Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: An Dara Céim - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Second Stage
Ossian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
Everything changes when a doctor says that the life of someone's loved one is at risk. The things that person worried about yesterday - money and deadlines - melt away; now health is the only thing that matters. The person's family is clearly focused on doing everything to recover. Right now that one goal, to recover, is shared by the entire country. That is why we are considering this law to remove worries about money and to focus on health. In normal times we lead different and separate lives, but these are not normal times. Now we are all working to the same goal, to protect our entire community against a common enemy.
There is hope on the other side of this curve. Some countries, like South Korea, have contained the virus. Every day their numbers fall. They went through this with other viruses, like SARS and MERS, and learned how best to tackle them. They have even used location data from mobile phones to help with contact tracing. I know that our health officials have moved quickly to learn from these countries. People should know the Herculean efforts of our health service workers. They know their own lives are at risk on the front line and still they protect us every day.
These emergency powers alone will not beat the virus. Every Irish person needs to rely on one another to do our share. We need to slow the spread by keeping a distance from each other. If we ask people to work together, politicians must also work together. As politicians, we still need to question the Government. We must represent our citizens and we must suggest how to improve our law, but always with the aim of making things better. In a few months when this has calmed down, we can get back to the normal business of politics and form a government to govern when our people are safe again. When all this is over we will emerge stronger, knowing that when our people were under threat we acted with unity of purpose to protect each other and to strengthen our community.