Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

SECTION 2
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
In page 5, to delete line 2 and substitute the following:
“ ‘designated state’—
(a) on the coming into operation of this Act, means any country, territory, region or other place outside the State other than Northern Ireland,
(b) if at any time after passing a resolution under section 9(5) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021 both Houses of the Oireachtas so resolve, has the meaning assigned to it by section 38E(1);”.
-(Deputy Alan Kelly).

Deputy Alan Kelly spoke at length in opening this debate, so I will not speak for too long. There are a couple of elements I wish to add. An issue I raised on Second Stage relates to seasonal workers. I would like to hear a response from the Minister on this issue. What is the plan for seasonal workers? Last year, they were deemed essential workers. It was the subject of significant debate in terms of their treatment. There is a wider debate and wider issue in terms of their low pay, treatment, exploitation as a group of workers. That remains, unfortunately. However, from a public health point of view, will seasonal workers coming in to work in the agricultural industry in particular be subject to mandatory hotel quarantining? They should be and I and my colleagues hope that they will be, but we need clarification in that regard. Beyond that, another crucial point is whether engagement has taken place with the agricultural industry and the employers regarding the conditions under which these workers will work and, indeed, live.

The conditions in which an awful lot of these workers live were highlighted last spring and summer, in the early part of this pandemic, to people beyond those who knew about it already. Three, four or five adults may be sharing a room, sink and toilet. Those are poor conditions and not conducive to living in a pandemic such as this. Have any changes been made in that regard? I hope so, because there has been no shortage of debate on the issue and concern was raised early in the pandemic. There is no excuse for progress not to have been made.

There are a number of different elements to the issue, including the designation of these seasonal workers as essential workers. Will they be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine? I am coming from a point of concern and care about the health of those workers and I want to make that abundantly clear. My concern is that there are loopholes in the existing legislation and the regulations that exist now, as a result of which workers may be being brought into this country right now and working and living in conditions that will damage their health if any of the strains of the virus get into their accommodation, as has happened previously. We saw it with the meat plant workers. There are also growers. Many other parts of the agricultural industry have used workers such as these over the years. This important point needs clarification.

I reflected on the Second Stage debate. Other contributors to the debate have spoken to the fact that this legislation does not seem to be connected to other elements of the public health response. That may sound unfair but it is how I and many others feel. On the suppression strategy within the community, the levels of community transmission remain high. We still are not getting the detail we need as to why that is the case. Where are the outbreaks taking place? How is the virus transmitting within the community? I think compliance generally remains very good but with numbers remaining high and no detail coming from Government on the issue, rumour mills and the blame game start. Young people are blamed for meeting in parks and this, that and all the rest are blamed when probably none of them are the cause of high transmission levels. We need to know. We have no suppression strategy based on a testing and tracing regime that will be rigorous enough to get infection numbers down to low double digits or single figures and keep them there. This mandatory hotel quarantining legislation seems to have been brought in tangentially to all the other measures. It is peculiar because one would think even at this stage, when the legislation is not going to be operational for another few weeks, that we would at least have details about which hotels will be used, which companies will be used for security and food, and all the operational aspects of the strategy. Those details are not there either. Our concern is whether this is going to happen at all.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up. We know that the country is shut down but 10,000 people came into the country through Dublin Airport this time last year. Is the Government aware of how many people are due to come into the country on St. Patrick's weekend? Those people may have booked a year or 18 months ago and are still going to come. Perhaps nobody will come and everyone has cancelled but perhaps they have not. Is there a reason that these measures are being delayed to such an extent? It is absolutely incredible that there was no draft legislation prepared on this issue in 2020. Even Opposition parties and groups with small numbers of Members and resources that are nothing compared to the resources of Government Departments have legislation on various matters. It is on the shelf and ready to go. To think that there was no draft legislation on this issue beggars belief. It is now the last week of February, three weeks before St. Patrick's Day, and we are told that this legislation will not be operational for a couple of weeks.

We hope the vaccine roll-out improves and goes well. The evenings are brighter. We hope the numbers of infection go down but that is all hit-and-hope stuff, rather than any kind of tangible strategy we can look at and in which we can believe. Elements of this Government may believe they will not have to bring in these measures. That is why I feel that an element of this exercise is quite surreal. This debate should be much more energised and feel much more important but for the second session in a row, the Minister is cutting a lonely figure on the Government side of the House. The energy, interest and desire for this legislation to be as workable and strong as possible are coming from this side of the House. That is a concern.

We should be clear that if these amendments from various parties are not passed, and the Government has clearly stated its objections to them, then this is not a Bill for mandatory hotel quarantine, as is being reported. It is a Bill for a piece of theatre or a joke about mandatory hotel quarantine. It is a Bill to close one window in a house when the other windows and the front and back doors are open. It is a Bill to try to make the Government look good and as if it is responding to the call by 90% of people for mandatory hotel quarantine while it is actually doing something that is extremely ineffective.

We know the Government, at least initially, intends to operate on the basis of a list of 20 countries. That is a tiny percentage of countries and it is not what we need. It is not what the National Public Health Emergency Team, Rise and People Before Profit have been calling for and it is not what 90% of people support.

I will go further than that. I encourage other Members of the Opposition to read section 38E of the Bill, which is not even a step in the direction we need to be travelling. I listened to the Minister's wrap-up on Second Stage. He told Deputies not to vote against the Bill on the basis that they do not agree with the list of 20 states. He said that was a matter for a statutory instrument and the Government could add all the countries it wanted. It is true that the 20 states are not listed in this Bill. It is also true that they will be listed through a statutory instrument. However, this Bill cannot be used to do what is necessary. It cannot be used to put every state on the list, as is proposed by all of our amendments. If they are not accepted, this Bill cannot be used to have mandatory hotel quarantine for all incoming travellers. The Bill sets it up that each state must be added explicitly on a country-by-country basis. Section 38E(4) provides that the Minister shall, on a regular basis, review the situation as it relates to each state. It explicitly starts from the position that no states are on the list and we add them on a state-by-state basis. This Bill will not allow us to do what we need.

If the Government votes down our amendments, as it has stated it will, I do not believe the Opposition should go along with this piece of theatre. We should oppose it and demand that the Government come back with proper mandatory hotel quarantine, which would start from the opposite position, structurally, from the one the Government is taking. Many of the Opposition amendments come from the proposition that every country is on the list to start with. Green zones would then develop in Ireland and elsewhere, would be connected to each other and states could then be taken off the list as the position becomes clear and we develop green corridors. That cannot be done with the unamended version of the Bill.

