Seanad debates

Friday, 20 March 2020

An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: An Dara Céim - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Second Stage


11:00 am

Photo of Lorraine Clifford LeeLorraine Clifford Lee (Fianna Fail)

I will be brief because we must get through some very important business as speedily as possible. The message I have picked up from the Tánaiste is that time is of the essence. We are fortunate because we could quickly learn the lessons experienced in Italy and China. It is up to us to act as speedily as possible. I appreciate the work done by the Tánaiste and his colleagues in acting very quickly on this. I have researched this and it seems speed of action is very important. Rather than getting everything perfect, it is more important to get everything done quickly.

The Tánaiste brought a message today that we must bring to our communities, namely, that every day counts and everybody's actions also count. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, or we live in each other's shadows. We must all pull together and this must be the biggest community effort this country has ever seen. That will save lives in our communities and families, and we must all act really responsibly. Our forefathers went through much more than this; they went through war and famine and we are just being asked to stay at home and away from our neighbours and extended family and friends. We are being asked to stay within our family units as much as possible. I do not mean to trivialise the trauma being experienced by people in losing their jobs and nobody would ever have thought that 140,000 people would lose their jobs overnight, which is what happened. There is much more to come. There is much worry and stress for workers and business owners trying their best to do right by their employees at this point.

I have some specific matters that the appropriate Minister might address throughout the day.I have been in contact with businesses that have been closed and do not have turnover at present but which wish to top up the €203 per week if they keep their employees on the books. It is a gesture of goodwill. These are people who have worked for the businesses for many years. The businesses have a small amount of money and have the ability to do it so they want to be able to top up the €203. I ask the Minister to address that and to see if there is anything the Government can do to allow that to happen. It will make it easier for those businesses to get back trading once this crisis passes and makes the situation better for the employees.

Will the Tánaiste refer to the measures in place for people living in emergency accommodation and rough sleepers? Undocumented migrants is a particular issue raised by my colleague, Senator Ardagh. There are also people who are living alone. It can be tough at the best of times, particularly if one is suffering with mental health concerns, so it will be very difficult for people living alone to socially distance themselves. Is the Government putting specific measures in place to deal with that if and when the measures get more stringent?

Finally, I wish to raise the issue of schools. A number of younger people have been in contact with my office wanting to know what the situation is with schools. They are concerned about their learning structure. Will the Minister give a realistic outline of what is being considered?


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