I call Deputy Rabbitte.
Leaders’ Questions (Resumed).
They have a better health system than ours.
I too wish to raise the event of the weekend and the political implications arising therefrom. Can we now take it that the Taoiseach has turned his back and walked away from Hanly? He truthfully now, apparently, told the House that the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, was right all along and the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, remains wrong. I ask the Taoiseach about the waiting lists and the commitment to which Deputy Kenny has referred, that within two years of 6 May 2002, he would have cleared the waiting lists. Is the Taoiseach still trying to wriggle out of that commitment set out in black and white? Is he now stating, as he stated last Sunday night, that the abolition of the waiting lists will never happen?
Will the Taoiseach explain what his Minister for Finance meant when he said he would bring proposals to Government to control the costs of tribunals. I understand why he might wish to divert attention from the proceedings at certain tribunals but surely this is the same Minister for Finance who cleared the proposal from the then Attorney General, Mr. McDowell, that we increase the allowance to lawyers by €800 per day? What proposals will he bring to Government? Do they involve legislation and when will they be brought before Government?
I ask the Taoiseach about the discovery of €600 million to renovate the Red Cow roundabout and the M50. That proposal has been there since before the Luas works started. The Taoiseach now proposes to embark on a new project that will cause three years of further disruption after the completion of Luas and after the nonsense from the Minister for Transport about putting Luas on stilts has been abandoned.
On the €1 million from the Minister for Social and Family Affairs for families, is this the same woman who took €57 million from the weakest and most vulnerable families in our society with the abolition of the rent subsidy whereby families will be deprived of a roof over their heads? We make a meal of €1 million for families in marginal constituencies, or maybe the same families that will benefit from the €1 million provided by the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan. It would not put in two playgrounds in the entire country at a time when there are families who admittedly might never vote, but who are at the very bottom of the ladder, who are being hurt every day by what the Minister, Deputy Mary Coughlan did, the most right-wing Minister we have seen since the Minister, Deputy McCreevy.
The Deputy has asked a range of questions. In the welfare budget we are spending €11.5 billion. They are some of the best and biggest increases ever in various areas of the social welfare budget. Deputy Rabbitte asked whether we have moved away from the Hanly report. The Hanly report is still part of the reform package of the Department of Health and Children. It is claimed that Hanly ignored or placed insufficient emphasis on access to services for patients outside major population areas.
On the matter of the weekend events, I have been listening to some of the arguments of people opposed to Hanly. It is baffling how anyone can suggest that a doubling of consultant numbers and an increase in services in the regions can be seen as a slowing down. I was baffled by that over the weekend. The Hanly report does not recommend centralisation of acute hospital care into a few large hospitals or the downgrading of hospitals——
Hanly argues for the decentralisation of a large proportion of elective acute care and other services currently delivered in large acute hospitals to smaller local hospitals. This means investment in and development of local hospitals.
The Taoiseach is misleading the House.
More than €40 million has been invested in development of GP co-operatives.
The Taoiseach's nose is getting longer.
Some of the issues put forward at the weekend are not true. The claims that some of the Hanly report's conclusions are based on a limited number of sources and that the group misinterpreted their findings, is entirely inaccurate. As I have already said, on the latest figures up to September 2003, there was a 42% reduction in the number of adults on the waiting list for more than 12 months and a 39% reduction in the number of children waiting for more than six months. Over 10,000 patients were treated by the national treatment purchase fund.
Does the Taoiseach believe all that?
On the issue of the Red Cow roundabout, it is obvious Deputy Rabbitte did not watch the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, at the weekend. If so, he would have heard the Minister say that, as part of the proposals, he was bringing forward the €46 million that was required to start the work on the Red Cow roundabout as soon as possible to deal with improvements in that area. That work will be done long before the other overall work. I am sure Deputy Rabbitte will be glad to see the doubling of the lanes on the M50 and also the access roads and some other work which will enhance the M50 which now deals with a greater volume of traffic than when it opened a decade ago.
