Medical Cards: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 664 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 165 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  It is beyond belief that the Government should seek to make savings on the backs of those aged over 70 years of age. The distress and anger caused by this proposal is palpable and resulted in many thousands of pensioners taking to the streets this afternoon to express their outrage at the Government. They came from all parts of the country to give a clear message, saying to the Government: “Hands off our health care. Hands off our medical cards.”

Not since the tax marches of the 1980s has there been such a display of public anger. In recent days several Government representatives, including the Taoiseach, have tried to make out that their mistake was in not communicating their message properly. This is nonsense because their message was the problem. It was and remains the case that the Government chose to abolish the legal right of everybody over 70 years of age to free medical care. There is no way of dressing this up in order to make it look any different.

Not only did the Government do that but it then decided to cut in half the income limits that apply to the over 70s. It reduced the income limits for a couple from €596 to €298 per [839]week. This savage cut was not mentioned on budget day. I really want to know who gave the instruction to the Health Service Executive to do that. Perhaps the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who has just arrived in the Chamber, will clarify that for us. There was no mention of the halving of income limits on budget day. That only became apparent the following day.

Did the Minister approve that savage cut in income limits and give that instruction to the HSE? I cannot see that organisation doing that off its own bat. The real problem, the killer blow in many ways, was cutting the income limits in half. I would like the Minister to clarify for the House tonight whether she gave that instruction.

On two occasions yesterday the Taoiseach misled us by claiming that 70% of people would have qualified for medical cards under the budget changes. This is simply not true.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Hear, hear.

  7 o’clock

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Under the budget changes the income limit was €298 for a couple. Two days later, after the Minister, Deputy Harney’s rushed changes, this was increased to €480.60, which equates exactly to the top rate of the State pension. Therefore, a pensioner with even the smallest occupational pension would lose his or her medical card. In effect, the changes the Minister announced last Thursday made little or no difference to pensioners with regard to their entitlement to a medical card. We know the rule was in place which stated that if one’s only income was from social welfare one would receive the card, irrespective of what income limit was stated. The Minister’s increase, announced with a fanfare on Thursday, made absolutely no difference to the numbers of people who would qualify for a medical card.

Old age brings with it great uncertainty, not least with respect to people’s fears for their health. The greatest fear of many older people is that if their health fails with advanced years, they may not be able to access adequate health care. The automatic entitlement to a medical card gave older people certainty and peace of mind. This budget decision shattered all of that.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Hear, hear.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  It is hard to believe that a Government that once prided itself on having its finger on the pulse of the people should now be so clearly out of touch with what old people feel about their health. I could not help smiling last week when I heard Councillor Maurice Ahern say that his brother Bertie would never have done this. There are many things about Deputy Ahern I bitterly disagreed with but I will give him one thing. He understood people and he understood human nature. That trait has not been inherited by his successor.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  The Deputy and her party could not get Deputy Ahern out quickly enough.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  We kept him for a long time.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Fianna Fáil kept him for a long time.

After Friday’s climbdown, the Taoiseach now claims that only 5% of pensioners will be excluded from having a medical card. There is no basis to that figure. Under these income limits a great many more than 5% will be excluded from the right to a medical card. One only had to look at the news this evening to see this. In the same vein I had calls to my office this afternoon. Teachers, gardaí and nurses who are retired will now find themselves above those limits and excluded from the free medical card. So, too, will many others, including those the [840]Minister likes to refer to as the “high rollers”. Very ordinary people will lose out under these limits and there is no basis for the claim of only 5%.

Apart from where income limits are set, far more important for many older people is the removal of the legal right. That issue brought people out on the streets today. Once that right has been removed, the Minister can reduce income limits at the stroke of a pen. If the Government could savagely slash income limits last week, is it not very likely it will do the same next year when the economic situation will probably be even worse?

From an economic perspective, retaining the automatic entitlement to a medical card is a no-brainer. The easier the access to primary care, the healthier people stay, and the less likely they are to need hospital care and expensive treatments. The past seven years have proved that. A medical card provides access to community care services which cannot even be bought in the private sector. Drugs costs are far more expensive under the drugs refund scheme than on the medical card.

It is increasingly difficult to stomach Government Ministers telling older people that it is they who must pay for the mess that the Government has created. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, has a cheek to preach to older people about patriotism. He has a cheek to expect people in their retirement to pick up the tab for our economic difficulties while he allows the rich to get away scot free. Contrary to what the Minister claims, it does not have to be like this. The Government had choices to make about how it would balance the budget and rather than protecting the vulnerable, it chose to target them. That choice is morally indefensible, grossly unfair and economically stupid. I support the motion.

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  In bringing forward these draconian measures the Government has alienated the most vulnerable section of our society. Those who have reached the autumn years of their lives once had the cushion, the safety and the peace of mind of knowing they could go to a GP in an hour of need, but that luxury is no longer afforded to them. We had lectures last week from the Taoiseach about his republican and egalitarian ideals. What was done and visited upon these people last week was neither republican nor truly egalitarian. It ran counter to anything that is republican or egalitarian.

In the short time I have, I implore the Government to reverse this decision. If the thousands of people who came onto the streets of Dublin today are anything to go by in terms of delivering a short sharp message to the Government, today was the day it happened. The Government must listen to those people who have reached their autumn years and are now worried and full of angst about these measures. If we are truly to be a republic in the purest sense of that word, we must reverse this measure.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Máire Hoctor): Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  I propose to share time with the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Mary Wallace, Deputy Mary White, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, Deputy Timmy Dooley, Deputy M. J. Nolan and the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Martin Mansergh.

As Minister of State with responsibility for older people, I express my sorrow that people felt compelled today to take to the streets in numbers to speak out against the Government, despite the fact that more than nine out of ten people aged over 70 years will retain their medical cards following the decision taken by the Government yesterday. All of my colleagues fully recognise the deep sense of anger people felt on this issue. We have listened, however, and I am pleased that action has been taken to address the matter. The new income thresholds [841]are designed to ensure that the vast majority of people aged 70 years and over will continue to have a medical card and only those on higher incomes will lose their entitlement to a card.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Elderly people are still angry.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  The new income thresholds effective from 1 January 2009 will ensure that more than 90% of people aged over 70 years will retain the medical card.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  That is untrue.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  It is true.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  The Government’s figures do not add up.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Like the budget, they are full of holes.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Deputies referred to retired teachers, superintendents and gardaí. In the case of these groups, unless the spouses of those in question have similar income levels, they will not exceed the threshold and will not lose the medical card.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  There are too many Marys in the Government.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow the Minister of State to continue without interruption, please.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Deputy Rabbitte should check the spelling of my name.

A single person aged 70 years and over and earning €36,500 or less per annum and couples earning €73,000 or less per annum can be certain that they will retain their medical card. Persons aged 70 years and over who earn above these amounts will, if they so wish, be considered by the Health Service Executive for a discretionary medical card based on their personal circumstances and medical needs.

Deputies will be aware that 1.3 million people currently have a medical card. The general medical service scheme has worked well since its introduction in 1972. The objective of the scheme is to ensure the medical card benefit is available to those who are unable, without undue hardship, to meet the costs of health services for themselves and their dependants. The number of people with medical cards continues to grow because of the increasingly difficult economic circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  It is because their income is so low.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  As a result, the cost of the GMS scheme continues to increase, which must be a cause of concern to everyone.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  It should especially concern those who have lost their jobs.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  The Deputy is correct as the rise in unemployment adds to the figure. I ask persons aged 70 years and over who have savings not to be concerned. Single persons in this age group may have savings of up to €36,000 without it having an impact on the medical card assessment process.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What if they are saving for a nursing home?

