Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Catherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
It is no reflection on you, a Cheann Comhairle, but this is rushed legislation. We understood that it had to be passed by 5 o'clock because of health and safety and because of staff. I appreciate we are trying to reach a consensus but it is becoming more difficult. We have talked about the definition section and agreed to it, but it should not have been agreed to. I support Deputy O'Callaghan in respect of the definition and now it is up to the Seanad. That was already clearly defined in the 1947 Act, whereas the words in the Bill are quite inconsistent. It refers to a "medical officer" and an "officer". It is most inconsistent but that is just one example.
Amendments Nos. 14 to 16, inclusive, have been ruled out of order but they were tabled in good faith to protect people. For example, the HSE guidelines state that those with an underlying vulnerable condition should self-isolate. We are seeking simply to protect such people if they cannot work and have to stay at home because they have diabetes, cancer or other illnesses that I do not have the time to list out. Without the amendments, they will not be protected. They will have to self-isolate but we will not look after them. This goes to the heart of what is happening here today. I find myself thinking more and more that I cannot support the legislation if it will go through in this manner. There should have been two separate items of legislation, one for health and one for social welfare. It would have been much more helpful. I understand, subject to correction, that our respiratory-illness rates in Ireland are much higher than in other countries, as are the rates of other illnesses. We are simply ignoring that vulnerable group of people now.