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 Anthony LawlorAnthony Lawlor (Fine Gael)

I commend the Minister and the Government on the work they have done so far. I also commend the staff of the health sector.It is not just people on the front line but pharmacists and others such as carers who are meeting elderly people on a regular basis.

I acknowledge the speed of the reaction since the first confirmed case and the necessity of this type of legislation. It is something none of us wants brought in but because of our current position, it must be done. I commiserate with people who lost their jobs and people losing businesses. They will be hit hard. I welcome the speed with which people can get social welfare payments.

One of the startling pictures I saw over the past couple of days was of trucks coming out of Bergamo carrying coffins as the local crematorium could not cater for the number of people dying. We all saw it. The sad part is that kids have not seen this but they are likely to pass on the infection. There is a huge responsibility on parents to relay the message to the kids who are congregating in groups. There is also a responsibility on elderly people to help. Most older people have either grandchildren or great-grandchildren and they should be used as a conduit to relay the message about keeping those young kids apart. They should relay the message that their grandchild or great-grandchild could kill them. It is the reality and the message must be put across to the young people who are currently being irresponsible. They are a major source of infection that must be stopped. There is a role for older people in doing that.

I call on each of us to have five numbers on our phones of people in isolation, especially if they are older, and to ring those people every day. Part of the issue is that social isolation leads to mental health problems. Give those people a ring and see how they are.

I do not see anything in the legislation about what we must do with the banks. Most of us were here when legislation was passed in 2011, 2012 and 2013 when we transferred funding from the National Pensions Reserve Fund to save the banks. They are doing nothing currently and they are not giving any of that money back to help beleaguered businesses. They are not giving it back to help people who lost their jobs who may need extra cash over a period. The reserve fund was meant to help safeguard ordinary people but they lost their jobs while people in banks kept theirs. Ordinary people had to emigrate while that happened. The banks need to step up to the mark now. Rather than postponing payments they should take a hit themselves.

I welcome that there will be an end point in this legislation. Having the Act on the Statute Book longer than necessary may give Governments the opportunity to use an iron fist when it is not required. We need to support local radio and funding should be made available for this purpose. There are 70,000 people who listen to KFM, my local radio station, every day. It is a source of information that can be dispersed. Perhaps people with previous Garda vetting can be moved more quickly through the system so we do not have to vet them again, as would happen in more usual circumstances. I commend all the people who have signed up to help in the medical sector. This evening I will be delivering prescriptions from the local pharmacy and everybody can help in similar ways if people are unable to get down to a pharmacy.

This will end. A couple of sectors have been really badly hit, including the hospitality sector. When this ends, I encourage people to take a staycation.We should support our local hostelries and hotels by taking a staycation rather than going abroad.


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