[842]Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  I will address that issue in due course. Couples may have twice that figure in savings and only the interest accruing on amounts above these figures will be assessed as income. The Government has taken effective measures to allay concerns by introducing the changes announced in recent days.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  That does not explain the reason 15,000 people gathered on the streets today.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  As the Minister of State with responsibility for older people, I will continue to work with many groups such as Age Action Ireland, the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament and Active Retirement Ireland with which I have a good working relationship.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister of State should do the honest thing and resign.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  The Government has provided an unprecedented level of funding for older people, with an additional €500 million allocated for services for older people. In addition, more than 10,000 people are availing of home care packages. This figure will be maintained and additional funding of €454 million for the health budget in 2009 will ensure people can remain at home for as long as possible and receive good quality care. Where this approach has worked well, it will also be expanded.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Mary Wallace): Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  There is not a Member of the House who does not regret how events have panned out in the past week.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Minister of State should spare us the crocodile tears.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  My office, like the offices of all Deputies, has been inundated with queries from older people, sick with anxiety and fear who genuinely believed they would lose their medical cards.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  This is pathetic.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Under the original guidelines proposed in the budget last Tuesday, 215,000 people aged over 70 years would automatically retain their medical card. Unfortunately, this message was not properly conveyed.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Minister of State is misleading the House.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  One 90 year old lady living in a granny flat whose sole income was the old age pension and who had a small amount saved telephoned me last week. When I informed her that there would not be a problem with keeping her card because her only income was the old age pension, she said she understood that everyone aged over 70 years would lose their medical card.

In addition, complications arising from general medical card assessment guidelines added to the confusion. Clearly the Government’s message that 70% of those aged 70 years and over would continue to qualify for a medical card did not get across.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  That is not true.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  People were convinced that their card could be withdrawn and thousands of older people experienced serious anxiety and worry. I am sorry this occurred as it was not the Government’s intention.

[843]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Government is responsible.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  The improved income thresholds announced by the Taoiseach and Minister for Health and Children will mean 95% of those aged over 70 years will continue to have a medical card. For the small minority who will no longer be eligible, discretion will be used to take account of difficult personal circumstances. Already, 70,000 medical cards have been issued on these grounds.

There is no doubt given the serious state of the country’s finances that the Government was required to make tough decisions which would have been unthinkable even one year ago. For this reason, it made the difficult decision not to give very wealthy people aged over 70 a medical card. The Fianna Fáil Party and Government have a strong record of supporting the elderly. A few years ago, hardly any older persons received nursing or therapy care at home because such care was confined to hospitals. Currently, 10,000 older people benefit from home care packages and 2,500 additional places have been provided in day and respite centres in the past three years. A sum of €55 million has also been provided for the fair deal scheme.

We can be proud that life expectancy in Ireland has increased by four years since 1996. This rate of progress is unmatched in any other European Union country. I share the concern about the anxiety which was needlessly caused to older people in the past week. There is no doubt that the Taoiseach and Minister for Health and Children worked hard over the weekend to find a solution to the problem.

We understand the difficulty of respecting the broad budgetary parameters while taking on board the depth of feeling expressed to us by elderly people and their families in the past week. The work on a new single capitation rate paid to general practitioners for people aged over 70 years who hold a medical card is important. It was difficult for older people to understand the reason a GP would receive €161 per annum for one person and €640 for another person in the same age group.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That was a Micheál Martin special.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow the Minister of State to continue without interruption, please. Time is limited.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Despite the economic difficulties Ireland is experiencing, it is important to have a sustainable scheme in future.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  It is a James Reilly special.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I did my job.

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  I welcome the fact that Deputy Reilly is taking responsibility.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Where is the Minister, Deputy Martin?

Deputy Mary Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  It was very important that the Government found an alternative solution to deal with the reasonable concerns held by genuine people. Under the revised scheme, the vast majority of older people will continue to benefit from a medical card. It is up to the House to ensure that this message gets across and older people and their families are made aware of that to which they are entitled.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  I propose to share time with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

[844]I will not take lectures from any Deputies on the Opposition benches.

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  The Deputy was prepared to walk yesterday.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please allow the Deputy to speak without interruption.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  My party has responded to and apologised for the hurt caused by the medical card debacle. While we take our share of the blame, we worked hard to reverse the inequities of the scheme. Not so long ago, Fine Gael and the Labour Party opposed universal medical cards. Both parties have shown hypocrisy in preying on the fears of vulnerable people for selfish political gain. Shame on Deputy Kenny and his party.

I have some juicy information about Deputy Reilly. I propose to quote him.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Did the Deputy say the Green Party would pull out of Government? I will lead her across the lobby if she wishes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please allow the Deputy to be heard.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Come up those stairs and vote with me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please, allow the Deputy to speak.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  It is very interesting to hear what Deputy Reilly had to say a few short months ago: “What I meant was, I did not want 70 year old millionaires——

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  The Deputy is doing Fianna Fáil’s dirty work now. She got that outside in the corridor from Deputy Michael Kennedy.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  ——getting a medical card when Johnny is on two inhalers and his dad is on 15 grand a year and does not have it.” Talk about political cant and hypocrisy.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  The Deputy should talk about herself, out on the plinth.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The Deputy should say what she said on local radio in Wexford this morning. The Green Party is the junior partner in Government.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  Let us turn to the Labour Party if we really want to be strong tonight. The last Labour Party Minister for Health said the same thing in 1984 and Deputy Liz McManus in 2004 described universal access as an obscenity.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please allow the Deputy to address the House and be heard. I shall ask her to provide the source of her quotation for the records.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. This scheme will support 95% of people with a medical card and that is good.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The Deputy should repeat what she said on local radio this morning.

(Interruptions).

[845]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow the Deputy to speak.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  You could not allow her — it is hypocritical

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I hate hypocrisy — hypocrisy kills me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I ask the Deputy to give the source of her quotation.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  I thank the Leas Cheann Comhairle. This scheme will support 95% of people with a medical card.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  What about the Deputy’s budget speech? I hate hypocrisy. I like straight talkers.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  I said from the start that I would not stand over the savage cuts to people who needed medical cards for their medical needs. This new scheme——

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  She said she had not said it in the budget speech.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Hypocrisy kills me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow the Deputy to be heard.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  ——will target finance to those who need it. I have one sentence to say and I should like to be heard.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Deputy McCormack should please allow Members to be heard in the House.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  I want to be heard, too.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy will be called.

Deputy Mary Alexandra White: Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  Looking at figures is not enough. Compassion has to be factored into accounting. Last week accounting took over. It must never happen again.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Government is about the allocation of scarce resources. We are at a time of increasing scarcity in our financial resources. I believe it is right for us to try to direct those scarce resources to those with the least means. I very much apologise for the fear and hurt that was caused last week.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That is appropriate.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  I do. However, we need to get agreement and certainty on a fundamental issue. Was it right for us to have a scheme when we have scarce resources that have to be allocated, where someone gets a payment of some €660 while someone else, the same age, but in different circumstances is given €160?

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Tell Mary.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Ask Deputy Micheál Martin.

