Impact of Covid-19 Restrictions: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Carol Nolan on Wednesday, 16 December 2020:
“That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:
— that the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many peoples' mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders;
— that many mental health organisations have reported significant increases in the use of their online and telephone services due to a broad range of issues impacting young people, which include anxiety and depression;
— the share of health funding allocated to mental health in recent years ranged from 5.7 per cent to 6.3 per cent, while in 2019 it was at 6.3 per cent, but will fall dramatically to 5.2 per cent in 2021, despite an expected significant rise in demand for supports and services in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic;
— that current Government policy is completely failing to achieve the Sláintecare objective of 10 per cent of health monies being allocated to mental health, even though that recommendation is below international recommendations;
— that it is incomprehensible for the mental health share of the overall health budget to decline, at a time when demand for the services has never been greater, and as Ireland faces the implementation of the mental health strategy ‘Sharing the Vision – A Mental Health Policy for Everyone’ that was launched just a few months ago;
— the immeasurable and long-lasting impact of the restrictive lockdowns, and lack of an exit strategy, especially on older and vulnerable people, who are experiencing severe social isolation and loneliness;
— that the Irish mental health services are grossly underfunded, and this has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic;
— the very significant impact on health and well-being from the Covid-19 virus and the associated lockdowns;
— the drastic impact of the Covid-19 virus, Government policies and associated lockdowns on other patients due to postponed medical treatment or check-ups;
— the drastic impact of the Covid-19 virus, Government policies and associated lockdowns on cancer screening services, with many cancers going undetected due to the suspension of cancer screening services;
— that the hospital and long-term care system in Ireland has suffered from significant under-investment for many years;
— that the entire public health system itself is another area that has suffered from many years of chronic under-investment;
— the tremendous and Trojan efforts made by all front-line workers, particularly healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic;
— the Government’s failure to provide an adequate remuneration to student nurses, who have been doing incredible work during the pandemic, while facing the same Covid-19 risks as any other healthcare worker, with the same bills, but receiving nothing in return;
— the powerful solidarity with family, neighbours and fellow citizens which emerged in every community, despite the often mixed and confused messaging of the Government;
— the complete failure of the Government to put in place a seamless replacement service to the European Union (EU) Cross Border Directive (CBD) for patients who wish to avail of treatments in Northern Ireland, and the grave impact this will have on the State’s already crumbling healthcare system;
— that Irish households and businesses have experienced very considerable economic disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic;
— that Government’s policy on restrictions has exacerbated or created a deeper urban-rural divide, by insisting on the ongoing closure of small rural pubs and confining people to a two kilometre or five kilometre area, with little access to any services in many rural areas;
— the continual closure of small rural pubs has left hundreds of rural villages decimated and exacerbated rural isolation and loneliness;
— that the restrictive lockdowns, without a proper social and economic exit plan on reopening the country, will cost tens of thousands of jobs to be lost;
— that the economy has been hit here much harder than necessary, due to the lack of any cohesive system of testing and contact tracing;
— that the Covid-19 pandemic has again highlighted the complete lack of adequate services, such as public transport, broadband and school transport in many rural areas;
— the lack of Government support to Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are unable to obtain cash flow from the pillar banks, despite the European Central Bank making approximately €9 billion available to Ireland’s banking sector, to support enterprises during the Covid-19 pandemic; and
— the complete failure of the €2 billion Governments Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme (Covid-19 CGS) due to SMEs being unable to access it, due mainly to:
— stringent restrictions;
— high interest rates being charged; and
— exclusion of many small businesses from accessing the scheme; and
calls on the Government to:
— provide additional funding of at least €250 million or a 25 per cent increase, to begin to fund the mental health fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021;
— immediately allow rural pubs to re-open, while adhering to all public health guidelines, in order to save businesses, protect rural employment, support rural towns and villages and provide a safe place for rural dwellers to meet and socialise responsibly, in order to combat the impacts of rural isolation and loneliness;
— publish a clear, transparent and concise exit strategy from this virus, so that everyone can begin to plan for the future and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel;
