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Martin, Micheál

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. Nbr.

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Unity of purpose on all fronts is essential in dealing with a pandemic of this scale and severity, including within this House. The Deputy has consistently sought in recent times to undermine not ...More Button

The Deputy has now misrepresented the telephone conversation she had with me yesterday when she said I could not give her assurances. That is not true and she has no right to misrepresent a phon...More Button

I take seriously the advice from NPHET about the exponential growth of case numbers. The situation out there is serious in terms of the growth of cases. That is why we have moved to level 3 in ...More Button

Given that the advice we received on Thursday was to basically stay at level 2 outside of counties Dublin and Donegal, to then move on Sunday to level 5 would have been an enormous shock to peopl...More Button

What must also be acknowledged, and I believe the CMO does, is simply that the impact of moving to level 5 would have been severe on the lives of many people. I spoke to him before the Cabinet d...More Button

The Deputy said the country was not ready because of cuts to services. That is not the case. It is the enormity of what a lockdown does. We are already looking at a budget next week when we wi...More Button

Already pandemic unemployment payments have cost about €3.6 billion which is fine. It is vital and just. It will move to €5.2 billion. Yesterday we decided at this stage not to move to level 5, ...More Button

First, Fianna Fáil was not in power for the last decade. The Deputy consistently says that even when we were at 20 seats. She equates 20 seats with being in power. That is just an aside. It is ...More Button

On intensive care unit, ICU, beds, there has been a 25% increase since March. There were 225 ICU beds in March; we now have 282 fully staffed beds, which is an extra 57 with a further 17 in the ...More Button

-----to deal with this. I do not know why the Deputy does not believe the leadership team in the HSE. She takes umbrage at other situations, but she seems to disagree consistently with the leader...More Button

On testing, the supply at the moment is more than capable of meeting the demand. It is one of the few countries still in a position to meet demand and is exceeding demand right now. That includ...More Button

An additional 810 general beds have been put into the system. By the time the winter plan, costing about €600 million, is implemented there will be a further 1,400 beds in total if the 800 beds ...More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue given the concerns locally. Protecting those living in direct provision accommodation centres from any Covid-19 outbreak has been an absolute pr...More Button

As the Deputy knows, there are two international protection accommodation services facilities in Dundalk, Carroll Village and the Carnbeg re-accommodation facility. Carroll Village independent l...More Button

The Carnbeg Hotel, which opened earlier this year, is used as emergency, temporary accommodation for people who willingly left their accommodation centre at the start of the pandemic and are now ...More Button

To be clear, the Departments of Justice and Equality and Education have confirmed the Carnbeg Hotel was not affected by the retaking of tests in recent days. This facility is used for 14-day quara...More Button

How are they getting from Carnbeg Hotel?More Button

I thank the Deputy for his very positive comments on the facilities in Ardee. Carroll Village is a block of apartment-style independent living units housing mostly family groups. There has been n...More Button

It is also very important to point out that in the national serial testing programme, we are looking at a 0.53% detection rate, which is quite low. There have been 18 positives out of 3,300 test...More Button

With regard to the Carnbeg Hotel, which is emergency temporary accommodation, people come to it using a variety of transport modes. I do not have the specifics on this but I can check.More Button

I thank the Deputy for his remarks. I also thank him for the seat on the bus for any constituent of mine. My emphasis, however, is to avoid people having to go on long journeys to get cataract op...More Button

The cost of all of what the Deputy has been at - I have no difficulty with it. It has been a gamechanger too for the Deputy electorally in terms of number of people on buses-----More Button

Come on. The lads need to relax a bit.More Button

I was reliably informed that Deputy Michael Healy-Rae approached people outside a mass saying he could get them on the bus if they wanted a cataract operation.More Button

The woman concerned-----More Button

Relax.More Button

I am not telling you to sit down-----More Button

That is the truth.More Button

Calm down.More Button

The cross-border health directive is an EU directive. I explained that to the Deputy the last day. Britain is leaving the European Union. Deputy Michael Collins knows that. I have told him. Wh...More Button

On top of that, as part of the common travel area, we have had a long-standing relationship with British health care services.More Button

They have had the same with us in terms of their citizens availing of Irish healthcare services when they are living here and vice versa. As part of preparations for Brexit, we are devising...More Button

I apologise to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae if there was any offence. I meant it in good faith.More Button

