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

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 2
Unrevised

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The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar If I remember correctly, the programme for Government commits to recognising the state of Palestine as part of a two-state solution. We want to see a two-state solution, ensuring the security and longevity of the state of Israel and also allowing a state of Palestine to be established, with a control over the West Bank and Gaza as well. That has not yet happened but it is a matter in which the Minister for Foreign Affairs has an enormous interest and we will be using our position on the UN Security Council this year and next year to try to advance a peace settlement in that region.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I want to ask the Tánaiste about the commitments in regard to agriculture and rural communities. Following on from the announcement of the Kerry Group in regard to job losses in Charleville and Naas, particularly the outsourcing to third countries, has the Tánaiste as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, or his Department, been in contact with the Kerry Group in regard to those job losses? The concern locally is that this is only the thin edge of the wedge. Can the Tánaiste provide an assurance that his Department will liaise with the Kerry Group to ensure there is not large-scale job losses or outsourcing of employment within the Charleville factory?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I have not been in direct contact recently with the Kerry Group, but my Department has and the information we have is that this is a consolidation exercise between Naas and Charleville and that redundancies will be voluntary rather than compulsory. I am alarmed to hear the Deputy's suggestion that, perhaps, job losses of a larger scale may be mooted. I will ask my officials to check with the company and I will come back to the Deputy with more information when I can.

Deputy Paul Donnelly: Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly I wish to raise an issue that I was aware of in my previous role but heard about again on the "Today with Claire Byrne" programme. Sarah was viciously attacked in her own home and suffered physical and emotional trauma. As part of her healing she attended counselling and, as happens in these sessions, she spoke her deepest thoughts and feelings in regard to what was going on for her. She was then forced to hand over the notes from her counselling sessions in regard to the trial of the person who attacked her. To rub salt into the wounds, she had to pay for those sessions while those who perpetrate such attacks can access counselling free of charge. Will the Tánaiste give a commitment that this issue will be addressed in any changes to legislation proposed in the programme for Government. It is deeply concerning that people are forced to hand over their counselling notes to a defence.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am sorry to hear about Sarah's experience. I caught a tiny bit of the interview on the radio this morning, but I did not hear it in its entirety. I will listen back to it in order that I can understand it a bit better. I do not know the details but I do know that conversations between therapists and, for example, doctors and clients are privileged and confidential. Maybe that is not always the case with counselling services. The Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, is signalling to me that she would like to come in.

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee On that issue, following on from the publication of the O'Malley report last year we have published an implementation plan, part of which is supporting a victim's journey. The key focus is to make sure that we support victims through what is an extremely difficult and traumatic experience, as outlined by the Deputy. There are a number of recommendations and actions, one of which is engagement with An Garda Síochána and the HSE to look at the process around counselling records and to make sure it is done in the most appropriate, efficient and effective way, as well as in a way that supports the victim more. This is very much part of the plan and it is something of which I am very conscious.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Covid crisis has demonstrated the need and opportunity for radical reform in education, further education and higher education. I ask the Tánaiste to make a world-class apprenticeship platform a key part of the recovery plan post Covid. We need to stop blaming parents as hampering the development of apprenticeships. As Gaeilge, cá bhfuil an fhís chomhpháirteach le haghaidh an phrintísigh? Where is the collective will to provide equal esteem for apprenticeships? We do not have a system where the senior cycle allows people to develop a portfolio leading to apprenticeship, we have no Central Applications Office, CAO, in respect of apprenticeships, no quota from the public service for apprentices and no collective agreements incorporating apprenticeships. We need to inject urgency into the glacial reform of the leaving certificate and to put lead into the pencil of the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science., Deputy Harris, and the Minister of State, Deputy Niall Collins, because without that, we will not deliver this programme.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I know this is an issue that the Minister, Deputy Harris, and Minister of State, Deputy Niall Collins, are very interested in and committed to. We are in the process of a major overhaul of the apprenticeship system, creating more apprenticeships, different types of apprenticeships and also, from my side, helping to encourage employers to take on more apprentices. We want to increase the number of apprenticeships to 10,000 every year, which would be significant. We need apprentices because the areas in which they are trained, particularly construction, crafts and so on, are essential. We need more younger people taking up careers in those areas and we are going to push for that in the next few years.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh I want to raise with the Tánaiste the reconfiguration of services in the children's disability network. I have met a number of parents from Tramore and the outskirts of Waterford city who have been recently informed that their children's services, for example, occupational and speech and language therapies, have been moved from Waterford city to Dungarvan. The Tánaiste knows the geography of County Waterford better than most people here. It is quite a distance to travel from Tramore to Dungarvan. These people are more used to accessing their services in Waterford city. Many of the children are attending special schools in Waterford city. In the current situation, if they have to attend services during school time, they will have to picked up in Waterford city and ferried to Dungarvan and back again, which means they will miss three-hours plus of their normal school day. There may be parents who are reliant on public transport. The Tánaiste will know that public transport from Tramore into the city is fine. Will the Tánaiste work with the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities, Deputy Rabbitte, to reach a common sense solution for these reconfigurations?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank Deputy Ó Cathasaigh for raising this important issue. I am not familiar with all of the details but I can understand how that could be a significant problem. Getting from Waterford city to Dungarvan is not easy if one does not have a car and it takes a lot of time in any event. I will raise the issue with the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and let her know that the Deputy raised it here in the Chamber and I will ask her to engage with him directly on it. I am sure she will want to do that.

Deputy Réada Cronin: Information on Réada Cronin Zoom on Réada Cronin I want to raise with the Tánaiste the case of a constituent in Kildare North, who is a young healthcare worker in the HSE and one of the heroes on the front line. She recently discovered a lump and visited her doctor, who told her to have it investigated immediately. When she asked her employer, the HSE, for time off to do so, she was refused. How can it be that somebody who is working on the front line, giving her all in this battle against Covid, cannot be treated in a time of acute need? NPHET is advising people not to delay seeking health services, yet the HSE is treating its employees in this way. What is the plan to address this shameful, shocking treatment?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. One of the real improvements in healthcare in Ireland in recent years has been rapid access diagnostics for cancer, particularly when it comes to breast cancer. I do not know the details of the case the Deputy raised but I would expect any employer, particularly a public sector employer, to give someone the necessary time off to attend a cancer investigation appointment. If the Deputy wants to send me the details or to send them to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, we will look into the case and see what we can do.

Deputy Claire Kerrane: Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane I want to ask the Tánaiste about time lost on the community employment, CE, Tús and the back to work enterprise allowance schemes. Many participants have lost time in regard to normal training opportunities and work experience that would be a big part of those schemes because of Covid. While I appreciate announcements have been made by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, in regard to community employment in particular, as current participants have lost time and have not had all the benefits of these schemes due to Covid, will an extension be considered for them?


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