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Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] They want us to come in here as cannon fodder and vote for this Bill. I have major issues with voting for this legislation because it is inadequate, inept and ten months too late. Is it workable? The Minister for Health tells us all that gardaí are doing checks on homes and everything else. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Ryan, was challenged again today about that. Gardaí are frustrated too. They are getting reams of documentation at the levels of inspector, superintendent and sergeant in charge. I salute the gardaí on the ground who are trying to do their jobs. They are frustrated. They have families too. They have not been given the vaccine and they are far down the list. They have to deal with all kinds of situations in any 12-hour stint.

There is utter confusion. I can only hope and believe that the vaccine will do what it is meant to do and people will not get Covid-19 but that is not the assurance I got from Tony Holohan or the Taoiseach. I am simply saying this outfit, the HSE, is not fit for purpose. Two former Taoisigh, Mr. Ahern and Mr. Cowen, told me in the House privately that they were going to disband the HSE. We all know it is not fit for purpose. We see the problems in my constituency and in Limerick, one of the worse places for beds and trolleys, this week. We see the problems with the mental health services. I had a woman on to me recently about a man looking for a private mental health therapy consultation. He had to wait 12 months when he went private. Someone said an epidemic was going to start, but it is here and we are in the middle of it. People are locked away and cannot grieve or support each other. They cannot visit houses and cannot go anywhere.

We see this tomfoolery at the airports - that is what I call it. People can waltz in, waltz out and boast about it. They might fill in a form sometimes and then they might get a call or they might not. We were told the whole tracing system crashed after Christmas because of the pressure. There is no intent to seal people coming from abroad, but there must be. There are huge pitfalls within the legislation and I believe it could be open to legal challenge.

The Minister has not given us any timeline. I know we are debating the matter today and it is being guillotined. That is a shame because it means many of the amendments that our group and other groups put down will not be reached. There is no timelime for implementation, which is something I would like to see. I know it is in the Seanad on Monday but when will it be signed into law? When will we make the preparations to enact it? We have no date. It will simply be sent up to the park to be signed like other legislation that has been passed but not implemented. How will we know what its various aspects are? Have the hotels been procured? Do they have security staff? Nothing like that is detailed. It is being done on a wing and a prayer. It is a wish list and merely a hope that people will be good. They have been very good but good only carries us so far and they are fatigued now, as are the nursing staff. It is striking to think that we gave student nurses a round of applause in the Chamber rather than pay them a meagre amount.

I have a question relating to the vaccination. Why is it so much more expensive to have it carried out here than across the water? If I am right, the fee for two vaccinations in Britain is £14 but it is €60 here for one. That is what I am told. Why is this? Is this rip-off Ireland? Why is it so expensive? Why can we not run the vaccines out in community halls using retired nurses and other professionals who signed up in their thousands for Ireland's call? Only 300 or so were engaged. They are available and we have them. Is it the preserve of certain people?

I have no faith in the vaccination figures the Taoiseach gave the other night for June. There is not a hope we will achieve those at the rate we are going, even if we had the vaccines. We cannot find a doctor's surgery in Cahir or in Dublin 10, as Deputy Smith said. There is no explanation. If I ring up, there is no one to give me an answer to when the vaccines will be available, where they are and whether they will come next. It is dysfunctional in the extreme. It is pathetic. I have serious issues about it. I am not in favour of this half-baked legislation.

We did the same here some time ago on the forestry Bill. I want to equate the two issues. I voted against that Bill because I said it was useless and it has proved to be useless. Many of my colleagues voted for it saying half a Bill was better than none. This is not even half a Bill. It is not co-ordinated, thought out or proper. Why is the Minister for Health dealing with it? I was told that he answered on "Claire Byrne Live" that he has it because he was given it. He is one of the good boys in the class. He will take his punishment and do his lessons. He was given it. Why is the Minister for Justice not dealing with these issues? The Minister for Justice could be asked about the Garda and whether gardaí had been briefed, schooled, educated and trained on this. They have enough to do without looking after quarantine in hotels and everything else. There are few of them there. I have major issues with the Bill.

I will not go on for much longer. I could go into all the different people who have been affected. Why can we have an election in a day? Everyone in the country can vote on a long day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. In most places in the country, we can have two officials per booth and the votes can be counted within a couple of days. That is for 4 million people, although maybe only half of them vote. Anyway, we can do it in one day. It will be five years to roll out a vaccine by the looks of things. Surely we have the template. I compliment a certain businessman in Tipperary, William O'Halloran, who came to me with that idea yesterday morning. He asked how we can have an election in a day. We can do that with all our organisation and co-ordination. The process has stood the test of time well, aside from the fiasco with the voting machines. Yet, we are going to go on forever.

The people are sick, sore and tired of George Lee and Fergal Bowers. They should have their own channels. I said to the former Deputy, Mr. Lee, that he had found his vocation. It is to strike fear into every elderly person in the country. We should remember these people are at home and cannot leave. Many only have one channel. We need some light entertainment but the people who want to provide that are not allowed.

People cannot go to worship. This was one of the only countries in the world where, during level 3, people could not go to public worship. However, we see some religious people flooding into buildings and flooding out and there is no monitoring of it. The same applies with certain funerals. There were probably 500 people at a funeral yesterday in east Limerick. It is shocking. There were no masks or anything else.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is wandering a little from the subject matter.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes, I am sorry but this is factual.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy He is dog-whistling as well.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am not dog-whistling. I am telling the truth that people are relaying to me. They are highly frustrated that they cannot go to services of any denomination and they see that other people can do what they like. That is the basic nutshell of it. The Government has not dealt with that and will not deal with it. This legislation cannot deal with it either because it is not foolproof or thought-through. Amendments will not be accepted because we will not get to them. Would they be accepted anyway? Some have been ruled out of order, as other have said.

I am not dog-whistling. I am relating the facts as they are. The people of Ireland have suffered enough, from the cradle to the grave. They are unable to have company when they are in maternity wards giving birth. They are unable to grieve at a funeral, whether it is a normal death or a Covid death. It is shocking that only ten people can go into a church even in the case of big families. It is shocking. People were well able to put their shoulder to the wheel, as they did last spring. They fought gallantly but they are fatigued and mixed messages are coming from Ministers.

The Minister is present. I remember the Iraq war. Comical Ali came on every night telling us that Saddam was winning the war, even though the bombs were falling around him. The Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, did the same on "Claire Byrne Live". He is like Comical Ali - he is Comical Donnelly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Does Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett have any views on this cluster of amendments? I am sure he has.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I have amendments in the group. We actually went to the trouble of putting in amendments. There are more than 20 of them. My thanks to the staff in the offices of People Before Profit and Rise who, at short notice, had to submit over 20 amendments. There are connected amendments across this grouping and other groupings.

The purpose of the amendments is to try to turn a Bill that is, in the form put forward by the Government, actually a public relations exercise on mandatory quarantine. It is not actually a serious attempt to establish mandatory quarantine for people travelling into the country. It is an attempt by the Government, which is under pressure from public anger over its failure to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the dire surge we saw in recent months, to make it look as if it is doing something, while continuing with the same failed disastrous policy that has led to so many needless deaths. It has also led to our health services being overrun in the first couple of months. This is putting extraordinary pressure and stress on our healthcare workers. It has led to tragedy and bereavement for many families and many people getting sick as well. The Government had to respond to that, as did some of those in the Opposition who said not a word about the Government's failed strategy when it was pursuing the policy in December. They have since become very wise after the event and are berating the Government for failing to address this issue since last May when NPHET put the advice forward.


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