I am sharing my time with Deputies Perry and Cosgrave.
It is with reluctance and shame that we must again plead with the Minister for Health and Children and his Ministers of State to take action. They have sat idly by for the past three weeks and done nothing, hoping to turn the tide of opinion against the nursing profession. They have failed to do that and well beyond the twelfth hour they have dillied and dallied, playing for time and hoping the nurses will cave in and go back to work. The Minister has failed to understand the resolute determination of the nursing profession that has provided care for the people through the centuries. The Government has turned its back on the nurses. Ministers Cowen and McCreevy have insulted them over the past three weeks. They have spoken down to them and at them rather than to them. The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, has failed the nursing profession. He has failed the old, sick and handicapped. He has insulted so many people in this debacle. He has dismantled the health services and lengthened the waiting lists, leaving people suffering and in pain.
Does the Minister intend to continue this cruel assault on this section of the population who live in fear of being stricken with an emergency? Does he wish to deny the nursing profession its entitlement to a just wage for the services it provides? Will he allow young nurses to leave this country next week, as they are bound to do, and at the same time see other young emigrants return home? Has he any consideration for what the country and particularly the elderly are suffering? This is discrimination at its worst. I hope the Minister and Minister of State will stand aside from the ministries they now hold and let others come in with new determination to rectify the matter. It is unbelievable in this day and age that we allow and expect a nurse to work on a Saturday for £8 additional pay. Would the Minister accept such remuneration?
There are ways to resolve this dispute. Because of the urgency of the matter I hope the Minister will take it in hand, even at this late stage, and show that care will be provided. Someone should get hold of the two Ministers who are holding fast in a bullish way to deny the nursing profession adequate and reasonable remuneration for their efforts and the care they provide. No further time should be lost in ensuring a reasonable settlement is provided.