Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Jobs Protection

As the Minister of State is aware, Analog Devices is one of Limerick's biggest employers and the main European base for the Analog Devices company, which has its headquarters in Massachusetts in the United States. Recently the American Government blacklisted a Chinese company preventing it effectively from purchasing American made parts and components. Analog Devices makes semi-conductors for smartphones produced by that company and is a huge customer. The decision by the American Government to prevent the Chinese company continuing as a customer of Analog Devices has created great uncertainty and confusion in the region. We are informed that the company has arranged a three or up to five day shutdown to take place in the next week or two. Staff have been told take holidays during that time and staff who have used up their holiday are told they will have to unpaid leave. This is to prevent Analog Devices building up an inventory because of the uncertainty surrounding it. Analog Devices is one of the best employers in the mid-west region, employing 1,200 people in well paid jobs. That accounts for 1,200 families.

If anything happened there, there would be a ripple effect throughout the economy of the mid west because many smaller companies and contractors etc. depend on the business they do with Analog Devices. It would have a devastating impact on the economy of the region. We have done pretty well in recent years but this would be a massive setback. I raise this matter to bring to the attention of the Government what is happening. Is the Minister of State aware of the situation? Have any discussions taken place between his Department and Analog Devices in Limerick, which has refused to issue a statement? Have any discussions taken place with the American authorities or with the enterprise agencies here?

The real reason I am raising this matter is because of the anxiety and distress that these developments have caused in the mid-west region. Does the Minister of State have anything to say that will reassure workers and their fear and uncertainty about their jobs into the future?

I thank the Deputy for raising what he rightly pointed out is an important issue. I am aware of the reports of a planned, temporary cessation of operations at the Analog Devices plant at Raheen in Limerick. I know many employees who work in what is a great company, with 1,200 or more employees in the region. As the Deputy rightly said, it is the European base of Analog Devices.

I want to emphasise to the Deputy that I understand the concerns in connection with this. I know well how important an employer Analog Devices is in the region. IDA Ireland has regular contact with the company. Our understanding in the Department remains that this is a short-term measure which is being implemented across Analog Devices' global sites and that there have been no long-term concerns raised over its Irish operation. Of course, the Government will continue to assess the wider situation and keep the matter under review. I understand that this measure is being implemented across the company's global sites due to the current uncertainty in the market arising from the tensions in the trading relationship between the US and China. Ireland is not the only country affected by this. While I appreciate the concerns that have been generated here, particularly around the mid-west region, it would not be appropriate for me to comment or speculate on an operational decision by a commercial entity. What is clear, however, is that trade-related measures taken in other states can have far-reaching effects beyond those borders. Consumers, suppliers, third party firms and most of all employees are all affected by such scenarios. That has been the situation with the case in hand.

Ireland's economy, as we all know, is outward-facing and export-orientated and reliant to a large degree on global foreign direct investment, FDI. While that serves us well in terms of employment and our economy, it also means we can feel the effects of geopolitical developments from time to time. We have all seen the effects of that in the mid-west and in other areas as well. The Department and I, as a Minister of State in the area, together with the enterprise agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, are monitoring the situation closely, as is our Embassy in Washington DC. The Department is also assessing any other direct and indirect implications for Irish based companies that may arise, especially given the broad and complex global value chains that underpin the operation of the information and communications technology and telecommunications sectors. While I appreciate recent events have been concerning, we need to remember, as the Deputy rightly said, that there is a lot of investment in the region. We know the situation remains fluid and the Government will continue to follow developments closely.

As the Deputy said, moreover in the mid-west region, the situation is good. There are many high quality jobs in IDA Ireland supported companies. Since 2010, the number of staff at IDA Ireland supported firms in Limerick has increase by 82% to almost 12,000 last year. Last year alone there were over 1,400 gross new jobs created by IDA Ireland companies in the region. In recent times we have seen significant investment announcements in the area from other top companies such as Edwards Lifesciences, Regeneron, STATS and Johnson & Johnson.

The overall trend in job creation in Ireland is extremely positive. The year 2018 was another record year for the State in FDI-driven employment and investment. This will continue strongly in the coming year. We are conscious of the situation worldwide, particularly with the trade war between the US and China and the situation between Huawei and the US. It is something that we are monitoring closely and as I said to the Deputy, I know that IDA Ireland is in close contact with the company in Limerick.