[846]Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Deputy Liz McManus, in Opposition at the time, in fairness said——

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Where is the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin? Call him in, we want Micheál. Deputy Ryan should let him answer.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  ——GPs were awarded three or four times as much to pay for one group of medical card holders and that this could create an incentive to attract GPs out of areas of deprivation. Deputy McManus said it was inequitable and——

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  She was right.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  ——she was right. It was appropriate for us in Government, when we have a decision to make around scarce resources, to address that fundamental unfairness.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Deputy Gogarty does not agree with the Minister.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  The scheme we have ended up with will not satisfy everyone, and I have said I regret very much the insecurity and fear that has occurred. Nobody in politics ceases to be unpopular, but sometimes in Government unpopular decisions have to be taken.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Fair play, full marks for that.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  The House has a choice tonight to make a real difference between what we all know, in all fairness, is right and what is popular.

A Deputy:  A bunch of fakes, the Greens.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  I believe that if we do what is right, fundamentally we will give people the confidence that we can manage our way through what will be a time of real scarcity where we have to manage our resources.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Correct and withdraw this amendment.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  With permission, I shall pass over to my colleague after four minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Certainly. The Deputy is down for five minutes, Deputy Nolan for five and Deputy Mansergh for five.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  I believe it is two fours and a two.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That sounds like the size of a floor board.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  I deeply regret the confusion——

(Interruptions).

[847]Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  ——anxiety, uncertainty and fear suffered by so many people. For several days, on all sides of this House, we have found it very difficult. I am aware that on the other side, constituency offices were inundated with calls, as indeed were mine and those of my colleagues.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  I sent them up to the Deputy.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  I am sure Deputy Breen did, and rightly so. People wanted to communicate with those whom they had elected to represent them in this House. I want to thank all those who contacted me, whether by phone or e-mail. I have made best efforts to contact most of them and I shall continue over the coming days to reach those I have yet to contact. Many of those I have spoken to are more than happy with the new arrangements announced by the Government.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It is like the budget, it does not add up.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Those to whom I have spoken are clearly happy with the announcement that has been made. It is their view that they will come within the income limits. This, I believe, will help to instil a level of confidence again in the people, and indeed in the Government.

I welcome the efforts of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health and Children over the weekend to respond to the outcry we have seen over the past week and to find a solution to the problem. The process put in place, through consultation with the GPs and the increases in the income limits, while maintaining the budgetary framework, which is important from the Government’s viewpoint, will help to instil confidence in those who were most worried and concerned. Unfortunately, the confusion that arose was of our making and we must take responsibility for that. However, there is a duty now on us to try to explain the message, the mechanism and the system that will be in place from here on, which as many speakers have indicated will more than adequately cover 95%.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That is untrue.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  There were untruths on all sides. I heard Deputy Shortall say——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Deputies know it is not parliamentary to accuse Members of untruths.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  The Deputy said that——

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  ——a number of individuals, because they were on the income threshold, would not receive a medical card. There was no reference to medical costs which act as a disregard, and that clearly would have brought them below the threshold for a medical card.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Like others on this side of the House, I have played my part over recent days in passing on to the Minister the views and concerns of our constituents and we have come up with a disregard.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  The Deputy said the same about Shannon.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please, Deputy Kehoe.

[848]Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  I said at the outset that many people on all sides were concerned about this, but clearly a minority on the other side have sought to whip up fear and have had no regard for the elderly. They have exploited the fears of many people throughout the country.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Deputy Joe Behan, their own man, walked out.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  The pensioners are clever. They have been around for a while and they will forgive a mistake. However, they will not forgive the hypocrisy of a number of people on the other side of the House.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Come with us tonight.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Deputy Dooley is eroding his colleagues’ time. Deputy Ring, please desist from interrupting.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Deputies opposite have the opportunity to do the right thing and vote with us tonight.

Deputy M. J. Nolan: Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion and I want to put it on record that I will vote with the Government. This has been a difficult time, not just for politicians. It has been a particularly difficult time for the pensioners and their families. I am glad the Taoiseach and Government have admitted they made a mistake. They have apologised and we can move on from here.

It is important to remember that when this scheme was introduced in 2002-03, it was costing something in the region of €20 million to €25 million. Today it is costing €245 million. This scheme was approved at a time of plenty. Now that we are in far more difficult times, changes have to be made and are being made. I think of the families receiving home help. We were told this was one of the areas being considered by the Department and the Government for cutting. We must recognise that it is not going to be easy and that even more difficult times lie ahead. We will have to accept that harsh and difficult decisions will need to be taken.

I am glad that the Minister has asked for a report by Tuesday next and that the Government will make a decision on it at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Moneys should be put into primary care where we are getting best value for it. I commend the Minister for accepting a mistake was made and the Government for rowing back from last week’s position.

It is important to recognise that 30% of Government spending is in the area of health, that we have come from a low base and that we will have to continue to increase that spending. How much time do I have remaining?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Two minutes.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Two years.

A Deputy:  Deputy M. J. Nolan is running out because he is shocked.

Deputy M. J. Nolan: Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  I am not one bit shocked. As I said at the outset, I have no problem supporting this. The Government recognises its mistake and has now come forward with new proposals.

[849]The problems we are experiencing are not of our own making. There is an international global financial crisis for which we are not responsible. It is partly due to irresponsible lending by banks in the UK. We are in a recession and whether one likes it or not, we will have to make far more difficult decisions in the coming years.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Tax the elderly.

Deputy M. J. Nolan: Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  We cannot isolate ourselves from what is going on globally. Let us get that straight. Those opposite are going to have to recognise that as much as we are.

Funding should be put into primary care where we are getting best value for it. If the Minister can negotiate, agree and approve the proposal next week whereby one fee will be charged for all medical cards, irrespective of the age of the holder, we will be going a long way towards ensuring we have a better health service.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  I did not have to return to the constituency of Donegal South-West to appreciate the anger caused by last week’s decision on medical cards for the over 70s. I first entered this House in 1981 and I have never experienced such anger, anxiety and fear among the over 70s and their families. Even among those who would have qualified under the initial decision, there was the fear of the unknown.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What about the unknown unknowns?

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Perhaps we did not express this in detail. However, I, like many others in my party and on the backbenches, highlighted the issue in the parliamentary party and outside it. I felt it was necessary to do so to give comfort to the people I represent and that I should fight their cause. The Government, including the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance, took on board our concerns. Others in this House might claim they are responsible for the pragmatic change but it was the members of this party who were responsible for it.

Our concerns were taken on board and that culminated in last Monday’s announcement raising the threshold to realistic levels which will ensure that in my constituency in excess of 95% of people will maintain their medical cards. This will ensure that those with State pensions and additional income from occupational pensions are covered. I am confident that the threshold will be linked to the consumer price index but that is a matter for Government.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  It has not been for the past ten years.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  The Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach took on board the concerns of people on this side of the House, culminating in this announcement.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  I will not be shouted down. I want to apologise to the people of my constituency. I know the threshold will accommodate practically all of those affected.

On 7 December 2000, it was said by none other than the Opposition health spokesperson, Deputy James Reilly: “It is not acceptable that the Government is handing out free medical cards to people who can afford golf club fees and at the same time neglecting those who cannot afford to attend to their children’s health.”

[850]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy should identify the quote for the record.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  It was said by Deputy James Reilly, as chairman of the IMO general practitioners group, in an interview in The Irish Times on 7 December 2000.

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism (Deputy Martin Mansergh): Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  It is always regrettable when the Government must take away an entitlement, actual or anticipated. It is doubly regrettable when confusion about those who may be affected causes anxiety among older people who deserve to be treated well by us. Nevertheless, I am happy that arising from the controversy, a fair and well-judged balance has been arrived at between, on the one hand, the cold realities of what the wider community can sustainably afford by way of support for the extended scheme and the genuine needs of a steadily growing number of older people.

