Thursday, 25 February 2021
Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
We have seen for a long time the mixed messages coming from and the kite-flying engaged in by the Government. This is not a game between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to get the message out first and then to undermine each other. The people are worn out with conflicting information and off-the-cuff announcements. People's mental health has been affected. There is a large audience every time the Government announces new restrictions. This is not because people want to see "The Micheál and Leo Show", but because people have a real interest in the impact that these restrictions will have on their daily lives, whether it is when they will see their parents again, when they can go back to work, or where they will be in the vaccine roll-out. The questions are endless. It is time for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to put away their egos, to stop this one-upmanship and to put the people first.
For the sake of the mental wellness of the nation, the Government needed to set the record straight this week and end the spin, leaks and uncertainty. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The time for talk is over. Talk is cheap and real action is needed. The public does not want a pat on the back and platitudes, and to be told that people's mental health is being minded when the reality on the ground is different. People do not want to hear that we are all in the same boat when some are in yachts, some paddle their own canoe and some even prefer boats that leak. Many people I have spoken to feel that they have been thrown overboard by this Government and left to fend for themselves.
In fairness to the public, they have been brilliant in playing their part in suppressing this pandemic. They have jumped through hoops and have made great sacrifices in trying to suppress the virus. Some nine months ago, the National Public Health Emergency Team called for the mandatory quarantine of passengers. This did not happen and we are now fighting new variants of this virus. We have gone from a crisis to an emergency under this Government. We cannot drive 5 km to see our parents but we can fly into this country with relative impunity. Half-cooked measures just will not work any more.
If this Government is serious about tackling this emergency, it needs to support the Sinn Féin amendments. These include a requirement for all people arriving to have a post-arrival PCR test and to extend the quarantine requirements to all arrivals into the State, not just those from the 20 states designated. I heard the previous speaker, who is of the Minister's own party, support these measures. I hope he will support the Sinn Féin amendment when the vote comes. Not only are we not all in the same boat but it looks like we are not all on the same plane either. I sometimes question whether we are even on the same planet.