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 Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)

I thank everybody for their presence today in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is an extraordinary day. My father is 83 and was a nurse all his life, and he spoke to me about the polio epidemic in Cork and the outbreak of TB. Today we have our modern, more profound pandemic. Life has changed, perhaps significantly, forever. One thing that has not changed is that in the history of our country, leadership is shown by those at the helm. It is exemplified by the Minister, Regina Doherty, who lost her seat and continues to work. It is typified by the Minister here who was berated and treated badly by many sections of society and the media. Look at him today in this Chamber, our Minister for Health, leading, putting his own personal life on hold, his young daughter, his wife and family. To other members of Government and of our front-line services, we owe a profound debt of gratitude.When this is all over I ask everybody to thank the man or woman who works in the shop, the lorry driver who supplies us with food, the cleaners, porters, the people in X-ray and the professionals for a job well done. Many of us, such as Senator Devine who worked in a hospital, know the people we are talking about, who do not even get acknowledgement on some days. Let us thank them for a job well done.

This morning the Tánaiste made the most profound comment anybody could make. The Taoiseach spoke about super heroes wearing capes. I say to our young people: "You are not super heroes and you are not immune. You are carriers. Please remember you have a duty to play your role in stopping the spread of this pandemic". I also appeal to the many families who, next weekend, might wish to call to grandparents or visit them in a nursing home or hospital for Mother's Day not to do so. They can wave from the car or the front gate or get on the telephone and use WhatsApp video, FaceTime or Skype. We can celebrate Mother's Day again. We all know people who are struggling to visit loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals and grandparents who are separated from their grandchildren. This is a time for national unity and patriotism.

Senator Marshall referred to the Border. I appeal to the Ministers in the government in Stormont not to play North versus South. We are an island nation, one nation with no border. Let us not play politics North and South. We have 32 testing centres and I appeal to those in Stormont to open theirs.

We are privileged to have courageous men and women in our health service. Testing saves lives. Slowing the spread of the virus must be our objective. The median age is 43 years, which tells us something. This is an opportunity for us, as a nation, to be leaders. All Members of this House are trying to be leaders. The outcome is physically in our hands. Leadership is being shown by the Government, the healthcare system and those who work in the food supply chain. Public health messages can be heard only by those who are open to hearing them. The individual leadership of every ordinary person is now required to slow down and stop this pandemic. Flattening the curve is up to each of us. I commend the Minister and the Government, the healthcare workers and all who are doing everything in their power to ensure we slow down the pandemic, flatten the curve and stop the spread of infection.

I have never been more proud of a Minister, a Government and our healthcare system. At a time when the HSE is criticised by many, the leadership shown by Mr. Paul Reid, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, and their staff is to be commended. We cannot be complacent. Other leaders across the world have been shown to be lethargic in their approach. At least, we have not been.

Mar fhocal scoir, I thank those who are not contesting the Seanad election for their public service and their service in this House. I wish those who are contesting the election the best of luck. Hopefully, we will see each other at the count. I thank all Members and staff for facilitating this sitting of the Seanad and if we must sit next week, we will do so. We are here to work and serve and we will not be found wanting.


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