I can understand the Taoiseach disowning the Hanly report but I cannot understand him seeking to rewrite it.
What he is saying is the exact opposite of what is contained in the Hanly report. Is the Taoiseach standing over pressing ahead with Hanly or not? Is Hanly engaged on a fool's errand, doing further work when the Taoiseach has already abandoned the thrust of his policy? What does the Taoiseach mean when he says "medical cover will be provided"? Does that mean that an accident and emergency consultant will be available to patients brought in through casualty, or does it not?
Will it apply 24 hours a day?
Does it mean a GP, a junior hospital doctor or a triage nurse? What does it mean? Why create smokescreens such as saying he is content that there will be medical cover. What exactly does that mean?
I listen very carefully to what the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, says and I get plenty of opportunities to hear him, because there are two press releases per day. The last time he was putting stilts at the Red Cow roundabout and now, when the works are within four or five months of being finished, he will start a new project that will take three years. He blames his predecessor. She says he should shut up and get on with it. This is the array of promises that was made at the weekend. The Taoiseach fooled the people in June 2002 but he will not be able to fool them a second time.
I do not think anyone is fooling anyone but I am not going to be fooled either by Deputy Rabbitte trying to rewrite Hanly. Hanly does not recommend centralisation of acute hospital care into a few large hospitals or downgrading of hospitals.
That is completely untrue.
Hanly argues for the decentralisation——
This is ludicrous.
The Deputy should read it.
Who should read it?
Deputy McManus, your leader asked a question, he is entitled to the courtesy of hearing the reply. I ask the Deputy——
We are entitled to some serious answers.
It is obvious the Labour Party gets excited when the truth is put forward in Hanly, because that party is involved in a misrepresentation of the facts. That party is running around the country trying to set up committees which give misrepresentation.
Hanly is dead.
Hanly does not recommend centralisation of acute hospital care into a few large hospitals or the downgrading of hospitals. Hanly argues for the decentralisation of a large proportion of elective acute care and other services currently delivered in large acute hospitals to smaller local hospitals.
What is elective acute care?
This means investment and development of local hospitals.
What is elective acute care?
It is being claimed that the Hanly report ignored or created insufficient emphasis on access or services for patients outside the major population areas. The Deputies should continue to interrupt me. That will not change Hanly. Hanly offers an important role for every hospital providing a quality service for patients. It offers a balance between access for all patients and quality of treatment for the seriously injured patient.
The Government is suffering from elective acuteness.
That Deputy Rabbitte asks a question about accident and emergency consultants in every hospital in the country shows his lack of knowledge. There are only a handful of hospitals in the entire country that have an accident and emergency consultant; it is medical cover. The Deputy would not say something like that if he knew anything about accident and emergency units of hospitals.
I did not, I asked about medical cover. What is the Taoiseach providing?
Twenty four hour medical cover.
What does that mean?
If Deputy McManus does not keep quiet for Deputy Joe Higgins I will have to take appropriate action.
It is a sheet to pull over one's head.
I would never threaten a woman, a Cheann Comhairle, so please do not do it on my behalf. When the Taoiseach leaves Dublin airport next week to visit the United States, unfortunately I cannot be on the tarmac to wave him off. Therefore, I must ask him now, if it is his intention to confirm the invitation to President Bush to visit Ireland at the end of June and, if so, on whose behalf will he extend that invitation? Does he presume to do so on behalf of the Irish people, a large majority of whom opposed his criminal invasion of Iraq on a basis that was obviously fraudulent and has been proved now? As he is President of the EU, does the Taoiseach delude himself that he is doing it on behalf of a majority of the citizens of the EU who also massively opposed his bloody invasion? We know the Taoiseach has been a willing tool for US imperial ambitions. He allowed President Bush use our island home as an aircraft carrier for his bloody invasion of Iraq and he proposes to allow him use it again as a platform for his re-election campaign next autumn. No doubt President Bush's publicists are already working out the soft focus images of the mists blowing in to Sliabh Mish or the waves breaking on the Cliffs of Moher to push for a few nights off the American TV networks, the awful images of the killing fields in Iraq, for which he is responsible.