What would proper mandatory hotel quarantine that would have an impact look like? It would be operated on a public, not-for-profit basis. It is incredible to think of the big contracts that will flow from this legislation. It is unfortunate that we will not get to the amendments which try to prevent that scenario. A proper hotel quarantine system would also include oversight of the implementation of the process, which is vital for public health and, therefore, a necessary restriction of civil liberties. There would be oversight from human rights groups, civil liberties groups and trade unionists to make sure that any powers are not abused. Without those elements, it is clear that this legislation is to be used by the Government to play at mandatory hotel quarantine and pretend it is doing it, while the Californian variant can come in as it wishes. The British variant is already rampant but if there is a new variant in Bristol, or wherever else, it can come in. Travellers can come from any other powerful county in the world without mandatory hotel quarantine.

This Bill is very far from fit for purpose. It does not achieve what we need it to achieve and if the Government does not accept the amendments, I urge the other Opposition parties to join us on Fifth Stage to vote against the Bill and ask the Government to come back with a proposal for proper, mandatory hotel quarantine.

I rise to speak to this group of amendments and, in particular, amendments Nos. 33, 36 and 38 in my name, on behalf of the Social Democrats. All Opposition parties are represented in the context of this group of amendments because we are very much on the same page and have the same opinion on what needs to be done in order to increase our firepower in responding to Covid. It is quite clear that the Government is not serious about this matter at all. It is going through the motions. Yesterday, I referred to what is happening as a box-ticking exercise. The Bill will not achieve what we need to achieve in terms of controlling the importation of the virus. It will simply not do that. It is not even a half measure.

From the very beginning, the Government's record on travel has been abysmal. I have often referred to it as the single biggest failing of the Government response to Covid. Sometimes people ask about the scandal involving all of the deaths in the nursing homes, the fact that young people have been out of school for so long or all of the mental health problems. Yes, those are all really serious but the point is that last summer we had an opportunity to change the course of where the country was going when we got the daily figures down to four. At that stage, if the Government had controlled travel, this would be a very different country and we would not have the recent scandalous history we have had. It is so blindingly obvious that in a pandemic, as well as all the internal measures that need to be put in place, one has to stop the importation of the virus. That was blindingly obvious last year when we thought there was just the one type of virus, but it is all the more important at this stage with the various variants because we simply do not know what way the virus will behave. There are so many unknowns about this into the future. That is why it is essential that measures are put in place to stop us importing the virus. It is so blindingly obvious that we must ask why the Government did not take steps to address this. Why did the previous Government not do it either?

I wonder from where the pressure on the Government is coming. What kind of lobbying has there been? At various stages when the Government announced a new approach or new measures to combat the virus, it did not speak to the Opposition parties. It spoke to the business lobbies and cleared it with them that it was okay. It seems that they are its masters. There are many questions about why we did not do this. There was a lot of opposition to interfering with international business travel, for example, but that could have been dealt with. There was also much concern about the aviation industry, and rightly so. Those of us on the north side of Dublin are only too conscious of the damage that has been done to the aviation industry. Regrettably, that was happening anyway because of the fact that the world is dealing with a pandemic and there was no substantial demand for aviation and international travel. Of course, the Government should have moved at an early stage and moved in a much more determined way to support aviation, Aer Lingus and the many workers associated with aviation in this country and provided the necessary supports so that the industry could survive. Unfortunately, those supports are inadequate. We have not done enough.

It showed a very warped, strange way of thinking when, a couple of weeks ago, I raised the need for quarantining and the Taoiseach accused me and my party of being hypocritical because we were looking for supports for the aviation sector. They are two sides of the same coin. Given the damage that has been done to aviation by the pandemic, the Government should have been supporting it and ensuring that there would be a future for aviation when we get through the pandemic. Pretending somehow that aviation will survive in a pandemic is just dishonest. That is what is hypocritical. It is logical, on the one hand, to look for controls to prevent the importation of the virus and also to seek proper supports for aviation, on the other. The two go hand in hand. That is why many of us have been talking about that for so long.

To return to why the Government is not taking action in a way that it is obvious it should be doing, one again has to ask what other pressures it has come under. Questions have been asked by Deputy Bríd Smith about seasonal workers, for example. Low-paid workers have been coming in from Brazil and eastern Europe in large numbers. Be they seasonal or not, many industries are dependent on that business model. Large numbers of pretty vulnerable people are coming here from other places in the world very often to work in poor conditions for low pay and little security. Is the concern that there is a threat to that business model? We know the meat industry is dependent on large numbers of low-paid workers. We know about the outbreaks in the sector that we see happening again now. Why is nothing being done about that? Is it that the Government is coming under pressure from business interests not to interfere with that business model? If that is the case, the public will not forgive the Government for its failures in this area.

The Opposition is united on this issue. We are all speaking with one voice. The public are saying it is obvious. Why is the Government not taking steps to control the importation of the virus? Let us look at what happened from the very beginning, at the half measures that were put in place. It started off with self-isolation. A tiny fraction of that was overseen and checked. I have been tracking it month on month since the very beginning. Then we moved to the advice being to restrict one's movements. There was no oversight or monitoring of this whatsoever. A fraction of people were contacted. The authorities even stopped ringing people and started sending out text messages. They no longer expected people to restrict their movements. Then we had what happened over Christmas, when people were advised to quarantine in their bedrooms when they came home for the holidays. That was absolute nonsense. Did the Minister really think anyone would adhere to that?

We are back into a similar situation whereby people coming here from most countries other than the 20 that are on the designated list are being told to quarantine at home. That is nonsense. Quarantine at home is a contradiction in terms. Quarantine means isolating from other people so that one does not pass on the virus. People cannot do that if they are sharing accommodation with family members, house mates or whoever else. The idea is that gardaí are going to go around knocking on doors and checking that people are isolating in their own homes. The Minister did not even understand it himself. He fluffed it when he was trying to explain the process. I do not think any of his colleagues understand it or have any confidence that it will work. Again, it is just a case of throwing shapes and introducing half measures. The Government is not serious about this.

The Government's idea is to bring in legislation relating to 20 designated countries. I have checked the data that were provided in respect of arrivals here since Christmas. Approximately 75,000 people have flown into this country in that time.

Of those 20 countries, only one is on the list, namely, the United Arab Emirates, UAE. Approximately 7% of all travellers are from the UAE. There is no information about the other 19 countries. What is the percentage of people who come here from the 20 countries the Government is designating? By all accounts, it seems to be a small percentage but we do not know because there seems to be no transparency. Will the Minister provide information on the number of people who are travelling here from those 20 countries? The data that he is providing at the moment are based on the last country of departure, not the original country of departure, and that is what we need.

