Friday, 27 March 2020
An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: An Dara Céim - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Second Stage
I am sharing time with Senator Clifford-Lee. I thank the Tánaiste for coming in. Fianna Fáil supports this Bill and the regulations brought in earlier in the week, especially concerning childcare. As the Tánaiste pointed out, the legislation to be passed is far-reaching and there are many sweeping measures that, at other times, we would have contemplated and scrutinised for much longer. I also thank the parliamentary drafters and the officials behind this legislation who spent hours, I presume, putting it together and putting in our amendments.
The Fianna Fáil group has many amendments. We do not want to delay the Bill, but we hope they will be taken on board in the future. We might push some, but we probably will not, given the legislation has to pass today and the reality of the situation. We will be going through our amendments and putting them on the record of the House. Regarding many of the provisions in this emergency legislation concerning the health system, we are seeing our health system work in a unified manner now. We hope that in a post Covid-19 Ireland we can take from this experience and that many of the measures which are transitory will become more permanent in the future. I refer not just the healthcare system working in unison, but also giving tenants more rights and security of tenure. We also saw a State-funded childcare system in the last few days. That is something we should look at on a more permanent basis in future so that people will live in a better society and have a better quality of life. We have also seen income supports, more of a living wage and, as was mentioned, fast-tracked recruitment. Many of these measures should have been taken before this crisis. It has taken a crisis to put them together in this legislation. When a Government is formed, and I hope that is soon, I hope we are going to be in a different Ireland. I hope there will be a different landscape and that it will be for the better of everybody.
I thank our communities, our neighbours and especially the front-line staff for their resilience. They are continuing to go into work every day in the knowledge that healthcare workers are the most vulnerable. They are falling sick with Covid-19 in disproportionately high numbers. Personal protective equipment, PPE, is en routeand I hope it gets here as fast as possible so fewer healthcare workers get ill.That is worrying and it must be so worrying for them, for their families and for their loved ones because they are putting themselves on the front line.
I want to say some words of thanks. This could be my last day in the Seanad although I hope it will not be. I thank the Cathaoirleach, the staff, the Ministers and all of my colleagues especially for being so kind and supportive. It has been a pleasure to work with them over the term of the Seanad.