Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 February 2018

10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

That is a polite way of saying it. Senator Richmond, who chaired a Brexit committee of the Seanad, is continuing with the work of that committee. I hope that as part of that committee, we will be able to have further engagement. It is important that we have ongoing dialogue between Members of the Oireachtas and members of the UK Parliament, be it the House of Lords or the Commons, to explain and to influence the situation. It is equally as important, and I am not sounding a partisan note, that we have devolved government in Stormont, with the politicians representing the communities from which they come, rather than having direct rule from the Government in the UK. I commend the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, on his work.

If I may, a Chathaoirligh, I wish to take this opportunity to wish Deputy Adams well in his retirement. I wish the party well on this weekend because political parties reinvent themselves, and for the members of Sinn Féin, this is a weekend for members to say good luck and say hello to a new leader. I wish Deputies Adams and McDonald well.

There is a duty now on the political parties in the North to come to the table and to have the voice of the North of our country heard by politicians in Brexit. I agree with Senator Daly. The Government has been quite clear. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, spoke last week about our role and what we want from the talks on Brexit. We have not demurred from any of the positions yet.

I have already responded to the issue of overprescribing when I addressed the comments of Senator Burke. Senator Mullen is correct in saying that overprescribing has increased disproportionately in a decade. I agree that overprescribing has a human consequence that does not get noticed until death, dependency or the need to access treatment or services to deal with it. We need to highlight the issue of dependency to create awareness of how it has grown.

Prescribing is an issue for doctors and medics. An independent case was taken by an individual doctor. I agree with Senator Mullen and also with the report in The Sunday Business Postthat Senator Colm Burke referenced. The issue was raised at the Committee on Health yesterday. I would be happy to arrange to have a debate on it in this House. We are sleepwalking into a problem and we must take a proactive role in reducing dependency on prescription drugs and overprescribing. Prescribing is a matter for individual doctors. We need to have a conversation on the issue and I am happy to arrange it.

Senator Dolan raised the issue of public transport for people with disabilities. As I said yesterday, it will require a whole-of-government approach and leadership from the top. It is also important to recognise and to give credit to the public transport bodies. There have been improvements and progress has been made around accessibility, but we have more road to travel. The point was made yesterday at the joint committee that it is not just about the buses, Luas or DART service but also about the bus stop, ramp, lighting, and accessibility to the railway or DART station or to the bus stop. The testimonies given at yesterday's committee meeting were powerful. They showed that we need to treat people with respect and with dignity and we have to continue to do that. It is unacceptable that people would have such a dreadful experience, as outlined to the committee. I know from my work in Cork with the disability groups that it is a frustrating and terrible experience. We should consider how, as Members of the Oireachtas, we can engage with each other on how we can make the issues highlighted by Senator Dolan more visible.I would be quite happy to work with the Senator in that regard and to have that debate in the House. Senator Rose Conway-Walsh spoke about Deputy Micheál Martin more than anything else. One point she did not make, however, was that we should invite everybody to attend the united Ireland conference in Cork and to participate in the discussion. It should not just be about one group of people who want a united Ireland. I am a republican and a nationalist. I want to have a united Ireland. Let us include everybody. Let us not wrap the theme around just one group.


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