Seasonal Flu Vaccination Campaign

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Flu is a very serious illness – there can be potentially 1,000 flu related deaths in Ireland during a severe flu season. The HSE recommends that the following groups of at-risk people should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:

Everyone aged 65 years and over

Anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment

Pregnant women

Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities

Healthcare workers

In addition to seasonal flu vaccination, some people in the at-risk groups may also need pneumococcal vaccine which is available from GPs. Pneumococcal vaccine is not required every year – most people only need to get it once, so those at risk should check with their GP.

The HSE provides the flu and pneumococcal vaccine free of charge for all those in the at-risk groups. The vaccine and consultation are free for people with a medical card or GP visit card. People who do not have a medical card or GP visit card will be charged a consultation fee.

Those aged 18 years or older in the at risk groups may attend either their GP or pharmacist for vaccination and people under 18 should go to their GP.

Visit the HSE’s dedicated immunisation website – immunisation.ie – to find out more about the annual flu vaccination and the pneumococcal vaccine.

Financial Resolutions 2015 – Budget Statement 2015 (14 Oct 2014)

Seamus Healy TD Financial Resolutions 2015 – Budget Statement 2015 (14 Oct 2014):

“The Irish Constitution commits Irish Governments to safeguard with special care the economic interests of the weaker sections of Irish society. That constitutional provision has been breached every year for the past three years by this Government and is again being breached today. Regressive austerity budgets have given to the rich and powerful in our society and taken from low- and middle-income families across this country. The deprivation rate in Irish society is now 26.9%, up from 11% in 2007. Fr. Peter McVerry said:
I’m absolutely dismayed at idea that the tax cuts are going to be at the top rate of tax. That horrifies me. I really can’t express how outraged I would be at that.

Gerry Kearns, professor of human geography at NUI Maynooth, said:
Ireland needs a poverty strategy. It needs a wealth tax. It needs a social housing programme. It needs a regional policy. It does not need tax cuts for fat cats. The Constitution directs as much and the Minister should pay it more heed.

The 100,000 people on the streets of Dublin last Saturday and the results of the two by-elections in Dublin South-West and Roscommon-South Leitrim have certainly put the frighteners on the Government and have been responsible for whatever minor changes and benefits were delivered in this budget. The water charges will be defeated. People power will defeat these charges. Low- and middle-income families are absolutely opposed to them and are affronted by Irish Water itself. It was set up at a cost of €180 million, with €50 million going to consultants, and the management of Irish Water is now paying itself bonuses. This has to stop, and these charges must be, and indeed will be, reversed.

There is a huge hole in this budget in respect of health expenditure. Again, for the fourth year in a row, this Government has a black hole in the health budget. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will remember his own special adviser, Martin Connor, who said recently that brutal fiscal consolidation in the health services must end. He said that the ongoing financial crisis that is continuing to damage the health system was central to the medical card debacle, long waiting lists, hospital bed closures and disability cutbacks. This year, despite what he has said and despite what we all know, there is another €460 million hole in the health budget. Page 80 of the booklet provided to us refers to a range of savings measures – in other words, cutbacks – to the value of €130 million and income generation measures of €330 million, which represent a black hole of €460 million in the health budget. That means continuing chaos for the health services, hospital services and primary care services. This simply must stop.

As other speakers have said, the attempt at dealing with the housing crisis is a complete sham.
There are 90,000 families on waiting lists, with a maximum of 10,000 homes over four years. In education, there were no reductions in class sizes, reductions in the capitation rate and increases in third level fees. This is a budget for the rich and the powerful, and it will have to be overturned by the people of this country, particularly when it comes to water charges.”

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Seamus Healy TD speaking on Water Services (Exempt Charges) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) [Private Members] (18 Sep 2014)

Water Services (Exempt Charges) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) [Private Members] (18 Sep 2014)

Water is a right and this water tax is an outrageous attack on families who will be unable to pay it.

The MABS report issued today states that families have a disposable income of €9 per week after bills are paid. Even at this late stage the Government should reverse this charge which will be opposed tooth and nail right across the country. I support the Bill and it is outrageous that the exemption for boil-water notices has come at this late stage.

Contaminated water is being supplied to households and the exemption should apply from day one and not after a period of time of three or six months. Houses in the Burncourt and Skeheenarinky area of south Tipperary, like 20,000 or 30,000 houses all over the country, must be exempt from day one.

Families who are supplied with hard water are being forced to pay over the odds to replace clapped out electric kettles and washing machines and dryers. They have been forced to buy machines to reduce the hardness of the water, costing anything up to €1,000 to install and with ongoing maintenance costs. These machines must be flushed out on a weekly basis which adds to the costs.

There are thousands of such families across the northern area of Clonmel and throughout south Tipperary who should also be exempt from this water charge.