I thank the Minister of State for his reassurance that IDA Ireland is in close contact with the company. I want to ask the Minister of State a couple of questions. He says this will be a short-term close down. What evidence does he have to support that? There is a great deal of uncertainty out there. The reality is that people do not know whether this will be short-term or otherwise. The Minister of State cited the figure of 1,400 gross jobs being created last year. The number of jobs lost has to be deducted from that, which was in the region of 200 to 250. At one fell swoop this will wipe out all those gains and do more damage because it is 1,200 direct jobs and a great many more that we cannot count at the moment. We cannot assess the amount of jobs that will be lost indirectly. In his recent discussions with US President Trump, did the Taoiseach raise the issue of how decisions being taken by his Government are affecting investment in our region, which is heavily dependent on foreign direct investment, particularly from the United States, of which the Minister of State is as aware as I am?

As the Deputy knows, US foreign direct investment is important in Ireland. Some 70% of FDI comes from the US. That is how important it is and we value all the US investment we have in this country because in the region of 150,000 people are employed as a result of it.

On the Taoiseach's meeting with President Trump, as the Deputy knows, the meeting was quite short but my understanding from my officials is that the issue was raised but they obviously did not go into it comprehensively. The Deputy will remember back to 2008 when the threat to Dell jobs was evident in Limerick. Both the Deputy and the then Minister, former Deputy Mary Coughlan, travelled to Texas to see what they could do about this. This is a totally different situation because it affects nearly 15,000 employees of Analog Devices worldwide and it is important to point that out.

I refer to trade wars and the Deputy will agree with me on this. All trade wars are settled in the end. It is in the interests of the US and of China to address any concerns they have. We have seen this before with Aughinish Alumina in Limerick as the Deputy knows. It was because of that special relationship we had with the US that we were able to lift the sanctions on Mr. Deripaska. That may have been a different situation to Analog Devices, however. This is an IDA Ireland company, it is a flagship company and it makes the chip devices for Huawei, as it does for other companies. President Trump signed this executive order on 15 May, as the Deputy knows.

I reassure the Deputy that as a Minister of State in the area, I am concerned about developments such as this, as is the Government. Matters that happen on the geopolitical stage affect every country, big or small. It will affect the European Union and it will affect the whole global stage. Much of that is outside our control but that relationship we have with the US will stand to us should a disaster happen. I do not believe it will, however. This is a short-term measure and we have to look at it as such. If the situation deteriorates then it will be a different matter but at the moment I assure the Deputy that everything is being done by IDA Ireland to ensure the viability of this company moving forward.

Sitting suspended at 5.40 p.m. and resumed at 5.45 p.m.

Hospital Overcrowding

Last Friday, at University Hospital Waterford, a number of cancer patients who were preparing for surgery were, unfortunately, sent home because critical care at the hospital had reached capacity and was at crisis point, according to those who work there. I am sure the Minister of State appreciates that when somebody has cancer, it is a traumatic event for the person and his or her family. When preparing for major surgery as a consequence of the illness, one has to build oneself up psychologically and physically. Stephen was one of five patients who turned up for surgery on the day. He was with his wife and was preparing for what he saw as major surgery. He was initially told he would be kept at the hospital for a minimum of six days but then that he would have to go home and have his appointment rescheduled. I contacted the hospital management the next day and was told it had happened because the hospital simply does not have enough critical beds. A high number of trauma cases at the time meant people in the critical beds because of their illness could not be stepped down into other beds at the hospital. As a result, not enough critical beds and surgeons were available to do the necessary surgery.

The problem happens frequently at the hospital but it is not good enough that patients are treated in this way. Stephen, whom I met last week, was complimentary of the staff and management and did not blame any individual, whether those who work in politics or at the hospital. Rather, he pointed out we need to treat people with dignity and respect and that hospitals should have the capacity they need. He did so because he does not want others to go through the trauma of what he and his wife went through, having built himself up emotionally, psychologically and physically, before going home and feeling - in his words - deflated because of what had happened. He will now have to experience all those feelings again whenever his appointment is rescheduled.