I do not know if the Minister is listening or not but in the interests of transparency, it is important that he provides that information. Otherwise we will not know, even in the limited terms of those 20 countries, how many people are coming here or if the supposedly mandatory quarantine is having any impact on those numbers. The Minister needs to provide those figures, at a minimum, about the country of origin each week. When one looks at those figures, it is apparent that the larger numbers, relatively speaking, are coming from the United States and European countries. Nothing is being done about that. It is quite clear that the Minister is not serious.

I again stress that the difficulty we have with the high levels of the virus in this country is because of the level of importation. It started last March with people coming from Italy. The rugby was cancelled but large numbers of people travelled here. People from Beaumont Hospital contacted me prior to that weekend, pleading with me to get in touch with the Minister for Health because they knew that having large numbers of people coming in from the epicentre in Italy would be a disaster. I passed those concerns on to the then Minister but nothing was done about it. A major mistake was made when we allowed people to travel over to Cheltenham and back. We paid a significant price for that. The failure to deal with travel in the summer meant that we got the Spanish variant, which was responsible for what happened in the autumn. We know what happened at Christmas with Britain.

Now there are Brazilian and South African variants on this island. The next will undoubtedly be the Californian variant, and who knows what others. All of this was raised with the Minister and with his predecessor but action was not taken. Despite the fact that NPHET spelled out clearly what was required last May, we were consistently told by the Minister, Taoiseach and Tánaiste that the problem was not travel-related. We know that it absolutely was. The Minister quoted figures stating that travel-related cases were very low. That was only because we did not know where transmission was taking place. The latter was the result of the public health doctors being so under-resourced. In circumstances where public health doctors did have time to trace back by 14 days, as we should have been doing with all cases, they found that when one person came back into this country, to somewhere in the west of Ireland, that individual infected 56 people. A small number of cases explained how one or two people coming in can infect their whole community, family members and so on. This was blindingly obvious. It should have been dealt with. It is not being dealt with now and it will not be dealt with under this legislation.

The Minister is not serious about what he is doing and this Government is not serious. People can only come to the conclusion that if this goes on, we will continue to have to live in a zombie state, with no prospect of things opening up to a substantial extent in the foreseeable future. People cannot continue to live like that. There has to be a pathway out of where we are at the moment. The only way we will chart that pathway is if measures are put in place to drive down the daily figures, if we have proper testing and retrospective tracing and if we stop the importation of the virus. That is the only way that we can get through this. If we are serious about this, we could get through it in the matter of two to three months and then we could then open up domestically. That is the reward for having a real, meaningful strategy. Unfortunately, that is not there and the Government is not serious about it. If the Government fails again with regard to travel and we face into a fourth lockdown in the not-too-distant future, it will not be forgiven. There are alternatives which have been spelled out to the Minister. We can do things much better and have a better future. People will not forgive the Government unless it does the right thing.

There are significant concerns among members of the public regarding international travel and new variants. People can see clearly that it does not make sense to make significant sacrifices in their lives to drive down the infection levels in the State while leaving the back door largely open.

A point was raised earlier and it has not been properly addressed. I refer to the fact that a debate about quarantine should not be a debate about non-essential travel. It should be a debate about essential travel. Non-essential travel to the State at this point should be banned. We can then have a debate about what quarantine regime we should have for essential travel. That is the first point I want to make. There could and should be a ban on non-essential travel to the State at this point. That point has been brought up but has not been addressed properly, if at all, in the discussion to date.

Regarding some of the specifics of the proposed legislation, the model that the Government is putting forward for a quarantine regime is a for-profit model. It is based on a private sector model. It is not just gardaí who would have the power under the proposals raised, hotel managers would have extraordinary powers. I will make some points about that in a moment. Perhaps that is why the legislation is silent about what facilities would be available in quarantine locations. There is no mention of access to IT or television facilities, let alone access to medical or legal facilities.

Serious concerns have been raised outside the Dáil by organisations that know what they are talking about regarding the civil liberty implications of the Government's proposals. Two such organisations are the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, an organisation which campaigns in respect of the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. Serious concerns have been raised about giving the power to detain people without trial for two weeks not just to the State but to hotel managers. There are also concerns about the power to prevent people from leaving, in certain circumstances, even when a medical emergency arises.

The Government, without any oversight from the Oireachtas, will be allowed appoint as appeals officer someone who has not necessarily had training of any kind in human rights or in human rights legislation. There needs to be a debate about the kind of quarantine we are to have. The proposals for mandatory hotel quarantining the Government has put forward do not have my support but the basic point is that the debate should be on the issue of how to deal with essential visitors to the State. Non-essential visits and non-essential travel at this point should be banned. That is an ABC point that has not been addressed properly in this discussion.

The general feedback today has been that people will be generally supportive of the Minister if he will accept some or all of these amendments. The Rural Independent Group has put forward amendments. I thank Brian Ó Domhnaill and Mairead McGrath in the office who put time and effort into these constructive amendments. I see that other parties and Independent groups have done the same in an effort to be constructive. It looks like the Minister is going to rule out all of those amendments. If that is the case, he will have to accept that he is going to lose the confidence of the people and of many Deputies here who are trying to support and strengthen this legislation, which is not strong enough as it stands.

I have very serious concerns. Many of my constituents have contacted me about serious mental health issues that have arisen because of the lockdown. They have had to abide by the rules, and have continued to do so, but then they watch television and see what is rolling in and out of this country through our airports. They ask me and other Deputies what is going on. They ask why they have to abide by the rules while there are no rules or order for those coming in and out from other countries. It is free range. That is very unfortunate.

Other Deputies have spoken about constituents ringing about the vaccination roll-out. There is a very mixed and muddled message going out. There is continuous spin from the Government, which is given a free run on the airways, with regard to how successful the vaccination programme is. I am delighted for those who want the vaccine and are getting it but the vaccine is not successfully being rolled out if home helps are continuously ringing me. They are dealing with people one-to-one in west Cork but cannot get vaccinated yet while we are hearing about the success of the roll-out.

There are elderly people on Cape Clear, Sherkin Island, Bere Island, Whiddy Island, Heir Island, Long Island and Dursey Island. They do not know if someone is to come to the islands to give them their vaccinations. They are asking me but I cannot say. They are being asked to come to the local clinic in Clonakilty or Bantry. Many of the GPs are administering the vaccine in their own clinics now, which is great, but some of these elderly people are unable to leave their island. They ask me if a helicopter can be used to bring a doctor to the island so that they need not worry that they will be left behind.

