Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements


2:40 pm

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Minister of State for coming here for this important debate. I will begin by referring to a sentence from her opening statement, in which she stated, "I know that no malice was intended on the part of the Department." I fundamentally disagree with that line. All of us, including the Minister of State who, as has been stated is blameless in all of this, know from our constituency work that the parents who come through our doors seeking basic supports and assistance for their children, be that an educational, health or other need, come to us exasperated, having tried to do it on their own. They have tried to rail against the system to give voice to their children who have no voice and to give a face to their children who appear to be faceless within the system.

In the previous Dáil, I brought the Minister of State's predecessor, Finian McGrath, to visit the Holy Family Special School, which does enormous service for children with disabilities, intellectual and physical, at primary and second levels across Cavan-Monaghan. It is one of the most inspiring, exhilarating schools in terms of the work done by the teachers, parents, SNAs and the medical staff there. They are totally reliant on that community of people to look after them.. When engaging with the parents, none of them will say it has been easy or that they have felt the State was in their corner. I do not like the use of the word "State" because, for me, that lets people off the hook, as it does in the case of the officials responsible for this sneaky, conceited eliciting of information from GPs. In terms of our constituency work, none of us would consult with a Department without the authority of a constituent. What was done by these officials is disgraceful.

I agree with Deputy Creed's remarks in regard to the official who contacted the national broadcaster, RTÉ, in an attempt to gag it exposing something so important. Let us be honest, we have known that this was happening. We have known that people and parents have always felt that the State has railed against them. The sneaky, conceited way the information was elicited for the purposes of litigation is unforgivable.

The Minister of State has done tremendous work in the very short time she has held her current position. Parents and I want to know that this will stop. It is cultural thing. It is the idea that we are bigger and more powerful than the law and the country, that we will put these people in their box and take them on. What chance do people have? Following on from Mr. Corr's brave and courageous stance, I want to know that officials, not the State, will be held accountable for what they did.


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