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General Practitioner Contract: Statements (Continued)

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1000 No. 1

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Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. First, I do not. Second, the premise of the Deputy's question seems to suggest that in some way I sought the head of Deputy Cowen or Deputy Calleary but I absolutely did not. The case of Deputy Cowen was handled by the leader of Fianna Fáil in the way he thought best. I found out the former Minister, Deputy Calleary, had resigned one morning when I woke up in bed at 8 a.m. The suggestion I had any role in seeking their resignations is just not correct, if it is going around. That is absolutely untrue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Tánaiste suggests he has different rating of friends, that some are distant friends, some are absent friends and some are friends for the time being. I have a picture on my phone of the Tánaiste and Dr. Ó Tuathail involved in a certain march in Dublin in 2019 - very close context and very good friends. Dr. Ó Tuathail used the Tánaiste as a puppet and the Tánaiste did not even know he was being used as a puppet. The amount of money involved makes one think about the children's hospital, and the Tánaiste's Government signed off on that site. We might also think about broadband contracts and how Deputy Naughten was forced to resign. I am very concerned. Will the Tánaiste reply about the way he was used by Dr. Ó Tuathail if the Tánaiste is saying he is not his friend?

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Village magazine produced a photograph of us at a Pride march, although I am not sure which one it was. We all know the innuendo here. We all know what it is.

Deputy Martin Heydon: Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon It is shameful.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Tánaiste is denying he is a friend.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We all know it is a big part of what is in the article and what is online. I know what is being said and it is not true. This is somebody who is not a close friend but is a friend. He is in my wider social circle. I would say we have met twice in the past year - once at a Christmas drinks thing over a year ago and once when six people went out to dinner, and he and I were part of that six.

We would be in touch on other things. He is very involved with Covid-19 issues but we do not have the same mind on Covid, by the way. He supports the zero Covid strategy but I am sceptical about it. We would talk about that. He is involved with Safetynet, which is an organisation that provides GP services for the homeless, Roma and Travellers. I have gone out with them on that. That is it. It really is - anyway.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am not dealing with innuendo. The photograph was there. The Tánaiste has said Dr. Ó Tuathail was not his friend. Does the Tánaiste accept he is having a Nixon moment? Former US President Nixon said that when a president does something, it is not illegal. When the Taoiseach did this, it seems it was not illegal. What example does this give to the rest of the Government, as Deputy Tóibín has said, and to the country in general? It is not illegal if the Taoiseach can get away with it.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is not what I am saying at all. I am saying it is not illegal, full stop.

Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue I always compliment anybody who can stand up to say sorry if he or she has done something wrong. The Tánaiste has done that. He also indicated in his statement that he had unfinished business in health. He also complimented the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and the former Minister for Health, Deputy Harris.

I ask the Tánaiste to bear with me for a moment. On 15 October, I asked him about a Supreme Court judgment concerning assessments of disability. He told me that he did not know the question was coming up and that he would come back to me with a full report. I waited for the report but I got a reply from the HSE indicating that my parliamentary question had gone from the Department of Health to the HSE. The HSE replied to me on 23 October. There has been talk of Ministers and friends but I must not be the Tánaiste's friend because he did not reply to me yet. The HSE replied and told me that after the Supreme Court judgment, the Minister for Finance met the Minister for Health at the time, who told him to discontinue the assessments. The GPs were never told. If the GPs were the Tánaiste's friends, they would have heard it from him but they did not. I have not yet had a reply from him either.

We are going in circles and such a process, with no responsibility for actions, predates this Government. The responsibility lies with Ministers. If I did what the Tánaiste has done, I would be responsible and be held accountable. The Tánaiste should be held accountable for this.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I remember the Deputy raising a question about the primary medical cert and the Supreme Court judgment on that. I endeavoured to look into that and I have done so. I received a written briefing and I was not particularly satisfied by the answer I received. I wanted to know what was being done to solve the problem and that is why I have not yet reverted to the Deputy. The problem needs to be solved. I can give the Deputy an interim reply but it is not what he wants. This is a problem that must be solved.

Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue I do not accept that answer. People have been told they are still on a list but a direction was given by the then Minister for Health to discontinue the scheme. I do not accept the answer. I accept that the Tánaiste has said sorry and I do not believe for a minute that the actions we are discussing were done intentionally. However, €210 million would have solved many problems in this country. Somebody has benefited but the most vulnerable in the country should have been the first to benefit. That is my unfinished business.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae The people of Ireland are watching this debacle tonight and it is a very serious matter. It is clear to all of us that the Fianna Fáil leader, the Taoiseach of the country and the Fianna Fáil Deputies will bail out the Tánaiste. He will be saved by Fianna Fáil tonight. Deputies Cowen and Calleary and the former Commissioner, Phil Hogan, were not saved. The people of Ireland are wondering how there are different standards for different people.

Many people would like to know who leaked the story and whether it was the Tánaiste or Dr. Ó Tuathail. There is no difference now between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They have been together for the past five years. They brought in abortion together. They brought in the Bill championed by Shane Ross. They closed down Bord na Móna together. They are both trying to shoot down Shannon LNG. They brought in the carbon tax together.

The GP service in many parts of rural Ireland, including rural Kerry, has a serious problem. When a doctor retires, it is a serious effort to get a replacement. Tonight, people cannot visit their GPs and the GPs cannot visit the people who are sick. I am sad about that and I only wish we could do something positive about it tonight.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael now have no separate identity and are joined at the hip. They have been in bed together for five years and neither will get out of that bed. The question is when will they tie the knot because they cannot fool the people for much longer. They do not have separate identities and they are the same party now in every sense of the word. It is only a matter of a short space of time before they are one party because they cannot fool the people of this country for much longer. They are backing each other up day in and day out and they do not have a different notion about anything. It is clear it will only be a short space of time before the two parties are one. The question is what they will name themselves. Will it be Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or a conglomeration? What kind of baptism will there be? Their identities are gone.

It is sad that there are different standards for different people. Deputies Cowen and Calleary, as well as the former Commissioner, Phil Hogan, got no chance but the Tánaiste will be saved tonight by Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach of this country.

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