We all accept that such events can happen in hospitals and there is never certainty when one is scheduled for any surgery. Nevertheless, I am sure we would all accept that a cancer patient, who must go through the trauma associated with that illness, should be prioritised. That the problem is happening on a more frequent basis suggests that it is systemic and needs to be resolved. I have spoken with the Minister of State several times about the wonderful staff at the hospital, as well as about the lack of capacity throughout the health services. He is aware of the need for additional cardiac and neurological services, the high wait times for ear, nose and throat services and all the other issues that need to be sorted out. When not enough critical beds are available for older people who have cancer, and when people who need surgery do not receive it when needed, it is a poor state of affairs. The issue is not down to the wonderful staff at the hospital but rather to the lack of capacity.

Will the Minister of State raise the matter with the Minister for Health and revert to me to indicate when the appointments of the patients who were told to go home will be rescheduled? They should be notified quickly and prioritised. Will additional capacity be provided at the hospital to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future?

I thank Deputy Cullinane for raising this issue and for giving me the opportunity to provide an update to the House on the recent cancellation of surgical procedures at University Hospital Waterford. By way of context, it is of note that University Hospital Waterford is experiencing ongoing growth in demand for unscheduled care. Emergency department attendances over the past four years have increased by 11%. The HSE has advised that, as of 7 a.m. on Friday, 14 June last, there were 31 admitted patients in the emergency department and eight extra patients on trolleys at ward level at the hospital. The HSE has further advised that the demand for critical care beds already exceeded what was available on that day and, therefore, there was no critical care capacity available or likely to be available for patients who would require post-operative specialist critical care that day. As a result, and in line with the hospital's escalation policy, the HSE has advised that four scheduled surgeries were cancelled. The HSE has further advised that the patients will be contacted urgently to reschedule their appointments.

It is important to note that maintaining scheduled care access for all patients is a key priority for hospitals. I fully acknowledge the distress and inconvenience for patients and their families when elective procedures are cancelled, particularly for clinically urgent procedures. Furthermore, any decision to delay admission or treatment is not taken lightly, and where such decisions are made, they are done to ensure a safe environment, with safe delivery of care to all patients as the priority at all times.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that increasing capacity across our hospitals is a priority for Government. An additional 241 acute hospital beds opened under the winter initiative 2017-2018, including 18 additional acute beds in University Hospital Waterford. Furthermore, the national service plan for 2019 provides for a comprehensive capacity programme and, as part of that programme, an additional six acute beds have opened this year in University Hospital Waterford under the 2018-2019 winter plan. The 2019 capacity programme also provides for 202 additional beds, including 24 beds in University Hospital Waterford during 2019, with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in quarter 1 of 2020.

My Department is also working to improve access for patients waiting for hospital operations and procedures. Budget 2019 announced that the Government had further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund increasing to €75 million. The joint Department of Health, HSE, and NTPF scheduled care access plan for 2019 was published on 11 March. The NTPF is collaborating with University Hospital Waterford and, to date this year, initiatives have been put in place to arrange treatment for over 3,000 patients across inpatient, daycase and outpatient waiting lists.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I fully accept his point that any decision to delay admission for treatment is not taken lightly. I accept that hospital management do not take those decisions lightly because they recognise, as the Minister of State did in his response, there is an additional trauma for patients who are already traumatised because of the type of surgery they are in line for. The reply also states that these decisions are made to ensure a safe environment, with safe delivery of care for all patients. Again, I have no quarrel with that because, if it is the case that the critical beds are taken up and there is a higher demand than the capacity available, then, obviously, hospital management and staff have to make decisions, and decisions they probably do not want to make but are forced into making.

My main point, which was not addressed in the response, is that there is a shortage of critical care beds. I ask that the Minister of State takes this up with the Minister, Deputy Harris. This will happen over and over again unless we put more critical care beds into University Hospital Waterford. The Minister of State's response acknowledges there has been a massive 11% increase in demand because it is a university regional hospital, which services the south east. If the population grows, then demand will increase, and this means the capacity has to increase, which means more critical beds are needed.

I accept hospital management have a difficult job and that it has to make these decisions, and I have no quarrel with it whatsoever. As I said, the staff were very pleasant. They were excellent to the patients who had to be sent home and they were very conscious of the trauma patients were going through, to their credit. However, I have to press the Minister of State again on this point. We need more critical beds in the hospital in Waterford. I hope he will take that message directly to the Minister for Health.

