Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Seamus Healy TD speaking on Topical Issues re Funding of Respite Services Summer Camp at St. Rita’s in Clonmel 27 June 2019

It is disgraceful that parents had to take to the airwaves to demand that the decision to cut summer respite services for children with special needs run by the Brothers of Charity at St. Rita’s in Clonmel be reversed. I commend those parents, who have been superb advocates for their children and for the disability family. The Minister of State will know that they are under pressure on a daily basis, 365 days a year. They did not need the additional frustration, worry and annoyance of the past year. These parents are entitled to and due an apology.

For years, those parents and we as TDs called for Summer respite services. Thankfully, that was eventually established in 2018, and last year’s Summer camp was professionally run, hugely successful and very valuable to both the children and the parents. Some 20 families were supported at very reasonable costs. Parent power has now saved that Summer camp. I again commend the parents for the campaign they have launched over the past week on the radio and by contacting their public representatives and the wider public.

Today I asked the Minister of State Finian McGrath to explain the exact situation in relation to this year’s Summer camp. I asked had the decision to cut this service been fully reversed? Have the Brothers of Charity been notified of this decision? Will the same level of service be available this year as last year? Will the same level of funding be available this year as last year?

Minister McGrath stated in part of his reply that the South East Community Healthcare, SECH, provides children’s respite services in two locations in south Tipperary including the Brothers of Charity camp in St. Rita’s respite services. In addition, SECH provides outreach and home-based respite to children with challenges accessing centre-based respite for a number of reasons including those confined to home for complex medical reasons or difficulty socialising safely with other children as a result of emerging diagnosis and responsive behaviours. He stated that the HSE is fully committed to maintaining the same level of service this year as in 2018. The additional funding provided last year will continue in 2019 and, in particular, the €2 million allocation to be spent on alternative respite services remains a high priority for the HSE. SECH acknowledges the quality service provided by St. Rita’s and will ensure that the necessary resources required for the Summer respite programme in St. Rita’s will continue to be provided to the Brothers of Charity in 2019.

I welcome this reply from the Minister, particularly the statement he made that the necessary resources required for the Summer respite programme in St. Rita’s will continue to be provided to the Brothers of Charity in 2019. That will be a relief to parents. It is a pity it had to come to this and the turmoil parents have been put through over the past week. It should never have been allowed to happen and I certainly hope it will never happen again. I asked the Minister of State to confirm that this respite service will continue next year and into the future. This service is essential for children with special needs and their families.

The Minister stated that when he left the Chamber he would be asking who put the parents through this particular situation. He stated that he is very much aware of the importance of access to planned respite, which ensures that people with disabilities receive opportunities to socialise and facilitates families to receive a break from caring, to preserve the family unit and to provide stability. He added that he gave a commitment three years ago that he would reform the disability services, invest in them, and put the person at the centre of those services, that there was a need to expand those services and that was his objective.

I will as always continue to follow up and keep you updated.

 

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Motion re Confidence in the Minister for Health

Nobody with a whit of common sense believes the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohue, and indeed the Government were not aware of the national children’s hospital debacle.  It is in fact now crystal clear that the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance were fully aware of the huge hospital overrun at the time of the last budget. The Minister for Finance had the chief Government procurement officer on the board of the hospital who was involved at all levels, including financial sub-committee level. The cover-up included confidentiality pledges to ensure the Government would not be formally or officially informed until after the budget. And why was that, that was because this Government wanted to continue to give huge tax concessions to the super-rich backers of this Government. 

There is no justification for the Government delaying health and other capital projects using the excuse of the cost overrun on the children’s hospital project. The hospitals serving my constituency of Tipperary, South Tipperary General Hospital and University Hospital Limerick, are the most overcrowded in the country. I want to tell the Minister for Health that no cancellation, no suspension, no long-fingering and no delaying of capital projects affecting Tipperary will be tolerated and I include in that the completion and opening of the 40-bed modular unit at South Tipperary General Hospital, the building of a new 50-bed unit at South Tipperary General Hospital, the building of a new 100-bed unit at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Cashel and the building of a 60-bed unit at University Hospital Limerick.

