Thursday, 1 April 2021
Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements
Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
Without rehashing what has been already said, I wish to make the point that the actions of the Department of Health in compiling dossiers and information about children with disabilities was vile and obscene. It is unfortunate - I am being mild in my use of the word "unfortunate" - that there is not a single member of Cabinet here for this debate. I stand corrected, I note the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, is here, but the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, are not present.
The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, said that she was not aware of this practice. I would like clarification as to whether the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, was made aware of this practice and if the Minister of State is aware of any previous Minister for Health having been made aware of it. If it is the case that all respond that they were not aware of it, there are fundamental questions that need to be answered in regard to how this could happen. How could a practice that crosses so many elements of government carry on without Ministers not being aware of it? Does the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, accept that this goes to the heart of what I will call "the State" and how it operates? We know that if a Minister signed off on this or it was proven that he or she had given the go-ahead to officials to fulfil this practice, there would be a motion of no confidence before the Dáil and it is quite likely that before that motion reached the House, such a Minister would be asked to fall on his or her sword for political expediency.
It would be quite proper for that to happen.
It is fair to say that the one thing we can know for sure about this issue is that, by the end of the process, there will not be a single civil servant made accountable for his or her actions in regard to these despicable events. We must ask why that is the case. The HSE was set up by the then Minister for Health, now Taoiseach, in part to allow political responsibility to be avoided. It allows the Government to say that a particular issue is nothing to do with it and is a matter for the HSE. In this instance, we are told it is nothing to do with the Government; it was done by civil servants in the Department of Health. Why is that being allowed to happen? Will the Minister of State ensure that somebody is at least named and shamed, if not made accountable for his or her actions?
As I want to give the Minister of State time to answer, I will ask just one more question. There is a great deal of talk about working out when we can engage with the families. Will she ensure that, from today, all of the families that are affected are contacted and are told, at the very least, that their information was part of this and they will be contacted again with further details? It is not something that should take a long time to do. I would hazard a guess that the information is in the Department right now and I ask that the Minister of State release it to the families concerned. It is the very least they should expect.