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Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness] Last year when we entered the pandemic, people around the world and certainly people in Ireland began to accept that this was a game changer and something they would need to deal with. They accepted that there was going to be a lockdown, and that they needed to co-operate and get on with it. Businesses and schools were closed and the economy and society were at a standstill. All they asked from the Government was to provide leadership. They wanted the Government to give the message as to what they were expected to do, and they would follow that. They wanted to be told what the plan for the way out might be and they would follow that. However, in return for the efforts they have made, they have got shambles after shambles and confusion about the direction we are taking.

The small businesses that make up the backbone of our economy by employing people in local communities want direction and support. The Government is simply not giving them enough support. In another mixed message, the Government has given support to some SMEs and excluded people aged over 66 who have got no support, which is a disgrace because they have also made a contribution to the economy. They also have costs and concerns. They have plans and ambitions for their businesses which have now been dented and put off course altogether with little acknowledgement from the Government. There were mixed messages about schools being closed. Exporters are in difficulty because of the new Brexit rules and regulations on top of the pandemic. It is now extremely difficult to keep the people on course with us.

This legislation needs to be adopted by the House because we need some form of quarantine. However, it sends out a mixed message of a law being passed which cannot be enforced or implemented at the level people believe it should be. Last year when people were returning from Cheltenham and Italy, the public were demanding the Government take action to stop the return to Ireland of people who did not necessarily need to come back or people who were travelling and should not have been travelling. Earlier speakers referred to essential and non-essential travel. The legislation gives a mixed message and it will lead to confusion.

I will support the Bill, but in some way the Government needs to interpret the Bill and put its best foot forward in communicating the message in a way that is clearly understood and which the Cabinet can follow and will not be divided on. The discussion of what each party thinks of each other and the leaders of each of those parties should be set aside with a view to finding a common platform to move forward because it is damaging the messaging system. The public are asking for a clear message and no one can give it to them.

At a meeting last night, I asked the Minister about the vaccine. To exclude carers from the cohort of essential workers is simply wrong. I take that as an example. I am not lobbying to get somebody prioritised over somebody else. I am simply lobbying the Government to recognise that carers are essential workers and need to be vaccinated now. The care they are giving at home is an essential job. It is unsatisfactory and downright wrong that they would not be recognised and would not be getting the vaccine.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I hate to interrupt the Deputy. The issue of carers is very important, but it is not part of the amendment.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness I am trying to explain that it is part of the mixed messaging-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly It may well be.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness -----that this legislation and these amendments will lead to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I know.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Nobody else was interrupted when speaking.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I apologise, but I am conscious of time.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness I am talking about the mixed messaging that is going on. In dealing with this legislation I am asking that lessons be learned from that mixed messaging and that some corrections be made because the people are extremely angry with what is going on. They want to see a plan for the reopening of society and the economy. They want to know what their part in it is. They want to know what quarantining is all about and what it means for them. Some people have specific questions about their personal circumstances that they would like answered in the context of the legislation. I hope we will be able to find those answers and that they will be perfectly understood so that we can give some information to the general public.

This is an opportunity to look at the overall narrative that has been set out by the Government in respect of everything to do with quarantining, Covid and so on. The Government needs to take one step back and begin to provide the plans that are necessary to ensure that all of this can be implemented, that the course ahead of us is known and that we are getting buy-in from the general public. Right now, we do not have that buy-in or the leadership required, and too much mixed messaging is going on.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I apologise. My intervention was just on the carers' issue. That was all.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 39 to 42, inclusive. I am conscious that time is marching on and I am anxious to find out whether this group of amendments will be accepted. I had much to say, but I will skip it. I ask the Minister to say if he is accepting amendment No. 1 and then we can move on from there. I take it he will not accept it.

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly There are many questions. I was going to respond to everything. Is that-----

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I am asking if the Minister is accepting the amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister is entitled to respond in due course. He is being asked if he accepts the amendment. He can reply to that or not as he sees fit.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I think we will just wait until we get to that.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle In that case I would like to call a vote on amendment No. 1, because we need to put it on the record.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Amendment No. 1 is in the name of the Labour Party. I take it that it is being pressed.

Deputy Duncan Smith: Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith It is.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister has heard that the amendment is being pressed.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I wish to check if I am in order. My intention now is to respond to the Deputies on the group we are discussing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister is perfectly entitled to respond to that. He should bear in mind that he has been asked a specific question on the amendment. That is all. He is perfectly within his rights to respond to the issues on those amendments.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

  I thank the Deputies for what has been a very useful debate on the first group of amendments. I have taken many notes. I also recognise that other than one or two contributions, everybody who has participated in this debate on the Government and Opposition sides is trying to do the best thing for the country.


Last Updated: 26/03/2021 11:51:26 First Page Previous Page Page of 74 Next Page Last Page