Thursday, 1 April 2021
Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements
Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
I will begin with the point on which Deputy Hourigan finished. This is a test for us. Nothing in what I say is addressed to the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, or the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who are present. Rather, my remarks are addressed to those who decided to take the actions that have been uncovered. It is important to note that we only have the claims of a whistleblower before us, but we need to believe those claims and to put in place the mechanism to investigate them. I understand we will do so. I hear the Taoiseach when he says that if client confidentiality was breached, that would be intolerable, unacceptable and unethical. We will hold the Government to account in respect of those words. I believe the Ministers and the Government are on the same side as many others in the House on this issue.
The test in this situation, which I address to the most senior people in the Department of Health, is to determine the motivation for the decisions that were taken. What was the motivation for preparing legal briefs on parents who were seeking services for their children? The only motivation I can see is that a legal argument was going to be presented that these children were "not bad enough" to get the services which they were claiming. That is the only motivation there could have been. The reality is that there is not enough we could do to support the parents of these children.
The culture of rights-based disability services has changed over multiple decades and we are in a very different space even in terms of the services that are provided. However, the culture of limiting people's rights, challenging them in courts and ensuring that people are "not bad enough" to get their services has to be on trial here too. It has to be at the core of what is addressed in this process. I look forward to the investigation by the Department of Health. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I, along with other members of the committee, will be seeking the costs associated with this issue.
However, the test here relates to the people at the very top of the Department of Health. Either they provide a process that delivers justice on this issue or they go. Either they provide a process that means parents have trust as we go forward or they go. Either they expose the decisions of their predecessors that were wrong or they go. This House must send a signal that this culture was wrong because these children are my son, my brother or my cousin's sons. They are all of our children. Forty years ago, when my mother was knocking on doors looking for services, she got a "No", but parents nowadays must not get a "No". The system needs to know that Members of this House we are fighting for those services. There may be resource implications and organisational challenges but we are not saying "No" because people are "not bad enough". We have had enough. Enough is enough.