Question Time [Updated]


Rise TD Paul Murphy

This afternoon.

Rise TD Paul Murphy asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if a newspaper report today – stating that the estimated monthly cost of the State’s leasing of private hospitals will be €115million – a month is accurate.

Mr Varadkar replied:

“That’s deputy, that’s an estimate. So it’s as accurate as any estimate can be. If that answers your question, it may be right, it may be wrong but it’s an accurate estimate. It’s not necessarily what the accurate cost will be because we won’t know that until the end ’cause the costs, they’ll have to be calculated.

“But the agreement that was made between the HSE and the Private Hospital Association was told that this would be done on the basis, on a not-for-profit basis, so it’s the covering of the costs of the hospitals.”


Independent TD Catherine Connolly

This afternoon.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

I gave my support to draconian legislation where absolutely no attempt was made to contextualise such legislation within a human rights perspective or to frame, indeed, the operation of the powers given to Garda and undefined medical officers so that such powers would be time-limited and used in a proportionate and undiscriminatory way.

I was full aware of the implications of such legislation and I gave my support reluctantly, on the basis of a number of issues. One, we improve the legislation as best we could. Two, we made it time-based. Three, we insisted that it would come back before the Dáil.

“But the most important one on which I gave my consent was that we would have full and frank disclosure, full information on every issue from you and the Government. And I have to say, significantly, and unacceptably, that part of the bargain has not been kept.

“I look at testing. I look at the information on that, totally contradictory and I know, as we all do, of people waiting for tests. Four weeks on Saturday, in relation to the one that I’m mentioning.

“In relation to the operation of laboratories, whether they’re functioning or not functioning.

“On the first of April we were told that it was sufficient to meet the demand. Perhaps the first of April is an indication of how we should take that piece of information.

“In relation to nursing homes, I’m absolutely appalled that they weren’t number one on the list with a risk assessment carried out.

“On the 30th of January, the public health emergency was recognised. On the 11th of February, it was given a name: the coronavirus. On the 11th of March, a pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation. And I haven’t heard one simple explanation from ye, as to why the nursing homes, direct provision centres and residential centres weren’t number one on the list, where our most vulnerable people live. 

“Why an assessment wasn’t carried out. I have looked through all of the briefing documents prior to coming in here, I have eight from the month of April. Of all those briefing documents, we’ve two lines on nursing homes, to tell us there would be screening introduced, never was it mentioned again.”


People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett

This afternoon.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett put to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

How do Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael believe that they are fitted to return to power or that we should believe their promises of a new political departure when, after the last financial crisis of 2008 they made the same promises and then proceeded to absolutely savage the staffing levels and capacity levels of our health service prior to this public health emergency.

“To the point where we have some of the lowest levels of ICU capacity, GP cover and staffing levels, hospital bed numbers in the whole of the Western world.

“Isn’t it the case, Taoiseach, that the privatisation and austerity policies that were pursued for the last ten years by these parties have contributed to the emergency that is now emerging, tragic emergency that’s emerging in our nursing homes because of a largely privatised, completely fragmented, under-resourced, under-supported nursing home sector.

“Isn’t it, Taoiseach, unacceptable but a legacy of the policies and priorities of those two parties. That 600 private consultants can hold this country over a barrel in the face of a public health emergency. It is absolutely shocking.

Can you please explain to me the incredible situation where this country has one of the biggest pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries in the world and yet we are suffering chronic shortages of Personal Protection Equipment, vital medical equipment and chemical reagents necessary to bring the level of testing up to that which we need to exit this crisis.

“And where [HSE CEO] Paul Reid cites proprietorial issues as an explanation for this. In layman’s terms, that means private patents and profit seeking by the companies that own these patents for chemical reagents.

“Can the Taoiseach explain why a private consultant, with no medical expertise whatsoever, was given the job of recruiting from the 70,000 heroic volunteers on the Call for Ireland, to recruit those people and integrate them into the health service.

“A job, from when I look at the numbers, doesn’t look to be going too well in that integration, CPL, CPL.

Can the minister explain the extraordinary appointment of a management consultant from an accountancy firm, Ernst & Young, to spearhead the ramping up of the testing and contact-tracing regime which we desperately need rather than public health experts, scientists and medics and that that same person has now been given the job to spearhead the transition back to, quote, ‘business as usual’.

“Rather than the public health experts, the scientists and the doctors, who should be deciding when we lift restrictions, how we lift restrictions, how we transition back to the normality that our citizens desperately want to return to…”


Labour leader Alan Kelly in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon, Labour leader Alan Kelly asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

“Today, Taoiseach, we, in the Labour Party are proposing to you and to the rest of this House that we would pay all of our healthcare workers a one-off €1,000 solidarity gesture on May 1 [International Workers’ Day] in these unique circumstances when we know that all these workers are going way beyond anything they’ve ever done before or anything they’ll ever, ever do again.”