It was said to me, by the way, by a clinician. The Deputy may not have realised who was who but that is fine. That is evidence of the degree of energy he applies to the scheme, making sure to inf...More Button

Absolutely.More Button

In any event, the most effective way of dealing with this is to build capacity locally and in the region in order that we do not spend excessive amounts on people having to travel outside of the ju...More Button

Does the Deputy understand that Brexit is happening?More Button

It is happening on 1 January. Does he understand that EU directives will not apply to Britain from then on? Does he understand that? What does that mean?More Button

Through the Chair-----More Button

-----it means that as the European Union directive will no longer apply to Britain, we have to do a separate agreement with Britain in relation to that.More Button

The Deputy has not paid for any one of these cataract operations. The taxpayer pays for them. Let us all be clear about that. Anybody in this country is entitled to utilise the directive in an...More Button

The State is ensuring that people do not go blind through------More Button

The NTPF paid €10 million for ophthalmology procedures in 2018. The Government and the State are not resiling from underpinning this financially. The NTPF is paying about €1,450 per cataract oper...More Button

The Deputy is correct to say that we received advice on Thursday and Sunday. A lot has been done in public service and about capacity in acute services since the first lockdown in March. What is ...More Button

There will also be substantial increases in the numbers of general hospital beds. Including the measures in the winter initiative, an additional 1,400 beds will have been created in our general ...More Button

Moving to level 3 has very significant implications and impacts for the hospitality, tourism, arts and culture sectors in the counties that up to now were not at level 3 - those outside Dublin and ...More Button

Those in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment will be in a better position, relatively speaking. Obviously losing a job puts people in a very difficult position. We did not want to increa...More Button

Prior to the pandemic, there were roughly 213,000 people in receipt of jobseeker's allowance of €203 per week. Many people employed before the pandemic never got the pandemic unemployment paymen...More Button

It will not be possible to raise everybody's payment to €350 per week. There are limits to what the Oireachtas and the State will be in a position to do.More Button

That is why we have to try to manage the situation in the most fair and sustainable way we possibly can. The implications of the pandemic for people will now go beyond April 2021. Therefore, we a...More Button

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business (Continued)

I have not been excluding anybody. I rang Deputy Shortall's co-leader, Deputy Catherine Murphy, last evening. I have been in regular contact with leaders-----More Button

I did ring.More Button

I did not interrupt.More Button

There was a cross-party briefing.More Button

Am I not going to be allowed speak now? With the greatest respect-----More Button

-----I want to get a few points across. Deputy Shortall says there is no justification for eight counties going to level 3. NPHET wanted every county to go to level 5. There is no mystery about ...More Button

She should not be disingenuous in the House about that. I said to her co-leader last night that there would be a leaders' briefing this week. I said that last week. She knows that but it does no...More Button

I also want to make the point that people know, in terms of physical matters, about getting things done in one full day between meeting with NPHET yesterday, and we had a very good, long meeting wi...More Button

I have to put on the record this business of excluding Opposition parties. In terms of Laois, Offaly and Kildare, every single Oireachtas Member and councillor was briefed that evening. In term...More Button

I am saying that each time we extended to level 3 we briefed people because we knew TDs, Senators, councillors on the ground and the mayors of each council would be under pressure.More Button

I have no difficulty at all with having a debate in the House on this but I put it to the House that everybody wants to cram everything into Tuesday and Wednesday. I believe Oral Questions tonight...More Button

No. It is not.More Button

Why? Is it because everybody is here on Tuesday and Wednesday? If we want a serious debate, and let us have a serious debate, we should have it on Friday morning and I will take part in it. What...More Button

This issue merits debate. I accept that last Thursday people were not aware, neither was I by the way, that NPHET would be meeting on Sunday and proposing to go to level 5. I have made a sugges...More Button

My understanding is that the Minister with responsibility for further and higher education, research, innovation and science will be before the education committee on Thursday morning. That should...More Button

The Minister will be in front of Deputy Mac Lochlainn's spokesperson on Thursday morning at a meeting of the education committee.More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising that issue. About 200,000 tests have been undertaken in nursing homes for healthcare workers across 565 homes since early July. One would get the impression from ce...More Button

With regard to schools, mass testing of 250 schools, including crèches and primary and secondary schools, based on public health advice-----More Button

