Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

The Government's approach to housing is failing miserably. Dublin City Council and Cork City Council commissioned KPMG to conduct analysis of future housing needs as part for their development plans for the period 2022 to 2028. These reports are frightening. They reveal that the housing crisis is set to get even worse in the coming years, even if the Government delivers on current policy. Here are the facts according to the reports.

In Dublin, average house prices are expected to rise by 36% to more than €500,000. That is mind-boggling. Rents in Dublin will increase by 50% to an average of €2,500 per month. That is not for a family home; it is for a one-bedroom apartment. In the Taoiseach's home city of Cork, the outlook is just as bleak. In his neck of the woods, by 2028 the average cost of a home will be just under €500,000. Renters in the city that the Taoiseach represents, his constituents, are set to be hammered. Rents in Cork are expected to increase by an incredible 36%. These are the projected price increases even if all of the Government's targets are met.

Let us imagine a family starting out in Douglas or Carrigaline listening to and realising this. Ordinary workers in Dublin, Cork and throughout the State are already struggling to meet astronomical housing costs. Wages have not increased, and they certainly will not increase at anything like the same rate as price inflation over the next seven years. How on Earth does the Taoiseach expect people to be able to put a roof over their heads?

A generation is today locked out of affordable housing and home ownership is a pipe dream for many. We thought the Government's housing crisis could not get any worse but the message from the reports to which I refer is that we have seen nothing yet. Without a radical change in Government housing policy, we are looking at a serious catastrophe; a disaster for workers and families, for society and for Ireland’s long-term economic attractiveness and stability.

These are significant reports. They were conducted on behalf of the two largest local authorities in the State in order to allow them to plan the development of their cities. They are based on the most up-to-date data from the CSO and the ESRI. For a Government with an ounce of cop-on, alarm bells would be ringing very loudly. Instead, we get deafening silence, heads stuck in the sand, no urgency to respond, no forward-thinking, and, frankly, no common sense.

The Government needs to change the direction of its policy away from the interests of developers and investor funds and focus it squarely on meeting the housing needs of workers and families. The very first thing it should do is significantly ramp up investment in the direct delivery of genuinely affordable homes. The target of 1,250 affordable homes next year is nowhere near enough. We need 8,000 genuinely affordable units every year in order to avoid the nightmare projected in these reports. That is the level of ambition required.

Léiríonn na tuairiscí a rinneadh do chomhairlí cathracha Chorcaí agus Bhaile Átha Cliath go bhfuil sé beartaithe go leanfaidh an ghéarchéim tithíochta ar aghaidh agus go bhfuil sí chun éirí níos measa fós. Tá athrú polasaí Rialtas dáiríre ag teastáil go práinneach.

My questions are simple. Has the Taoiseach read the reports? Is he concerned by the forecasts they contain? Does he accept that a fundamental change in Government housing policy is required to end the housing crisis?

The Government has prioritised housing as the key social issue that needs to be addressed. In that context, it produced Housing for All, which is the very opposite to the so-called deafening silence on the part of the Government to which the Deputy referred. I have listened to her for quite a long time on housing but I see very little substance. I see a lot of sloganeering, sound bites and nice catchy phrases, but I do not see real substance from a policy perspective.

You do not see the houses either.

I would say to Deputy Cullinane that if Sinn Féin had voted for the proposals relating to the Oscar Traynor Road site, I would believe a bit more in its credibility. Sinn Féin needs to explain.

(Interruptions).

I do not understand how Deputy McDonald can stand up and rant on in the sound-bite manner in which she does and sit down without explaining to anybody why Sinn Féin voted against 853 social, affordable and cost-rental homes at the Oscar Traynor Road site. The latter was the latest in a series of deliberate decisions by Sinn Féin to oppose substantial housing proposals for Dublin. In Dublin City Council alone since the local elections, Sinn Féin has voted against 5,000 homes in Dublin.

(Interruptions).

Will the Taoiseach answer the question?

The Deputy is not the leader of Sinn Féin.