I acknowledge the stress caused to patients. The issue of critical beds is an essential one. We have to ensure these cancellation issues and postponements of planned procedures are dealt with in a proper, professional way. That is something I will bring back to the Minister, Deputy Harris.

While every effort is made to avoid cancellation or postponement of planned procedures, the HSE has advised that planned procedures and operations can be postponed or cancelled for a variety of reasons, including the capacity issues which the Deputy mentioned and due to increased unscheduled care demand, which is what occurred in University Hospital Waterford last Friday. The South-South West Hospital Group is committed to the ongoing development of services at University Hospital Waterford. The hospital group aims to ensure the experience of patients in the hospital is of the highest standard. It continues to work closely with the hospital management team and community and primary care partners as part of the integrated care model to realise this. Of course, I will bring the issues raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Harris.

Home Help Service Provision

The restrictions on new applications for home help services are appalling. This regressive decision will have knock-on negative consequences for families, carers and the wider health service. On the one hand, we have the Government saying it will facilitate people growing old in their own home and, on the other, it is restricting the means to do so.

It is important to remember we have an ageing population. Over the next 30 years, the number of people in Ireland over the age of 65 will double and the number over the age of 85 will quadruple. Despite the increasing life expectancy, chronic illness is on the rise and, therefore, people will need to be cared for in their home to take the pressure off acute hospital services. Real progress in meeting the challenge on home care must be made. It is the preferred option for older people and well acknowledged that the care based around the home is vital for keeping people active in their communities, which in turn has enormous health benefits.

I can cite to the Minister of State particular personal experiences of people in my own constituency and I am sure he has encountered similar experiences himself. People are under enormous pressure because, quite rightly, they are being allocated home help hours because of physical and chronic illness, but they are not being allocated a person or a worker to provide that service to them. We know that providing a service to people in their home costs the State a fraction of what it costs to have them in a nursing home. Not only is it the proper thing to do, the ethical thing to do and the most economic thing to do, it is the common sense thing to do.

We know there are extraordinary people working as home help carers and providers. However, they are put to the pin of their collar and are expected to do the impossible. They are expected to be at a house to provide a service to an older person, perhaps only for 15 minutes - to get them up, get them dressed, get them their breakfast and then to move on to the next person. As we know, older people and people who are ill may not be able to move at the pace of an able-bodied or well person. However, the home care service they are being provided with is for 15 minutes, or perhaps half an hour in the best-case scenario.

I recently attended a meeting of Family Carers Ireland and I have spoken at length on this before in the House. We heard from the families affected by these lengthy delays in having a home care service provided in their homes. It is putting them under enormous pressure, physically, emotionally and mentally. They are under great strain in their own homes, not only to provide care for their sick or elderly loved ones, be it a parent, sibling or otherwise, but they are being given false promises that they have been allocated home help when the HSE cannot provide it because it does not have the services or the personnel in place to do it.

The HSE Service Plan 2019 pledged that 17.9 million home support hours would be delivered this year. However, it has been reported that this service is largely closed to new applicants until next November, which is appalling. As I said, I could cite numerous instances in which services are not being provided. One gentleman who is terminally ill not only had his home help hours reduced but following his committal to hospital for a short time he could not go home because his reduced home help hours had been withdrawn, which meant he was taking up an acute bed in a hospital when he could have been at home. These are the types of scenarios with which we are faced every day in our clinics. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's response on the matter.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly. There has been much speculation and media attention in recent weeks asserting that there may have been a cut in the funding available for home care. This is not the case and I am glad to have the opportunity to clarify the position.

Home supports enable older people to remain in their own homes and communities and they facilitate discharges from hospital. The Government has made improved access to home support services a priority. Progress is reflected in the additional funding made available in recent years with the budget growing from €306 million in 2015 to almost €446 million in 2019. In 2018, the total budget for the service was €416.8 million, providing 17.5 million hours. This year the HSE intends to provide over 18.2 million home support hours, including intensive home care packages, to over 53,000 people. In 2019, almost €30 million has been added to the home support budget and 800,000 more hours of support will be provided compared to the 2018 target.

