The focus of this amendment is the designation of the role of director of mental health. I know an appointment has taken place since the amendments were tabled and wish the appointee good luck in his new role. However, the core issue is one that I and others, particularly those concerned with mental health reform, share and wish the Minister to consider at this time.
There is a difference of opinion. The note the Minister of State read prior to the recess suggests my arguments do not stand up in respect of the requirement of the Bill that appointees to positions at directorate level be employees of the HSE at a specific or comparable grade within the HSE. The note states that to be eligible, one must be an HSE employee. At least we agree on that point. However, it goes on to state the competition to fill the new posts was open to HSE employees and other public service employees. It might have been, but the use of the word "was" is particularly relevant because we are now talking about a Bill that will apply to the situation that will obtain in the future. Presumably, it did not apply to the particular appointment or appointments made heretofore.
I have linked amendment No. 4 with amendment No. 2, even though, regrettably, they have not been grouped in the groupings presented. Under Part 3A, inserted by section 7, section 16A(3) states:
A person may not be appointed as an appointed director unless he or she is a person who is an employee of the Executive holding the grade of national director or other grade in the Executive which is not less senior than the grade of national director.
It is very clear from that language used that the intention of the Bill is that those who will be considered for such positions must be within the service of the HSE and holders of a post with a particular level of responsibility, that is, national director or other grade that is not less senior than the grade of national director. My argument has been that we should not reserve the opportunity, particularly in the case of the director of mental health, to such a restricted cohort. It is not to say the competency would not be found within their number, but we should leave it open to ensure the widest possible access and competition to ensure the very best person is considered for appointment to fill this post. I make no apology for making a particular case for the area of mental health. The Minister will know from his years here, including his time on these benches, that the mental health service has been the poor relation within the overall configuration of the health care sector. It is critically important that the individual who will take up the position not only has the competency but also a particular feel for the role and the importance of bringing mental health issues to centre stage in the consideration of all health care matters. This is no reflection on Mr. Mulvany who, no doubt, will demonstrate these skills.
I again appeal to the Minister to accept amendment No. 2 and await his response.