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
Gabrielle McFadden (Fine Gael)
We are living in unprecedented times, and none of us can articulate the challenges we face. The powers in this legislation that have been mentioned are very far-reaching. They are not necessarily what we would like but are absolutely necessary to protect the citizens of our country. As well as the measures that have been outlined, we need very strong leadership. I appreciate that we would never ordinarily contemplate having in place any of the restrictions we have in the Bill.I really admire the leadership that has been shown to the citizens of this State by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Ministers, the Opposition parties and by everybody. We have come together and everybody appreciates that.
I am not known to be emotional or soft but I find this situation emotional. I drove through my home town, which I think is the centre of the universe, as everybody in the Fine Gael parliamentary party knows, on Tuesday night and all of the shops were closed and in darkness with little white notices in all of the windows. I felt emotional about it. I came home and I was sad and down on myself and then I listened to the Taoiseach at nine o'clock. Again, I was sad but I was also proud because he spoke about all the things this country is doing. The Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, has said on numerous occasions that in our need to pull together we must stay apart. That is what this country has done. We need to plan for the future and for the economy but our first and foremost priority has to be the safety and security of our citizens and that is what we are doing and so I commend this Bill to the House.
I want to thank the front-line medical staff and not just the medical staff in our hospitals and primary care centres but also the security, catering and cleaning staff. Retail staff all over the country are doing a phenomenal job. They are exhausted and frightened and one can see they are frightened but they are not failing to turn up, they are there every day and they need to be commended. Our local authorities are trying to keep their offices open in order to serve the public and that also needs to be acknowledged. I mention the Garda and the Defence Forces. I know there is an election under way and it might sound cynical for me to say this but I have a group on my phone who are all county councillors and they are being contacted on an hourly basis by constituents looking for information, help and advice. They are on the front line of this, they are doing their best and they need to be acknowledged because politicians do not usually get acknowledgement for their work on the ground. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and all of the Ministers are doing a phenomenal job. Senator Boyhan is right about the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. She has been incredible. She was not elected by the people but that did not stop her. She is a force to be reckoned with and a formidable women and she has done everything she possibly could to keep the citizens looked after. That has to be acknowledged.
I wish everybody here well. I wish those who are not standing for election well and I wish those who are standing for election the best of luck. Please stay safe and look after yourselves and your families. These are trying times. We can come out the other side but we need to work hard at it.