There are broadly three categories of people in the over 70 age group — those who have always been eligible for medical cards, others who would have been less well off but ineligible under what was originally proposed and who would struggle to meet heavy medical expenses out of their own pocket even with the support, in many cases, of otherwise strapped family members, and the comfortably well-to-do who are not necessarily wealthy but are, broadly speaking, able to look after themselves, who have health insurance and who, in most circumstances, neither need nor particularly want medical cards. The situation of the middle category especially needed to be addressed following the withdrawal in principle of universal entitlement and I am glad that has been done sooner rather than later and before any changes come into force.

Medical cards mean not merely free general practitioner services and prescriptions but are used as a reference guide for the provision of various free medical aids and home care. They do not affect eligibility for hospital care. This universal entitlement is of recent origin and only a few years standing. While a laudable step which I supported at the time, it has proved a bridge too far achieved only at an excessive cost which now must be revisited.

General practitioners in this country earn a high income compared to their counterparts abroad between, in many cases, large GMS practices and private patients. Perhaps Fine Gael’s health spokesperson, Deputy James Reilly, would enlighten us as to what medical reason lies behind charging a capitation fee of €139 for an existing male medical card patient over 70 living within three miles of the doctor’s clinic——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  ——and demanding a €640 capitation fee, or nearly for times as much, for a better off patient.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister of State without interruption.

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Was it simply done——

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow Members to be heard.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  It is hard to listen to that.

[851]Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Was it simply done for income compensation? The vested interests, certainly in this instance well represented on the frontbench, trump value for money considerations in Fine Gael.

The Fine Gael spokesperson on health now claims he is working on a universal health policy scheme. The primary beneficiaries would be, in the first instance, the comfortably well off with medical insurance. Although I accept there are benefits to all in a universal system, it is not a panacea as the NHS experienced resource problems too.

In any case, for better or for worse, the medical profession saw that idea off between 1946 and 1951 when a doctor or doctors forced the resignation first of Dr. Con Ward, as Parliamentary Secretary in charge of health, and five years later, the Minister, Dr. Noel Browne. I hope the Fine Gael policy will have an answer to the key question as to how high a price the medical profession in the IMO and the IHCA will demand to participate, a topic into which Deputy Reilly may have a special insight.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Deputy Mansergh is obsessed with Deputy Reilly.

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Next year when the Government deficit will be €12 billion, the cost of the unaltered GMS scheme will have arisen by 20% from €1.7 billion to around €2.05 billion in the context of a total health budget of €15 billion or a doubling of expenditure since 2003. This is not sustainable going into more difficult times. Changes to the capitation fee are essential. The implications for public expenditure of the striking deterioration in the public finances do not seem to have been fully taken on board.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Who was in Government all of this time?

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  This may be the first of several difficult years. My concern would be that if the savings in the budget are not made and if the situation deteriorates more than expected, our ability to maintain the broad level of public services, which are now taken for granted, may be undermined, possibly forcing even more difficult decisions and less discriminate ones.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I must call the next speaker.

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  It is essential for confidence and for people’s longer-term welfare that the overall bottom line of the budget be adhered to. That will require some contribution and understanding by everyone in a position to give it, regardless of status, and a readiness by political partners in Government to take a stand on defensible ground with determination.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  What people will remember about this budget is whether we rose to the challenge of helping the country safely through a very difficult time.

Deputy Dan Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I wish to share my time with Deputies Catherine Byrne, Fergus O’Dowd, Kieran O’Donnell, Paul Kehoe, Terence Flanagan, Pat Breen, Andrew Doyle, Billy Timmins, Paul Connaughton, Joe Carey, Michael Ring and Tom Hayes and Deputy Liz McManus.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Dan Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I wish to direct my comments first of all at the backbenchers who claim to have saved the day with regard to [852]the medical cards. Did they listen to opinions and feel the emotions opinions expressed outside the Dáil today or understand the views, reactions and concerns of the people who contributed most to the building of the State and to the standard of living we enjoy? The emotion most expressed was a feeling of betrayal as a result of the withdrawal of a service on which they depended.

How can we respond to people who believed that until they died they would have a medical card and the full services that come with it? How can we respond to those who trusted the Government on that and withdrew from paying private insurance, only to be left now in limbo? How does the Minister propose to deal with that?

There is a fear among the people that once one benefit is removed, another will follow. People have cried talking about this. It is unbelievable to think that the people who are so emotive and upset about what has been taken from them may need to be concerned about losing their other benefits, such as the free fuel allowance and free travel. Once one benefit goes because of cuts, what is to stop the Government removing other benefits?

We have not heard any mention of another group of people, namely, those who expected that at the age of 70, they would receive a medical card. These people, now in their 60s and approaching 70, expected they would get a medical card, but they too have been betrayed. Some Independent Members have said they want clarification. Clarification of how people feel was clearly given today in Kildare Street and Molesworth Street. That clarification must be responded to in the vote tonight.

I will not mention the Green Party, because its position depends on what radio station one listens to. If we listen to a local station, we understand the Green Party is responsible for the changes that have been made, but if we listen to a national station, we understand the party rowed in all the way with the Government.

We put the issue to the backbenchers who wanted change and who must face the people and to Independent Members. I urge them to be accountable now and to vote for our motion and give elderly people who have experience of the university of life their support. These people will not be waved aside any longer. We must listen to them, especially in this regard.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  We in Fine Gael, like the rest of the country, are appalled at the measure to cut the medical card for the over 70s. The elderly population of the country is up in arms following last week’s budget announcement that the Minister for Finance had cut the automatic entitlement to the medical card for the over 70s. The Taoiseach acknowledged there would be some unease at this decision. He certainly knows now the level of unease it has caused throughout the country.

Like other Deputies, I have been inundated with calls and e-mails from worried elderly people and their families. This cut to medical cards will have a devastating effect on their daily lives. Elderly people can be anxious at the best of times, but now they feel their lifeline has been removed. The worry and anxiety being felt throughout the country is being ignored by a Fianna Fáil Government that is hell bent on bringing the country to its knees.

In 2001, when the country was thriving, the Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance at the time, Charlie McCreevy, granted everyone over 70 a medical card, with no strings attached. The Government prided itself on taking care of the elderly and gave itself a tap on the back for this gesture. Seven years later, when the going gets tough, they ask for their money back. Why pick on the elderly? The elderly have shown us that they will not take this lying down. Their response has left us in no doubt that age is no barrier to challenging injustice. Their actions have been an inspiration to us all.

[853]Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Last weekend, on Thomas Street and in Ballyfermot, people queued to sign a petition calling for the reversal of this decision. I have never seen such outrage. Young and old were appalled by the Government’s decision to cut back on the medical card. The elderly have paid their taxes, done their duty and contributed to the boom over the past 15 years. This is how Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Independents repay them. The Government seems to be all over the place at the moment. The euphoria that first greeted the budget has now diminished, leaving the Government back-pedalling. One Independent Deputy declared he has now seen the light. What a pity he had to go to his constituency before he saw that light.

The Minister now wants to confuse everyone further. Thousands of pensioners will soon receive forms from the HSE to establish whether they are entitled to keep their medical cards. This is a useless red tape exercise that will place an unnecessary burden on the elderly, causing them even further stress and confusion. At yesterday’s press conference, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, stated that she would rely on the honesty of the majority of our senior citizens to declare their entitlement. Are all senior citizens not to be trusted? I reject her choice of words.

