Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 9, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Harbours Acts 1996 to 2009 (Transfer of Functions of Dundalk Port Company) Order 2011, back from committee; No. 9a, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters; No. 9b, motion re referral to select sub-committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the free trade agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea; No. 9c, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the stabilisation and association agreement between the European Communities and the Republic of Serbia; and No. 4a, Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 9, 9a, 9b and 9c shall be decided without debate and that Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 4a shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2 p.m.; the opening speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Health.

There are two proposals to put the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. 9, 9a, 9b and 9c agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4a agreed?

Given the exceptional circumstances and the fact it is an urgent Bill, we will agree to it. It needs to be taken. We would normally object to the use of the guillotine but in this case the Bill should be facilitated by a rapid passage through the House. We will support it.

Given the seriousness of the situation presenting as of next Monday and the importance of facilitating legislation to allow the Minister to proceed with the necessary recruitment of non-consultant hospital doctors, we will not object to the passage of the Bill today and the manner in which it has been presented. Sinn Féin Deputies will support its passage today.

That completes the Order of Business.

On promised legislation, the programme for Government promised that the HSE "will cease to exist as its functions are given to other bodies during this process of reform". Such a process clearly needs comprehensive legislation. I understand the Taoiseach said five times in the House yesterday that the only proposal is to abolish the board. Is this another broken promise in terms of legislation? We have had Roscommon hospital and the commitment on postal services. Can the Tánaiste confirm whether we will have the promised legislation? Is the programme for Government fast becoming the greatest fairytale book ever written?

Speaking of fairytales.

There will be meetings at the crossroads again.

On the reform of the HSE, the Minister for Health has moved very quickly to replace the board. He is proceeding with the reforms that are required. If legislation is required to underpin that, it will be brought forward in due course.

The Tánaiste is at odds with what the Taoiseach said yesterday. I am glad he has provided clarification. I take it that the closure of small hospitals is part of what the Government calls reform.

Through the Chair please, thank you.

In the course of the past two days, several Government Deputies, while defending the decision concerning the accident and emergency department at Roscommon hospital, referred to the Government's so-called health reform agenda. The Minister for Health has promised free GP care for all within the lifetime of this Government. Is legislation already being prepared to facilitate the introduction of free GP care for all? As regards the cornerstone of this Government's intent — that was previously Fine Gael's position alone — which is the universal health insurance formula, is legislation required? What range of legislation is required and when will it be published? Will the Tánaiste indicate if the preparation of the necessary legislation is already in hand?

I can understand that the Tánaiste will not be able to provide the details, but when can we expect to see the health information Bill, given the importance of what it will achieve? It will provide a legislative framework for the better governance of health information so as to enhance individual patient care and safety and achieve wider health service goals. The health service goals we all have may be different but I hope the health information Bill will be an important aid to people understanding exactly what their rights are in the State's health system.

There is quite a long list of legislation which will be presented in the health area. The heads of the health information Bill, to which Deputy Ó Caoláin referred, were approved by the Government some time ago and it is expected it will be published later this year. The health (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is also due this year. The health and social care professionals Bill is due in 2012. The health insurance (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is due this year. No date has yet been indicated for the licensing of health care facilities Bill. The mental health (amendment) Bill is also due this year. Those are among the legislation to be brought forward.

Issues in the primary care area are being progressed by the Minister for Health. The Government has appointed a Minister of State with particular responsibility for primary care and that work is proceeding.

Will the Tánaiste indicate if any work is under way on legislation to provide universal health insurance, which is a cornerstone of the current Government's health approach? Is progress being made on that and when might we see legislation to facilitate the introduction of this long-vaunted promise?

The commitments on universal health insurance in the programme for Government are being progressed. There is a commitment to a health insurance (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which will be published later this year.

As regards the proposals on the agenda for health legislation, it is important that debates on health service reform should be conducted by cool heads across the spectrum and in society at large. Will the Tánaiste ask Deputy Frank Feighan to withdraw the remark he made calling Deputy Luke "Ming" Flanagan a political thug?

The Deputy is out of order.

There is no need for language like that, so I am asking him to withdraw it. It is absolutely disgraceful.


The Deputy should not abuse the opportunity he is presented with. I call Deputy Bannon.

If he cannot stick the heat, he should get out of the kitchen.

Only a few weeks in the job and they are getting arrogant.

Arrogance has been known to float. The Deputy should not forget that. The better paid Deputies in this House should be the last ones to criticise what is going on.

Deputy Bannon.

The Government is destroying the health services. It is a disgrace.

I ask Deputies on the Government side to desist.

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle.

It is happening every morning.

I will deal with people who are out of order and I do not need the Deputy's help. I call on Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

To respond to Deputy Finian McGrath, I heard——

I am sorry but the Deputy is not responding to him. The Deputy is out of order and I ask her to resume her seat.

I wish to make a point.

Not on the Order of Business.

Yesterday, text messages were being sent in here calling Deputies murderers and traitors. It is an absolute disgrace.


Hear, hear.

The Deputy should resume her seat.

They were put up to it by other parties.

Is the Deputy saying that a Member of the Technical Group did it?

People from other parties.

She should get off the stage.

The Deputy aligned himself with that behaviour.

I am now moving on to deal with motions.