Again, people are angered and upset when they see what is happening at our airports and people coming here for non-essential travel while they are in quarantine. I have raised this issue. I am worn out from saying it. I first said it nearly 12 months ago. It has a serious effect on my own constituency that we are not dealing adequately and correctly with this issue. If we did, we could reopen our country, including west Cork. At this time, we are unfortunately nowhere near that point. We are facing another season of massive disruption to tourism because we, and the Government, are failing to carry out the simple close-down of our airports with exceptions only for workers who are strictly essential. That is the way forward but, unfortunately, it is not being done.

People involved in the construction industry are coming to me. There are many building projects out there. I really sympathise with those in construction. They are desperate to get back to work. Many of them have very essential work to do. Common sense should tell the Government that most of them could return to work because they work in a very safe environment but they are nonetheless being closed down. Individuals are contacting me who want to get homes built or sorted out or roofs repaired. They do not know whether they can do so.

The rules in place are varied from time to time. I know of one family in west Cork who went to buy a bit of farm equipment recently. That was meant to be essential travel as it was needed to continue their farm practices. They went from the Mizen Peninsula to a place near Bandon and were held up on the way back and given fines of €100 each. There was no appeals system in place for them. The gardaí in question got that 100% wrong. It was very unfair that these people were penalised to that extent because €300 is a lot to a farmer. They were able to identify where they had gone. Only two people went out to look at the machine in a shed. They made sure they had details of the person from whom they were buying. They had all of the proof for the gardaí to check but the rules are interpreted differently by the Garda, the Government and those who are rolling them out. This family on the Mizen Peninsula have been in contact with me and they are saying that every rule in the country is broken above in the airport but nobody gives a damn while everything is pushed to make sure that those in local communities are unable to break any rule. Even some who are not breaking rules are still being fined, which is terribly unfair. The Government needs to step up.

People contact me who want to attend church. They want to do things by the book and having been trying to. They find time for prayer. It is good for their mental health and that is what they want to do but sadly they are not allowed, although it seems to depend on what church one belongs to because most of us were sent a video on Facebook showing approximately 150 people praying somewhere in Dublin and there was no problem with that. The ordinary churchgoers I know of, however, are unable to attend their churches, which is a shocking indictment.

Young people are very stressed. In fairness, the Minister is human too and he understands that. Many young people are begging me to be allowed go here or there. I try to advise them not to. I, too, have children, who are now in their early 20s, and they have had their lives destroyed. They and other kids are always saying the same thing to me, that there is no law and order when it comes to the airport or people coming into this country while they have to keep to every rule and regulation applied. Many students have told me they are very stressed and that they found it difficult dealing with the exams this year. These are young people in third, fourth, fifth and sixth year. We should consider giving students the same choices next year that we are giving students this year because many of them have suffered severely. That would be a very fair way to deal with it. We are very much firefighting here. We are always doing something about something at the last minute when we should be looking ahead. We have failed to do that over recent months.

I am worn out from saying that those coming into the country should be given PCR tests. I was one of the first to suggest this because I come from the beautiful tourism area of west Cork. I wanted to be able to tell people that anyone coming to their area had been given PCR tests at the airports. I called for that very early. In that way we could at least say that these people had been tested and are entitled to travel. My request was denied and that denial came, and continues to come, at a very severe cost.

If we were identifying these things in April and May of last year, what is wrong with the Government that it cannot grasp the issue? It is letting things slip. These amendments are here to help and to ensure that these circumstances will not arise again. They are designed to tighten controls at our airports and ports with regard to people coming into the country, and who may be bringing in different variants, for a period of time. We should do it strong, fast and hard and then reopen our country. We should not wait another three, four or five weeks. This should have been done. We should be at the forefront but instead we are laggards. That is coming at a high cost to those people who have, unfortunately, contracted Covid-19 and to the hotel and tourism sectors, and it will come at a massive cost to the airports.

I met officials from Cork Airport. I want to ensure that proper packages are in place for its survival and for the survival of the hotel sector. People want to know if they can travel into our country this year and that could have happened if we had moved strongly and quickly on this but unfortunately, we did not do so.

I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to these amendments. He should not deny individuals, groups and parties in the Dáil who are doing their best to work with him the chance to do so. If he does that, the public will lose confidence because they will see the mistakes that will result.

I wish to inform the House that there are still five Members indicating at this stage. Deputy McNamara is next.

I will try to be reasonably brief so that everybody gets a chance to contribute. I understand there is not much time left. Is there another hour left for this debate? I do not intend to speak for an hour but want to make absolutely certain that everybody gets a chance to speak.

The guillotine comes down at 4.30 p.m.

Okay and it is now approximately 3.30 p.m. I will be brief. We are dealing with section 3 of the Bill, if I am not mistaken and I will specifically speak to that-----

We are dealing with amendment No. 1 and amendments Nos. 31 to 42.

I will speak to the Bill as it would be if these amendments were introduced. I have no problem with quarantining per se but I think everybody agrees and all of the scientific advice indicates that if quarantine is to be introduced, it must done properly or it will be utterly ineffective. It will be almost arbitrary, if not discriminatory, if it is not introduced properly. There is no point in quarantining people from a particular country if they enter the State at one entry point but not doing so if they use a different entry point. How does that make sense?

It is my understanding that we are proposing to quarantine people from certain countries because there are variants of the virus in those countries which are considered to be particularly dangerous. Alternatively, we can take the view that we will stop all Covid cases entering the country. If the purpose is to stop all Covid cases, what is the difference between a Covid case acquired on a beach in Bundoran, Benidorm or anywhere else in the European Union because there is freedom of movement, in theory? Obviously that freedom can be restricted on public health grounds but any restrictions must be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory. Are we trying to stop every and any Covid case coming in as a way to avoid dealing with the fact that we have community transmission here that is very far from under control? In fact, most medics agree that Covid-19 is endemic in our population, as it is in the populations of most states in the world at this stage. Covid-19 is endemic so I do not think we will suddenly get to zero here. In that context, what is the difference between a Covid case acquired here or elsewhere?

My understanding is that the medical priority is to stop variants coming in, particularly variants that people who have been vaccinated might not be immunised against or people who previously had the virus might not have a natural immunity to. I note that the Minister is nodding at that. That is an important priority but I do not see how it will be achieved by stopping people entering at some entry points but not at others or by only stopping people from certain countries. Even if those variants are currently only prevalent in some countries, that will change over time and the Minister has the right to designate other countries. At the moment, there is much talk about particular countries like Brazil but just because people are not coming from Brazil does not mean that they have not spent the last 48 hours in the company of somebody from Brazil, albeit in another country and they could be carrying the variant. We either quarantine fully or it is ineffective. There is a general acceptance of that point by medics. I note that Deputy Boyd Barrett has also said that and I agree with him.

