Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)

On the final issue adverted to by my colleague concerning WhatsApp, we should always be aware of the fact that all software is constantly under threat from criminal elements. They are working ahead of us all the time and the problem for us is that we have to catch them. Our cybersecurity network structure is excellent at the job its does, and we should acknowledge that at this time.

I wish to raise two points with the Leader. We heard yesterday that the cost of renting an apartment in Sandyford is €2,100 per month. The cost of a mortgage for the same apartment is €1,350 per month. That indicates there is quite a bonanza for those who can afford to buy a number of apartments. I acknowledge there is no Member of this House who is not concerned about the issue of homelessness and the various other problems with respect to housing. I have raised previously the possibility of easing the banking rules. A relation of mine has spent €87,000 on rent in the past seven year. That person could have bought an apartment and be well into the repayments of the mortgage at this stage had there been access to a mortgage but the problem is this person cannot save the deposit. Where will this person get the deposit when paying out that sort of money on rent? From that point of view, could the Leader arrange for the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform to come to the House to debate this issue and outline what influence can be brought to bear on the Central Bank with respect to the rules that apply.

The second issue I wish to raise concerns the Defence Forces. First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the report in today's edition of The Irish Times that there is some ease for the Defence Forces with respect to their pay claims. I compliment the Public Service Pay Commission, the Defence Forces, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Chief of Staff, in particular, for the work they have done in trying to secure this. I hope other public servants would not see this as a bonanza for everybody to jump on the bandwagon. The Defence Forces have been at the bottom of the heap for quite some time.

Yesterday the Minister told the Dáil that 200 members of the Defence Forces had availed of sick leave. It has been seen as an extraordinary high number. I ask people to bear in mind that members of the Defence Forces are constantly working in very physical roles. It is not uncommon for people to break their legs, have back injuries or various other injuries. The problem is that we do not have the infrastructure within the Defence Forces to treat those members and, in many cases, they have to go on to the public waiting list. That is where the differential kicks in. Commissioned officers have access to private health insurance whereas 85% of the members of the Defence Forces who are service men and women, enlisted men and women, non-commissioned officers, etc., do not have the funding to afford private healthcare and, as such, they are dependent on the public health system. God be with the days when I was in the Army where if one got sick there were the hospitals one could attend and one was treated totally by the Defence Forces. Sadly, that is not the case any more. I do not want the message to go out that we now have malingerers in the Defence Forces. People need to realise that members of the Defence Forces abseil out of helicopters, engage in extremely physical activities and quite a number of them are involved in sporting activities. By their very nature, these activities bring injuries with them and, as such, there is a backlog of cases to be treated. I will leave it at that.

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