Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
This is not an abstract proposal that can be dismissed or deferred. For instance, we have a constitutional right to primary education. That is a socio-economic right that is already within the Constitution. This amendment would oblige the Government to act to provide health services to meet the needs of citizens.
Only if it failed to demonstrate that would there be a right to appeal to the courts to have it vindicated. The wording in the Bill, to the effect that there would be a progressive realisation of rights within available resources, gives sufficient protection such that there would not be a sudden march to the courts if the provision were introduced. No longer could the Government say that it is doing its best. If this measure were introduced, the Government would be obliged to do much better than its best. It would be obliged to vindicate a right to health. It would occur in respect of cases such as that of Alex O'Shaughnessy, who has had his chemotherapy deferred on several occasions. Ninety year old patients are sitting on chairs rather than lying on trolleys in our accident and emergency departments. An average of 600 patients are on trolleys. The number is only 552 today, which is a pretty good day, but there are 74 people on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick. If what I propose were introduced, it could no longer be said we are sorry we cannot meet the targets for the provision of scoliosis services. The Constitution would oblige the Government to meet them. Failures such as those I have mentioned and myriad others would be unconstitutional. The provision would mean the courts could direct the Government to improve the health services. Failing to do so would be justiciable.