From top: Irish nurses and supporters in Sydney, Australia; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil this afternoon
During Leaders’ Questions.
Party leaders raised the nurses’ strike with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Varadkar repeated much of what he said yesterday – that he believes borrowing money for pay increases is bad policy and that if one of group of State employees receives a pay increase, other groups will seek the same.
The 24-hour strike – the first in a series – began at 8am this morning while supporters of the strike have been using the hashtags #giveusareasontocomehome and #istandwithnursesandmidwives on Twitter.
Further to this…the following is one short exchange Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald had with the Taoiseach:
Leo Varadkar: “The impression created by some that there are more nurses leaving the country that coming into the country is not correct. The impression created by some that there are more nurses leaving the public service that entering it is not correct. And those are the facts and I hope you at least acknowledge those facts.
Mary Lou McDonald: “So, Taoiseach, then are the pictures of our young nurses from Melbourne and Sydney and all around the globe asking us, asking you to give them a reason to come home: is that like fake news? Are they doctored images? Pardon the pun.
“I don’t believe that they are. I think people know that yes, certain nursing staff would have gone for a year and come back but the reality now is that we’re losing so many of our best and brightest and they’re not coming back.”
“Here’s the other fact. There’s a strike on today. How’s that for a fact? Procedures have been cancelled as you’ve acknowledged. How’s that for a fact? Every man, woman and child in this land knows that should any of us get sick, or a loved one falls sick, you want the very best of care for them. All of us know that that’s only possible if you have the right staff and you will only have the right staff if they are treated with dignity and they are paid and rewarded at an appropriate level. How are those for facts, Taoiseach.
“What the nurses and midwives is very, very reasonable. And by the way, I know all about the industrial relations mechanisms of the State. You really don’t have to keep repeating that to us, as though we’re morons. We’re all well acquainted and well versed with all of that. I do not accept that you, as Taoiseach, that it is satisfactory or acceptable for you to passively sit on the sidelines whilst this strike is on.
“I’m asking you again on behalf of the nurses and midwives that I spoke to this morning, they said: tell him to engage. You are there Taoiseach, you’re the head of Government. They are asking you to engage. If you’re interested in sorting this dispute Taoiseach that this is what you will do and you will do it speedily.”
Varadkar: “Deputy, I don’t think you’re a moron. And I can assure you I’m not a moron either. But if you keep asking me the same question, I will keep giving you the same answer.”
– Taoiseach on #nursesstrike “We don’t want to divert money earmarked for medicines for pay increases.”
– Micheal Martin responds: “There was no limit to the Budget for the children’s hospital.” Says it’s ” wrong to pitch nurses against medicines for patients.”
— Mary Regan (@MaryERegan) January 30, 2019