Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Healy appeals to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to “reverse the cuts on compassionate grounds, and if he won’t reverse the cuts on compassionate grounds”, Deputy Healy asked the Taoiseach to “at least reverse the cuts to act to protect the integrity of democratic system by making good the commitments he made in 2008”, and also asked the Taoiseach if he will “now withdraw the elderly cuts from social welfare bill, from the health bill and from finance bill.”

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Dishonesty is destroying the reputation of politicians and the political system in this country. I ask the Taoiseach who said the following:
The Government has lost touch with the people and misled its own backbenchers. It thought it could carry out this attack on the elderly under the guise of patriotism, when it was more like an act of terrorism.
The principle is simple; universal health care for everyone over the age of 70… Those are the people who made this country what it is today… They raised us, nursed us when we were sick, protected us from violence, grew our food and ran a proud Civil Service. Are we to repay them by taking away something which was freely given…
Those words were spoken in 2008 by a certain Deputy James Reilly, who was then Fine Gael spokesperson on health, regarding the issue of medical cards for the over 70s.
Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
It was a fine speech.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I ask the Taoiseach who said the following: “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.” It was the Taoiseach in 2008.
Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
On the back of a lorry
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
He was speaking on the same Private Members’ motion on medical cards for the over 70s. What did the Taoiseach say on the same issue at an Age Action demonstration in 2008? He said:
To take away your rights to have a medical card beyond the age of 70 years – I reject it! The cheek of them. Shame on them.
Not to be outdone, the leader of the Labour Party —–
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
The Deputy is over time. I ask him to put a question.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I will conclude shortly.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
You should conclude now. You are over time.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, asked how the then Fianna Fáil Government could disrespect our elderly, “who worked hard all their lives, often paid high taxes and only want the peace of mind of having the medical card if feeling unwell”.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
I ask the Deputy to put his question. This is not quotation time; it is Question Time.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Taoiseach and his colleagues in Government are now doing the exact opposite. There is deep cynicism among the population regarding politics and politicians.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
What is your question?
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
My question is as follows. I have previously appealed to the Taoiseach to reverse the cuts on compassionate grounds.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
You are way over time. Put your question.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
If that appeal falls on deaf ears, I ask him to reverse the cuts at least to protect the integrity of the democratic system by making good the commitments he made in 2008. Will he now withdraw the elderly cuts from the Social Welfare Bill, the health Bill and the Finance Bill?
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The Deputy’s quotations are accurate and his question is valid. I have already said that the budget as determined and adopted by the Government will stand. I want to make it clear that the question, the misinformation and, in some cases, the accuracy surrounding the debate about medical cards have been the focus of attention for the last number of weeks. Every person in this country who deserves a medical card will have a medical card.
Robert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
Tell Joe Duffy.
Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
That is a joke.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Deputies, hold on.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The decisions that have been highlighted by various Deputies, and validly so, are cases in point of where we as the Oireachtas, working with the HSE, have to focus on the discretionary elements where these apply. The policy situation in so far as cards are concerned is that discretion applies where there is financial difficulty arising from a person having to cope with a medical challenge or whatever. Various degrees of assistance are given. The service plan produced last year indicated the change in guidelines in respect of the over 70s and obviously that has been carried through.
I want Deputy Healy to understand that the scaremongering that every person in the country is likely to lose a medical card is absolutely nonsensical.
Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
Nobody is scaremongering.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Any person who needs a medical card will have one and, in so far as is possible in respect of those persons or children and family members who need aids and appliances or are clearly in a situation where they need assistance, that will happen. For the Deputy’s information, we met with the principals from the Health Service Executive about communicating this to people in a way that is very understandable and that displays the compassion and sympathy that we know all Irish people have. A number of cases that have been brought to my attention are clearly difficult and I have referred them to the HSE for consideration in that context. I hope these matters can be dealt with in an understanding and sympathetic fashion. I do not want to see that courageous mother who was on the television the other night —–
Niall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
Dead right, you do not.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Her child, of course, deserves support from the State and that is now being provided.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
As usual, the Taoiseach has not answered the questions I asked him. I wonder whether the Ceann Comhairle has a role in ensuring that questions are answered. Unfortunately, any assurance the Taoiseach gives in this House that individual cases will be dealt with is of no value because of his record of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. That is a fact. I have quoted his comments and, sadly, I have to say so. He has no mandate for these cuts to elderly services. We have heard what he said in 2008. Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party went to the electorate in 2011 with even more extensive commitments in the area of health.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
The Deputy should ask a supplementary question.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
If he is not going to reverse these cuts on health or compassionate grounds, I appeal to him to reverse them on the grounds of preserving the integrity of the democratic system. These cuts are corroding and undermining the democratic system, politics and politicians.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Deputy Healy will be aware that when the comments to which he referred were made, this country was not in the bailout situation it has been in for the past several years.
Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
If the Taoiseach did not know in 2008 that there were problems, we are in trouble.
Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
He had the books.
Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Why do we always have the usual suspects shouting from the back? It is always the same people.
James Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
Do not forget about Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
I told Deputy Healy that his quotations were accurate but I should also remind him that persons over the age of 70 who have lost their full medical cards can access the GP card, which gives them free visits to their doctors. They also have recourse to the drugs repayment scheme, which is important. He did not mention the fact that 240,000 children under the age of five will have free access to doctors.
Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
Rob the grandparents to give them to the children.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
I am sure he has met many parents in his constituency who appreciate the fact that if they consider their children have ailments or problems they will be able to bring them to their doctors without having to make difficult decisions. I do not accept his assertions. This budget is designed to get the people of our country, young and old, out of the bailout programme and to move to a point where the economy is prospering, jobs are created and people can go to work. As I said to Deputy Martin earlier, every person has the opportunity to chose an amenable private health insurance plan. From a fairness perspective, the Government provides a subsidy for every adult and child of up to €600. It is for the people themselves to choose between a lower cost private health insurance plan and a higher cost plan.
That is a matter of judgment for themselves.
11:00 am
Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
It is a matter of Government policy.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The State, from a fairness perspective, provides a subsidy for every person. As I said earlier, there is a clear decision of Government not to increase income taxes so that people can make these judgments themselves.
Willie O’Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
What of PRSI?

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