From top: Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon

At 2pm.

The Dáil, with reduced numbers, got under way with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Simon Harris, and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe scheduled to answer questions concerning the State’s response to Covid-19.

During his opening comments, Mr Varadkar said he doesn’t know if the current movement restrictions will be relaxed on May 5, saying they would need to be relaxed over several months.

He said:

“I don’t know yet if we’ll be able to relax restrictions on the 5th of May. But I do know that if we can, at all, it’s going to be gradual and will happen over a number of months. As we know from Asia, they may even need to be reimposed  again because only a scientific breakthrough, a vaccine or an effective anti-viral medicine will truly allow life to got back to being as it was.

“Other breakthroughs, like a reliable anti-body test, could really help though. And I am optimistic about the capacity of the brilliant minds in our international pharmaceutical companies and universities to deliver.”

During his initial contribution, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil:

“Unfortunately, I have to report to the House that I know of at least one case where relatives of a person in a nursing home has been informed that the nursing home has been told by the Department that it should not give out information about the number of cases in the home.”

The proceedings can be watched above or here.

The last time the Dáil sat, on April 3, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan refused to answer a single question that TDs raised about health matters concerning Covid-19, after castigating the TDs who called for the Dáil to sit.

Among the contributions from TDs was that of Fianna Fáil Stephen Donnelly who told the Dáil that he was told that out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home, 70 had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.

Ms Madigan told the Dáil:

“I thank the deputies for their contributions. However, the members here today who have insisted on this Dáil sitting have shown a complete disregard for our national fight to contain Covid-19. Shame on you.”

More to follow.

Earlier: ‘A Growing Sense Of Public Unease’

Previously: A Refusal To Hold Themselves Accountable [Updated]

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41 thoughts on “Question Time [Updated]

    1. Rob_G

      Gesture politics at its finest – why only healthcare workers, why not people working in supermarkets or logistics? Perhaps because they can’t be relied upon to rally around the Labour Party quite like public sector unions.

      1. Gay Fawkes

        Exactly. Furthermore, there are a hell of a lot of healthcare workers doing nothing. The ones not on the frontline are going to their respective empty departments where few surgeries and tests are being carried. They should be redeployed to nursing homes. That should not be voluntary. Perhaps provide a travel subsidy to get to these homes if necessary but don’t award €1,000 en masse when it is not deserved by so many. One of the first cases in this country was also a nurse who returned from Italy with covid and worked a day in a healthcare setting before being diagnosed. Where was the HSE and self-responsibility there? The caretaker government should also be docked €1,000 per week for allowing this pandemic to get here. They let God knows how many Italian fans to fly here. They let thousands of eejits go to Cheltenham and return, along with many other failures to lockdown early. There should be a public inquiry into these HSE and government failings.

  1. Formerly Known As

    The Aussie Parliament shut down till August…Slomo the PM doesn’t want scrutiny. Although, now changed to sit for a week in May.

  2. Liam Deliverance

    AK – Also mentions PPE and that another consignment is due which inculdes PPE gowns.
    Then asked for clarity on the Public/Private Hospital “Deal”, relative to C-19 crisis.

  3. Liam Deliverance

    Roisin Shorthall – Testing process still lacking reagent, 50 test centers not operational as a result, can we get formula for reagent and make ourselves?

    PPE – More gowns needed

    As curve flattens what is exit strategy, should we maintain border restrictions, she calls for wider debate on exit strategy.

    Richard Boyd-Barrett – Also calls for bonus payment for front-line healthcare workers.

    One of Largest Pharma Industries in the world, why can we not use these resources in this crisis?

    1. Hansel

      Three different Reagents for the different phases I think Liam.
      We’ve certainly had a university and pharma work together to recreate one of the three (the Lysis Buffer, UCC + a pharma).
      My understanding is that they’re currently manufacturing the others, but it’s taking time to ramp up production and those centres won’t be fully operational until a few days from now.

      So yes they’re using the local Pharmas. Unfortunately for us we didn’t have the one we needed this time (Roche) in Ireland. So our other pharmas and universities are stepping in to manufacture the products for the first time. They can do it, but you can imagine it’s slow to get the process up and running and resulting product needs to be well tested. They’re doing all this “against the clock” so to speak.

      I do NOT have any inside information, I’m just digging for info, the same as you.

      1. Frank

        we’re so lucky we have all of these top notch pharmaceutical companies here in ireland paying no tax. they’re bound to help us now the chips are down.

        1. Hansel

          I think some of them pay tax at a low rate Frank, but I’d say any marked for “R&D” pay virtually none.