— provide all healthcare front line workers with a Christmas bonus payment;
— end the exploitation of student nurses and pay all final-year interns the same rate as healthcare assistants, increase and expand the clinical placement allowance for all other students, and provide full health and safety protection to all students, including payment if they have to go on Covid-19 related leave;
— implement an emergency programme to clear the backlogs in screening and treatments due to postponed medical treatments or check-ups;
— again, put an alternative scheme in place to ensure a seamless transition to the EU CBD from 1st January, 2021;
— implement measures to fast track cancer screening services and procedures;
— implement an internationally acceptable, cohesive system of Covid-19 testing and contact tracing;
— agree to a debate and vote in Dáil Éireann in January 2021, on the implementation of the regional and rural development, which is underpinned in the Project Ireland 2040 plan;
— offer tangible supports to Irish small and medium sized businesses by forcing Irish banks to lend to businesses at interest rates comparable to other EU countries (as opposed to the current rip-off rates being charged – despite, the banks obtaining the funds at rates as low as minus one per cent), in order to support cash-flow until the Covid-19 pandemic passes; and
— immediately examine, simplify and reduce the interest rate on the failed €2 billion Government Covid-19 CGS aimed at SMEs, and consider removing the pillar banks from the administration of the funds, while extending the scheme until the end of 2021.”
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Eireann” and substitute the following:
“acknowledges:
— the extraordinary solidarity, determination and resilience shown this year by communities and citizens in Ireland’s fight against Covid-19;
— the widespread support and adherence to public health measures by the public, communities, voluntary organisations and workplaces; and
— the critical contributions of workers and volunteers across Irish society, including healthcare, education, childcare, justice, the voluntary sector, retail, distribution, utilities, hospitality and many more;
notes the enormous human, societal and economic costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, including:
— a total of 2,126 Covid-19 related deaths and more than a total of 76,449 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland;
— the adverse impact of Covid-19 on existing hospital waiting lists;
— a significant impact on mental health and well-being and the need for a corresponding increase in mental health services and supports across the country;
— an increase in isolation and loneliness for many people due to the impact of Covid-19 measures;
— the closure of many viable businesses across the country and the devastating impact on particular sectors including the arts, hospitality, tourism and sport; and
— an increase in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to 7.5 per cent with 71,800 more people unemployed compared to last year;
further notes that, thanks to the collective efforts of the Irish people:
— Ireland currently has the lowest 14-day and 7-day incidence rates of Covid-19 in the European Union;
— Ireland’s hospitals, including critical care facilities, have not been overrun due to Covid-19; and
— Ireland has had the biggest fall in Covid-related deaths of any European country in Wave Two compared to Wave One;
further again notes the all-of-Government response to Covid-19, including:
— fiscal support of over €25 billion, mostly in the form of ‘direct’ taxation and expenditure measures;
— the recent public service pay deal, which is heavily weighted towards those at lower incomes with a headline increase of approximately 5 per cent for the lowest paid public servants;
— weekly payments valued to hundreds of thousands for people in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment to help cushion the population from sudden income shocks at a cost of €4.8 billion;
— essential financial supports provided to community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises to enable them to continue to provide essential goods and services on a local level for communities across the country in the form of the €4.2 million Covid-19 Emergency Fund and the €45 million Covid Stability Fund, as well as a €5 million Innovate Together Fund focused on supporting innovative responses to the Covid-19 crisis, and a range of other rural investment schemes being provided by Government;
— protective measures to ensure ongoing provision of healthcare including €4 billion to protect, reform and expand health and social care services and implement universal healthcare in Budget 2021; and
— measures to protect the elderly, vulnerable groups and those experiencing loneliness and social isolation, including significant funding for mental health services, with that budget increasing to €1.076 billion in 2021;
affirms its support for vaccines;
welcomes the plans to approve and rollout vaccines for Covid-19 in Ireland in early 2021, or potentially to commence in late 2020; and
notes and applauds the success of the Health Service Executive and patient advocates in reversing the fall in uptake of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.”
(Minister for Health)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding the impact of Covid-19 restrictions. This morning, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 80(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 78; Níl, 59; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.