Throughout the winter period additional home support was provided supporting early hospital discharge and preventing hospital admission. Almost 1,100 clients nationally were approved for new home supports and 857 packages had commenced by the end of March 2019. Preliminary information for end of April indicates that 52,571 people were in receipt of home support hours. Between January and April approximately 5.8 million hours were delivered, with 5,761 new clients commencing the service. Despite this significant level of provision, demand for home support continues to grow and 6,310 people have been assessed and are awaiting either new or additional services. People on the waiting list are reviewed as funding becomes available to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources.

The allocation of funding for home supports, though significant, is finite and services must be delivered within the funding available. The level of service provision must be in line with the HSE's budget, delivery plan and the national service plan. To achieve this, the HSE must ensure that the total number of hours provided does not exceed the targeted level of 18.26 million hours. While this may impact on its ability to provide new or additional hours, it is in line with normal prudent management of the budget. It is not correct to say that no new clients will be allocated home supports for the next five months. The allocation of new hours will be based on clients' needs and the resources available.

I acknowledge that in some cases access to the service may take longer than we would like. However, the HSE has assured the Department that people on the waiting list are reviewed as funding becomes available to ensure that individual cases continue to be dealt with on a priority basis within the available resources and as determined by the local front line staff who know and understand the clients’ needs and who undertake regular reviews of those care needs to ensure that the services being provided remain appropriate.

While the existing home support service is delivering crucial support to many people across the country, it needs to be improved to better meet the changing needs of our citizens. The Department of Health is currently developing plans for a new statutory scheme and system of regulation for home support services. The Sláintecare implementation strategy commits to the introduction of the new scheme in 2021.

The Minister of State read out some staggering figures. However, a HSE spokesperson has said the opposite to what is in the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly. The spokesperson said: "while the budget increased in 2019, that increase will not allow us to deliver an overall increase in the number of hours of care delivered because the cost of delivering the service has increased". The spokesperson continued:

In order to balance budget 2019 there will be a reduction in the level of new hours provided compared to early in 2019. This will continue until early November.

Those are the words of the HSE spokesperson which flies in the face of the response read by the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Daly.

As we know, there has been a significant increase in the numbers waiting for home support, from 4,481 waiting for public home help and a home care package in 2016 to 6,283 in March 2019. In my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan there are 253 people waiting, which is significant. I draw the attention of the Minister of State to the fact that many in need of home care help only receive it on a Monday to Friday basis, and they are the lucky ones. Clearly, this is inadequate in terms of health and social needs in terms of not operating outside a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday service. The result is many people end up being prisoners in their homes, and often their beds, with no quality of life. It is beyond time for the HSE to wake up and respond to people's real needs. It should not be a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, service. We need a Monday to Monday service, including over the summer holidays. We all know of families left high and dry when their home support worker goes on holidays, while acknowledging that support workers have to go on holidays.

The HSE is saying the opposite to everything the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, has said to the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath.

I take on board the Deputy's points and I will bring her concerns to the attention of the Minister of State, Deputy Daly. I agree with her point regarding service provision on a Monday to Friday basis. I accept there is an obvious need to provide high quality and flexible services that not only best meet the needs of individual clients but also reduce the pressures elsewhere on the health system. There is no dispute there.

The social care services, including home care, day care and respite, are important components in enabling people to remain living at home and participating in their local communities. They also provide valuable support to carers. The Department and the HSE are continuing to improve existing services. Last year, a single funding stream for home support services brought together the funding for home help and standard home care packages. This provides significant benefits, including making the services easier to understand, streamlining the application and decision-making process and facilitating service users to move to changed levels of service as their assessed needs change without the need for an additional application process.

While the existing service is delivering crucial support across the country it is recognised that home support services need to be augmented to better meet the changing needs of our citizens. The Department is currently engaged in a detailed process to develop a new stand-alone statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home support services. As I mentioned earlier, this scheme is a key action under the Sláintecare implementation strategy, along with improving and developing supports in the community.

I will bring back the very important points raised by Deputy Smith to the Minister of State, Deputy Daly.

Treatment of Former Garda

One would have had to be made of stone not to have been moved by the bravery and resilience of Majella Moynihan as she told her story at the weekend on national radio. We are all aware of the legacy of cruelty of this State when it comes to the treatment of women. Majella was the perfect example of all things that Ireland looked down on.

