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Meanwhile, back at the Seanad… June 2, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in back at the Seanad, Irish Politics.

A difficult week at the Seanad with the death of Senator Kieran Phelan, so they only sat for one full day. But that’s not to say nothing was discussed.

Let’s start with something I missed from the previous week…

Senator John Hanafin: Information Zoom In light of the fact that the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 will soon be before the House, will the Leader allow for a debate on the need for a referendum on this issue? It is almost certain that, should the Bill be passed, it will be challenged in the courts. I want to take the opportunity now to show the Judiciary, who watch what we undertake here, that there was no stomach for a referendum because I believe it would not be passed in a referendum. That is why I would strongly call on the Leader and the members of the Green Party to hold this referendum.

Senator David Norris: Information Zoom How progressive of Senator Hanafin.

An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom No interruptions, please.

Senator John Hanafin: Information Zoom It is the most democratic means of deciding this issue.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information Zoom They cannot hold a by-election.

An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom Senator Buttimer had his chance to speak.

Senator David Norris: Information Zoom Let us have the by-election before the referendum.

An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom No interruptions.


An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom Senator Hanafin, without interruption, please.

Hmmmm…. I wonder if it wouldn’t be passed? Still, what do I know?

Not that that is the only issue which exercises the Senator:

Senator John Hanafin: Information Zoom Sometimes it is like “The Muppet Show” in this House. Will the Leader examine the situation of pubs in rural areas? I am particularly cognisant of the fact that we have passed legislation introducing the smoking ban and reducing the blood-alcohol limit for drivers, which we are to reduce further. Pubs encounter difficulties at 11 p.m. and 12 p.m. in clearing their houses because of a shortage of taxis. It is a simple issue. Having created the difficulty, it is time that we did something to assist these pubs. One cannot transport a few thousand people from the pubs in a district within a short space of time. The gardaí are calling to ask why the house is not cleared and the house is not cleared because it is not safe for people to travel. We need a regulation or a Bill to allow people extra time so they can get home safely.


Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin: Information Zoom I endorse those comments of Senator Regan. I also refer to the comments of Senator Hanafin with regard to same-sex marriage. After the civil partnership Bill has gone through the Houses, it would be wholly appropriate to have a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile last week… let’s consider the aged, for there was considerable interest in that area following the Prime Time and  Frontline programmes on the care of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald: Information Zoom Last night on the RTE programmes “Prime Time” and “The Frontline” we saw evidence of the abject failure of the Government in delivering services to persons caring for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. There has been a failure in delivering services to good people who are doing their very best in their homes to look after loved ones. It was clear that the State had in no way matched or supported to any degree the many people caring for loved ones. This raises enormous questions about the role and accountability of Ministers. The Minister indicated there had been no cuts to front-line services, yet there was example after example of cutbacks affecting carers. We had a discussion on the length of time it took to give an elderly person a shower or help him or her to get out of bed. That is the level the cutbacks have reached, which raises the most serious questions about the delivery of front-line services, particularly in the context of €3 billion in savings sought. Will these vulnerable people in the community be hit again? I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that the Minister of State with responsibility for older people come to the House to discuss the issue today and, in particular, to outline how she intends to address the many issues raised in last night’s programmes. It was extremely upsetting to watch people caring for their mothers and other family members without any support during the day. Many have seen the number of hours cut in the past few weeks. We need to hear what Government policy is and who is responsible for the implementation of the cuts. Is the Minister accepting any responsibility for this cutback? How is she responding to the cases raised last night? It is extremely important that we have a discussion today.


Senator Ivor Callely: Information Zoom I lend my support to the comments of the previous speakers, Senator Alex White in particular. I challenge the Leader on a response he gave me last week in respect of my call for a debate on older people. He is my good friend, but I challenge him on the basis that he indicated we would have a debate on carers. That matter merits a debate on its own. In his response, the Leader did not give me a commitment that we would have a debate on older people. I gather from his response that the carers debate may be tied to a debate on health, but that is a very broad issue. I am asking the Leader for two commitments: a stand-alone debate on carers and a debate on older people.

Mind you the good Senator has himself run into a spot of bother as noted in this report… Dear oh dear oh dear…

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information Zoom I also voice my concerns about last night’s television programme on the care of the elderly. We have been hearing stories every day from the Carers’ Association and volunteers throughout the country about how they are crying out for help and resources to care for the elderly at home. It is proven that when the elderly are cared for at home, it is a much better environment for them and saves the State thousands, if not millions, of euro. We must be concerned, however, at how the HSE prioritises, manages and reports. It will not even report on how many children have died while in State care. That is outlandish, a shame and a disgrace. We saw on television last night that carers are seeing fundamental resources taken away from them.

Not that what one might think would be a relatively uncontentious area didn’t see dissent creep in…

Senator Larry Butler: Information Zoom Having watched last night’s television programme, it is my view that the Health Service Executive is a discredited organisation. The Leader should immediately call the Minister for Health and Children to the House. In a democratic society in which €14.5 billion is allocated annually to the health service, it is not right that the HSE should remain unaccountable. This is a difficult statement to make but it is also the reality. Those who deserve care and attention are not receiving it from the HSE.

At the time the health services were being reorganised, I argued that the decision not to have public representatives on the Health Service Executive, as had been the case with the health boards, would end accountability and the system of checks and balances. This is what has transpired. A similar situation arose with the former Blood Transfusion Service Board when people died. If there had been public representatives on its board, deaths would not have occurred.

While it is true, as we heard, that people paid tax at 75p in the pound, it was under a Fine Gael-Labour Party Government. For this reason, I do not want to see Senators opposite crying crocodile tears.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information Zoom The people in question are now elderly and need help.

Senator Larry Butler: Information Zoom The structure of the HSE must be examined because it is not working.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information Zoom Senator Butler is burying his head in the sand.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information Zoom The HSE is implementing Government policy.

An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom Please allow Senator Butler to continue without interruption.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information Zoom Senator Buttimer was in Fianna Fáil at the time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information Zoom I have never been a member of Fianna Fáil, nor will I ever be one. I would not allow myself to be contaminated.

An Cathaoirleach: Information Zoom I ask Members to desist from interrupting.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information Zoom The Leader invited comment.

Senator Larry Butler: Information Zoom The HSE is not working and needs immediate attention. The Minister needs to take charge of it. Given that the Oireachtas is accountable for the money allocated to the executive, it is our job to ensure the cheque we issue is properly spent, which is not the case at present.

And all I can say it that there’s aboslutely nothing funny about the above exchange, in any respect.


1. FF Senators not happy with Civil Partnership Bill | Stephen Spillane - June 4, 2010

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