Today, outside the gates of the Dáil, people’s actions spoke louder than words. Young and old voiced their anger. The Government must surely realise it has made a huge mistake and must reinstate the medical card. Last night, I attended a meeting in Ballyfermot on the issue, but not one Fianna Fáil representative turned up. The message given to me by the people of Ballyfermot last night was that Ballyfermot will remember that those Deputies did not have the decency to show up; they will not forget it.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  All remaining speakers in this slot will have only two minutes to contribute. Deputies will squeeze others out if they go over time.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  As someone who has campaigned for nursing home care and quality care, I believe I have some standing in this debate. The key difference between what the Government says and what we say is 20,000 people. The Government says that only 5% of those over 70 will not have medical cards, approximately 20,000 people. In effect, that is the number of nursing home beds in the country. It is as if the Government was taking the cards from everybody in those nursing homes only. That is the number it is talking about with regard to this serious issue.

Many of those who will lose their medical card will have held them for seven years or over. They are now 77, 87, 97 or 100 years old. Old people worry disproportionately about these issues. I charge the Minister and the Government with lack of concern and care for these people. We all know that cancer, heart disease and stroke have no respect for age or income. Whether one is a millionaire or a pauper, when cancer visits one’s home, family, father or mother, we want care and comfort for that person. The care and comfort medical cards give is unbelievable and that is what brought people onto the streets today. The medical card is the comfort society must give to those most in need, both the very young and the sick and dying. The Government cannot and must not remove these 20,000 cards. That is unacceptable in a modern democracy.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  I fully support the Fine Gael motion. On tonight’s news the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was quoted as saying the Government had learnt [854]from its mistakes and the matter was now resolved. It is far from resolved. The Government is completely out of touch. It has broken a sacred bond with the people. It has broken their trust. The people voted the Government in and it has broken the bond of trust with the elderly. When the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, introduced the medical card scheme for the over 70s in May 2001 he said in this House:

Shame on the Government, which is turning its back on the elderly. The same circumstances still apply. In pointing out that at the time only 30,000 people did not qualify for a medical card, the then Minister, Deputy Martin, said: “More than 1.15 million people in the country have a medical card so 30,000 is not an enormous figure”. A figure of 20,000 is even smaller and is still not an enormous figure. The Minister, Deputy Harney, has said that only 5%, one person in 20, will not have a medical card. It is one in seven out of 140,000 who will lose a medical card. Like in the budget, the Government’s figures do not add up.

This is a poor public health decision. If it costs €1,650 for a medical card, the cost of two nights in a hospital is far in excess of that figure and puts the Government’s primary health care model to shame. The Minister, Deputy Harney, is quoted as saying the 2% health levy would not apply to anyone over 70 who previously had a medical card. Does that still apply because I saw nothing in yesterday’s announcement to confirm that? I would like the Minister to put it on the record. Shame on the Government.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  I very much appreciate having the opportunity to speak on this motion. It saddens me to need to come to the House to speak on such a motion which arises because the Government is so shameless. Thousands of people over 70 years of age were on the streets of Dublin today. I heard on the news this morning that some of them had got out of their beds at 3 a.m. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Harney, was not out of her bed or even awake in her bed at 3 a.m. thinking about people on pensions, some with diabetes, some in wheelchairs and others who have had strokes or heart attacks. They got out of their beds and travelled from throughout the country.

I heard Deputy Mary White speak on our local radio station this morning. She was asked why she gave the Minister for Finance a standing ovation after his Budget Statement. She said that she was so overwhelmed by the budget that she gave him a standing ovation. She said that at no stage in the Minister’s speech did it mention taking the medical card form the over 70s. I am very disappointed that Deputy White has left the House.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  All the Government backbenchers have left the House.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  In his Budget Statement the Minister for Finance told the House: “The Government has decided to abolish the automatic entitlement to a medical card for those over 70 who are above the eligibility criteria”. How plainly can the Minister put it for Deputy White to understand?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  She was blinded by the lights.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Deputy White is like a junior infant partner in Government who claims that it was the bigger boys and girls in the Fianna Fáil Party who got it wrong. If there is collective Cabinet responsibility, what about the Ministers, Deputies Gormley and Ryan? What [855]are they doing at the Cabinet table? Are they there just holding up the table for the Government? The Green Party is like global warming in Iceland — it cannot stick the heat.

Deputy Terence Flanagan: Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  I thank my colleagues, Deputies Kenny and Reilly, for tabling this motion. Like most Members across this House I am angered and enraged with the harsh realities of the budget. After almost ten years of unprecedented wealth in the economy being blown, the Government has let the people down. It has especially let down senior citizens, some of whom are here tonight. Their work helped sow the seeds of the Celtic tiger and some of them needed to pay up to 77 p in the pound to the Exchequer during their working lives. It is obvious in recent days that the Government decision to means test for the medical card for the over 70s has backfired very badly.

Having attended both the Age Action protest yesterday and the Irish senior citizens rally today, and having stood shoulder to shoulder with those senior citizens it is obvious the real power does not lie in here in Leinster House with the politicians but with our senior citizens. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all the work they have done for the country. We should certainly stand by them in their hour of need. Fianna Fáil should not take back their medical cards nor should it start tinkering with income limits.

The budget announcement created unnecessary fear, anxiety and unrest among the elderly. The decision to means test all over 70s for a medical card was cruel, wrong and a bad day’s work by the Government. The change announced yesterday still imposes means testing on all new applicants. Although the Government has stated that almost 95% of the people will retain the medical card, I would not believe it. I do not trust the Government because it has not been upfront and has not published the figures. The Minister has not given a guarantee that the income thresholds will not be reduced again in future years. Fine Gael wants universal health care. We want everyone to be treated equally and we want all Members in the House to support the Fine Gael motion.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Today many of us witnessed scenes reminiscent of the French Revolution’s storming of the Bastille. One could almost hear the tumbrels going down Kildare Street where people from all parts of the country were forced to take to the streets of Dublin. I congratulate them on taking part in today’s march and I pay tribute to them for coming out in such great numbers. Many of them even travelled from my constituency of Clare.

The Minister and the Ministers of State present tonight should hang their heads in shame. Last week many of them could not wait to applaud their colleague. My God, one week makes an awful difference in politics. The former US President, Harry Truman, once said: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them”. For the past eight days the Government has been confusing the people.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  It was Opposition Deputies who did that.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  However, the Government cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the older people. No amount of tinkering with the scheme’s income limits will mask how it got it so wrong. The only reason it was forced into a climb down was to save the blushes of the backbenchers.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  They have an election coming.

Deputy Pat Breen: Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  When the tactic of confusion did not work, it sent out a south Tipperary Deputy on a national radio station looking for the head of the Minister for Health and Children in order to blame somebody else. Before the Taoiseach took the slow boat to China he said [856]on RTE news on Friday night that he knew there would be a problem and defended the decision in the House. This was the Government’s fifth attempt to explain the new income limits. It got it wrong and it is time for it to allay the fears of the pensioners it has punished. The former US President, Harry Truman, also said: “If you can’t stick the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I am urging everybody, including Government backbenchers, to join the revolution. Come with us in Fine Gael and vote with us tonight. The Government got it wrong and should admit it. It should rescind this disgraceful decision.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  The first line of the Government amendment seeks for Dáil Éireann to acknowledge “the Government’s expression of regret for the anxiety caused among older people in recent days and welcomes the new initiative to allay that anxiety”. Anyone in Bray last night or outside here today will recognise that statement is not true and is not believed. Yesterday evening I heard on the radio a description of the coalition that had been put together last year as a rocket, assembled by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, with several booster jets to make it secure. One of the booster jets, Deputy Finian McGrath, fell off the day before yesterday. I wonder why we are here at all because on several occasions he enunciated that he had done a €250 million deal with the Government. I presume that is now null and void. Perhaps we should investigate that deal to ascertain if we can save any money from it.

