Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy for his supplementary question. There are nurses at work today. I know that the nurses who will strike tomorrow do not take that action lightly, given their commitment to and care for the patients they look after. However, we as a Government must bear in mind the potential consequences were we not to stick to the public service pay agreement. Within that agreement, there will be changes and improvements in conditions and increases in salaries for people in the health sector. Additional increases will kick in from 1 March. It is not true that things are not being done to help improve the position of public sector workers, because they are. That is why we are seeing an increase in the number of people working in the public sector in recent years.
The Deputy referred to figures from six years ago when we first started speaking of this children's hospital. That it was six years speaks to the delay which has taken place and why we do not want to delay further. The economy has radically transformed in the past six years, no thanks to Deputy Boyd Barrett, of course, or any position that he has taken on any budgetary decision that this Government had to make to restore the public finances. In relation to the public service pay agreement we are trying to keep public finances on a sustainable footing, not least because of potential dangers relating to Brexit. In this significant cost overrun, it is important that we get to the actual facts of the matter. The €1 billion overrun is not a fact. The Deputy can jump up and down about it but we need to get to the actual facts, then understand what lessons are to be learned and what decisions the Government can take on accountability and the additional cost savings that can be found between now and the completion of the hospital in 2022.