I do not think it is feasible or legitimate to quarantine at ports if we are not quarantining at all entry points to the State, including right along the border with Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, I do not think we have the where-with-all right now to quarantine everybody entering this State. I simply do not think we have that capability but at the very least, everybody should be tested. At least then if variants are entering the country, we can keep track of that. We can have a public health system which can chase that. I know that involves our public health system chasing a problem rather than preventing one, but I am not convinced, given the number of people who cross the Irish Border every day, that everybody can be quarantined. If we are going to go down the road of quarantining, it must be done properly.

I wish to speak on a couple of other related issues. The onus of proving or demonstrating what is a reasonable excuse to leave one's home was not necessarily on the prosecutor but because it was a criminal prosecution, all elements would have to be proved by the prosecution. Now the onus is on the defendant, who has to show what is reasonable. There is a much bigger problem with that, however, in terms of deciding what is reasonable. Laws, to be enforceable, must be predictable. One has to be able to look at the law and with the assistance of legal advice, if necessary, understand what is prohibited and what is allowed. It is impossible to say or give legal advice on what is "reasonable" behaviour. I will give an example to illustrate my point. There is a general right to protest in the Irish Constitution but of course, that can be restricted by laws relating to public danger or public nuisance. Is it restricted by this legislation? It is not at all clear. There is a right to protest under the European Convention on Human Rights but again, that can be restricted on the basis of public health, public order and the usual bases for limitations of rights but it has to be done pursuant to law. Does the law prevent people from protesting? This is an issue that has arisen in my home town. A group of people, whose reason for protesting I do not necessarily agree with, were protesting, as far as I could see, in a manner which was responsible. They were standing outside in the middle of the square in the town, separated from each other and from other people, making their point. Other people took umbrage with that so they were protesting against the protest but they were also doing so in a responsible manner. There was no great degree of congregation involved, the protesters were outdoors and were wearing masks. In any event, it is either the case that both groups are covered by the right to protest or people are not allowed to protest any more in Ireland. I do not know which is the case. I have benefitted from a legal education. Whether those who provided the education benefitted from providing it to me is another question but if I cannot see what is reasonable and what is not and if a lot of legal advisors cannot say what could be considered reasonable, then how is this law enforceable? How does it accord with the requirements of the rule of law which are that it is predictable and one can clearly see what is prohibited and what is not.

I mentioned the protest as an example. I am not in any way encouraging protest and I am certainly not encouraging protest which is in any way irresponsible or likely to contribute to the transmission of the disease. People think that they can travel up to 5 km from their home and anything else is prohibited but that, of course, is not the case. One cannot be more than 5 km from one's home for the purposes of exercise but one can travel as far as is necessary or reasonable from one's home for other purposes like a medical appointment or even shopping. Clearly if there is no shop within 5 km of one's home, it is not unreasonable to go to the nearest shop. However, if the nearest shop does not have all of the groceries that one normally eats in a week, is it reasonable to go further to the nearest larger shop?

I question how this measure can be enforced. This proposed law is very general in parts and I dare say almost impossible to enforce. There is a specific measure regarding going to an airport or port for the purpose of leaving the State and that aspect is quite clear. When travel restrictions ease, however, it will be possible to go to Belfast for the purpose of travel. People will have left the State by the time they get to Belfast, clearly, but they can go there for the purpose of leaving the island. Will that be prohibited by the State once the current restrictions are eased slightly? Is making Belfast airport the busiest airport on the island the only thing this measure is going to achieve? I wonder about that aspect. If we cannot quarantine everyone, then at least we should be able to test everybody. I have called for testing of everybody entering the State since last May and it is not unreasonable.

On the issue of testing, I have a problem with this Bill because it specifies PCR testing. It is very unusual for a Bill like this to specify a particular type of testing. For example, the type of testing for road traffic offences is never specified in the relevant legislation. It is just stated that the Garda members can have an apparatus and then details of the apparatus will be set out in secondary legislation by the Minister. I have no problem with testing. In fact, it is vital that we test. If the advice the Minister has is that PCR testing is the best type of testing to use now, then that is the advice and I would expect the Minister to follow it.

All this legislation is intended to be in force for a short time initially, but if it rolls on for much longer we cannot be certain that in six months' time, PCR testing will be recognised as the only type of testing suitable for this situation. The Minister will not then be able to change it because it will be set out in primary legislation. When this legislation goes to the Seanad, I urge the Minister to consider having a reference to "testing" set out in the Bill, or the Act when it is ultimately enacted, with the Minister having the right to specify the type of testing, which would of course be done in accordance with medical and scientific advice. The type of testing recommended will inevitably change, just as testing and treatments for any virus, disease or infection changes over time. I do not think specifying the type of testing to be used is something suitable for primary legislation. I think it will create problems for the Minister or his successors down the line. They will then have to come back to amend primary legislation, when something like this should be delegated to being dealt with in secondary legislation.

I can see Deputy Shortall encouraging me to finish, but she takes as much time, if not significantly more time dare I say it, in her contributions here as I do. I am trying to be brief, but it is important that some points were made regarding this legislation. I have made them and I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to have done so.

I call Deputy O'Rourke.

I welcome the opportunity to speak about this Bill on Committee Stage. I support several of the amendments. Amendment No. 31 is in my name and that of Deputy Cullinane.

I will echo several comments made thus far regarding the analysis that the Government's approach to this issue not being a serious one. It strikes me that the evidence shows that this Government dragged along in this regard. It has not just been this Government but the previous one as well. I remember discussing with the then Minister, Shane Ross, the need to improve measures regarding international travel at our ports and airports. Every step of the way, Sinn Féin has called for the Government of the day to implement stricter measures. We can track that process over time.

Let us recall the introduction of the passenger locator form. It was initially a voluntary measure but that caused a media furore. Out of embarrassment, the Government then made the passenger locator form mandatory. The Government then continuously failed to follow up in this regard. Several Deputies tracked this situation over time and the follow-up has been pathetic to the extent that it raises serious questions about the Government's commitment to and seriousness about having the passenger locator form as an effective measure.

What was the passenger locator form? It was the Government's tool to monitor adherence to quarantine and restriction of movement measures. The Government essentially turned a blind eye at every turn. Even when the Government was embarrassed by the figures which were made public, it did nothing to improve that situation. Those figures regarding adherence in respect of passenger locator forms ranged at various times from 7% to 18%. Some people got a follow-up call, but most people did not. Those people who got a follow-up call were not really obliged to do anything, including not even having to give accurate information. It was a tick-box effort. In fairness, the passenger locator forms then moved online and there was greater adherence to completing them in the first instance but it was not a measure the Government was really serious about.