The Irish super-rich are dripping with wealth and gaining more by the day. The Government’s policy is not only not to tax the super-rich but also to give them tax concessions. The Government is in fact the politically extremist representative of the super-rich at the expense of citizens generally in this country. I believe the Government should bring forward an emergency budget to claw back the €250 million worth of tax concessions given to the super-rich in the last three budgets, and I include in that those given to the 25,700 individuals with incomes ranging from €200,000 and in excess of €2 million.

It is time for the Minister for Health to go and to take the Minister for Finance with him and give the public an opportunity to make a decision on this Government in a General Election. It is time for Fianna Fáil and the Independents who are supporting the Government, it’s time for Deputies Lowry and Cahill and other Independents to call it out on this issue and support the motion.

March for Tipperary – 20 October 2018

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Seamus Healy TD Speaking on Budget 2019 in the Dáil a short time ago.

 

I welcome the opportunity to speak on budget 2019. The budget is shamefully
inadequate in view of the extreme crisis in housing and health and the need
to fully restore cuts in welfare, disability provision, public service pay
and pensions and other areas. Some might say that today’s budget is a missed
opportunity. It is not. It is a conscious and deliberate policy decision by
Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil to protect the massive
increase in wealth of the Irish super rich from fair taxation and to make
further tax concessions to them. Prudent budgeting does not require limiting
spending to the shamefully inadequate figures in today’s budget. The
European Union’s fiscal treaty does not require it either, and it does not
forbid raising extra revenue provided it is recurrent.
Significant additional income could have been raised if the Government was prepared to
make the super rich pay their fair share in taxation. The Minister said
numerous times that his income tax and USC measures are to ease the burden
on those on low and middle incomes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a budget for the super rich.
What happened in this budget? According to the CSO, 1.18 million workers are
on incomes of less than €30,000 per year. Some 1 million of them are PAYE
workers and 180,000 are self-employed. They comprise 40% of the workforce.
There is no income tax gain for the 1 million PAYE workers in this category,
not even a cent. The income tax gain for the 180,000 self-employed is the
princely sum of €40 per year, less than €1 per week. The EU tells us that
inflation next year will be 1.3%, which will wipe out the huge figure of €40
per year. There is an increase of €5 in social welfare payments. Social
welfare recipients must wait until next March to get it and it does not go
anywhere near restoring the pre-cut levels of payment. For the third year in
a row there is no increase in child benefit.
Contrast that to what has happened to people of wealth, the rich and
powerful in our society. The CSO says that 53,000 individuals have incomes
ranging from €150,000 to €2 million per annum. They get the full tax and USC
benefits of this budget, totalling €13.1 million. There is a golden circle
of rich and powerful individuals in this society who have not been touched
by the budget. There is no wealth tax on their assets, and they have huge
assets. The top 10% of these wealthiest individuals have assets that are €40
billion above peak boom levels. They will not pay a cent on them. The
overall financial assets are now €77 billion above peak boom levels and
there is not a single cent of taxation on them either. The 300 wealthiest
individuals who have €100 billion will not pay a cent on those assets.
Last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General reported on how these
individuals avoided tax. He described it as tax avoidance by the super rich.
Some 83 of these high net worth individuals, with in excess of €50 million
in assets, declared taxable income of less than the average industrial wage
of less than €36,500. It is shameful. With regard to the banks, Bank of
Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB had profits last year of €2.5 billion. They
did not pay a euro in tax on them and they will not pay one euro this year
or for the next 20 years. The last Government and this Government have
exempted them from such tax. These are the banks that the taxpayer bailed
out. They are the banks that brought huge and savage austerity on the backs