Reared in an industrial school, pregnant out of wedlock and female, she was a veritable scarecrow, crucified for her perceived sins and displayed as a warning to others. She could not have been any more inferior to her superiors. What was permitted to be done to her by organs of this State, aided and abetted by the church and its acolytes, is a shame on us all. This woman had her life, reputation and son taken from her. She is due an official State apology, her full pension and some form of an attempt at compensation for all the pain and suffering that was visited upon her. This is the least that Majella Moynihan deserves.

Which one of us who is a parent does not treasure moments such as a first smile, word, step or day at school, the big and little moments, which can never be recovered for either Majella Moynihan or her son, David? Even when I spoke to her earlier today, she reiterated that the totality of what happened ruined her life. I particularly want to compliment RTÉ and the "Documentary on One", which was a powerful piece of public service broadcasting. While Deputies O'Connell and Clare Daly and I all knew the programme was being worked on, I do not think any of us expected that it would get the attention that it did, even though we had individually met Majella and heard her harrowing and powerful story. She has been seeking her papers since 2005. She hoped, since her premature retirement, that one of the seven subsequent Garda Commissioners would offer her an apology. It is only now that her story has emerged so powerfully in the public arena that the response has changed. How many more stories will remain hidden? Are there others who have been treated so abysmally? If so, it should not and must not take such bravery and public exposure to put such a wrong right.

I commend Majella Moynihan and the makers of the documentary for reminding the people of this country of what a cruel and intolerant place it was for women who had children outside of marriage. This problem was not unique to Ireland but it was especially acute here, as we have seen from the Magdalen laundries and other tragic stories. We need to recognise that it is not enough for Member of this House to display our empathy and sympathy for Majella Moynihan. We are policymakers and the Minister is in government. We need to take steps which are active and realistic with regard to what we can do to face up to the State's responsibility to Ms Moynihan and our liability to her. One practical step that could be taken is in respect of her pension. In effect, Ms Moynihan was constructively dismissed from An Garda Síochána. She was shunned and forced out of the force. As well as apologising to her, the State should take some tangible steps to ensure that we compensate her for the damage and distress caused to her by the organs of the State. She and the women of Ireland are owed that. It was unfortunately the case that when a child was born outside of wedlock the woman was treated differently from the man. There are many reasons for the discrimination and shameful treatment that was meted out to women but two of them were unquestionably sexism and religion. Other factors included inheritance, class and snobbery, but sexism and religion were two main factors.

I thank the Deputies for raising this important matter in the House. I very much welcome the swift action taken by the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to apologise for the treatment of Ms Majella Moynihan and the impact it has had on her life since when he became aware of her case on Saturday. I have echoed this apology in a brief statement which I released over the weekend and I intend to apologise to Ms Moynihan in person when I meet her in the coming days. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I sincerely regret the appalling ordeal that Ms Moynihan faced as a young Garda member. The treatment she has described was simply wrong on every level. It is shocking. As a young garda, she should have been able to expect that the Garda organisation would offer her support at a time when she most needed support and welfare. It is profoundly disappointing that she did not receive that support and that, on the contrary, she feels she was treated harshly by the Garda organisation.

For many decades, Ireland was a country that was highly intolerant of difference. Women suffered particularly, as did members of the LGBTI community, those with disabilities and members of other minorities. Society then functioned in a way that would be regarded as completely unacceptable by our standards today. Listening to former Garda Moynihan being interviewed over the last few days, I recalled the tireless campaigning of people like my former colleague, the late Nuala Fennell, in the 1970s and 1980s, in particular, her advocacy for single mothers. Nuala Fennell and a small group of others worked tirelessly to help to make this country a kinder, more compassionate and tolerant society. We still have some distance to go but, thankfully, Ireland today, more than at any other time in our past, is more tolerant, more understanding and less autocratic.

The European Union's legal framework means that the protections under the law that are now in place, not just in the Garda Síochána but in all State organisations and private companies, would not allow these events to happen today. However, that is not to say that it was acceptable that they happened in the past or to deny the enormous pain of many people, including former Garda Moynihan. Various issues have been raised over the past few days in relation to this matter, including the question, as raised by Deputy O'Callaghan, of Ms Moynihan’s pension. I expect this issue to be examined and discussed when Ms Moynihan meets the Garda Commissioner. I do not intend to pre-empt that discussion; I simply caution that the situation is a complex one. These are issues that can and will be addressed over the next while.