It voted against 1,200 social, affordable and private homes in Donabate. It voted against them. How can we declare something a crisis in that light? I have said this to all, but Sinn Féin in particular has been opposing projects across the board that involve social and affordable housing.

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage has committed to 4,000 new affordable purchase and cost rental homes in 2022 and €676 million has been allocated in respect of affordable measures across the board. The help-to-buy scheme is to help enable people to afford housing, yet Sinn Féin opposes that also. I do not see the policies from Sinn Féin. When you read through its documents, they are threadbare. The Government is saying that, realistically, we can provide up to 11,500 to 12,000 social houses next year. Those are social houses, something the Deputy ignored in her contribution. Close to 10,000 of those will be are direct builds through local authorities or approved housing bodies. Sinn Féin just comes along and says "Oh, we think that should be 20,000".

As did the ESRI.

It is like Tommy Cooper long ago, it is a case of just like that. "Just like that, we will make it 20,000". The Minister says there will be 4,000 affordable and, just like that, Sinn Féin will say "We will make it 8,000". There is no substance behind it.

It is just empty rhetoric as far as I can see. The Sinn Féin approach to housing is to exploit the housing crisis to suit its electoral and political base. That is the fundamental objective there.

Whatever one's view are, Housing for All represents a very comprehensive approach to housing. The Secretary General of my Department chairs an implementation group comprising Secretaries General of the other key Departments involving key work streams from workforce planning right through to finance and securing State lands for the building of housing. There is now a very comprehensive delivery mechanism at the heart of Government to deliver on the Housing for All objectives. We now know that in the 12 months between October 2020 and this October we have had 31,000 commencements. That is the highest number of commencements in a decade. Thus, the policies we have announced are having an impact. House construction was hit by Covid at the beginning of the year with the lockdown up to April, and likewise with the previous lockdown in 2020. I argue the Government's policy in Housing for All is far more detailed and substantive-----

It is not working

-----than anything Sinn Féin has to offer.

And it is not working. Whatever the Taoiseach's view of me, I am sure he will agree the ESRI and KPMG are not, surely to God, ranting as well, or are they? The evidence they have adduced through a very comprehensive study, using data from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, and ESRI, which are hardly ranters or ravers, show house prices will be at €500,000 on average, or more than that in Dublin and Cork, respectively, and rent will increase by 36% and 50%, respectively. If the Taoiseach thinks that reflects a policy that is working then he is even more adrift from reality than even I feared, at his worst moment.

This crisis is set to get worse if the Government persists with its current policy. Those are the facts. We saw figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, BPFI, showing almost half of first-time buyers must run to their parents for help to secure a deposit. It is called the bank of mammy and daddy. Not every mammy and daddy are in a position to bankroll every son and daughter. Those who can are the fortunate ones. All the evidence stacks up that this Government is failing. Its housing policy is failing. However, the really alarming thing is it will not look to the evidence and it will not set out a coherent plan for success in housing. It prefers instead to attack the Opposition.

The Housing for All strategy was announced some months ago. It is the plan. I challenge Deputy McDonald to come up with a detailed, substantive alternative plan to the Housing for All strategy because she knows deep down the detail is there and it is comprehensive. The issue is now delivery and implementation because supply is key to the housing crisis. That begs the question of why her party on the ground consistently opposes-----

-----significant housing.

Is giving away public land to private developers the solution?

Deputy Carthy has said it - it is ideology.

That is the cause of the housing crisis in the first place.

On Oscar Traynor Road, how long more are we going to have to hang around waiting?

The Taoiseach has not recognised the role of Fianna Fáil policies in causing the housing crisis.

Deputy Carthy, stop interrupting please.

Deputy Carthy has been very helpful in his interruption because he has confirmed Sinn Féin voted against the Oscar Traynor Road proposal.

That is 853 social, affordable and cost rental houses.

We have never denied it. The Taoiseach's own councillors voted against-----

As a party, Sinn Féin has voted consistently-----

The Government is giving away public land to its private developer friends.

-----and its Members come in here then and attack the Government.

Fianna Fáil caused the housing crisis.

It is thousands of houses.

