There were little fireworks at Leaders’ Questions today.
GARDA REFORM WAS the topic of conversation at cabinet this morning, and that was on the agenda for Leaders’ Questions today.
Opposition deputies also pushed the Taoiseach on the ongoing Bus Éireann strike, and the case of a vaccination that may have given some who received it debilitating diseases.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin up first.
He starts with the Bus Éireann dispute.
People are “frustrated, annoyed and angry” with the government, he says.
“If this was Dublin, it would have been sorted now” is what people are saying, according to Martin.
Bus Éireann is not getting its fair share from funding, the Fianna Fáil leader says.
The bottom line is that Bus Éireann gets a lower subsidy per passenger than Dublin Bus does, he adds.
“Why won’t the government make an intervention on the policy front that would facilitate the resolution of this dispute?” he asks.
“I condemn the wildcat strike,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny begins.
The Minister has intervened in respect of policy decisions, Kenny adds.
He also tells Martin that: “You say it’s possible to cross-subsidise it, but my information says different.”
The place to settle the issues is at the table, facilitated by the WRC.
“Minister Ross has been more than encouraging,” the Taoiseach says.
An anomaly has arisen in the subsidy paid to two semi-state companies, the Fianna Fáil leader responds.
Dublin Bus got 11 times more than Bus Éireann, he claims.
Martin says “if the government was serious about this, there are ways and means of contributing to solving this dispute”.
“There’s an obligation this gets solved quickly.”
The Taoiseach says that the workers won’t bear the brunt of this by themselves, once the unions agree a deal at the WRC.
“The government is expanding the public bus service in rural Ireland through expanded PSO funding,” he says.
“In terms of policy, these are matters the Minister has been very active on.”
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald up next, and she wants to talk about An Garda Síochana.
She says there’s a “detached arrogance” at the top of garda management.
“People are left scratching their heads” as to why Nóirín O’Sullivan is still the Garda Commissioner, McDonald claims.
She accuses the government of refusing to act decisively.
No inquiry will be satisfactory while the commissioner remains in charge, she adds.
“Her position is untenable.”
“Are you okay that this may not be the end of the garda scandals?” she asks the Taoiseach.
This is all about trust, confidence, respect and pride, according to the Taoiseach.
“The government treats this with the utmost seriousness,” he says.
He says that Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald briefed cabinet this morning.
The cases have been referred to the independent Policing Authority, he says.
The Tánaiste will work with opposition TDs to conduct this reform of An Garda Síochana, Kenny says.
“You will have involvement,” he tells McDonald.
He says he has received the final report from the Fennelly Commission.
It is extremely lengthy.
“I’m statutorily bound to give that to the Attorney General,” he says.
Its publication will come shortly.
“You are still wedded to the old way of doing things,” McDonald accuses Kenny.
She says Micheál Martin fears an election and that is why Fianna Fáil won’t take a stronger stance against the Garda Commissioner.
“The position of the Garda Commissioner is untenable. Sin é.”
Work is being done in exceptional circumstances in many places around the country, according to Kenny referring to An Garda Síochana.
“You focus on one person only. It’s a lot bigger than this,” Kenny says.
Clare Daly is next.
She says it’s a shame Kenny didn’t have such an appetite for change to the gardaí a few years ago.
But, she wants to talk about a young teen who suffers from narcolepsy.
“He wasn’t born with it. This was an avoidable catastrophe,” she says.
He received the vaccine for swine flu. The HSE distributed a “dangerous, untested” drug, Daly claims.
“Ireland gave GSK full indemnity” for this drug”, Daly says. She wants to know why this “unsafe” drug was distributed among the general public.
The Taoiseach thanks Daly for bringing the matter forward.
The Minister for Health has sanctioned the go-ahead for a sleep disorder centre at St James’s Hospital.
You make very strong claims here about Pandemrix, he says.
He says Daly’s claims deserve immediate analysis.
Daly replies that this is a “massive public health scandal”.
Health authorities were aware of the dangers around this drug, Daly says.
She says there are 80 people so far diagnosed with difficulties after being given this drug.
Rural independent TD Michael Collins is next.
He’s talking about the disabilities’ protest that took place last week.
He says there are many difficulties for parents of children with disabilities.
“There are a huge number of people in Cork and Kerry driving their children to disability day centres for four hours a day,” he says.
He wants transport services for disability organisation more synchronised, and more funding to be provided.
Kenny says that Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath takes his role very seriously, and his department do great work.
“I suggest you talk directly to the Minister”, Kenny suggests.
McGrath has a pretty serious budget, he adds.
These services should be available already, Collins responds.
People with disabilities over the age of 18 are not entitled to this transport service, he says.
“We have situations where buses are travelling with just one or two people on them.”
Set out your problem, and set out your proposition, and tell it to the Minister, Kenny reiterates.
So, that’s a wrap for Leaders’ Questions.
The Taoiseach mainly faced queries on the Bus Éireann strike and the Garda Commissioner but there were little fireworks.
Thanks for joining us!