It is important for me to conclude, if I may. Roughly 5,890 teachers and students have been tested, with 112 positives over and above the index case, which gives 0.19% positivity. I could go on b...More Button

I will make three points. First, there needs to be a sale to enable a purchase. That is a procurement issue and there is a negotiation issue if such a situation were to materialise. Second, ther...More Button

All of us have to make sure we are fully informed in terms of the dynamic of this virus and how it affects particular settings. A total of 27,000 tests have been undertaken as part of the serial t...More Button

On the introduction of specific legislation for specific sectors, the Health and Safety Authority has powers in regard to workplaces and around making sure that companies adhere to the health and s...More Button

I will not give a commitment to introduce legislation of that kind. Obviously, such legislation can be put forward.More Button

The plants are not, as of now-----More Button

The Government is implementing the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission. The Deputy knows that since its establishment the Low Pay Commission has been consistently recommending increases to t...More Button

A clear recommendation was made. More Button

The Government's view is that it is better to be consistent in implementing recommendations as they fall due. Obviously, there are wider issues in terms of employment rights as well.More Button

I agree that we want therapists on the front line dealing with children and people generally who require interventions from therapists. That is why 500 people are being recruited in the community ...More Button

My understanding is that it will be published in December.More Button

I will check out the specifics on that. It seems to be an operational issue on the ground and should be dealt with at that level.More Button

The two letters are published. The NPHET-----More Button

No. The NPHET letters are published. That is the situation. It is either a graduated response from level to level or one goes the full hog.More Button

The issue on the exponential growth is whether one should close everything down now, with no guarantees at the end of the four weeks, although one would hope that it would come down significantly. ...More Button

In response to Deputies Danny and Michael Healy-Rae, nobody in this House wants to close pubs and they need to accept that. Nobody here wants to close pubs. Do the Deputies honestly believe that ...More Button

In response to Deputy Fitzpatrick, it is a very fair point. I spoke last evening with the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill. I went through what lev...More Button

Departmental Administrative Arrangements

Was asked: if he will report on the work of the economic division of his Department.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the status of the national risk assessment for 2020. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the work of the economic division of his Department.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the work of the economic division of his Department.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the work of the economic division of his Department.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.More Button

The economic division of my Department assists me and the Government in developing and implementing policy across relevant areas including economic growth and job creation, infrastructure and hou...More Button

The economic division supports the work of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment, the Cabinet Committee on Housing and the Cabinet Committee on the Environment and Climate Cha...More Button

Finally, the economic division is also responsible for publishing the national risk assessment, NRA, which has provided a high-level overview of strategic risks facing the country since it was fi...More Button

In doing so, the Department will consider any learning and examine options for further strengthening the NRA process including in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The intention is to evaluate how...More Button

Was I?More Button

Departmental Administrative Arrangements (Continued)

I must resist the attempt to underplay and undermine the progress that has been made in ramping up key aspects of the health service. The testing and tracing capacity has been significantly enhanc...More Button

We are currently increasing capacity onshore for November and December and we will continue to have offshore capacity during the winter period. As such, there has been a very significant ramping-u...More Button

On the hospital system, there has been a 30% increase in ICUs once the winter initiative is implemented: 25% since March and a further 17 as a result of the winter initiative. Admittedly it will...More Button

The PUP was originally meant as a 12-week provision. It has been opened to new entrants and, therefore, anyone who is laid off as a result of us going to level 3 will be able to avail of it; it ...More Button

The budget will hopefully deal with some of the issues to which Deputies are referring but I cannot pre-empt it today and I do not intend to.More Button

I will come back to it later.More Button

Departmental Advertising

Was asked: the amount spent by his Department on advertising online, broadcast and print advertising in each of the past five years.More Button

Was asked: the amount his Department has spent on advertising for online, print and broadcasting to date in 2020; and the expenditure plans for the rest of 2020.More Button

Was asked: the amount spent by his Department on advertising online, broadcast and print advertising in each of the past five years.More Button

Was asked: the amount his Department has spent on advertising for online, print and broadcasting to date in 2020.More Button

Was asked: if his Department or agencies working on its behalf monitor and report on social media content relevant to Government policy.More Button

Was asked: if he has engaged a third party company in each of the years, 2017 to 2019, and to date in 2020, to conduct online and or social media monitoring and or provide reports on social media coverage of ...More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 9, inclusive, 24 and 149 together.More Button