The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The party opposed 1,200 units in Donabate. I am answering Deputy Ó Snodaigh's question.

The Deputy is not displaying sincerity.

There is no point when-----

The Deputy and his party are not displaying credibility when they come in here and attack, attack and attack. Their solutions are absent.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach's time is up.

Is KPMG insincere as well?

I argue, and I have said it about all parties, that if we are all agreed housing is the number one crisis then Members opposite must ask themselves the question-----

No, you have to ask yourself----

-----as to how they can in good conscience-----

Deputy, please.

-----object to projects that have been years in planning with the councils and involve social, affordable and cost-rental housing.

They will not be affordable. That is the problem.

I thank the Taoiseach. His time is up.

How can they continue to oppose them?

The Taoiseach should ask his councillors about it.

Can we please behave with a little more-----

I hope the Taoiseach makes a new year's resolution to actually answer questions that are put to him. It is kind of embarrassing for the Head of Government to behave like that.

Could we all make a Christmas resolution to behave with a bit of decorum, please?

I make the point that I did not interrupt anybody when they were speaking.

No, he did not, in fairness.

(Interruptions).

He did not answer our questions either.

Micheál's headline achievement for 2021. Well done.

I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.

I agree with the Taoiseach on the importance of people getting the booster. I received mine about ten days ago. In the same week it was announced walk-ins would be accommodated. People in the queue I was in at Citywest were being told only people with appointments would receive a booster. The wait that day was about three and a half hours. The following day it was five hours. Cork City Hall and Croke Park were also reporting long queues. It is, therefore, understandable people would make appointments with their pharmacy instead. Yesterday, the Taoiseach said that in the week commencing 22 November, there were 208,000 appointments for boosters but only 80,000 people turned up and last week there were 180,000 appointments but only 93,000 people turned up. The obvious question that arises is why there were approximately 30,000 fewer appointments last week than the previous week. Yesterday the Taoiseach failed to mention the ongoing problems with the booking system. Eligible people can now get boosters from their GPs, pharmacies or, indeed, a vaccination centre. The only problem is the systems do not seem to be capable of talking to each other. People in the eligible groups for a booster but who have had Covid in the past six months, which makes them ineligible, are still getting appointments. Is the system capable of picking that up? Instead of blaming people for not turning up to their appointments will the Taoiseach tell us what is being done to resolve the problems with the bookings system?

This is especially important given that appointments for the over-50s are coming on stream tomorrow and only 42% of the over-60s have received a booster. Will the Taoiseach tells us when he expects that cohort to be completed? Will he share with us the vaccination plan, as it is known, from now into the new year by cohort, vaccination type and timeline? That type of information would be hugely important in allying concerns about the new variant but also to give people hope for the new year, including sectors impacted on by restrictions.

I welcome that NIAC has today approved vaccines for children. When will these vaccinations commence? Where will they be administered? Will the capacity be increased in parallel with the booster campaign? Importantly, when will the information campaign for parents on vaccines for children going to start? We saw what happened when the Government brought in the mandatory mask wearing for schools overnight and then threatened to exclude children for non-compliance without first explaining the basics of why it was deemed necessary. Does the Government have an information campaign ready to go to explain the benefits of vaccines for children so parents have all the facts they need and disinformation is not guiding their decision making?

To recap, is the number of appointments actually increasing? What is the Government doing about the system and the double bookings? Will the Government give us an indicative vaccination plan into the new year before Christmas? The information campaign is vital for parents. When will that be rolled out?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. What I said yesterday and today is not blaming people. It was to underline the importance of the booster, especially in light of the arrival of the Omicron variant. I was talking to the President of the European Commission and others. There is still a bit to go on interpreting the data, research and science. The science seems to indicate we are looking at a more infectious and more transmissible variant but that vaccination still gives protection against disease, hospitalisation and admission to an ICU. There must be a very clear message from all of us to people that when they get their opportunity to get the booster that they take it. It will give you a very quick increase in antibodies and your capacity to resist severe disease and illness from both Delta and Omicron.

