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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Tributes on Retirement of Captain of the Guard
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 4

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The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Charges are a matter for the HSE, operating under section 55 of the Health Act. Perhaps the solution for the HSE would be not to charge for the night if the person is in hospital for, let us say, four or five days. That is the average length of stay in hospital. Perhaps it would be sensible for the HSE not to charge for the first night if the patient ends up spending that night on a trolley or sitting on a chair, but that is a decision for the HSE to make. On the positive side, while there are still patients on trolleys every day, a very large number are on trolleys because they are in isolation rooms, so they are on trolleys for clinical reasons rather than reasons of overcrowding. It is positive to see that the level of overcrowding in our hospitals is at its lowest in many years, if not since records began.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath People are afraid to go into hospital.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I see that the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation still does a daily trolley count but has discontinued the monthly count, which used to show that X month or Y month was the worst month ever, because that is not the case any more and we have seen a huge reduction in overcrowding, which is a positive.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The time is up. I note that today, for the first time ever, I think, we finished Leaders' Questions within the time allowed.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath What is the prize?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I do not know if that has something to do with Deputy McNamara getting great value out of his slot. Deputies are meant to ask one question about one topic but he managed to get three questions in.

Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock He has set a precedent.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara Only two were answered, though, and even that is debatable.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is it not great to get any answer?

Tributes on Retirement of Captain of the Guard

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before proceeding to Questions on Promised Legislation, of which we have very many, I wish to bring to the attention of the House a very special matter. Today we bid farewell to our Captain of the Guard, John Flaherty, who is attending his last sitting of the House before he retires later this month. John joined the Defence Forces as a cadet in the 51st cadet class on 28 October 1974 and is retiring after 46 years of distinguished public service. He was commissioned in December 1975 and posted to the fourth field supply and transport company in Mullingar. He also served on the Border with the 28th infantry battalion. He served overseas with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and the Irish infantry battalion. UNIFIL, as we know, and all the personnel who had served with it were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. John also served as a military observer with the UN in Kuwait and Iraq. On returning home he served as assistant aide-de-camp to Uachtarán na hÉireann, Paddy Hillery. He then joined the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service as Captain of the Guard on 11 November 2002. During his time as Captain of the Guard he has seen the election of five taoisigh. He has welcomed esteemed visitors to the Houses of the Oireachtas such as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck. He also played a central role in the success of our most recent centenary events, Vótáil 100 and Dáil 100. I think we can all agree that he was always on hand to advise and support Members of the Houses and staff and to keep a close eye to ensure that decorum throughout the corridors of Leinster House always prevailed. His military bearing and his calm presence led to a real sense of security in Leinster House. On behalf of all of us here and the Members who cannot be here today, I wish John all the very best in this new and what I am sure will be an exciting chapter of his life with his beloved wife, Mary, his daughters, Ciara and Laoise, and his son, Patrick. Could we give him a round of applause?

  Members applauded.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, John.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I wish to take this opportunity to wish John a very long, happy and healthy retirement.

I wish to raise with the Tánaiste the issue of the Debenhams workers, now out for six months. Yesterday KPMG wrote to Mandate. It said it was willing to offer a commitment to notify Mandate at least two hours in advance of the times when and the stores which the liquidators intend to enter for delivery of packing materials or removal of stock. KPMG broke that undertaking in the middle of the night in the Henry Street store. Mandate has responded to KPMG and is seeking that it will proactively re-engage. The workers in Debenhams have been given tea and sympathy and pats on the back. We all agree they have been treated disgracefully, but they are six months out, and now we find that KPMG has gone into the stores and broken an undertaking it gave to the workers. Will the Tánaiste join me in condemning the actions of KPMG? Will he pick up the phone to the trade union, the workers and KPMG and convene a meeting? That is what is needed at this stage. This will not be resolved until such stage as the parties meet, but there were developments overnight that require the Tánaiste's urgent attention.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould I agree with my colleague. It is vital now that the Tánaiste steps in to convene a meeting with KPMG and the workers and their unions to resolve this matter. It has been going on for six months. We need the Government to step in now because my worry is that this could escalate next week. We need it resolved now.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The shameful behaviour of KPMG in sending a notice to the union representatives of the Debenhams workers stating it would not try to remove stock this week and that it would give two hours' notice, and then in the dead of night sending people in to remove stock, is absolutely shameful but typical of the way in which KPMG has treated these workers. The Government has said it has sympathy for the workers. I remind the Tánaiste that the Taoiseach said he did not believe there should be strike-breaking in respect of Debenhams. The Tánaiste should therefore condemn what KPMG has done. He should call on anybody who has any respect for these workers not to cross the picket line and not to put them in the position of facing possible jailing. He should immediately convene a meeting with the shop stewards and other union representatives and KPMG, chaired by the Government, in order to prevent these workers from ending up in jail.

Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue People in Limerick have picketed Debenhams for their rights. The Government should stand up. I have asked it before, and I am asking it again, to stand up and protect the workers. They are not looking for a massive payout; they are just looking for what they are entitled to. KPMG is disgracing the Government. Our Government must stand up and send a clear message to KPMG. Our workers - the ones we are here to protect and the ones who have paid taxes for years in this country - are now turning to our Government to stand up for them. Many people in this House are standing up for them. Why can our Government not do so?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar On behalf of the Government, I congratulate John on his retirement and thank him for his wonderful service down the years. It has been great to have him looking after us and watching out for us ever since I have been a Teachta Dála. We wish him and his family the very best in his retirement and thank him so much.

The Debenhams issue is a matter before the courts. Of course I would condemn any breach of any court order or written assurance. I have not seen such a written assurance - I have to add that caveat - but if one has been broken, any right-thinking person would condemn the breach of a court order or a written assurance offered in good faith. There is regular engagement with the unions, with Mandate, as recently as Monday, I think. Ministers have met the union, and I have been in direct contact with Debenhams UK, which, as the House will be aware, was the parent company but which has largely walked away at this stage. As for any engagement between the Government and KPMG, it should be borne in mind that this is a liquidation process, a court-sponsored process, and there are limitations to the extent to which the Government can intervene in a court process.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I too wish John the very best on his retirement. I hope there will be a day when I will meet him once more at the Kilmacud sevens, when Portroe wins it once more.

  I wish to raise the issue of rapid testing.

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