  8 o’clock

I ask those on the Government side to stop putting out the figures that this scheme originally cost €15 million and is now costing €245 million. It was looking to save €100 million. An amount of €145 million was there all the time. The Government should not claim it started at €15 million and is now costing €245 million. It never was. A total of €145 million is still intact on the basis of people who qualify under the social welfare system, as outlined in the Budget Statement. The only thing wrong is not that the Government fails to recognise this is a mistake and it is stubborn and obstinate but that it will not give in completely. The people do not trust the Government to leave the universal care for people with medical cards intact. It is open to manoeuvre by reducing income limits or raising age limits. Somebody said the age limit would be raised to 90, which illustrates the level of distrust among the elderly. It is not a sin to make a mistake but it is a sin not to acknowledge and rectify it.

Deputy Billy Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  I have great pleasure in supporting the motion. The Government has spent a political generation flinging money at every problem. The only decision it had to make was how much. As a result, there is nothing in the coffers and the Government cannot tell right from wrong, good from bad, as evidenced by the budget it produced. Many Government Deputies and, in particular, the two Ministers of State at the Department of Health and Children referred to the need to assure people and to make sure there was no confusion while the Minister of State at the Department of Finance used the rather crass term “the comfortable well to do with private health insurance”. Many people who are not comfortable nor well to do have private health insurance because they have no confidence in the system over which the Minister for Health and Children and her Government partners have presided during an unprecedented boom because it was not improved.

I recently had discussions with Age Action Ireland and a number of elderly people who drew my attention to their concerns about the VHI abandoning community rating. Has the Minister had meetings with VHI officials at which they proposed to abandon this policy? If she has information, perhaps she will brief the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, who is replying on behalf of the Government. Has the VHI plans to abandon community rating, which is in place to ensure people can afford health insurance? Many people who were granted a medical card gave up their health insurance but they may have to rejoin the VHI in more difficult circum[857]stances. It is imperative that the Minister brings clarity and reassures people about what she knows about this issue.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  The Minister and the Government even now cannot get into their heads the importance the elderly people attach to the simple medical card because the power and the privilege have gone to their heads over the years being driven around on the best leather seats with their backsides on the back seat of the Mercedes. They are completely out of touch. It is unbelievable that in a country of 4 million people, 14 Ministers around a table could be so far removed from how the other half live. That is why there was so much anger outside the gates earlier. Given the Government’s proposals regarding education services, there will be even more people outside next week.

The collective arrogance of the Government is breathtaking. Many people said today — I know this given my background — a medical card is a passport to health services that they otherwise would not be able to access. The Minister still does not recognise this. Do people with cancer aged under 70 have to go through a means assessment to obtain a medical card? I understand they must but a Government Deputy stated on Galway Bay FM earlier that they would have a card by right. Is that right or wrong?

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Politics is about people and Fianna Fáil has forgotten this principle. Last week the Government parties began a holy war against the very people who elected them to represent them in this Parliament. If Fianna Fáil and the Green Party vote down the motion, they must understand they are doing away with the automatic entitlement to a medical card for the over 70s. In two years the Taoiseach has managed to blow the boom. We are faced with a deficit in the public finances of €15 billion because of his incompetence and, to add insult to injury, he has turned on the pensioners to make them pay for his mistakes.

In the past week, untold confusion, hurt and pain has reigned among the senior citizens of the State. My colleagues and I have been inundated with calls from people in distress crying on the telephone, which is terrible. The Government parties have brought this on them. Shame on them for that. Following five different announcements on the public airwaves and a great deal of confusion, the Government is still holding its ground and it will take the medical card off the over 70s. If the Government is allowed to proceed with this drastic measure, where will it stop? Will the free travel and free electricity schemes be abolished? Shame on the Government parties for establishing the principle of hitting the most vulnerable in this budget. Elderly people in their tens of thousands travelled to our capital city today, many of theme from my constituency in Clare. The very people who built this country have been let down with a bang by the Government. All eyes are on Leinster House and on the Government parties and Independent Deputies. I call on them to support Fine Gael and reverse this lunatic decision.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  W. B. Yeats once wrote, “This is no country for old men”. I would like to add that this is no country for old men and old women. Last week my blood pressure went up when I looked behind the Government front bench as the Fianna Fáil choir clapped and roared. The only thing they did not do was sing The Soldier’s Song, Sinne Fianna Fáil, because they were clapping and roaring for this wonderful budget. What happened since last Tuesday? They all went home at the weekend and I told them the people would respond. I put it on the record of the House over the past few years that the people would soon be on the streets. I say well done to the women of Ireland and to the men of Ireland, the over 70s and the under 70s for coming on to the streets today because this is the second time this year they have put two fingers up to the Government. What is wrong with this Government is it is run by the Civil Service while Ministers sit in their Mercedes or in the front seats of Aer Lingus aeroplanes. Many Ministers spend more time in the air than any aeroplane of Aer Lingus. [858] They have lost touch with the people, they have lost contact with the people and it is time to get them out of Government. The people should not forget them this time. They have codded the people for 50 years and it is time to get rid of them, get them out of power and put in a new Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I remind people in the Visitors Gallery that applause is not appropriate.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I thank Fine Gael for tabling this important motion and for giving me a few minutes to set the record straight. During my time in the House, I have become used to Fianna Fáil spinning the truth out of recognition but the deputy leader of the Green Party sank to new lows earlier.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  She is a fake.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I now understand that the Green Party is craven, dishonest and despicable in its politics.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I have stood, as the Labour Party has stood, for universal values and for free access to primary care. The Minister could stand over that. I have been highly critical of the deal done with the doctors but my stand for many years has been for free access to primary care. I remind the Green Party that the Labour Party stands for universal values. We opened the doors of the universities——

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Hear, hear.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  ——through Niamh Bhreathnach’s decisions and contributions in Cabinet. We opened the doors to hospitals. We will ensure that the elderly have the security of free primary care, as will younger people who need that peace of mind. That is what we stand for.

We had to listen to the distortion voiced by the deputy leader of the Green Party, Deputy White.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  A rant.

Deputy Liz McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I will tell the House what an obscenity is. An obscenity is to see a man with an oxygen tank outside the doors of his Parliament, pleading to get some protection in his old age. It is a woman on a zimmerframe, as we all saw today. That is what a real obscenity is and that is what Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats are presiding over. I condemn them and urge anyone with a conscience to vote with this side of the House.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I will now call on the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney. I need hardly remind Deputies that he should be afforded the same courtesy and be listened to in the same silence as he showed when listening to other contributors.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Hear, hear.

[859]Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy John Moloney): Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I take the opportunity to apologise for the concern and hurt——

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Minister of State’s apology is no good.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Did I say something wrong?

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  The Government was caught.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am sorry if Deputy Shortall is hurt by my apologising.

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  He is sorry for himself.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I do not have to be, thank God.

Deputy Brian O’Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Why is the Minister of State sorry?

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I will continue. I wished to reaffirm my apology. I also take this opportunity to reaffirm my full support for the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I am delighted to work in the same Department as she does because of her integrity——

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  The Ministers for Finance and Defence blamed her.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  ——and, more importantly, because I believe she has the integrity to carry out her task of reforming the health service.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Allow the Minister of State to finish.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  In recent days, much confusion has been set among the elderly.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Minister of State used to be an undertaker. He is doing a great job.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Whatever I was, I am very proud of it. For the record, I am proud to be a sixth generation undertaker.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  And so you should be.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  The Minister of State will be getting more business.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I want to make a point without interruption, if possible. The confusion last week was aided and abetted by some members of the Opposition——

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Government did not need any help.