If one looks at how transmissible Delta is, early evidence suggests Omicron is more infectious and has an advantage over Delta. We can see what is happening in the UK and in other countries where evidence is coming out about how rapidly it is developing, and that is a concern.

The best possible protection is to get the booster dose. Some early tests are showing that. They are also showing that the first and second doses have a weakening effectiveness against Omicron but the third dose significantly improves your capacity to avoid severe illness and disease. Yes, the HSE is working through its systems and so on, which are open to 50-year-olds and 60-year-olds this week. It is constantly reviewing how best to maximise uptake in the next number of weeks through its booster campaign. We are at just more than 1 million booster doses, which is about fourth in Europe. Looking immediately ahead, the most effective thing we can do as a country is to do everything we possibly can to get the booster to as many people as quickly as we can. That is what is required. I say to people that if they get the opportunity to get the booster, they should take it.

Pharmacies are helpful but they by no means cover anywhere near a critical mass of those being vaccinated. To be fair, GPs have been very strong when it comes to the older age cohorts. That has to be said. I pay tribute to the GPs for their work and to those pharmacies who have taken the booster dose up.

On children and vaccinations, NIAC has now made recommendations for the administration of paediatric vaccines. It has recommended that children aged five to 11 years, especially those with an underlying condition, living with a younger child with complex medical needs or living with an immunocompromised adult, should receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer. This should be offered in parallel with booster doses for those of all ages with underlying conditions. The recommendations go a little further, which I can elaborate on later. The Department of Health and the HSE are now working on a plan involving the information campaign advised by the Deputy. They will publish that plan in the next number of days.

Many members of the public felt blamed yesterday, even though it was not their fault. There is a system failure. The Taoiseach needs to find ways of fixing that system so that we are not duplicating, being wasteful and people are not queueing longer than they need to, which is one of the reasons they might be put off in the winter and will make alternative arrangements. The Taoiseach needs to give us an assurance about those systems because there is a problem there. The HSE has acknowledged that.

I know we cannot be certain about things because they will change, but an indicative vaccination plan across cohorts and vaccination types would be very helpful as we go into the new year. For example, the Janssen vaccine becomes less protective in a reasonably short period of time. We need to see that plan before Christmas. The public would find a degree of reassurance in that, especially given what the Taoiseach said about Omicron.

On the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, TRIPS, waiver, nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Europe has to change its attitude. The Taoiseach mentioned talking to his European counterparts. We have to push that to make sure other jurisdictions have the kind of cover they need. We will all have different variants if that is not done.

The HSE acknowledges that it has to improve systems, but it is more than that. In my conversations with all the principals yesterday, there was a sense, to be frank, that the same urgency that applied to getting a first and second dose was not quite there for the third dose. That is not to cast blame or anything like that, but to urge everybody that the booster has very significant and positive impacts in strengthening the immune system against new variants of this disease, and especially from getting severely ill and ending up in hospital or an ICU. We know that up to 50% of those who are in ICU are unvaccinated and the figure is similar for those who are hospitalised.

Again, we have had a voluntary system, which I support wholeheartedly. I do not believe in any mandatory approaches to vaccination at all. We have achieved very high levels of vaccination through the voluntary system in Ireland and that is the approach we should take. Even now, people are coming forward to get their first dose, which is encouraging, because of the points we have been making.

On the TRIPS waiver, the European Union has been the best continent. It has exported approximately 750 million doses to 150 countries.

Last Friday evening, Members debated yet another extension of the draconian powers that have been handed to the Minister for Health for more than 20 months now. While Members were in the Chamber, the Taoiseach took to the airwaves to talk to the public and went over the heads of some members of the public to talk to the children. He told us that we were implementing new more draconian measures than we previously signed into law, which will be debated further in this Chamber this evening. For more than 20 months now, the Minister for Health could sign into law whatever he chose, which has had massive impacts on the livelihoods of our citizens throughout the country. On Friday, for example, the Taoiseach announced the introduction of tighter restrictions on the hospitality industry with the closure of nightclubs and a suite of measures, including the reduction of numbers and table service. This is not to mention the arts and entertainment industry, which has been wiped out completely.