The same thing could be said about the experience over time in respect of testing. My own background is in medical science and I could not believe the Government's reluctance to introduce a testing regime at our ports and airports. I raised this matter for months with various Ministers and all I got was an outline of what would happen in the future. Reference was made to all the considerations necessary, the weaknesses of testing and the complications to be taken into account. Under significant pressure, the Government did eventually introduce a testing regime before Christmas. That testing regime was voluntary and expensive. A mandatory testing regime was only introduced when we had in the region of 8,000 cases a day.

The test that was introduced was one undertaken 72 hours pre-departure. As NPHET has said about tests conducted 72 hours pre-departure, if I am going away, I can get a PCR test now, have my going away party, mingle with as many people as I like wherever I am and then I can still turn up at the airport in a couple of days' time with my negative PCR test. That is the weakness of that measure. It is acknowledged that test will miss in the region of 40% of cases and that is a statement of scientific fact. The Government and NPHET know that but they are still insistent that we not have a mandatory, across-the-board, post-arrival PCR testing regime in place. In fact, Sinn Féin submitted an amendment to this Bill, which has been ruled out of order, that specifically requested the introduction of a mandatory, across-the-board, post-arrival PCR testing regime. It was ruled out of order because it might be a charge on the Exchequer. That is simply incredible.

In its letter of 14 January, NPHET requested "every effort be made to ensure that discretion as it currently applies to the need for restriction of movements and PCR testing post-arrival in Ireland is removed". We have done nothing on the second aspect because we are afraid it might have a cost on the Exchequer. Regarding making every effort to address discretion on the restriction of movement, that is why the Opposition is broadly speaking with one voice regarding this group of amendments on this matter. The premise of the Government's approach is that we will look at other countries, see when virus variants arise which are of concern and then consider the situation on an ongoing basis. We know, however, that the real world does not operate that way. At that stage, it is too late.

The Government is looking for credit in this regard. The Minister for Transport referred to this point earlier, and it is contained in the Government's new living with Covid-19 document published only a few days ago.

It was a case of saying look at how we quickly we responded when the British variant was identified but that is an example of why we need mandatory hotel quarantine for all countries, not just a limited number. We heard the Taoiseach outlining the difficulty with implementing and enforcing mandatory quarantine at home. He asked how it could be done, how we could check whether people were in their bedrooms. It cannot be done and that is the case for mandatory hotel quarantine across the board. We need to recognise that we are in a particular set of circumstances. We are not back in May, in the summer or even before Christmas. There are variants in the community and there is vaccine in the community, and that is the perfect environment for the development of vaccine-resistant variants. We really need to do something about that and we are in a position to do so, but we are not taking that decision here.

The British variant is now rampant in Ireland, as we know, and there is now the Bristol variant. We know that the South African variant is on the island, although we do not know to what extent. It is completely false to suggest that we know we have quashed it. We do not know the extent of it and have not genome-sequenced enough people. Furthermore, we do not know who may or may not have it in the community because of the limitations of our testing regime. The South African variant is cropping up in parts of London,from where direct flights arrive here every day, and there is also the Californian variant, with flights arriving from the United States a number of times a week.

In that context, we know we have to go further than is being proposed, which is why the Opposition is speaking with such a united voice. If the Government's argument is turned on its head, to look at what is not being done, it follows the logic of what Deputies have been saying. The Bill is tokenism, a box-ticking exercise, and is not a real effort to deliver on a public health objective. That we do not have a timeline of when the measures will be introduced gives rise to further concern.

I highlight the opportunity we have now, as we had last summer. It was mentioned earlier that we essentially won the battle against Covid in this State last summer. We got down to single-digit figures. I recall those great days, reported on television and radio, when there were zero new cases. We have seen the publication from Professor Paddy Mallon and the genome-sequencing group that mapped the variants over time and throughout the country. The Teagasc website contains really interesting information in that regard. It emphasises the need to take measures to grasp this opportunity and to go further than is being proposed in the Bill.

I call on the Minister to change tack and to recognise the logic of the argument being made by the Opposition and the considerable public support and demand. The public see the absolute contradiction and it is an insult to them and their efforts, and to the sacrifices that families and businesses have been making. We have had the longest lockdown in Europe and people do not see a return for it. They see the absolute contradiction of people taking advantage of the lax regime that is in place. I call on the Minister to change tack, to recognise the opportunity and to take on board the proposals of the Opposition.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the amendments. I will begin with an obvious observation. People have reached the pinnacle of their patience and are getting angry with the Government's messaging. When they witness people heading off on holiday, like the incident last week when a convoy of camper vans headed off from Rosslare Europort, while the majority of people are restricted from travelling more than 5 km from their front door, it is no wonder they are calling for mandatory hotel quarantine for all non-essential international travel, as the Sinn Féin amendment proposes.

People have given up their lifestyles and personal ways of existing to suppress this virus. In return, they expect the Government to do what is required at this time, namely, introduce full mandatory quarantine. We have compelled people to stay at home for months; likewise, the Government needs to put in place compelling measures to deal with people who are still travelling during a pandemic. Sinn Féin has put forward amendments that will require all non-essential arrivals to have a PCR test post arrival, improve data-sharing between North and South and ensure the Dáil has a say in the development of new regulations. I commend my colleagues on their work in strengthening the Bill.

We have witnessed many times the leaking of communications from Government sources to mainstream media, which is causing confusion, mental anguish and anger among workers and professionals. It should not and cannot be this way when it comes to the measures included in the Bill. I urge the Minister for Health to consider the prime example of New Zealand's mandatory quarantine website. It has crystal-clear, easily accessible information covering everything from what mandatory quarantine looks like to all the information partners needed to spread the message about the measures. It is not difficult to imagine the positive effect that this website has on anxieties, on reducing the number of mistakes and on increasing compliance through clear communication. It is worlds apart from the Travelling to Ireland page on the Irish Government's website. Communications require policy and investment. We are in agreement on the seriousness of mandatory quarantine measures and the management of the communication of such measures must be treated as such. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. If other countries are able to do this, so should we.

Like every Deputy in this House who has seen his or her constituents put so much effort into protecting their communities each day, surely this amendment, which seeks to shield and protect us from new variants arriving to our shores through international travel, must be supported.

I listened to a debate last week in which Deputy McNamara described what was going on in the House as a charade, while some of the speakers during today's debate have described it as theatre. I do not disagree with them, because what we have had in the course of the pandemic is theatre, with very little attention given to democracy and to the work we should do to scrutinise legislation. This legislation is now before the House and, again, those in the Government parties have had little or no time to scrutinise it. The Opposition, which has a role to play, has not been listened to either. Legislation that is arrived at in this way cannot be, at all times, good legislation because not all the brains are contained in government. The contributions of many Deputies should be listened to and the mistakes in the context of legislation should be corrected before it is finally adopted.

