Thursday, 17 December 2020
Covid-19 Task Force: Statements
I, too, am happy to speak on this issue tonight although I am very critical that we did not have a question and answer session or a debate and had to fight tooth and nail to have this debate, albeit it is just statements with no answers from the Minister. I am glad that the Minister has stayed for this debate. It is the first debate where he and his group have waited to hear our own group. It is very important that all voices are heard.
We have not had great success but I compliment everyone and all front-line workers in the community, including An Garda Síochána, the fire service and the community groups who have worked so hard to try to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. I sympathise with all the businesses in the leisure area and all of the musicians who cannot perform.
I have a significant issue with the HSE and the way in which it handled this pandemic. I am not happy that there has no airport testing or that countries like Canada do not let anybody in or out except family or someone very close to them. We have no real follow-up protocols but have weaknesses. We have railed against the antigen testing which could be quite simply done. We have seen people who have tried to use that and are not allowed to do so. We have seen the force of the law - I am not criticising An Garda Síochána here - used to prevent people going on their way, like the public in Galway. We have paid significant moneys to Chinese companies also for faulty PPE equipment. These are significant areas.
The Taoiseach informed us that he has indemnified all of the vaccine companies, which I know is common practice, but we had no discussion on that. We live in a democracy and have not had any debate or discussion about a no-fault compensation scheme for people if they become ill or have repercussions from the vaccine.
We are also lucky to be part of a powerful Europe that could buy the vaccines, but what about the Third World countries? Where is our respect for all human beings? They are not going to get it, or how long will they be waiting for it?
The nursing homes have been mentioned here as being first for the vaccine. The nursing homes have been treated appallingly. People were sent in by the HSE who had the vaccine.
We are told that there were 2 million doses of the flu vaccine. Some 1.4 million doses have been accounted for, which means that 600,000 doses are missing. The HSE has been asked to make a statement in response to these different reports. There are now between 8.5 million and 9 million doses of this vaccine. How can we have faith in a HSE that is so dysfunctional, it was unable to administer the flu vaccine this year with the result that 600,000 doses are unaccounted for? I have many questions about the roll-out of this vaccine and about how people might have confidence in it. We must win over the people who have concerns. We must talk to them and engage with them. It is a matter for each person, with his or her GP or consultant, if necessary, if he or she has an underlying condition, whether to take this vaccine.
A practice has crept in here, used by Deputy Kelly and others, of writing to all of our colleagues, and demanding that we provide an answer within a week. That is bullying. This is a democracy and we are all elected here with individual rights to represent our people and ourselves without being intimidated and being shouted down. Some people are nice and most people are very respectful, but some are dismissive of anybody who has any issues. We must bring the people with us. Ní neart go cur le chéile.
Mar fhocal scoir, I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Ceann Comhairle, the Minister, every Deputy and Senator, all the staff of the Oireachtas, na gardaí out on the street, and everybody else a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas and we look forward to the new year with hope.