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 Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)

I think it is a universal view, thankfully, but I pay tribute to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste for their leadership in this extraordinary time. The Minister for Health has been doing a huge job. As the Leader said earlier, many people regard what he is doing very highly.I commend my constituency colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, on the work she is doing in supporting small businesses. It is correct that we identify and pay particular tribute to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the former Deputy, Regina Doherty, for the fact that she is as selfless and committed as if she were seeking to return to her role. In addition to congratulating our Government, which is giving leadership par excellence, and the Taoiseach for his rallying call to the nation the other night, I pay tribute to the GAA clubs throughout the country and the scouting leaders who contacted me yesterday to offer the use of their facility in Cavan. All such voluntary groups that are helping throughout the country are heroes and we should be proud of them. Sadly, they may be needed to a greater extent in the future.

The strategy of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve is correct. I sense there has been a positive response and there has been buy-in from the people. There has been an acceptance that it should be the case and that we should all work together. The meitheal is developing and coming together. There may be a minor aberration of small groups of young people congregating and so on, as has been mentioned on the radio, but I expect that to rectify itself. With greater publicity and discussion of the issue, I hope that as we proceed, that will sort itself out. Through this Chamber, we should ask anyone with influence over young people to encourage them not to congregate in that fashion. The response to the Bill has been very positive throughout the nation and we should be proud of that. The Bill will provide for detention as a last resort where somebody will not self-isolate voluntarily. With God's help, one has to assume, that will be rare. While the human condition dictates that such legislation is necessary for the duration of this emergency, one assumes that it will rarely if ever have to come into play.

Given that my wife is a public health nurse, through her I meet many nurses, doctors, home care assistants and so on. We should pay great tribute to the healthcare workers on the front line. They are the heroes of the hour, putting themselves at risk, and there is no way they cannot do so. My wife and all her colleagues - she is no different from the rest - have been visiting homes in recent days. There is no way they can do so wearing some sort of a spacesuit. They run a risk, which we have to minimise, but they are prepared to gamble.

The social welfare payment should be processed efficiently.

The banks' initiative in respect of mortgage rates was good. We should examine the interest rate on loans and the banks should have to make a contribution in that regard in order that debt will not accumulate.

Finally, I turn to the issue of insurance, which is not specifically part of the Minister's brief even though every matter is part of his brief in this context. The insurance companies will have to come some way to meeting this challenge because many businesses must pay insurance. For example, a hotelier in my area and the owner of a bar-restaurant down the road contacted me to say they have been told by their insurance companies, "No joy." I phoned my broker last night about a little retail outlet in my family and again, "No joy." Something has to be done about that and it needs consideration. Their hand will have to be forced on this matter.


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