The kind of incomplete legislation that there has been over recent months, some parts of it flawed, has led to what has happened in the course of this pandemic, namely, mixed messages from the Government. Each party of the Government is trying to get its message out, based on what it believes to be the legislation and the facts that were passed within it. They are getting it wrong and the public is being given a wrong message. It is not being given a clear message that can be followed without being changed and without making the political system and leadership look utterly foolish, and this adds to that confusion.

Last year when we entered the pandemic, people around the world and certainly people in Ireland began to accept that this was a game changer and something they would need to deal with. They accepted that there was going to be a lockdown, and that they needed to co-operate and get on with it. Businesses and schools were closed and the economy and society were at a standstill. All they asked from the Government was to provide leadership. They wanted the Government to give the message as to what they were expected to do, and they would follow that. They wanted to be told what the plan for the way out might be and they would follow that. However, in return for the efforts they have made, they have got shambles after shambles and confusion about the direction we are taking.

The small businesses that make up the backbone of our economy by employing people in local communities want direction and support. The Government is simply not giving them enough support. In another mixed message, the Government has given support to some SMEs and excluded people aged over 66 who have got no support, which is a disgrace because they have also made a contribution to the economy. They also have costs and concerns. They have plans and ambitions for their businesses which have now been dented and put off course altogether with little acknowledgement from the Government. There were mixed messages about schools being closed. Exporters are in difficulty because of the new Brexit rules and regulations on top of the pandemic. It is now extremely difficult to keep the people on course with us.

This legislation needs to be adopted by the House because we need some form of quarantine. However, it sends out a mixed message of a law being passed which cannot be enforced or implemented at the level people believe it should be. Last year when people were returning from Cheltenham and Italy, the public were demanding the Government take action to stop the return to Ireland of people who did not necessarily need to come back or people who were travelling and should not have been travelling. Earlier speakers referred to essential and non-essential travel. The legislation gives a mixed message and it will lead to confusion.

I will support the Bill, but in some way the Government needs to interpret the Bill and put its best foot forward in communicating the message in a way that is clearly understood and which the Cabinet can follow and will not be divided on. The discussion of what each party thinks of each other and the leaders of each of those parties should be set aside with a view to finding a common platform to move forward because it is damaging the messaging system. The public are asking for a clear message and no one can give it to them.

At a meeting last night, I asked the Minister about the vaccine. To exclude carers from the cohort of essential workers is simply wrong. I take that as an example. I am not lobbying to get somebody prioritised over somebody else. I am simply lobbying the Government to recognise that carers are essential workers and need to be vaccinated now. The care they are giving at home is an essential job. It is unsatisfactory and downright wrong that they would not be recognised and would not be getting the vaccine.

I hate to interrupt the Deputy. The issue of carers is very important, but it is not part of the amendment.

I am trying to explain that it is part of the mixed messaging-----

-----that this legislation and these amendments will lead to.

Nobody else was interrupted when speaking.

I apologise, but I am conscious of time.

I am talking about the mixed messaging that is going on. In dealing with this legislation I am asking that lessons be learned from that mixed messaging and that some corrections be made because the people are extremely angry with what is going on. They want to see a plan for the reopening of society and the economy. They want to know what their part in it is. They want to know what quarantining is all about and what it means for them. Some people have specific questions about their personal circumstances that they would like answered in the context of the legislation. I hope we will be able to find those answers and that they will be perfectly understood so that we can give some information to the general public.

This is an opportunity to look at the overall narrative that has been set out by the Government in respect of everything to do with quarantining, Covid and so on. The Government needs to take one step back and begin to provide the plans that are necessary to ensure that all of this can be implemented, that the course ahead of us is known and that we are getting buy-in from the general public. Right now, we do not have that buy-in or the leadership required, and too much mixed messaging is going on.

I apologise. My intervention was just on the carers' issue. That was all.

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 39 to 42, inclusive. I am conscious that time is marching on and I am anxious to find out whether this group of amendments will be accepted. I had much to say, but I will skip it. I ask the Minister to say if he is accepting amendment No. 1 and then we can move on from there. I take it he will not accept it.

There are many questions. I was going to respond to everything. Is that-----

I am asking if the Minister is accepting the amendment.

The Minister is entitled to respond in due course. He is being asked if he accepts the amendment. He can reply to that or not as he sees fit.

I think we will just wait until we get to that.

In that case I would like to call a vote on amendment No. 1, because we need to put it on the record.

Amendment No. 1 is in the name of the Labour Party. I take it that it is being pressed.

The Minister has heard that the amendment is being pressed.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I wish to check if I am in order. My intention now is to respond to the Deputies on the group we are discussing.

The Minister is perfectly entitled to respond to that. He should bear in mind that he has been asked a specific question on the amendment. That is all. He is perfectly within his rights to respond to the issues on those amendments.

Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I thank the Deputies for what has been a very useful debate on the first group of amendments. I have taken many notes. I also recognise that other than one or two contributions, everybody who has participated in this debate on the Government and Opposition sides is trying to do the best thing for the country.

We are trying to find the best solution we can, through legislation, to respond to the current situation. I thank Deputies for their amendments. Much work went into them. I also thank Deputies for their contributions. I acknowledge that the vast majority of contributions are made in the best of faith to try to find the best answer for the Irish people. That is exactly what I am doing, what the Government position is and what this legislation aims to do.

One of the big issues, which lies at the very core of this set of amendments, is whether we let public health decide which countries are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine, whether we let the Oireachtas decide or whether we have a blanket ban - as per these amendments - for all countries outside the island of Ireland. Essentially, the question before us with this amendment is who is best placed to decide that - the Oireachtas or public health. The legislation, as it is crafted, states that it is public health, whereas the amendment claims it should simply be a blanket ban.

There have been many references to there just being 20 countries on the list. I assure colleagues that that is absolutely not the case. It is not about 20 countries. It is a reality, as of now, that 20 countries have been designated as category 2 states. If the legislation passes, then those are the states for which hotel quarantine will apply. The argument being made is that hotel quarantine will therefore only apply to these 20 states. I assure the House that that is not the case. In fact, NPHET met earlier today and one of the things it discussed was the potential to add more states to the list. After this debate, I will be meeting the deputy Chief Medical Officer, CMO, to get his and NPHET's advice on whether we should add additional countries to the category 2 list.