With the apparent admission that Covid passes do not stop the transmission of Covid, one would think the Government would move to scrap these discriminatory passes altogether. Instead, it has doubled down and put more pressure on people. That is a retrograde step. What studies have been carried out into the effectiveness of Covid digital certificates in stopping or reducing the transmission of Covid-19? Will the Government publish the studies on the effectiveness of certificates and bring them before the House for debate? We have had no debate on it and we have no evidence.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties which, among others, is opposed to the extension of Covid passes noted that whenever the Government introduces legislation that effects and impacts the rights of citizens, it must carry out a ballpark test on its "necessity and proportionality" - those are the council's words and not mine. It stated:

It must show evidence that the measure[s] introduced ... [are] necessary to achieve a particular aim. To that end, [the] Government has yet to ... [provide any] evidence.

Will the Government bring forward the evidence, if it has it, and have it debated in the House on what specific benefit the system has, and will have, in the coming months, despite the massive impact it has on our people?

I want a straight answer from the Taoiseach about digital passes. Have they any benefit in stopping the transmission of Covid? I believe they have not. As I said, the data clearly suggests that they do not work to stop transmission. Since the introduction of vaccine certificates, we have seen 323,000 positive cases. The Government needs to produce the evidence and show us clearly why certificates have not curbed the spread of Covid or diminished it in any shape, make or form. I want the Taoiseach to present this information, if he has it. He should have it because he talked about the science. Show us where the science is. These certificates are discriminatory and, as I said previously, are providing medical apartheid to the people of our country.

It is good to see the Deputy back. I thank him for raising these questions. He called the re-enactment of the public health laws last week "draconian". These laws have been debated in the House on a number of occasions since the pandemic started. Public health comes to the forefront during a pandemic and laws are brought in for its duration. These are not laws one would use in ordinary times. They are used for a purpose, they are specific and they are designed to try to protect lives and health. That is the motivation. The laws were previously debated and approved by this House. We are guided by public health advice. There is sometimes a tendency to be annoyed and frustrated by that advice and so on.

I know the Deputy has a particular stance on this, about which he has been consistent. It is fair to say he is not in favour of restrictions, generally. The key issue is that one cannot manage a pandemic without a legislative framework that allows one to be nimble, quick and to do things to protect lives and the health of people. There is a parliament here which can debate these issues, but it is not possible to do it without public health legislation of the kind we have. It is not the kind of legislation any government wants to bring in. Why would we want to bring in legislation that restricts the normal things of life? There is no joy in doing that, believe me.

If the Deputy recalls, back in July, the chief medical officer strongly advised that if we were to reopen hospitality, the status of vaccination in the country and among individuals was key and he recommended a system of vaccination verification, to protect people. That led to a robust debate in this House in July. I recall it. The Dáil passed that legislation and it enabled us to open both outdoor and indoor hospitality throughout the summer to great effect. It worked.

The evidence on vaccination is clear. The Deputy is not disagreeing with that. He welcomes, encourages and supports vaccination. If I understand correctly, that is his position. The evidence is there that if one is not vaccinated, one will pick up the disease much more easily and be vulnerable to disease, sickness and so forth. I am looking at other countries in Europe. Austria has now brought in a lockdown because of the level of people unvaccinated in the country. At least, we have avoided the types of approaches other countries have now had to take.

I thank the Taoiseach for the welcome but not the answer. I asked him specifically about the Covid certificates and whether he had evidence they have lessened the impact or reduced the cases. Clearly, they have not and he has no evidence. If he had, he would produce it. The Taoiseach referenced the debate here. There was no prelegislative scrutiny of any of the legislation that went through, including the Bill which will be debated here this evening. Many of his backbenchers and all his three parties were bemoaning the fact we were extending it last July and here we are extending it again to next July.

We want to see an end date. The public want to see one. It is war weary and fatigued and business just cannot survived. The Taoiseach knows that and he met the arts industry last week and I am glad he did so, because it has been especially badly treated. It is the ordinary man in the van, with his guitar and ag seinm cúpla amhrán agus rudaí mar sin. Our culture and heritage is being hammered. The Taoiseach does not have any evidence and he has not produced it, nor has he briefed Opposition leaders for 13 months. He has not had a meeting. We all backed him, at first, to get rid of the imminent matter, of course we did.