The bulk of the spend in 2020 to date has been to deal with the Covid-19 emergency. Of the €11.4 million spent to date, €4.2 million was on advertising in publications and €5.8 million on broadc...More Button

The overall communications strategy for Covid-19 is based on a co-ordinated response that ensures maximum clarity for citizens, business and our wider community. This aligns both with WHO and Eu...More Button

It is also recommended that communications strategies should target different audiences and provide the rationale behind the measures, also outlining the necessity of putting a support system in ...More Button

More recently, public information campaigns have been run as restrictions were placed, and then subsequently lifted, in regions such as counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly and when counties Dublin...More Button

In 2019, the spend included €12,000 on online advertising and €17,000 on video and radio production. My Department paid for public information campaigns on budgets 2019 and 2020, public consulta...More Button

In 2018. the €1.6 million spend was across online, print and broadcast advertising and production costs. This spend related to major cross-government public information campaigns that the Depart...More Button

In 2017, the €40,000 spend related to cross-government public information campaigns on Healthy Ireland and self-employed benefits.More Button

In 2016, the €10,000 spend related to the Home to Work information campaign.More Button

A detailed annual breakdown of the advertising spend will accompany the reply to the questions. The Department does not engage third party media monitoring services. As part of the press office...More Button

Departmental Advertising (Continued)

The data are being published. The data on ICUs are being published.More Button

Information on the case numbers is published on an ongoing basis. The NPHET letters are being published.More Button

I am talking about the letters-----More Button

-----that were the key issue in terms of Thursday's advice and Sunday's advice. They have been published.More Button

Everybody should wear masks as often as they possibly can.More Button

The guidance is out there-----More Button

-----on masks.More Button

There was no bank holiday date in my mind yesterday. I do not know where that came from. There was a lot more on my mind yesterday than the awarding of a bank holiday. I do not know where that c...More Button

It was not in my head.More Button

There was a more fundamental issue about level 3 and level 5. Those were the issues yesterday.More Button

To respond to Deputy Tóibín's points, I am perplexed by the suggestion. There is no media monitoring of Government criticism by anybody in the Government Information Service or the Department of...More Button

There could have been a contract that was entered into earlier. I do not know. I will check it out for the Deputy and get an answer on it. Perhaps contracts were entered into in advance for a se...More Button

The bulk of communications has been on Covid-19 with regard to the various roadmaps, which predate the new Government, and letting people know what was reopening and when, and the issues pertaini...More Button

There is no control freak approach on issues. It seems that the Business Committee meets on Thursday and, as I said earlier, every Tuesday there is a call for something to be added. This seems ...More Button

We did not dismiss NPHET's recommendation. The Government published a plan three weeks ago. It has to take wider societal issues into consideration. It has to take the economy and employment i...More Button

At this stage, the Government has taken a view that we did not think it would be proportionate or the right course of action to go to level 5. I have also said, and I said it yesterday to the Ir...More Button

Cabinet Committees

Was asked: when the Cabinet committee which addresses the economy will next meet.More Button

Was asked: when the Cabinet committee which addresses the economy will next meet.More Button

Was asked: when the Cabinet committee which addresses the economy will next meet.More Button

Was asked: when the Cabinet committee dealing with transport last met.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 to 13, inclusive, together.More Button

The Cabinet committee on economic recovery and investment has been established and first met on 8 July. It has met on a total of five occasions, most recently on 22 September. The Cabinet commi...More Button

Membership of the committee comprises the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for enterprise, employment and trade, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and for Transport...More Button

The Cabinet committee on economic recovery and investment is responsible for issues relating to the economy and investment. Its initial focus was on developing the July jobs stimulus. The July ...More Button

Issues relevant to the transport sector can arise, as required, at a number of Cabinet committees, most notably the Cabinet committee on economic recovery and investment.More Button

Cabinet Committees (Continued)

They can also arise at the Cabinet committee on environment and climate change. Issues relating to the economy and to transport are regularly discussed at full Cabinet meetings where all formal de...More Button

Is it the case that the Opposition Deputies are saying that unemployment assistance and jobseeker's allowance should be €350?More Button

Is it the case that it should be €350? We need to call a spade a spade.More Button

I am making the point that this is not sustainable. Carer's allowance at €350 a week could not be sustainable. If one elevates every social protection measure to €350 per week-----More Button

The Deputies opposite are avoiding this all the way through. Deputy McDonald has avoided it.More Button

