Independent Deputy for South Tipperary Seamus Healy has asked the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore when will the Government stop terrorising the sick and elderly across the country
Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions, he said the Government’s austerity Budget of this year has targeted the withdrawal of 40,000 existing medical cards from the sick and elderly across the country.
“That policy is being implemented on the Government’s behalf by the Health Service Executive,” he said. “It is not possible for me to overstate the fact that the sick and elderly are traumatised and in daily fear of losing their medical cards. The postman or postwoman, who has always been a welcome sight for the elderly, is now a source of anxiety in case he or she is bringing that dreaded white envelope that states that one is under review and gives the threat of one’s medical card being withdrawn.”
Let us be clear what is happening, he continued. The sick and elderly are being targeted by the Government to pay banks and bondholders and to protect the 10,000 top earners in this country, who each earn on average €595,000 per year.
“These medical card holders are being specially and specifically targeted. They are in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. Their cards are not due to be reviewed. They hold current, fully valid medical cards assessed and approved by the Health Service Executive with expiry dates up to 2020, but they are now being punished to satisfy the greed of bankers and bondholders. Does the Tánaiste think this is fair, and will he do anything about it? Has he or the Government any compassion for the sick and elderly?”
However, in a robust reply, the Tánaiste said there are more persons today with medical cards than at any time in the history of the State.
“It is perfectly clear that Deputy Healy raised this issue to make a political point and a political charge against the Government, particularly the Labour Party,” he said. “He also has made a wild charge about losing jobs. The jobs were lost by the previous Government at a rate of 250,000 in the three years before this Government took office. In the past 12 months alone, over 30,000 additional jobs have been created in this country and we have a lot more to do. The level of unemployment has dropped for the first time since the beginning of the crisis and it is now down to 13.5% from over 15%.”
Deputy Gilmore said the number of people who are long-term unemployed is also down from 9.2% to 8.1%.
“We have a lot more to do in that area, including the introduction of the youth guarantee to get young people in particular back to work; increasing investment in our country in order to create jobs and delivering better public services, including the delivery of more medical cards with less money available to the State. That is the achievement of this Government and we are going to continue to do it.”
Seanad FIGURES not correct – O’Murchú
What visitors to Ireland make of the Fine Gael referendum posters in support of the abolition of the Seanad which show a saving of €20 million and the reduction in the number of politicians was queried by Cashel Senator Labhrás O’Murchú.
“I wonder what visitors will think if the people have actually come to that point, no matter what economic challenges we are facing,” he said. “I have done a number of interviews on the subject, and together with a former senior Fine Gael minister were debating the matter. My argument was that the proposed saving of €20 million could not be substantiated, even taking into account the so-called indirect expenses, for which no evidence has been provided.”
Senator O’Murchú said the Minister had agreed quite casually that the figure of €20 million was not correct.
“On the subject of fewer politicians, I mentioned that prior to the last election, we were promised that there would be 20 fewer Dáil Deputies,” he said. “He agreed again that this proposal was modified to a reduction of eight in the number of Deputies. If that is the essence of civilised debate on getting rid of a House of Parliament and if that is meant to reflect who we are as a people - which I do not believe it does - we are, I think, in a sorry state at present.”
Anybody suggesting getting rid of a House of the Oireachtas surely should have put forward a White Paper or a Green Paper and given 12 months to examine the pros and cons and have a genuinely informed and focused debate, he said. That was not done and the matter was not allowed to go to the Constitutional Convention.
“I will not use the word ‘dishonesty’ but there is something very strange about the excuses given for not bringing it to the Convention,” he added. “The excuses do not stand up. Let us forget about ourselves as legislators and ask ourselves two questions. Are we treating the people in a mature manner? Is it our intention to, in some way, add insult to insult and suffering to suffering, which the Government is doing at the moment?”
The reason he said he mentioned a White Paper or Green Paper is that one can see, as the debate evolves and people get more information, that people are asking more questions.
“I know it is late in the day but that is not the fault of the people. I have said before that if one looks at the Dáil as it exists at present, one can see that most Members of the Dáil in all parties have been reduced to filling seats and pushing buttons.”