However, we saw through the figures and the lack of investment, in spite of all the money in extra ICU beds and everything else - it is one holy mess - not to mention the booster and the carry on now. I ask the Taoiseach to show me the evidence that vaccination certificates work, which discriminate against people. I have countless cases of people in awful trauma and anguish who cannot get a vaccine for medical reasons. Others chose not to and they are being discriminated against left, right and centre.

First, it is not possible to have prelegislative scrutiny. Prelegislative scrutiny in the Dáil is now taking up to six months in some cases----

In some cases, it is taking up to six months. There is no way one can deal with a pandemic, going through the luxury of-----

That is no excuse.

It is. It is very rational.

It is taking six months for prelegislation on many key Bills, never mind a public health emergency. Is the Deputy seriously suggesting we could do it?

We cannot do it. Unfortunately, the experience has been that it takes too long. We are extending the timeframe for the operation of the legislation that is expiring, in essence, and consolidating-----

How is that the case?

-----the existing powers that were there in different Acts and so forth. I accept the point that people are war weary of this pandemic. Of course, they are. It has gone on much longer than people may have anticipated.

On the other hand, we are in a different position this year compared to last year in terms of the where the economy is and the degree to which it has bounced back. There are 30,000 job vacancies in quarter 3, compared to 19,000, two years ago. The hospitality sector, entertainment and tourism have been hardest hit and we will do everything we can to support those sectors.

As the Taoiseach may be aware, I have repeatedly highlighted the Government's failure to carry out even the most basic human rights assessment of any of the draconian legislation enacted by this Dáil, including the most recent Bills on hotel mandatory quarantine and the consolidation of four separate pieces of legislation into one. While this might be understandable, in the initial months, following the declaration of a pandemic, back on 11 March 2020, when there was a lack of information, a sense of urgency and an overwhelming sense of fear, almost 22 months later, it is simply unacceptable and unforgivable.

The importance of carrying out a human rights assessment has been highlighted, repeatedly, by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. It has simply been ignored. Amongst many concerns, it has highlighted that the regulations restricting rights under emergency legislation, without Oireachtas scrutiny, despite the Taoiseach's rhetoric, are there since March 2020. Thorough, effective scrutiny is necessary for a valid proportionality assessment, as required under the Constitution and human rights law, for any laws that actually or potentially restrict rights.

It said, amongst many other things, that Government must demonstrate that such measures are necessary and proportionate to a specific, legitimate aim and that they constitute the most minimal interference with rights possible in the situation. It goes on, foolishly in terms of what the Government has done, to say the importance of clarity of messaging is crucial to instil public confidence and understanding of new laws. The clarity of message is absolutely crucial to bring all of us on board when we face a public health threat of the magnitude we have faced.

Instead of that assessment, on even the most basic level, we have got the language of division, demonisation and discrimination. The current spin, which has changed many times to suit Government agenda or indeed some of the pharmaceutical companies, is now all about personal responsibility. That is deeply duplicitous, because for those who have reflected, researched and come to a considered decision that a vaccination is not for them, for one of many reasons, this group, which is far from homogenous, is now the subject of appalling comments and screaming headlines. I will refer to letters I received from a consultant on two occasions and I am sure he has also written to other Deputies, to highlight he is absolutely for vaccination and people should take it, but he also highlights the group of people that has had an adverse reaction to the first or second dose, or for other reasons and for which absolutely no provision has been made.

The Taoiseach's spin hides, obfuscates and confuses what has not been done. It ignores what the Policing Authority reports have consistently told us, that the vast majority of people in Ireland have been surprisingly compliant. It ignores the Council of Europe resolution, which is very detailed and the Taoiseach might read it some time. It talks about the importance of looking at the voluntary aspect of vaccinations and bringing people-----

I thank the Deputy.

