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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2

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The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I thank Deputies Grealish and O'Sullivan for eloquently and articulately presenting a very strong case on illegal dumping. Without question, it is a scourge in our society and across the countryside. It needs to be dealt with robustly and I will take on board the suggestions both Deputies have made. I will talk to the Ministers responsible about putting together a task force and, in the case Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned, about additional resources for local authorities in dealing with the issue. Many community groups have responded on the beaches with do-it-yourself collections of plastic and other litter. Both Deputies have made a fair point.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath In the same vein, the OPW is giving out mixed messages. The Government is giving out many mixed messages since the people have been restricted during the Covid crisis. The Taoiseach was in the beautiful town of Cahir with me some years ago when I was a fellow traveller of his. He knows the town well. It is a beautiful town with a wonderful organisation, Cahir Development Association, leading its Tidy Towns efforts. It has many businesses, one of which, John Quirke Jewellers, celebrates 45 years in business today. Cahir House Hotel celebrated 13 years in business yesterday and there are many other small community businesses.

The castle site is closed, as is the wonderfully artistic and scenic Swiss Cottage. Those facilities have wonderful staff and I want them to be safe. Surely the sites can be opened for outdoor tours and not have the gates locked. Tourists are flocking to Cahir, which is a wonderful town. The town has done what other people have suggested as regards cleaning and eliminating litter and enhancement schemes. There is a wonderful community. Surely these sites should all be open on a restricted outdoor basis to allow people to get a view of those beautiful buildings.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Cahir is a beautiful, picturesque town with a wonderful streetscape. Since the opening of the motorway, we do not get through it as often as we would like.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Taoiseach would be welcome.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I know that. The stimulus programme provides some funding for the reopening of heritage sites. We should explore whether that can be availed of to enable the Deputy's proposals to come through.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The OPW sites are closed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will talk to the Minister responsible about the OPW because some Deputies have raised these issues with me in respect of sites across the country.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins A number of weeks ago I raised the concern of the 12 patients aged under 18 awaiting Spinraza. I knew the Taoiseach would be concerned because he was so involved in the campaign last year. I have not heard anything back from his office. I was hoping that he would respond positively. I got a reply to a parliamentary question I tabled along with other Deputies, which stated Children's Health Ireland, CHI, confirmed that it is in a continuous engagement process with families regarding their child's individual plan for the administration of Spinraza. I talked to Lauren from my constituency this morning who raised it with me. There has been no contact. There was a general contact with the advocacy group. I am concerned that I will not be able to raise the issue again for another six weeks. These patients are waiting in pain for their care even to be set up. I ask the Taoiseach to respond.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I apologise to the Deputy for not getting back to her on it. As she knows, approximately 35 patients with spinal muscular atrophy, SMA, aged 18 or under are deemed clinically eligible for treatment with Spinraza. To date, 34 patients have been approved by the HSE for use of Spinraza. The HSE has confirmed that a new patient commenced treatment on Spinraza last week, bringing the total number of patients receiving treatment with Spinraza to 19. For patients who had commenced treatment on Spinraza, the service has continued during the Covid crisis but a number of patients who were waiting to start treatment have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CHI has confirmed that a clinical nurse manager will commence at the end of July. It is working to accommodate the remaining patients bearing in mind Covid-19 social distancing restrictions. Individual treatment plans are being worked out for each of the remaining patients. CHI has informed the Department that it has identified a small number of SMA patients whose cases are extremely complex given the severity of their respiratory failure, the non-invasive respiratory support they require and the severity of their scoliosis. This already complex procedure in administering Spinraza is even more involved with these patients who will require Spinraza to be administered by specialised technique, using interventional radiology. They will require some degree of sedation to tolerate this procedure.

I can forward to the Deputy details of the complexities relating to some of the patients.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We now move to the Deputies carried forward from yesterday.

Deputy Alan Dillon: Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon On 20 June, the Government set up a task force to report to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Government on the restructuring of the aviation sector. The task force report was sent to Government on 10 July. How is it proposed to deal with the task force's recommendations? Are they to be referred to a special committee or dealt with by the Covid-19 committee? If they are referred to a different committee, which Department will oversee its work? Will there be an opportunity for interested bodies to be heard? When are the task force's recommendations expected to be acted on and implemented? As this is a critical national issue, I ask the Taoiseach to take a personal interest in the matter in view of the importance for Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Knock, and for Ireland as a whole.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke On the same issue, I raise the future of the aviation sector. We have all received correspondence from airline pilots, particularly in regard to Aer Lingus, our national carrier. There is a real conflict between the interests of the aviation industry and the interest of public health. It is important for the State to step in to support our national carrier. Some aviation workers feel vulnerable regarding the future prospects of the sector and their own jobs. It is a major employer and of considerable strategic importance. Those workers need every support. The future of the aviation industry cannot be built on targeting people who have flights booked but who are not in a position to travel while heeding public health advice. I ask the Taoiseach to step in on behalf of the workers.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We need to be honest here. There is a fundamental issue in the travel debate and the implications for the aviation industry. I take the Deputies' point that the Government is there to support all sectors of the economy, including aviation. However, the aviation task force had no public health representative or anyone giving a public health perspective on it, which I think was a mistake.

Fundamentally to keep the economy going, we need to be very cautious on the travel issue. Figures this morning from France, Germany, the UK and Spain show spikes in numbers. I think Spain had 14,000 last week.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke Nobody disagrees with that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin They are really. Last week it was all attacking over green lists and everything else and this week it is different. I take the Deputy's point. People need to come to a position on this. The fundamental problem with the aviation and hospitality sectors is that travel has collapsed, understandably because of Covid-19. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is, of course, concerned about the survival and continuation of the industry. We need to take note of what is happening. The most effective way we can keep the economy at its current level is to continue to suppress the virus. I regret that travel is an issue in that.

Deputy Martin Browne: Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne Page 86 of the programme for Government contains a commitment to tackle the issue of human trafficking while page 98 makes reference to equality and the inclusion of marginalised groups. Do these commitments mean that those affected by the horrific events in mother and baby homes will see the report brought forward as a result? What went on in these homes through the decades was human trafficking with babies being stolen from mothers and sent mainly to America.

I have been working with members of the Seán Ross Abbey in Roscrea, especially Teresa Collins and Mike Donovan, and they deserve answers. At first, they were told that a small number of deaths took place in these facilities, but now it is accepted that more than 1,000 children died in Roscrea, some in very dubious circumstances. They are being told that more than half of the 1,000 died from heart attacks. I ask the Taoiseach to give a commitment to carry out further ground scans of the area around Seán Ross Abbey to allay people's fears that other unmarked sites contain more bodies.

The former Minister, Katherine Zappone, was to publish a report on two different occasions but, as with many other reports, this was delayed.

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