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

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue] They were relying on peat for bedding and now, because of the legislation the Government is trying to introduce to require farmers to put the straw back into the ground, additional pressure will be put on them. The last two speakers are 100% correct. This all goes back to the fact that the Government does not have a clue what it is doing.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan We need a just transition for the midlands in particular and for all of those workers in Bord na Móna and related industries.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan It is not just.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan No-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will hear the Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan The Minister needs to wake up to reality.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister without interruption.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan He needs to wake up to reality.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister without interruption.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan That is why we supported some 39 projects on which the Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey, had worked with local communities. There was concern that some of these projects might not be able to qualify for funding approved by European institutions but, from what I hear, that will not be a problem for the vast majority. We will spend and invest that money and we will support Bord na Móna in its switch from brown to green. It rightly recognises that the skills it has in managing bogs can be used in this low-carbon future and that we can create employment, energy and industry on the back of that.

Peat extraction is a very significant environmental issue but it is not an issue of export. The vast majority of our peat was always exported. Most of the peat extracted for horticultural use was used by Dutch and UK growers. We have to make sure that the mushroom and horticultural industries here survive and thrive and I believe they will. We will have to look at a variety of different solutions, including the use of imported products, and look for new substitutes but the real opportunity in the midlands-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan -----is in the switch to green-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan -----which is where the employment, investment and finance will be.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call on Deputy McNamara.

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy Does the Minister hear himself? We are importing peat.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Excuse me, Deputies.

Deputy Michael McNamara: Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara To register with the Teaching Council, teachers are required to do an immersive Gaeltacht course. That costs €1,500 and includes bed and board. That is not possible this year so they are doing an online course instead, for which they are being charged €1,300. Students on State courses will have that reimbursed but those in the private sector will not. Does the Minister accept that the charge of €1,300 for an online course is exorbitant when it is only €1,500 for a course which includes bed and board? Will he look into having this remedied?

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I do accept that and I can understand the Deputy's frustration and why he wanted to ask the question. It is a fair question but I do not have the answer to it immediately. It seems unfair and I will ask the relevant Department to come back to the Deputy on it directly.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane There are reports from many GP surgeries across the State that they have not received the vaccines they were due to receive in recent days. Today in Ballyfermot, a 91-year-old woman was in a GP surgery waiting for her vaccine but had to be told to go home. That is happening far too often. Numerous other such cases were raised with the Minister today. Can he find out what is happening and can this be stopped? If it is communicated to GPs that they will receive vaccines on a given day and if older people are lining up to get them, it is deeply unfair for them to be sent home. I ask the Government to get its act together on this issue and to get the communication right. If vaccines are promised, they should be delivered.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins On the same issue, but in my constituency of Cork South-West, the roll-out of the vaccine has been very confusing to say the least. In some situations, even up to a week ago, doctors in west Cork did not even have vaccines for themselves, never mind their patients. Perhaps that has been corrected but home helps in west Cork, who are at the front line, have not yet received the vaccine. It is unbelievable to see the roll-out moving on through the categories while some in the first categories have not yet been looked after. I would appreciate it if the Minister could explain why this is happening so that I can explain it to my constituents.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín I have been contacted by student nurses who are to go on placement in a number of months who have not been given their first vaccine. They have been called back a second time to be given their first vaccine. They feel embarrassed because people who are over 85, some of whom have contacted me, still do not have a date for their first vaccination. There are vaccines in Tuam but there are no needles. There is confusion in this regard. We will not be able to roll this out within the steady timeframe required if this confusion continues.

Deputy Pat Buckley: Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley On the same issue, we have the same situation in Cobh. More than 60 appointments for people over 85 years to get their vaccinations were made for last weekend and two surgeries in the town did not got their vaccines. It is very confusing and disheartening for the patients. They are elderly and very nervous. There must be clarity in this regard because it is starting to cause hysteria, especially in my constituency of Cork East. Something similar is also happening in Youghal. It must be looked at.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Will Deputies Cullinane, Michael Collins and Buckley provide me with specific details? We cannot have a 91-year-old woman in that situation. I do not know the circumstances. If the Deputies will provide details, I will forward them to the HSE to try to find out what happened.

In response to Deputy Tóibín, we are in the second week of a three-week roll-out. In those circumstances, I trust and expect that if someone has not heard about their vaccination yet, they will hear about it in the coming days. If they do not, they should follow up and make sure to get it. While there will undoubtedly be cases of difficulties or shortages - one GP in Belmullet was short and received vaccines from a neighbouring parish where there was an excess - my sense of what is happening around the country is that, as soon as vaccines come in, they go out. We did 78,000 or 79,000 last week when the target was 80,000. We are aiming for 100,000 this week. It is working. There may be cases in which it is not working and we have to find and address these. The public should, however, have confidence that the system is working.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I commend the Government on making good progress on the vaccines. Some 45% getting a first dose by the end of April, 60% by the end of May and 80% by the end of June is very satisfactory. My question is on those under the age of 16, for whom no vaccine is approved. Yesterday, we saw the death from Covid of a person aged 16. I know there is no approved vaccine for this cohort but has the Government developed a strategy to keep those people safe? Should we consider vaccinating their own carers? When will the pharmacists be involved in the systematic roll-out?

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan There has been a change with regard to the age rule. Until recently, the rule applied to those under 18. That change followed medical advice. I understand that the vaccine was not tested in those younger age cohorts and that is one of the reasons the vaccine is not to be rolled out to them. Their carers will all get vaccinated when their category within the order of 15 is reached. We want to get everyone, the entire population aged over 16, vaccinated. Anyone caring for those under 16 will be included. As I said to Deputy Kelly and others earlier, I expect the HSE to be able to publish the exact timetable for the roll-out, including with regard to the involvement of pharmacists, shortly.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke I raise the issue of private school bus transport. Schools will be back, to some degree, on Monday and we also expect private school bus transport to return. I refer to non-Bus Éireann transport. These providers will fall very far short of the break-even point. Those working in some similar services are allowed to stay on the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. I ask that the Minister consider allowing private school bus operators to stay on the PUP until such time as schools are back at full capacity.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Deputy makes a fair point. I will talk to the Minister for Education, who has responsibility for the budget for and operation of the school bus service. Under the current level 5 restrictions, capacity on buses is limited. Even at lower levels, capacity is still restricted to 50%. We have provided for that but I will check and report back to the Deputy.

Deputy Chris Andrews: Information on Chris Andrews Zoom on Chris Andrews Considering the great impact this winter lockdown has on the mental health of so many groups and people right across the State and given that one is more likely to meet people in Herbert Park than on a golf course or athletics track, surely one size does not fit all when it comes to sport.


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