-----on board. It ignores the fact we have ignored the poorer countries. We have a letter here from the nurses of more than 30 countries telling us it is unacceptable. It ignores the fact we have not been given any update on public health infrastructure on the ground in order that we can competently deal - am I over time?

The Deputy is way over.

I beg your pardon, a Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputy was so engrossed, I could not interrupt her.

What do I say? My apologies. I will stop.

I disagree with the basic premise of the Deputy's argument. She speaks of a Government agenda. The only agenda I and the Government have is to protect people's lives and health in the middle of a global pandemic which is a one-in-100-year event. There is no other agenda than that. I do not know what the Deputy meant when she said it was just to suit the Government's agenda. Our motivation is to protect people and their lives. I will be honest with the Deputy.

That needs balance between competing interests and rights. There is always a challenge in public health in balancing those rights. In a public health crisis or pandemic, we have to give higher priority to public health advice. I have no issue with evaluating it through the prism of human rights but we are combating the spread of the virus. There is a range of bodies, agencies and statutory authorities in a modern democracy and government has to balance all of that but we are dealing with a pandemic that has killed millions around the world. We should not forget the severity and deadly nature of this disease.

We have had a voluntary vaccination programme. We have not had a mandatory or compulsory programme, nor should we have one. There is an obligation, people can have arguments and we have to provide the evidence. It is not spin. We are being told what is emerging from hospitals by hospital authorities. They give us the profile of those in ICU and in hospital, their vaccination status and so forth. I am not making that up. I have an obligation to put that before the public and the House.

I accept there are people who cannot be vaccinated because of adverse reactions or medical conditions. They should be provided for and I have asked that proper systems be developed where people with genuine medical issues or adverse reactions are facilitated in terms of participation in society. The vast majority of people have been compliant. That is why we have been effective as a country in dealing with this disease, relative to other countries in terms of death rates, illness and so forth. People have taken the messages on board. People adapted to the messaging three weeks ago. They saw the dangers rising in respect of Delta and the case numbers and changed behaviour.

There is nothing the Government would like better than to be back in a normal situation, dispense with the legislation that Deputy Mattie McGrath spoke about and get back to ordinary living because it is not the most popular thing in the world to be restricting people's personal liberties and freedoms.

I am on record as taking the Covid pandemic very seriously. This is about a human rights assessment of the serious draconian measures that were brought in on a temporary basis. The question is simple. Why has the Taoiseach not done it and when will he do it?

When we have spin, we do not have confidence. I have lost all confidence in the Government's approach to this. When I see an emphasis being put on night clubs while day centres and respite centres are not open and children are being appealed to by the Taoiseach to take on more responsibility, there is something seriously wrong with that message. It also ignores the fact that the cross-party committee which published its report last year has been utterly ignored. Mr. Justice Meenan's report in relation to a compensation or redress scheme has also been utterly ignored.

David Nabarro, WHO special envoy on Covid-19, described the idea that people will be discriminated on the basis of their Covid immunity status as a scary possibility in April 2020. There is an onus on the Government to carry out a human rights assessment, explain why it has not done that and indicate when it will do it.

We talk about spin and we all have our own perceptions of spin. The Deputy just did a bit of spinning when she said I was putting more responsibility on children. I did nothing of the sort. I acknowledged the challenges that faced children, what they have done to date and how difficult it has been for them.

You did that and then you went on-----

The Deputy is no exception in the House either, in terms of having the capacity to spin. I did not interrupt her. The point I was making was that children and young people have gone through an awful lot in this pandemic. Their quality of life has been in many ways reduced by the pandemic. It is the Covid-19 pandemic that is driving all of this. Those in the engine room have to keep going to protect people. We do not have the luxury of doing all the comprehensive evaluations people would like us to do. We are mindful of the issues for people in their daily lives. They are fed up with this pandemic. What is the most fundamental human right of all? It is to protect life and limb. That is a fundamental obligation of government. I would go before any human rights commission and say my fundamental responsibility and that of the Government is to protect people's lives and to take expert advice and assess it. This Oireachtas assesses that advice as well as to whether it will protect people's lives and limbs and whether to go with it.