What right has the Taoiseach to demand that the Irish people do not protest in large numbers against this cynicism? Is the Taoiseach a part of the disgusting and sinister move by Dublin City Council, backed by Fianna Fáil councillors, to ban the Irish anti-war movement from legally placing posters on lampposts to notify people of legitimate and peaceful protests, as was done last February when 100,000 people came out in opposition to his policy?
At what location does the Taoiseach intend to meet President Bush? Will he invite him to the Dáil where we can plan an appropriate reception for him?
The EU-US summit is taking place in Ireland in June. This has already been confirmed and the President of the United States is travelling to Ireland to participate in that summit where we will discuss EU-US summit issues, particularly the transatlantic relationships and improving transatlantic relationships. The agenda is not finalised but a recent parliamentary question gave a number of issues in which we will be involved. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, set this out and they have been well reported.
The Government's position on Iraq has consistently been that we support Iraq with the transfer of power as soon as possible to a democratically-elected Iraqi Government. We recognise, as does Kofi Annan, that elections cannot be organised in the present circumstances. We received the United Nations Secretary General's report on the recent electoral commission in Iraq late yesterday and we are broadly supportive of its conclusions and recommendations. The Secretary General said that consensus among the constituents is the best guarantee of a legitimate and credible transitional Government in Iraq. Our position on Iraq remains one of support for the role of the UN as it has been throughout and will continue to be.
He refused to give a resolution justifying——
It was the Deputy's namesake who submitted the question.
He spoke very well on it too. He deserves an answer.
There is no need for the Deputy to try to embellish it.
The Taoiseach's speech was provocative.
We commend the efforts of UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to maximise within the existing political and physical constraints the role of the activities of the United Nations in regard to Iraq and we continue during our Presidency to support it and we will continue to support the aim of reaching a consensus on a way forward. That, among other issues, including international issues, will be discussed during the US-EU summit in June.
The Taoiseach did not give any clue as to the location of his talks with President Bush. May I be helpful and suggest he meet him in An Blascaod Mór and in the house of Peig Sayers. Peig was a noted teller of fairytales. This is an entirely appropriate location for the Taoiseach to meet the man who spun him what will become the most notorious fairytale of our epoch, except that the consequences were anything but fairytale.
Muintir an Bhlascaoid knew a good fairytale when they heard one but, apparently, they were unlike the Taoiseach, who continues to be mesmerised by the tall tales coming out of Washington. Will the Taoiseach continue to be mesmerised by Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld, who might as well have been the fiddlers of Dooney so compulsively has the Taoiseach continued to dance to their tune? He gave them our airports, diplomatic cover and anything they wanted. Now, he intends to do another jig for them, to help the President back into the White House again. If the Taoiseach does not withdraw this invitation, will he affirm the democratic right of the people to protest against it and to advertise that protest?
Will the Taoiseach support it in advance this time?
People have the right to protest. While I would have no influence on Deputy Joe Higgins, I remind him that individual Presidents of the United States change from time to time. It is an office that is well respected in this country and in Europe, and one that is part of the free and democratic world. The United States is friendly towards Ireland and has given employment and a good life to millions of people.
What has that to do with my question or the situation in Iraq?
I have listened to the Deputy's non-colourful rant and am simply providing a few facts.
The Taoiseach will not answer a straight question.
There is a considerable amount of American investment in this country. When the President of the United States visits Europe during the Irish EU Presidency to have a meeting on international business-——
What does the Taoiseach say about weapons of mass destruction?
I ask the Deputy to allow the Taoiseach to answer without interruption.
——-I do not think it becomes any Member of the House to be so negative about it. It does no good whatsoever.
What will the Taoiseach say about the fraud perpetrated by Bush and Rumsfeld?
The Deputy should resume his seat or I will have to ask him to leave the House.