If the Bill passes through the Dáil today, it is my understanding that it will be in the Seanad on Monday. It is entirely possible that by the time we debate this Bill in the Seanad, the list of 20 will be added to and the number could be significantly higher than that. I do not know yet because I need to meet the deputy CMO and get the advice of NPHET. If the Bill then passes through the Seanad, it could be in excess of that number again by the time the President signs it into law, if he deems that appropriate, or shortly thereafter when the hotel quarantining system comes into operation. NPHET is watching very closely what is happening in South America, Africa, the UK and elsewhere across the globe. I have no doubt that it will be advising me to add additional countries to the list. To date, I have taken that advice and we have designated the countries it recommended as category 2 countries. I reassure colleagues that this is not about 20, 30, 50 or 70 countries; it is about whether public health should advise the Government as to what those countries are. That is how the matter is framed.

I would make the same point on the considerations of NPHET and the CMO. Section 38E empowers the Minister for Health to designate, in writing, additional states "where there is known to be sustained human transmission of Covid-19 or any variant of concern or from which there is a high risk of importation of infection or contamination with Covid-19 or any variant of concern by travel from that state". Some Deputies have raised concerns and suggested that if we had a Brazilian variant, for example, the CMO could only advise the quarantining of travellers from Brazil and not states linked with travel from Brazil. The answer in the legislation is that the CMO can essentially advise that any state be added to the list through these mechanisms. It does not just have to be South Africa, for example. In that same vein, the deputy CMO recently advised on quite a number of states in Africa and they were added to the list. There is a very wide net of risk that NPHET and the CMO can consider.

There is another issue here which is very important and speaks to another reason we should not just have a global ban. Colleagues appreciate that the legislation has to be legally robust. It has to be in line with EU law and the Constitution. I assure Deputies that there has been a lot of back and forth between the Departments of Health, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Transport and the Attorney General's office to ensure that what we have before us is legally robust and constitutionally sound. As part of that, I am advised that we must have a test of proportionality so I ask Deputies to consider that. We are all here acting in good faith but I do not think any of us want to pass amendments which could ultimately lead to issues with legality. We all agree that this legislation has to be legally robust.

There has been much talk about this Bill being minimalist. Different language has been used, claiming that it is minimalist, that it is not serious, that it is a pretence or theatre-----

On a point of order, the question has been put and we would like a vote on this amendment. Under Standing Order 78, regarding the closure of a debate, I understand that it is our entitlement that a vote be taken. We are anxious that we have a vote on this. I ask the Minister to accept that and not to talk the clock down. This is an important group of amendments on which to vote and I ask that we move forward with that vote.

The Minister is entitled to respond. There is no motion before me so I am going to let him respond. He has heard what the Deputy said and perhaps he will facilitate it.

There has been much talk about this legislation being a sham, a piece of theatre and minimalist. It is very important that members of the public, who many be watching this debate, understand that these allegations are untrue and that what we are doing is very real. I am basing that on the evidence. I have with me the latest report from the Department on quarantining across Europe. I will quickly go through the countries. I am happy to share this document with Deputies afterwards. One of the questions I asked the Department is whether there is mandatory hotel quarantine in European countries. There is none in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria or Croatia. Cyprus has it but only for travellers from the UK. There is no hotel quarantine in Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France or Germany. Greece has it in limited circumstances if a test comes back positive. Hungary has it for people arriving from the UK. In Iceland, it is only used if there is no alternative - in other words, people can quarantine in other places.

There is none in Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands. Norway has it but only from high-risk areas and, critically, if a person is a resident or has a residence in Norway he or she does not have to go to the hotel but can go the residence. There is no hotel quarantine in Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland but in the UK, which is at the end of the list, the situation is similar to ours. It was mentioned earlier that the UK has more countries on its list than we do, which is true, but I believe our list will grow. As a rebuttal, if I may, to the allegations that this is somehow a pretence or a sham or minimalism, they are the facts. This system of hotel quarantine, as the evidence shows, will be, by a long way, the most restrictive and the most comprehensive in Europe, other than the UK, and we are largely in line with the UK. It is important that the Irish people understand that this is serious legislation which brings in serious measures relating to the curtailment of people's liberties and it does so in a robust way. It is a legally sound mechanism that gets to what many Deputies here are looking for, which is for more countries to be added to the list.

On the subject of the UK, I wish to acknowledge that to his credit, Deputy Cullinane has been very constructive, generally, during Covid debates. He does not always, nor should he, agree with Government policy but I acknowledge that he always has been very constructive. However, I question the contributions from Sinn Féin today because its Deputies have used very strong, accusatory and dramatic language about what we are doing here. It is the case that England and Scotland have hotel quarantine in place, as does Wales by proxy through England. Ireland, hopefully, will soon have it. The one jurisdiction on the two islands that does not have in place a system of hotel quarantine and is not planning to put in place such a system is Northern Ireland.

That is because there is a travel ban.

The only jurisdiction where Sinn Féin is in government is the only jurisdiction that is not looking at hotel quarantine. That is relevant to this debate. I reiterate that there has been very constructive dialogue on a lot of issues, which I accept, but on this issue it is hard not to conclude that Sinn Féin is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. They are demanding it here in Ireland, but they are not looking for it where they can implement it in Northern Ireland.

There is a travel ban, Minister.

As I said, that is relevant to this debate. I also could not find any media coverage where Sinn Féin vocally opposed and criticised the introduction in the UK, but it is doing so here. It is difficult not to conclude that there is politics being played here, which I do not think serves what we are all trying to do, which is to bring in a legally sound and robust mechanism.

There were questions around consultation with the Garda. The Garda Síochána was consulted. Several of the amendments which I have tabled were based on that consultation. I want to clarify that my understanding is there was no consultation with the representative groups, but the Garda Síochána was consulted.

Under Standing Order 78, I propose, "That the question be now put."

I have given the Minister an opportunity to respond. Deputy Duncan Smith has called for the closure of the debate and for the vote to be formally put. The Minister still has not indicated if he is accepting amendment No. 1. I presume he is not accepting it.

Do I conclude my responses now?

Yes. I am presuming from the Minister's reply that he is not accepting amendment No. 1.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 86; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • 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.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • 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.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • 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.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • 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.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • 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.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Alan Kelly and Duncan Smith; Níl, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers.
Amendment declared lost.

The time permitted for this debate having expired, I am required now to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of 24 February: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Health for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, in respect of each of the sections undisposed of the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee and the Preamble and Title are hereby agreed to in Committee, the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed". Is that agreed? It is not agreed.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 131; Níl, 11; Staon, 0.

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mick Barry and Paul Murphy.
Question declared carried.