of families throughout this country. They continue to evict families from
their family homes, but they will not pay a single cent in tax.
This budget continues the bonanza for landlords. The provision of 100%
mortgage interest relief to them in respect of the purchase, improvement and
repair of properties will be hugely damaging to the housing market. It will
enable landlords to outbid young people in the purchase of houses and it
will drive up prices even further. This provision should be withdrawn
immediately. This budget also provides an additional €121 million for
landlords under the guise of the HAP scheme, on top of the €1.1 billion
provided in 2018 under this scheme for landlords. This is hugely damaging to
housing and families. The Government is again putting its trust in private
developers and private landlords to solve the housing crisis, which they
have never done and never will do. It is time the Government changed its
policy on housing. We need public housing on public land and in huge
numbers.
This budget widens the divide between the rich and poor. Ireland is a
wealthy country. Taking GDP per head of population, Ireland is wealthier
than Germany, the UK, the US, France and Italy. Overall, Ireland is ranked
eighth in the world in wealth terms. The top 10,000 earners here have
incomes totalling €6 billion per annum, which is an average of €600,000
each. They have received the full benefit of the income tax and USC
reductions over the past three years and in this budget. The top 5% of all
income earners on incomes of €180,000 per annum received income tax and USC
reductions in the past two budgets totalling €172 million. Today, they again
will benefit in full from the income and USC reductions and fabulously
wealthy people will escape any additional imposition on their massive and
growing wealth.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, SVP, budget submission months ago
sketched the background to this budget. Its document entitled, Paving a
Pathway out of Poverty, sets out the situation for ordinary people in this
country. Some 780,000 people are living below the poverty line; 70,000
children are growing up in poverty; 10,000 people are homeless, including
almost 4,000 children; there are 100,000 families on local authority housing
waiting lists; there are 102,000 working poor; 48% of people went without
heating owing to cost; 520,000 adults have poor literary skills and, last
year, the society received 130,000 calls for assistance and supported
families to the tune of €27 million. Today’s budget will do nothing for the
people the SVP helped last year and have been helping for years. If the
issues raised by the SVP are to be tackled, rich and powerful people in this
society will have to be made pay their fair share. If national and local
issues are to be tackled successfully and if public services are to be
improved and additional services provided, wealthy people in this country,
which is the eighth wealthiest in the world, must be made pay their fair
share.
Issues need to be dealt with in my constituency of Tipperary. There is an
urgent need for acute inpatient mental health beds in Tipperary. These beds
need to be put in place to replace the beds lost when former Minister of
State, Kathleen Lynch, unfairly, unjustly and, in my view, outrageously
closed St. Michael’s unit in Clonmel. Moneys from this budget must be
ring-fenced to ensure beds are opened to replace those that were wrongly
closed and to properly resource, staff and fund community mental health
teams and CAMHS teams in Tipperary. Mental health services in the county are
substandard, acute beds are non-existent and these issues need to be tackled
urgently. I have raised them on numerous occasions and will return to them
in the near future.
Communities in rural towns throughout the country, including Tipperary town,
Carrick-on-Suir, Thurles, Nenagh and Roscrea, have been abandoned by this
Government and by previous Governments. They need support from Government so
that they can develop economically and socially and create jobs, boost the
retail trade, build public housing and support community facilities. The
Project 2040 plan is not fit for purpose when it comes to rural Ireland and,
in particular, rural market towns. This plan must be revisited urgently to
ensure towns such as those I have mentioned are targeted for development and
job creation.
I have referred to the health services in Tipperary but I would like to
address the issue of the assessment of needs for children with disabilities.
Under the Disability Act 2015 assessments of need are required to be
completed within six months of a referral but throughout the country,