Seamus Healy TD
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link to debate

Seamus Healy TD speaking on Direct Provision for Asylum Seekers

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate, and I compliment Deputy Pringle, who tabled the motion. He has been interested in this issue for many a long year and he is supportive of a change in the direct provision system. That view is becoming more widely accepted.

The system is detrimental to families and individuals and, in particular, children. I am particularly disappointed that the Government has tabled an amendment. It is unnecessary, because the House should not be divided on this issue. There is significant cross-party support for a change to the system and, even at this late stage, I call on the Minister of State to withdraw the amendment and allow the motion to be passed unanimously by the House and implemented in the near future.

I deal with asylum seekers on a regular basis. There is a direct provision facility, Bridgewater House, in Carrick-on-Suir in my constituency. It has been in operation for some time. There are excellent relations and good interactions between the asylum seekers and the local community and there is excellent support from the community for the residents and their children.

The children attend local schools and are involved in many local organisations, including the GAA, while also participating in many traditional cultural events. Many of the adults are engaged in education and training and they are supported through the Nano Nagle centre in Carrick-on-Suir. Everybody in the town should be complimented on the good interaction and support provided for the residents of Bridgewater House.

As Deputy Pringle said, this is the 14th year of direct provision. Approximately 4,300 asylum seekers are currently resident in 34 centres in the State, many of whom have been in the centres for up to ten years, while a few have been there even longer. More than 1,600 of them are young people under the age of 18, and there is no doubt the system is having a negative effect on them, in particular, and on families.

There is widespread support for the view that this system needs to be changed, although that view was held in some parts of society from the beginning.

A retired Supreme Court judge, the former Ombudsman, Ms Emily O’Reilly, the Special Rapporteur for Children, many civil society organisations, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and numerous politicians have come to share this view. I hope the Minister of State will withdraw the amendment and agree to the passage of the motion unanimously.

A total of 4,360 persons are in direct provision, of whom 2,800 live in 851 family units. Some 1,666 residents are aged under 18, while another 451 are aged between 18 and 25. Although the numbers in the system have decreased over the past number of years, the length of stay in the centres has increased significantly and there is no doubt that now is the time to change the system.

The 34 centres are located in 18 counties but only three were purpose-built for accommodation. The remainder are former hotels, hostels or guest houses, convents, nursing homes and so on, which were never intended for long-term residents. This is not good for individual residents and it is particularly negative for children.

Since the introduction of the system in 2000, the weekly personal allowance has not changed. It remains €19.10 per week for an adult and €9.60 for each child. There are serious concerns about the effect the system is having on children.

Mr. Geoffrey Shannon, the Special Rapporteur for Children, has mentioned this in his reports. For instance, he stated:
The particular needs of children in the Direct Provision system should be examined with a view to establishing whether the system itself is detrimental to their welfare and development and, if appropriate, an alternative form of support and accommodation adopted which is more suitable for families and particularly children. In the interim, the state should implement without delay an independent complaints mechanism and independent inspections of Direct Provision centres and give consideration to these being undertaken through either HIQA (inspections) or the Ombudsman for Children (complaints)…

Research is needed on the specific vulnerability of children accommodated in the system of Direct Provision and the potential or actual harm which is being created by particular circumstances of their residence, including the inability of parents to properly care for and protect their children and the damage that may be done by living for a lengthy period of time in an institutionalised setting which was not designed for long-term residents.

This is a particularly damning view. The system is detrimental to children and needs to be changed urgently.

The UN Human Rights Committee has also addressed the issue in a report, stating: “The Committee is concerned at the lack of a single application procedure for consideration of all grounds for international protection.”
According to the report, the system must be completely changed.

I again ask the Minister of State not to introduce the amendment because Deputies agree more than they disagree on this issue. Rather than divide on the motion, the House should pass it unanimously.

Seamus Healy TD
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Direct Provision for Asylum Seekers: Motion [Private Members] (30 Sep 2014)
link to debate

Restoration of Medical Cards

Question to An Taoiseach:
Seamus Healy TD: In June, some weeks after the local elections, the Taoiseach came to the House and agreed that his Government would restore medical cards to people who had lost them. These were people who had held them on discretionary medical grounds. The process was to take three weeks. It is now four months later and there are still thousands of people who have not had their cards restored.

When will that process finish? When will the committee of experts that was set up at the time to address this issue report? Has it reported? Will the report be placed before the House? In particular, when will the cards be restored to the thousands of people who, four months later, still have not got their cards back?

Reply:
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny: I thought the vast majority of people had had their cards restored following the Government decision. As I understand it, the Minister has not yet received the Keane report into the matter but it is due to be sent to him shortly. Obviously, he will examine that, assess the report’s analysis and findings and bring it before Government and the House in due course.