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
I express the heartfelt thanks and appreciation of everyone in Tipperary and the country to those who are actively involved and co-operating in confronting the scourge of Covid-19. The public health response has been amazing, social solidarity has been inspiring and protecting the health of our citizens is of paramount importance. Whatever it takes and whatever it costs, it must be done. We are living through extraordinary times. Normality has deserted us and our country is pulsating with anxiety, fear and uncertainty. People are craving relief from the worry and trepidation.
Our Government is doing an admirable job. Its approach is measured, assured and proportionate. There is a limit, however, to what a government can do without a mandate. It is my understanding that after 30 March we will have no functioning Seanad and no further emergency legislation can be passed. Never in modern times has there been a greater need for a strong and stable government. We are failing our citizens if we do not give them a government that can lead them through this crisis and along the tough road that lies ahead. A new government will have to be one of the strongest governments this country has ever had. This government must be totally united and unfailingly committed to guiding our people through what may be the toughest times of their lives.
Despite the fact that this new government will be largely be in uncharted waters as a result of the pandemic, it must lead with strength, stability, unity and bravery. When Covid-19 passes or fades, this crisis will be far from over. While people will breathe a collective sigh of relief that this threat to their health and lives has passed, the reality of its economic impact will become our new challenge. This is where the strength and stability of a new government will be of greatest importance. This is not a time for doubt and uncertainty. This is a time for strong and decisive government formation. Putting our country back to where we were before this crisis hit us will be a mammoth task. Economists are making stark forecasts. A new government will not be governing an Ireland that existed four months ago. It will be facing an entirely new reality that cannot yet be fully defined.
The future economy of Ireland is precarious. Our successful efforts in recent years to revive our country from recessions will be obliterated. Election promises made at the start of this year will become wishful thinking. This should not be about party political or individual interests. This is not a time for political posturing or grandstanding. There can be no unaffordable bucket lists when entering this government. There is already a significant hole in the bucket and it will take time to mend and fill. There will be no room for political cowardice in any new government. It must be a government that will endure.
This is a time for resolute action. This is a time for political realism. This is a time for conviction and courage. Those in this House who renege on this duty will not be forgiven by the people of this country. Tough, hard and unpopular decisions will have to be made. These decisions will have to be presented to a public struggling hard to recover physical, mental and emotional well-being. When the costs for this crisis have been accumulated, the full extent of the damage to our economy will be evident. Rebuilding our economy can be done only through creative, imaginative policies. Many decisions needed will be unpopular. As a government, there will be no escaping the bullets and the ire of the people. The only defence will be strength and stability.
As a regional group of Teachtaí, we are determined to play our part to make real and genuine efforts to form a government. We are willing to step up to this task. Our constituents gave us a mandate and the privilege of serving. Our approach will be constructive. A new administration will carry a huge burden, but as a group we are willing to contribute to maintaining a secure and stable government at a time of great danger for our country.