including in Tipperary, this provision is not being adhered to. The HSE is
breaking the law in this regard. I have been contacted by numerous families
who have been told in writing by the HSE in Tipperary that their child will
not be seen for two years. It is vital that young children are assessed at
an early age if they are to benefit from the services that should be
provided for them.
There is also a white elephant in Cashel, County Tipperary, in what was
formerly Our Lady’s Hospital. That hospital was upgraded at a cost of some
€14 million and fully fitted out as a hospital, but the ward areas have been
closed for years now. That refurbished area was to be opened up as a 65 bed
hospital to provide step-down, palliative care and district hospital
facilities. It is a shame that it is still vacant and it should be opened to
provide a back up to the other hospitals in the area – South Tipperary
General Hospital and University Hospital Limerick.
On roads, I welcome the additional investment of €40 million for the upkeep
of local and regional roads. Regional roads and local roads, in particular,
are in an absolutely atrocious state across the country, including in
Tipperary. The figure which Tipperary County Council management has
indicated would be needed to upgrade the roads in the county to a reasonable
standard is €196 million. Obviously, €40 million nationally will not go very
far on that. I wish to raise the question of the upgrading of the N24 to
motorway status again. That is the lifeblood of social and economic activity
all the way from Limerick to Wexford. The upgrade would include the
bypassing of Tipperary town, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. That needs to be
done as soon as possible.
On education, the increase in capitation is welcome even though it is not
huge. It would appear that some money has been made available for leadership
and working principals. I hope there is enough money in that to ensure that
principals are able to properly carry out their functions on an ongoing
basis and have the time and space to do same. There does not appear to be a
change in class sizes, nor does there appear to be any provisions in place
regarding official panels, which are badly needed.
I have spoken consistently about housing in this Chamber for a number of
years. Like earlier speakers, I must also say that the provisions in this
budget on housing are disappointing to put it mildly. The fact of the matter
is that there is a housing emergency out there. It is time this Government
acknowledged that emergency and implemented the Private Members’ motion
which was passed here last week, requesting the declaration of a statutory
emergency by the Oireachtas. Unless and until that is done, the housing
situation will get worse. On a daily basis I have families contacting me who
are homeless, have got notice to quit or are couch-surfing with relatives
and friends. The situation has gotten worse over the last 12 months and the
provisions in this budget will certainly not make any effective difference
to it. We need the emergency to be declared and we need evictions to stop.
There is a need for families to be allowed to retain their tenancies in sale
situations so that they are not forced out of their private rented
accommodation into homelessness. We need a huge emergency building programme
of public housing on public land and we need to do that quickly.
I ask the Government again to look at the proposal by Irish Water to bring
water from the Shannon to Dublin. This is a hugely wasteful proposal which
will be a waste of public money if it goes ahead. The pipes in Dublin are
leaking over 50% of the water that goes into them. It is a situation that is
seen nowhere else in the western world. In most European countries and
cities the maximum leakage is in the region of 10%. The highest figure that
we know of is in London which is at 25%. Apart from the words of the Fight
the Pipe Ireland organisation in Tipperary and Ms Emma Kennedy who has done
an analysis on this, a professor in Dublin City University has recently said
that going ahead with this project is akin to throwing money out of an open
window. As I have said, this is hugely wasteful and completely unnecessary.
The pipes in Dublin need to be replaced because otherwise water will be sent
from the Shannon into the ground in Dublin because the pipes will be leaking
out over 50% of the water.
I am not at all happy that this budget deals with the real world in any way.
This Government, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil have lost all
contact with ordinary people and this budget book of Estimates proves that.

