Wednesday, 6 February 2008
Order of Business
Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael)
Members will welcome the extra ten minutes on the Order of Business, which has been requested by many Members.
Today is the 90th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women the vote. A number of calls have been made since this Seanad began to have a debate on broad equality issues. Given the appalling record of representation of women in Dáil and Seanad Éireann, it is an appropriate time to have a debate. Perhaps the Leader could examine this and include it on the schedule.
I refer to the ongoing dispute between the pharmacists and the HSE. Before the recess a number of us understood that there would be independent arbitration. I attended a meeting of hundreds of pharmacists in west Dublin. A letter has been sent by the HSE demanding that pharmacists sign an individual contract. A statement by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, IPU, described it as a bullying approach. The union is very unhappy with the deadline of 1 March and I am concerned by the threat of withdrawal of medication and the uncertain situation in which many patients find themselves as a result of this action.
Fine Gael has called for an independent arbitrator. It appears the Minister for Health and Children is not acting on this issue. The HSE is taking action that is unacceptable to all sides. Will the Leader ask the Minister for action on this issue in order that negotiations can begin and that this strike, a withdrawal of services about which everyone is concerned, does not go ahead? I hope the Leader can raise it with the Minister and that she will attend the House to address the matter.
The killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe were released apparently without any notification to his widow, Mrs. Ann McCabe. I want the Leader to come back to the House with information on the matter. Mrs. McCabe's brother-in-law stated on radio that the family had not been informed, that they had read about it in the newspapers before they knew any of the detail. It seems incredibly insensitive and ignores victims' rights. The House will know that Fine Gael published a Bill last week on victims' rights. If that legislation had been in place, this could not have happened. I ask the Leader to convey our feelings on the matter to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and request him to ensure this type of situation will not arise again. It is completely unacceptable that the family should have read the details of the release in the Sunday newspapers.