    2. Cian

      Um. Probably because a factory that is designed to create, say, Viagra tablets can’t just be converted to a factory that creates liquid reagent “just because Pharma”.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        We have factories here that do produce reagents. A quick search of say, “manufacturer of reagents ireland” in google will give you an idea. However, some other pharma facilities, if they had the formulas, would be able to manufacture them too. April 2nd, Paul Reid said that the HSE were in discussions with irish pharma companies about ramping up reagent production. I haven’t seen an update to that, and that was two weeks ago. I hope it wasn’t a soundbite to get the media off his back.

        1. Hansel

          From RTE:

          Genomics Medicine Ireland Limited is supplying the test kits. Components for the first 200,000 have been delivered to its lab in Cherrywood, Dublin.
          They’ll work seven days a week to formulate the reagents, shipping out 3,000 units a day initially, building up to 10,000 a day in a few weeks.
          The reagents being supplied by Genomics Medicine Ireland Limited will go to the Enfer laboratory in Sallins in Co. Kildare which came on stream on Saturday.

          UCC and Lilly also did some work but i’m not sure whether it’s in use.

          There’s been a few updates alright.
          Not my area of expertise at all, so I can’t give you good quality info, only regurgitating.

      2. Frank

        Yeah Cian I’d say it’s way harder for a laboratory to start cooking up reagent than say JCB or Airbus in the UK to halt production of a completely different unit and start making ventilators.

        1. Cian

          JCB aren’t making ventilators. They are making metal boxes that can house ventilators.

          They are using the machinery they have (cutting, folding and riveting) and the raw materials they have (metal sheets and yellow paint) in a slightly different way.

          1. bisted

            …JCB have long been complicit with the zionist apartheid regime in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians…any attempt by them to be involved in the fight against coronavirus must be seen for what it is…a cynical and inappropriate PR exercise…

  4. steve white

    Why would a relatives of a person in a nursing home give out information about the number of cases in the home?

    1. Marbe

      The relative is not giving out information but trying to get it, the nursing home is refusing to give the information. Why? are they trying to protect the ‘good name’ of their establishment? The numbers are being manipulated, and we (the public) should be getting the truth even if it is unpalatable.

      1. Cian

        I would imagine that a nursing home would never reveal medical information relating to other residents. It would be a serious breach of data protection.

        Could you image them answering :
        “How many people (residents and staff) in your nursing home have AIDS?”

        1. Hansel

          People I know working in the hospital refuse to talk about the numbers in ICU, deaths etc.
          They don’t discuss patients, even after death.

          Not sure if the nursing homes have the same principles/rules.

    1. Jeffrey Boggart

      Frankly its like in the wind … they have no accountability at all at the moment and its open bar for the usual secrecy, mistakes and blunders.

    1. Shitferbrains

      Yeah. Isn’t 20-20 hindsight a wondetful thing. Im waiting for a fotee of Connolly outside a care home highlighting the absence of any mention of them. Fact is she was asleep at the wheel just like the gubbermint and the unCivil Service.

          1. Cian

            @GiggidyGoo you constantly harp on about how terrible it is that posters attack the poster rather then address the point.
            You are one of the biggest offenders.

  5. Emily Dickinson

    The scandal isn’t that we are paying €115m a month to bring private hospitals into the public system. The scandal is that half the population is still being billed for access to a private system that no longer exists. In effect, the country is being double-charged, with the health insurers being the beneficiaries. At least now we have a number. Their Covid 19 windfall profits can’t be a cent below €115m a month.

  6. Symptomagicsogography

    Did or does anyone really honestly truthfully believe anything that the likes of Varadkar or senior HSE officials have to say. They are all spoofing spoofers flailing around in the dark spouting numbers and data and dangling any other fish hook out to the watching media and public, it’s all PR massaging and hit and hopeful bull. Most intelligent people know that we’re royally funked with this shower at the wheel navigating our country through this lethal pandemic. We won’t get the truth, we the population never do. This pandemic will be a serious cull of our elderly and weak, make no mistake about it. None of them have the balls to tell the grey vote that harsh sobering truthful fact. The politicians and their 500 euro an hour “jobs” are well insulated from the deadly cull and as long as the masses don’t cotton on to that fact too early then all’s well in swampland!.

      1. Cian

        Honestly I wouldn’t know where to start.

        Symptomagicsogography can believe what he or she/it want to believe. Facts won’t change them.

  7. wearnicehats

    I think the authorities are doing a pretty good job considering. It’s very easy for Barrett & co to sling mud from behind the barbed wire.

    With regard to nursing homes, direct provision etc I suspect there is a simple truth here. Once the nature of the contagion was clear the real likelihood was that it was already too late for nursing homes and the like. Someone probably made the decision that containment at source was the best of worst worlds. Now that’s some call to make but I reckon someone made it. I doubt there will be a memo surfacing about it though

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