Tipperary Mental Health Services Keeping the Government Under Pressure

 

Earlier today Deputy Seamus Healy TD raised again in the Dáil at Leaders Questions with the Taoiseach the issue of the lack of adult inpatient psychiatric beds and the need for the provision of a properly resourced, properly funded and integrated mental health service in Tipperary with the Minister, He will as always keep you updated.

“Healy Challenges Minister on Savage Council House Rent Increases”

“Support the Palestinian People”

This Saturday in Clonmel a petition will be taken up at the Main Guard in support of the people of Palestine.

I recently spoke in the Dáil of my support of the Palestinian people following the most recent atrocities there and asked that Ireland expel the Israeli ambassador and his staff and recall the Irish ambassador from Tel Aviv. Ireland must end the bilateral arms trade with Israel. It should call for an international military embargo on the state of Israel on the basis that it is murdering vast numbers of Palestinians in cold blood. Ireland must call for the suspension of the EU-Israel association agreement on the basis that Israel is in clear breach of the human rights clause in the agreement. Furthermore, the 11-year siege of Gaza must be lifted. We must commence an extensive boycott of Israeli goods and services. In 2014 both Houses of the Oireachtas unanimously called for the formal recognition of the state of Palestine. The Government must formally recognise it immediately.

In addition the Occupied Territories Bill 2018 introduced by Senator Frances Black is in Seanad Éireann on 11 July 2018, a Bill I fully support. It is Ireland’s time to take the lead and stand up for justice in Palestine and end trade in illegal settlement goods.

Statement in full:
Seamy Healy TD:
I condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest massacre of unarmed Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces. Last Monday, 14 May, was the single deadliest day for Palestinians in the occupied territories in over four years. The Great March of Return protests took place on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the expulsion – perhaps it might be better explained as ethnic cleansing – of over 750,000 Palestinians, or two thirds of the indigenous Arab population, from their homes by Israeli forces between 1947 and 1949. On Monday 60 unarmed Palestinians were shot dead and over 2,000 wounded. In the previous six weeks another 45 unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli state forces. The slaughter of unarmed Palestinian protesters carried out by Israel on Monday as part of its response to the Great March of Return in the past six weeks was cold blooded murder. As we all know, it was the very same as the shoot to kill policy implemented by British state forces in the Six Counties in previous years. The conduct of the Israeli state forces can rightly be compared to the outrageous and despicable campaign of murder and mayhem visited on this country by the infamous Black and Tans.

In the face of seven decades of consistent failure by the international community to enforce the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Palestinian civil society has taken it upon itself to assert its UN-mandated right of return. Unarmed protesters who are seeking to do this are being met with Israeli sniper bullets. Nothing has been done to punish Israel for the slaughter of over 100 unarmed Palestinians in the past two months. Instead, the United States has moved its embassy to Jerusalem and blocked UN Security Council resolutions condemning the killings, while the European Union has continued to reward Israel with increased co-operation. The entire situation is utterly shameful and sickening. The massacre of unarmed protesters while the world, including the European Union and the Government, stands idly by is utterly shameful. The protestors are simply demanding their rights under international law. They include the right to return, as set down in UN Resolution 194; the right not to be the subject of the collective punishment of an entire population, as is happening with the 11-year siege of Gaza; and the right not to have their lands illegally annexed for Israeli settlement expansions.

While it is all very fine for the Government to call in the Israeli ambassador, talk is cheap and action is needed. We need to expel the Israeli ambassador and his staff. We need to recall the Irish ambassador from Tel Aviv, just as South Africa has recalled its ambassador. Ireland must end the bilateral arms trade with Israel. It should call for an international military embargo on the state of Israel on the basis that it is murdering vast numbers of Palestinians in cold blood. Ireland must call for the suspension of the EU-Israel association agreement on the basis that Israel is in clear breach of the human rights clause in the agreement. Furthermore, the 11-year siege of Gaza must be lifted. We must commence an extensive boycott of Israeli goods and services. In 2014 both Houses of the Oireachtas unanimously called for the formal recognition of the state of Palestine. The Government must formally recognise it immediately. I commend all of the organisations, including the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, that are supporting the Palestinian people. I commend all of the people from Ireland who have visited the Palestinian territories in support of the cause. My own daughter has just returned from such a visit. She and her companions were blackguarded at the airport. They were held and interrogated for six hours. Some in the group were refused entry. It is time the international community, including the Government, stood up to Israel and supported the rights of the Palestinian people.


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