Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. It is great to have her here. It is good to have an opportunity to discuss the vaccine roll-out because as the Minister of State has said, vaccinating an entire population against a virus which, as far as we are aware, only came into existence just over a year ago is probably the most important public health initiative in living memory. It is quite remarkable, so we must acknowledge the good work that has been done in extremely difficult times.

It is worth noting we are at almost 800,000 first doses and that 80% of the population should have their first vaccine by the middle of June. It is a significant achievement by the Government, the country and the people to get to that point. It is worth acknowledging that.

I concur with what Senator Garvey said on nursing homes. It is going really well and physically meeting their loved ones again has made a big difference to many families and residents in the nursing homes in particular. It has been a huge boost to those families. The mass vaccination site in Breaffy in Castlebar in my home county, County Mayo has been working well. It has been positive. People like to see it up and running in their area.

I commend the Minister of State on her quick action on the Beacon Hospital story. She and the Government were put in a difficult position. The privilege displayed by those involved provoked mass outrage and the right decision was taken to suspend the vaccination programme at the hospital. The words of the Minister for State, other Government colleagues and the Taoiseach were strong in putting it back on the board of the hospital to take action because people want to see consequences. It was handled quite well.

While we all have different views on how things are working, all the contributions to the debate have been constructive, except for Senator Keogan's contribution, who I have to take issue with. We do not come to this House to kick other people to elevate ourselves. That is not how we do our work. Take issue with a person's policy or work but do not come in her to personalise the debate.

I cannot keep up. Senator Keogan is on public record last November as having questioned level 5 restrictions, the deadliness of Covid-19 and asking the Minister for information on how many people who died of just Covid or if other factors were at play. She even suggested exploring restrictions for those most affected and letting everybody continue living. The Senator wanted to leave people behind.

Senator Keogan criticised the communications of the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, and the Government on Covid-19. In November, she questioned the need for daily number announcements and press conferences, so she did not even want the communications. Senator Keogan went from being vaccine sceptical to wanting full vaccination, and from zero Covid to saying "let it rip". I am finding it hard to keep up.

However, Senator Keogan has been consistent in that, every time a member of my party comes into this House, she puts the boot in. I can tell her it has been well noted on this side of the House. It is just not the way to do business. The Senator can have her say but do not come in here to put the boot into another colleague who is here to do his job. Being Minister for Health is really difficult on the best of occasions. It is the most difficult brief any Minister in Government will hold. We all know that. It is one of the briefs people actually run away from because it is so challenging. We now have a Minister who is not only Minister for Health, but for Covid, vaccination and hotel quarantine.He is doing a remarkable job and it is amazing he is holding it together, as a person and as a human being, with the workload that is on his shoulders. As colleagues in this House, from all parties and none, the very least we can do is get behind the team that is fighting on behalf of this country to get us back open and get our children back to school, our businesses back up and running and everyone vaccinated. That would be a far more productive use of our time than coming in here throwing scuds at one another, to get a few popular lines in one of the newspapers or a clap on the back for five minutes for a Facebook post. That is all the Senator will get out of it. What she will not get is anything good for the public or the people that we serve.


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