As the Taoiseach knows, there has been much debate and there were many provisions in the programme for Government about the self-employed needing far more support and protection under the social welfare system. Last week on Joe Duffy's radio show, Ms Martina Kelly spoke harrowingly about her experience as a self-employed person. She outlined how a sudden and debilitating condition negatively impacted on her personal well-being but also left her penniless due to the absence of a social security safety net. It is striking that the Government has made no effort to implement the Mangan report prepared by an advisory group on tax and social welfare about extending social insurance coverage to the self-employed. It was published in May 2013.
Essentially, it stated that in international terms, Ireland is unusual in not providing state supports for the self-employed in the event of injury or illness. In most EU member states, provision is afforded to the self-employed to cover occupational injuries or sickness.
The group was of the view that social insurance for the self-employed should be extended to provide cover in terms of contingencies related to long-term illness. This is the very point that Ms Martina Kelly made on Joe Duffy's "Liveline" programme last week. If the Taoiseach gets a chance, he should listen to the podcast. I believe Ms Kelly may have rung the Taoiseach, as did her husband. It is an extraordinarily sad and difficult story for all concerned.
The recommendation is that the extension of social insurance to self-employed to provide cover for long-term ill-health or incapacity should be on a compulsory basis. Why did the Government not proceed to legislate for that recommendation of the report? The Taoiseach made a very important commitment to do something for the self-employed but very little has happened at a time when we are encouraging people to become self-employed and self-starters.
On a related issue, the programme for Government makes a commitment that: "Universal primary care (UPC) will remove fees for GP care and will be introduced within this government’s term of office." This commitment has now been abandoned by the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, similar to what happened with universal health insurance. Yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, said that free GP care would not be deliverable in the next five years. In the 2011 programme for Government, Fine Gael and the Labour Party promised to deliver it by 2016. Now, before a general election, we have the new phenomenon of Ministers predicting that even in the next five years, it will not be implementable either.
Does the Taoiseach accept that chapter of the programme for Government is complete fiction? Clearly, it will not be implementable in this Dáil but now what was proposed in 2011 will not even be implementable in the next five years to 2021. Does the Taoiseach accept that?