I hope I am not misquoting the Minister when I say that he said that Ms Moynihan feels she was treated badly. I believe there is not a person in Ireland who thinks that she was treated in any way other than badly. It is certainly not acceptable by our standards today. I have said before that it is important for Members of this House to check our privilege on occasion, not the privilege of being here and elected to this great House, but of being born healthy and able-bodied to parents who either raised us themselves or gave us the opportunity to be raised by others. Majella Moynihan is a prime example of somebody who was victimised in our society. She had nobody to look out for her and the people in charge knew that. She was hung out for people to see what might happen to them if they behaved in a certain way.

We had a great moment in this country a year ago when eighth amendment was repealed but anybody in this House who thinks that happened in isolation and did not have repercussions and ramifications throughout the society which spawned it is wrong. We had a great moment here last year but what happened to Majella Moynihan symbolises all that was wrong with the church and State, with, in this case, Garda involvement. We cannot put a black mark over our history and block it out because it feeds our future. It is only by examining it that we can identify the true knock-on effects of certain behaviours on society today.

I would appreciate an answer to my question on when the Minister or his predecessor knew about this case. It is important that the Garda Commissioner also answers that question. I have spoken to Majella Moynihan and she has been seeking her papers and quietly seeking an apology since 2005. It is only now that the case has come into the public arena that it is getting the attention it deserves.

There is also the question of files that have gone missing. It is important that the matter is addressed because it is not that long ago since Ms Moynihan received a redacted version of the files, so we are not talking about files that have not been seen since 1990, they were in somebody's hands not that long ago. She could have expected to have a very good career in the Garda. That is evident from some of the things that were said about her at the time concerning her ability as a garda. That is what she should have been judged on, and that is where the fault lies; she was judged on something other than her ability to do the job, and to do it superbly.

The Minister said that the protections that exist in the law today would not allow the events to happen to Majella Moynihan if they occurred today. However, we must remember that back in 1984 she had a constitutional right of equality and that was infringed back in 1984. She was discriminated against on the grounds of her gender and on the grounds of her marital status. I know that statutory provisions in respect of those equalities were introduced much later than that, but she had a constitutional right to equality back in 1984. That is the reason I say to the Minister that the State has a liability in respect of this woman. I hope that we are not now going to force or permit her to have to go to court in order to try to vindicate a liability that exists on the part of the State and to vindicate her rights. I ask the Minister to intervene. I welcome the fact that he is going to meet Ms Moynihan. I also welcome the fact that he has apologised to her. I know that he will apologise to her in person on behalf of the State. As I said to the Minister, he is different from other people; he has power and he is a representative of the justice Ministry in this country. When he meets Ms Moynihan I ask that he would come up with some practical and real proposals that will have the effect of not forcing this woman to have to initiate court proceedings.

I wish to correct the Minister as it was me who raised in the Chamber the pension being backdated not Deputy O'Callaghan.

You are in this House a long time, Acting Chairman, and in this House over the years we have dealt with many sensitive and tragic personal cases. Deputies will appreciate that as Minister I have an obligation to respect the privacy of individuals as much as possible. As I outlined, I hope to meet with Ms Moynihan, along with the Garda Commissioner in the coming days. A number of important issues have been raised by Deputies O'Callaghan, O'Connell and Catherine Murphy. In response to Deputy Catherine Murphy, it is possible that there are other cases, given the nature of Irish society over so many decades. At this point women have been serving as full members of An Garda Síochána for 60 years. Currently, I am not aware of any specific cases that are similar to that of Ms Moynihan's case but, undoubtedly, other cases may emerge. If Deputy Catherine Murphy or any other Deputy has information I would be happy to hear from them, not only in respect of An Garda Síochána but perhaps right across the public service because, sadly, for far too long single mothers and many others who did not appear to conform to the dominant mores of the time suffered severe social stigma in Ireland in a way that we would consider to be utterly unacceptable and abhorrent in today's world. Both Commissioner Harris and I acknowledged the courage and bravery of Ms Majella Moynihan in coming forward in the manner in which she did. We stand ready to provide whatever support we can in the circumstances. I look forward to meeting Majella Moynihan. In the meantime, I am in close contact with the Garda Commissioner and my hope is that the meeting will take place in the coming days.