That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., and calls on him to resign from his Ministerial position forthwith.
The submission of this no-confidence motion was not rushed. It is not vindictive or personalised. This motion was submitted because of the scandal of the national children's hospital, with the overspend representing for us the final straw. There are those in the Minister's own party and the media who say they believe this motion is unfair. When I hear that, I wonder if they have been living under a rock for the past three years or are being deliberately obtuse or just partisan. There are those who say that this motion will not build a hospital, reduce a waiting list or get a patient off a trolley, but let us face it - nothing that the Government is doing is achieving those aims either.
We are not going to stand on the sidelines and let the Government off the hook for failing repeatedly to deliver and for presiding over a significant waste of taxpayers' money. We were elected to stand up and give voice to our constituents. At least we are using our voices, unlike the men and women of Fianna Fáil who proved themselves incapable of understanding political accountability when in government and who are now showing that they either do not understand political accountability or are afraid of it. What we in Sinn Féin are seeking to do is to do what is right in the service of political accountability and the future of our health service.
The national children's hospital overspend is not an isolated incident. It is another in a series of scandals, mistakes and failures that have blighted the Minister's term. He will stand up in a few minutes' time and list off what he sees as his achievements, but they pale into insignificance against the failures he has presided over for almost three years. He tweeted today about the repeal of the eighth amendment and the passing of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, but he did not do those things alone. To try to claim credit for the decades of hard work by pro-choice campaigners is more than a little bit sad. Even his most ardent supporter could not defend his record in good conscience. How can anyone defend record-breaking levels of patients on trolleys? How can anyone defend failed scoliosis action plans? How can anyone defend chronically understaffed child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS?
How can anyone defend a 27-week wait for the results of cervical smear tests? How can anyone defend record-breaking waiting lists totalling 1 million patients? How can anyone defend forcing nurses and midwives onto the streets to strike for safe staffing? How can anyone defend the Minister's role in the CervicalCheck scandal? How can anyone defend the recruitment and retention crisis across the front line of the health service? How can anyone defend thousands of children waiting years for speech and language therapy or for occupational therapy? How can anyone defend hundreds of older people waiting months for home support services? How can anyone defend the crisis created in general practice? How can anyone defend the spending of €2 billion on agency staff in eight years?
How can anyone defend misleading the Dáil? How can anyone defend knowing of a catastrophic overrun on a capital project and doing nothing about it, saying nothing about it, and actively keeping it from colleagues? How can anyone defend the withholding of and the drip-feeding of information to Deputies and Dáil committees? How can anyone defend reappointing a board which was presiding over the meltdown of the children’s hospital project without seeking any advice on the performance of that board? How can anyone defend an expected cost overrun on the national children’s hospital of €450 million? I could go on but I only have five minutes, not five hours. The simple fact is that nobody can defend it - no one except the Minister and the opportunistic cowards in Fianna Fáil.
It is incompetence and a lack of ability which have brought us here today. Past performance is, I believe, an indicator of future performance, but the Minister's past performance makes me certain that he is not up to the job of being Minister for Health. He is out of his depth. How can we, in good faith, in addition to all the other failures and the gross level of incompetence and impotence displayed by him as Minister in his handling of the national children’s hospital, say that we are confident that he is the person to lead the health service? We cannot and we will not.
The overrun at the national children’s hospital materialised on his watch and under his nose, but there was another person involved further back in this project whose role in this cannot be ignored. Who agreed to the doomed two-stage procurement strategy just for political expediency so that he or another Fine Gael Minister could cut the ribbon? It was the Minister's predecessor in health, the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. In 2014, it was recognised in a procurement strategy report that this approach was untested in the State and that it carried significant risks. That report stated that added pressure would be put on the project’s design team which could lead to a poor quality price.
All the available evidence pointed out that we would be where we are today, yet the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, the politician who governs by optics, took a decision so the ribbon could be cut early. He did not do this for the children of this State; he did it for himself and for Fine Gael, and on the Minister's watch, he continued in exactly the same vein.
If the tables were turned and if I or any other Opposition Deputy who was in his shoes and had presided over the litany of scandals he has presided over, would he vote confidence in us? There is not a snowball's chance in hell that he would and there is not a snowball's chance in hell that we will vote confidence in him.