Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Guím Nollaig shona don Cheann Comhairle agus do gach duine sa Teach seo, go háirithe do na hoifigigh a thugann tacaíocht dúinn gach lá agus uaireanta istoíche freisin. I also wish a very happy Christmas to all of the nurses, midwives and emergency staff across the State who provide us with a wonderful service. No doubt they are all reeling in horror today at the news that the bondholders are being bailed out. The Taoiseach said:
Anglo Irish is not getting another cent of our money and any bank coming looking to us for more money is going to have to show how they are going to impose losses on their junior bondholders, on their senior bondholders, and on other creditors before they come looking to us for any more money. Not another cent.
Later, when speaking at an event, ironically in Beaumont Hospital, he described the bondholders as being "At the bottom of the pile." I bet him that the nurses who voted yesterday, by a figure of 94% or 95%, to take strike action after Christmas believe they are at the bottom of his pile. As we hurtle towards Christmas, people who have worked an extra shift a month for the past ten years for nothing and who have given up pay, hours, promotion and pensions in order to bail out Anglo Irish Bank to the tune of €30 billion are sick of it. The money did not fall from the sky; somebody paid it and it happened across the public sector. The nurses are sick of it because not only does it hurt them, their families and careers, it also hurts the people whom they look after because they cannot retain and recruit the staff who are necessary. I ask the Taoiseach to please not give me an answer that nurses are on €70,000 a year because I do not know at what pay scales he is looking. I am looking at the pay scales the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, submit in its weekly magazine to its members, in which it describes exactly what it is looking for in taking strike action 24 hours at a time in the new year. Most nurses are still paid less than gardaí and teachers when they reach almost the top point of the scale after ten or 15 years. It is nothing like €70,000 and they still work. It sticks in their craw that they still have to work a shift every month for absolutely nothing, as the Taoiseach must know because members of his family are in the service. None of us in this House do that and none of the visitors in the Visitors Gallery do so; therefore, why are nurses expected to do it and why are they being left at the bottom of the pile in this way to take strike action?
The Taoiseach has just announced that the State will benefit to the tune of €600 million, but instead of giving it to the nurses to sort out their pay claim and taking them seriously instead of forcing them out onto the streets to take strike action, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, has said he will use the money to reduce the Exchequer bill even further and take more back from the money with which we bailed out the bondholders. I make the point to the Taoiseach that the general secretary of the INMO believes - she does not say this lightly - the reason it is taking strike action is they cannot get other nurses to take up jobs across the board, from general nursing and midwifery to psychiatric nursing. How does the Taoiseach go home from here and tell everyone to have a happy Christmas, except nurses, midwives and psychiatric nurses who are looking forward to having to take strike action after Christmas?