Deputy Boyd Barrett would tax the imaginary whoever to fund it.More Button

There has to be sustainability to what we do. We have to think ahead. The whole idea of the pandemic unemployment payment was to open it up to new entrants. We did that because of the acknowledg...More Button

The Government has to take the overall view. We are borrowing over €20 billion this year, and rightly so. We will be borrowing large amounts next year. There are limits, however. There has to...More Button

On the Debenhams workers, again, I am conscious of the efforts made by Mandate and others in terms of the liquidation. I am not happy with how Debenhams dealt with this. There are limitations, ho...More Button

I will speak to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the rights of Aer Lingus workers being undermined.More Button

I know that. We have a set of criteria in the plan that we discussed with NPHET. They are broad criteria; I accept that. The bottom line is that everyone had an expectation of a graduated respon...More Button

Once there is a lockdown, there are unintended consequences. There is no point pretending it would not have a serious effect on many ordinary self-employed people who have grasped the period from ...More Button

Our reality is to protect people as much as we can, including lives and livelihoods. They are intertwined because a range of health consequences can emanate from people losing jobs or being unsure...More Button

We may not. We still have it within our responsibility as people. We can impact on this, collectively and individually, if we pull together to try to get the numbers stabilised. If we do not, we...More Button

We may have to do that. As I said last week, the decision was at this stage not to move to level 5. I have no guarantees, just as there were no guarantees that had we moved to level 5, it would a...More Button

On the New Zealand strategy, we are not New Zealand, either geographically or in terms of economic construct. We are different from New Zealand. No other country in Europe at the moment has gon...More Button

No, it is not to do with ICU capacity.More Button

NPHET does not say that.More Button

There is a range of criteria. The HSE says it has ICU capacity. We are obviously concerned and will monitor that but the HSE is running the service and the last time out, we managed. We created ...More Button

We will have to readjust and I hope we do not get there but, if we do, we will do everything we can to protect people. There has to be balance to the debate and using language to suggest that shor...More Button

Sitting suspended at 4.13 p.m. and resumed at 4.36 p.m.More Button

Ministerial Advisers

Was asked: the number of special advisers allocated to him; and the cost of each adviser in salary, expenses and so on.More Button

The requirement for specialist policy input and advice is a matter for each individual Minister to consider having regard to the area of responsibility and the support in place in the relevant Depa...More Button

I have put in place a range of appropriate advisory supports to support me in my role as Taoiseach and Head of Government. At present there are 6 Special Advisers working in my Private Office. Th...More Button

The make-up of my team currently consists of a Chief of Staff at Deputy Secretary level, a Deputy Chief of Staff at Assistant Secretary level, a part-time Economic Adviser at Assistant Secretary ...More Button

It should be noted that all of the above appointments are subject to Government approval over the coming weeks following which relevant contracts including salary scale, statements of qualificati...More Button

The Special Advisers working in my office provide briefings and advice on a wide range of policy matters, as well as performing other functions as I may direct from time to time. They liaise with...More Button

As outlined in the Programme for Government, a number of reforms have been implemented in order to ensure openness and constructive cooperation within government. These include the establishment ...More Button

Where expenses are incurred by any staff in the performance of duties relating to their brief, my Department pays mileage and travel and subsistence at normal civil service rates.More Button

  Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 6.More Button

  Questions Nos. 25 to 27, inclusive, resubmitted.More Button

Programme for Government

Was asked: the status of the establishment of the Future of Media Commission outlined in the programme for Government; the timeline for progression of same.More Button

On Tuesday 29 September, Government approved the terms of reference and membership of the Future of Media Commission.

  Professor Brian Mac Craith has been appointed as Chair of ...More Button

Planning Issues

Was asked: if the group of experts from the public service, academia, NGOs and the private sector has been convened as committed to in the programme for Government to devise a set of non-economic-based indica...More Button

There is a recognised need for more comprehensive and holistic tools to better assess well-being as an aid to policy and budgetary decisions. We are committed to developing such new measures of wel...More Button

  Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 6.More Button

Departmental Staff

Was asked: the number of staff in his Department on sick leave between March and September by month in 2019 and to date 2020; the pay arrangements that exist for staff on sick leave for an extended period of ...More Button

My Department takes an active approach to managing sick leave consistent with the relevant Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sick leave circulars. These also set out the sick leave entit...More Button