacco, the Maltese ambassador to Ireland. They are most welcome and I hope they will enjoy their brief stay in Ireland.

Confidence in Minister for Health: Motion (Resumed)

  Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., and calls on him to resign from his Ministerial position forthwith.
- (Deputy Louise O'Reilly).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask Deputies to desist from interrupting and to refrain from inviting interruptions.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the interlude. It was most welcome because to our visitors and those watching at home, the motion must be the most bizarre motion of no confidence in the House's history. Fianna Fáil does not seem to have confidence in Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin does not seem to have confidence in anyone, while the Minister sits there in a bizarre situation where the focus is not on him or the Government for most of the debate.

We in the Labour Party will support the motion, purely because we do not have confidence in the Government. It is not personal against the Minister, Deputy Harris, whom I consider to be honourable, fundamentally decent and competent. Nevertheless, the situation that obtains in Irish politics at this time-----


Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly -----is intolerable. I ask Fine Gael Deputies not to behave as Sinn Féin Deputies do. The situation in the health sector is the greatest example of the intolerable state of affairs. It is intolerable for everyone - for the Government, the Opposition and the public. Votes have little or no meaning any more. The Government loses multiple votes every week and struggles to bring through legislation, while the main Opposition party abstains or votes for legislation and motions in which it does not believe. It is ridiculous and cannot continue.

To be fair to the Minister, he has had some successes in his Ministry. Repealing the eighth amendment, along with all of us, was a notable achievement that will stand rightly beside his name, as will the restructuring of the HSE, on which I support him. At the initiation of the current Dáil, however, it was decided to set up a special Committee on the Future of Healthcare, in which we spent 11 months preparing Sláintecare. The Minister endorsed the report but he should have slipped into its slipstream immediately. In political terms, the Government was provided with serious political cover. While it is true the report was endorsed by the Government with platitudes, the funding has not been provided and the timelines are already out of date. The best present a Minister for Health in Ireland could ever receive was not embraced and one must ask why. Was it because the Minister could not get the Department of Health to cede some control to the new Sláintecare initiative or because the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was not supportive or simply because the Government did not believe the current Dáil would last long enough for the programme to be relevant? I think it is a combination of all three.

I am sick and tired of people referring to the Department of Health as "Angola" and saying every Minister who goes in there tries to live to see the day when he or she will get out of it. For all of us, this should not be the case. Bad politics for generations has destroyed the Ministry of health. Bad politics of well over 30 years has turned the Ministry into that which the Taoiseach of the day gives to his naughty pupil whom he needs to bring down a peg or two. The same applies to the current Taoiseach with his predecessor. This is not sustainable and we are not doing our public duty. The Department of Health should be a Ministry for which all of us strive. It is a Ministry that can effect dramatic change and affect and transform people's lives. We need to grow up as a Parliament and political institution in how we manage the politics of health. The Minister's tweet this morning was not wise and did nothing for him. Some 30 years of continual policy change, counter-change, inconsistency in approach and funding and political arse-covering has not served the people well, which I say while acknowledging that there are many good people working in the administration of health in the country. If it was possible for the Department of Health and the HSE to be in an even larger disaster zone than previously, that has happened in the past three years.

I could speak for hours on various issues, such as waiting lists; overcrowding; the lack of children's assessments for autism; the catastrophic delays in orthodontic treatment; that there is no national drugs or medicine strategy, genetic strategy or a coherent policy on biosimilars or offering drugs; the scandalous lack of residential care for people with disabilities, which will soon arise again; or that our primary community care strategies are not aligned. I do not have time to spend on all the issues about which I wish to speak and, therefore, I will concentrate on two in particular.

In the case of the CervicalCheck scandal, the women and their families have been badly let down by rushed decisions and commitments that simply could never be met. Dr. Scally's initial report was good but the analysis of the laboratories and the detail of what happened therein have not transpired. We were told last week that Dr. Scally's new report was imminent. Where is it? Its delay is worrying. The report was supposed to have a full quality assurance analysis done on the contracts and the laboratories. The Committee on Health was told this last week and it was verified. The analysis is a central plank of the doctor's work. Why has it been delayed? Will the Government publish the terms of reference given to Dr. Scally for the module of work and indicate when and how those terms of reference were given to him? If the report is not published this week, it will be clear that something is afoot.

The review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which was to be carried out within months, is unlikely to be completed this year. Mr. Justice Meenan's tribunal will not even begin this year because legislation needs to be brought through the Houses. There is the national scandal of Ruth Morrissey having now gone through 15 days of proceedings in the High Court, despite the Taoiseach promising on live national television that such a situation would never happen. Furthermore, the administration of the HPV vaccine has been delayed, there is a large backlog of 78,000 women waiting for screening results and the system cannot prioritise more vulnerable cohorts of women over others for their results.

I have read hundreds of pages about the children's hospital overrun, of which a significant number of people were aware for some time. It is simply amazing that since August, many of them were more worried about how it would look and sought public relations advice rather than examining the details of the overrun. The public now believes the issue was buried because of the needs of a general election, but the matter is not yet finished. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's utter dysfunctionality and Circular 12/10 need to be further explained. Are we to believe that no one in that Department for more than a year and a half ever asked one simple question about the largest capital project in the history of the State while one of its own was sitting on the board? It is insulting to our intelligence. In addition, the Government has not been honest about which capital projects will be affected by the cock-up. The Taoiseach has stated that none will be affected but that is a laugh. It is Trumpesque in its preposterousness. A minimum of €450 million in cash must be found and some €100 million will have to be reprofiled from other health projects this year, which means the public will not benefit from them.

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