(Interruptions).

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  ——who tried to sow the seeds of concern.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  In all fairness, the Minister of State sat and listened in silence to other contributors. He deserves the same courtesy.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  He knew we were right.

[860]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  This is a democratic forum and people must be heard.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Fair is fair.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am sure that I will get another minute from the Opposition.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  He is provoking us.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  The confusion, set in the main by the Opposition, created the impression among everyone over 70 years of age that they would lose their medical cards. It was never the case.

(Interruptions).

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I was one of those who stood to support the budget and I still do. I do so because it was an attempt to separate those who could afford medical care from those who could not, so that we could provide funding for new services such as the cancer control programme, the fair deal and, in my area of responsibility, support for 125 therapists. I am proud of this.

I will also make the point, without interruption if possible, that I am proud of Fianna Fáil’s involvement in government over the years, particularly our care of the elderly.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Was the Minister of State proud of the 15,000 people outside?

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am delighted that the Minister has, in the past three years, provided €500 million for care of the elderly.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  There is still confusion.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am happy to know that much needed funding for the care of the elderly, the fair deal for nursing home subventions and many other provisions will be supplied.

Deputy Ulick Burke: Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  What about the fair deal? Where has the Minister of State been?

(Interruptions).

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  As a Government party, we took the initiative and provided free travel, which was much maligned by the then Opposition, and other support programmes. I am proud of the fact that, as a local Deputy in County Laois, I have provided 29 houses for the elderly, which I opened in my home town of Mountmellick three years ago. I got €3.4 million from the Department.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  From where did the Minister of State get it?

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  From the Department responsible for housing.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Taxpayers paid for it.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am pleased with that and I would challenge any member of the Opposition to state what he or she has done in this regard.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Allow the Minister of State to finish.

[861]Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I wish to clarify an issue raised a few minutes ago regarding private health care, another ruse used in recent days. I thank a correspondent with The Irish Times for information I gleaned from that newspaper. In 2001, 88,989 people over the age of 70 years had private health care. I have spent the day listening to comments about how people in that group have withdrawn from private health care, but the reality is that there are currently 121,776 people——

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The population has changed.

(Interruptions).

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I am sure that all of the immigrants have private health care. Is that what Deputies are suggesting?

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that something of which we should be proud?

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  If I can, I wish to take a minute to——

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Minister of State’s time has concluded.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Thankfully.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  The Minister of State’s time is up.

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  I thank the IMO for entering into negotiations and——

(Interruptions).

Deputy John Moloney: Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  ——I congratulate Deputy Reilly on his excellent performance. While I agree with him on his negotiating skills, it is difficult to believe that he has the hypocrisy to table a motion before the House when, last December, he stated that he did not believe in cover for everyone over 70 years of age.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Fianna Fáil has been in government for the past seven years.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  He is sorry that they were caught.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  I would like to share time with Deputies Gregory, Reilly and Kenny.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  In the good times, the House got used to budgets being produced on the back of an envelope. When the Government introduced the early child care supplement, it had no idea that it would need to pay for children whose parents were in this country while the children were not resident here. It cost millions of euro more than expected.

Deputy Paul Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Hear, hear.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  When the Government announced decentralisation, it chose a pick and mix of towns around the country, no deal was negotiated with the public service unions, it cost a fortune and it was not delivered. The same applies to the over 70s medical card. On the [862]news last Friday night, the Taoiseach stated that it was originally to have cost €15 million but by the end of the year it cost €51 million. Whose fault was that? It was not the fault of the man on my left. It was the fault of the Government opposite who did such a bad job of negotiating the deal.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Pádraic McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  The then Minister, Deputy Martin.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Now that we are in recessionary times, our budgets are still being written on the back of an envelope. The Government is making it up as it goes along. The Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, believes that the confusion has mainly been caused by the Opposition. This decision was announced in last Tuesday’s budget, it was explained later in the day by the Minister for Health and Children, it was supposedly clarified in the Dáil by the Taoiseach on Wednesday, it was confused in the Chamber by the Tánaiste on Thursday; we were told on Friday night that there would be a process and a fee structure, on Sunday we were told that there would be an announcement and, when the announcement was finally made on Tuesday, it inspired such confidence that 15,000 real patriots were out on the street today to tell the Government what they thought of the decision.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  All that the Government can tell us is that it regrets the confusion and fear. It is the Government’s incompetence——

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Hear, hear.

Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  ——that has whipped up this fear. The real fear is that the Government is still supposedly in charge. The Taoiseach further muddied the water in the House yesterday when he failed to give a clear answer to Deputy Kenny on the other free schemes. He told Deputy Kenny that anyone with a cursory knowledge of social welfare knows that it is the entitlement to pensions that provides the link. In the case of free travel, it is not the entitlement to a pension that provides the link. Rather, it is being over 66 years of age. It is a universal payment. People are right to wonder whether it will remain so.

The Government tells us that the scheme is not sustainable as structured. It is the Government’s structure. I do not believe the figures of 5% because the Government is not capable of making the assessment. Some 15,000 people outside Leinster House today agreed.

Several people asked me today whether it was not only bad enough to lose a spouse without immediately losing one’s medical card because one is suddenly over the limit and, consequently, fails the income test. The loss of someone’s husband or wife will become a financial gain for the Government. The Minister of State did not clarify the issue when asked. This is the reality.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  He did not clarify it last night either.

Deputy Máire Hoctor: Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  That is rubbish. The Deputy should get her facts right.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  It is not rubbish.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  She is right.

[863]Deputy Olwyn Enright: Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  The Minister of State’s false regrets and speeches show that he does not listen and understand. When he walks up the steps tonight, he will show people that he does not care.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Tony Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  I welcome the opportunity to put on record my support for the elderly and for their just demand to retain the entitlement to a medical card for the over 70s in the face of this Government’s shameful attempt to renege on that entitlement. In recent days, the elderly have demonstrated to all vulnerable sections the real meaning of people power and how to respond to injustice. I sincerely hope other vulnerable sections will learn from the pensioners’ example of how to mobilise and fight back.

We all know there is a financial crisis, but who created that crisis? It was certainly not the over 70s who built this country. It was the bankers, the developers and their political friends who caused the crisis. What does the Government do? It bails out the bankers and victimises the elderly and other vulnerable sections. Of course, there is always €70 million to be found for the horse and greyhound racing fund. The Government thought it had some easy, soft targets, but the elderly have put paid to that illusion. Pensioners have achieved in six days what the cosy partnership led by the ICTU constantly fails to achieve — a real defence of the disadvantaged in society.

Last week’s Budget Statement was an exercise in hypocrisy, with its constant references to protecting the vulnerable when it did nothing of the sort. The elderly have changed all that by forcing this Government into a humiliating U-turn with a very clear message that the people do not want a two-tier health service. They want equality of treatment for all, based on medical need. That is the essence of automatic entitlement to the medical card for the elderly and that is why I support them.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Many people have questioned why I might have changed my stance on this issue. After seven years of universal provision of the medical card for over 70s, what was originally a political stroke has proven to be a serious social and public health gain for all the people in that age group. This has been one of the most important debates in this House in many years and I am honoured to be part of it. I also feel honoured to be able to stand up in this Chamber for my father’s generation. This is the generation that paid 60% tax, that educated itself in the absence of free education, that emigrated en masse before returning to work to make this country what it is today.

