Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)


11:00 am

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent) | Oireachtas source

-----and to people themselves.

We live in an Ireland where people are coming in and going out. I spoke last night to a young couple in Donegal. They are living in a caravan that is damp and are expecting a baby on 1 April next. They cannot get an electrician for two days to finish their house out in the countryside in order that they can live in it. We live in a country where a person who was roofing a house in Portumna was told by a member of An Garda Síochána to go. We live in a country where a group of workers from Northern Ireland can come down here every day, go into every shop in this country and work on a social housing scheme under contract to the Irish State but Paddy, in this country, is now considering going across to England to work because sites have been shut down. I spoke to small subcontractors last night who are on the verge of going bust because of the regulations here. I know of a 150-acre field in Dublin that one would need to send a drone across to see someone but the site has been shut down. What is the mentality? Have we become so cowardly that we cannot make a decision on what is right or wrong? Are doctors going to be allowed to say, "I do not know much about building but I am going to shut it down"? We need to wake up and cop on to the plight of our own people. Builders and construction workers are like birds; they go where the work is. They are leaving this country in droves because England is at full bore and there is no point in staying. We must also remember that there are companies in Ireland employing electricians who go off to work for three weeks and come home for one. Will they not be allowed to see their families?

I am not opposed to quarantine - let me be very clear on that - but what is the point of it if I can go to France, meet people there who jump on a plane and come to Ireland and then jump on a plane and go to England? If we are doing this, we need to do it right. It should be full duck or no dinner. We either do it right or forget about it all together. We have been talking about doing this for so long now. I listened to a programme this morning on quarantine and if we do not do it right within the hotels, we will have an even bigger problem. I heard Professor Luke O'Neill talking about the fact that when one opens the door of a room where a person is quarantining, the virus can come out at one. We are not set up for this. We need systems that pull the air away.

We are proposing a system whereby people coming from 20 listed countries must have everything in place in advance or they cannot come. It is almost like the requirements for animal exporters. However, if people are coming from somewhere else, they can shoot in, show their PCR test and away they go. We need one system or the other.

I do not blame the Minister but the big problem is that the way the EU has gone about doing its deals has been an unmitigated disaster. If we went down to marts in Castlerea or Roscommon, got some of those dealers and brought them to deal with the vaccine suppliers, we would have got better results. We should be looking outside to see if we can do deals with whosoever have vaccines. From what I see, some of those in Europe do not have a clue what they are at.

I ask the Minister and the Government to give consideration to the construction sector. Many people do not understand all the elements of this situation. The Government has not gone to the banks. The banks are not granting moratoriums, even though it has been stated by Europe since after Christmas that the banks should give moratoriums to help with the situation in countries. The banks have given the two fingers to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, as usual. Either this House or the Central Bank needs to rein in the banks.

People do not understand that we need subcontractors to do the groundwork and shift the muck in the construction sector. They have major payments to make because their equipment is leased. There is no moratorium in place in that regard. Everybody is talking about the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, and the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, and all of this kind of stuff coming out. Let us drill down, however, into what payments these people have. There is nothing contained in those payments to help these subcontractors.

I appeal to the Government to consider the construction sector. One would nearly have to throw the virus at one person roofing a house in Portumna to infect him or her. The statistics in this regard should be examined. In one industry in this country, 800 people were infected within one week.


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