The motion before the House is a simple one. It calls on the Government to reverse its decision to remove universal health care from the over 70s. It urges the Government to stop tinkering at the edges, with its confusion and minimalist concessions. We have had five changes to the income threshold in recent days. To cause even further confusion, the thresholds have moved from net income to gross income. We have been told that the people at whom this measure is aimed are millionaires. The reality, however, is that the gross threshold means that the garda married to the nurse will not be entitled to a medical card. The nurse married to the teacher may not qualify. These are not millionaires. They are the ordinary people of middle Ireland, the people who have worked hard, defended us, raised us and nourished us.

I said in this Chamber last night that the Government is out of touch with the people and out of sync with its backbenchers and that thousands would descend upon this House today if it did not reverse its decision. That is what happened. I was out there today and it was an extraordinary sight to see people on walking aids and in wheelchairs — 15,000 elderly people from the four corners of this country. And what was it all for? For the sake of €20 million, as [864]the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, told us yesterday. This sum could have been found by putting an additional 10 cent on a packet of cigarettes. Some €20 million, and much more besides, could have been secured from the bankers who got off very lightly.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  An additional €100 million or €200 million from that source would not have gone astray. Instead, however, the Government went after the elderly whom it perceived as the soft option.

This was a lazy budget, but its laziness reveals the true face of the Government. It is a Government that talks about protecting the elderly, the vulnerable and the young but let us look at what it does. It performed a dawn raid on the elderly, taking their medical cards from them at a time when their pensions have evaporated in the turmoil of the international markets. This is the Government that failed to support the elderly with the long-term nursing home legislation which has been repeatedly promised and which has signalled its intention to impose an additional €200 a week on nursing home costs by reducing the relevant tax relief.

This is the Government whose meanness is personified by the removal of the disabled person’s allowance from children aged 16 to 18 years and its replacement with the domiciliary care allowance, resulting in an annual loss of €6,000 to the families concerned.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  This is the Government whose meanness will result in the terminally ill, who were always entitled to a medical card heretofore, having to undergo a means test, with many of them likely to fail that test. Will we now have a situation where a 75 year old man lying on his deathbed must wrestle with his conscience as to whether he should give up his medical card or not, with the Minister for Health and Children’s words ringing in his ears: “The Paymaster General knows your salary”?

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Fine Gael believes in universal health care for all. We will strive to achieve that through our policy commission. Our neighbours across the water were able to introduce it in 1948, despite having been brought to their knees by a world war that lasted six years.

The bottom line is that the trust is broken. Once the principle of universal provision is gone, the Minister can reduce thresholds with a stroke of her pen whenever she likes. We are at a crossroads. We can vote one way for liberty — the liberty of the elderly to live without the worry of medical expenses. We can vote one way for equality, so that all over 70s are treated the same. We can vote for fraternity, all of us standing together on this issue. Or we can vote for the way of the Minister for Health and Children, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and their discredited Ireland which robs the elderly of their medical cards.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The motion before the House is simple. It calls on the Government to reverse the decision that was taken to withdraw the universal principle of a right to a medical card for persons over 70 years of age. In my long experience in this House, I have never witnessed what I saw on the streets today. We saw the ignominy brought down on the elderly by this Government, forcing them to travel from the four corners of Ireland to stand up for [865]what they believe in, in the country they built. The deep sense of guilt was not appreciated by the Government.

When the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, came into the Chamber to deliver his radical budget, he quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt when he said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Franklin Roosevelt also said that a radical was “a man with his feet firmly planted in the air”. The Government is doomed by its own hand. The carry-on in recent weeks is evidence of the greatest incompetence of any Government of the last 40 years.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  The Government could have done it so differently. There have been three botched attempts to quell a backbench revolution. There have been three botched attempts to quell the fears of thousands of elderly people. The Government could have made the savings required by a switch from branded to generic drugs, via pay freezes, through redundancy savings in targeted schemes or by means of a far more aggressive quango reduction. It did not do so. Instead, it chose to use the elderly as a tool or weapon, reducing them to economic statistics.

As Deputy Connaughton remarked, cosseted as the Ministers are in their State cars, they forgot that people are the centre of politics. They sat around the table in Government Buildings and decided on the proposal by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance to end the universal right to a medical card for people over the age of 70. The Government forgot that people are central to politics. In the US, such complex matters are dealt with by way of KISS, keep it simple stupid.

Elderly people do not want to be pressurised about means tests and application forms or have to worry about their property, their savings, what they have in the bank, whether a man from Government will call to their home or if they will lose their right to the medical card. They do not want that. There are anxious about what might happen to themselves and their families. As has been pointed out, they know, understand and appreciate the value of that little card, which is a psychological comfort to them. They know it brings medical benefits when they need them. It is the one certainty of which they are sure in their twilight years. It might not be the best of service; it might not be world-class, as we would like, but the medical card is a passport to a service. It is this psychological relief that the Government has done down. It has completely misread the situation.

The Government has been surrounded by creature comforts and has forgotten that people are central to politics. People will not forget what the Government has done on this night, 22 October 2008. They will remember that members of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats Party and, apparently, two Independents voted in Dáil Éireann to bring to an end the universal entitlement to a medical card for people on reaching 70 years of age.

The great Thomas Jefferson said: “Take not from the mouths of those who labour the bread that they have earned.” Not alone did the elderly earn this medical card but the Government told them they earned it and they trusted and believed Government, a trust and belief now trampled upon and left broken by the actions of Government. I say to the Members opposite that courage and principle is what they need now. I invite them, when they walk up the steps, to think not of me or of Fine Gael but of the faces of the people who voted for them in the last election.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is well over time.

[866]Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  They are the people who shook their hands and wished them well in their work for the country. They should think of their sense of disappointment at what they are now doing and of their own sense of guilt when they walk through the division gates to end a right given to the elderly seven years ago.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The Deputy is well over time.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I believe that when they walk through those gates they are making a statement to the effect that they believe that should end. I reject that. Let it be said that Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and some Independents will have inflicted a scar on the body politic of this country, the likes of which has not been seen for 50 years. Long after we all leave here, people will not forget what the Government has done.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Kenny, I must put the question.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  That scar has been created by Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats Party. It has been created by cynicism and a lack of respect, appreciation, competence and confidence. Surely, this Judas response to the elderly will be the Government’s epitaph.

I commend the motion to the House.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  For the aged and elderly of this country, I propose that under Standing Orders the vote be taken by other than electronic means. I ask the Government to walk through the lobbies. If the Greens wish to cycle through the lobbies, they are welcome to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  The vote will proceed.

Amendment again put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 74.

Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Ahern, Bertie. Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot.
Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris.
Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán. Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret.
Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael.
Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward.
Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary. Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  


Níl
Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James. Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán.
Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe. Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony. Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic. Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J.. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

[868]Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  As provided for under Standing Orders, we are giving the Government one more chance to support the Fine Gael motion, especially the backbenchers who have been so vocal over the past week, saying one thing in their constituencies and another in Dublin. I call a vote to be taken by other than electronic means.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That vote will now proceed.

Question again put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 74.

Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Ahern, Bertie. Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot.
Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael. Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel.
Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry. Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris.
Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán. Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret.
Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley.
Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael.
Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  McDaid, James. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward.
Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary. Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  


Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour. Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael.
Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda. Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony. Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim. Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.


Last Updated: 08/10/2010 07:19:35 First Page Previous Page Page of 165 Next Page Last Page