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IT’S HIGH NOON here at Leinster House and that can only mean one thing – Leaders’ Questions. 

Today is Enda’s big day where he is due to set out his plans for his leadership to his parliamentary party later this evening at 5.30pm. 

The first item on the agenda is the leadership – so stay with us throughout the day for the latest. 

Christina Finn here in Leinster House, where there is a lot of talk around the corridors as to what Enda Kenny will or will not say later this evening at the party’s parliamentary party meeting.

He was in flying form last night at the launch of the Nealon’s Guide.

Looking forward to tomorrow, Taoiseach? ‘I look forward to every day>

Micheál Martin is up first and he wants to talk about melanoma. He says Ireland is very far behind in terms of a national screening programme and treatments.

He says there is one drug that only Ireland and Portugal do not reimburse for.

He says it is proven to be a radical therapy and has huge impacts on those with advanced melanoma. He says out of the 150 people that this effects, the drug could help up to 50 people.

“Ireland is way behind,” he says.

Enda Kenny says he agrees with Martin’s sentiment.

He says the system we have had for many years has not been up to speed in terms of major new drugs that are approved by the FDA and other authorities He says being a small country it can make it difficult to pay out for many drugs.

Kenny says he had a letter from a major pharma company outlining the number of drugs that other countries has but Ireland does not.

He mentions the Orkambi drug and how that came about and says that appears to be a road map for the future.

The Taoiseach agrees that Ireland is not in the position to provide the ultra modern drugs that come online that improve the quality of life for patients all the time for these reasons mentioned.

He says when Orkambi was secured, there was another 30 or 40 named drugs for different ailments – many are very expensive also – he points out.

He says we should look at other countries and see if we can collaborate on that issue

“We don’t have an endless pit of money, as you know,” says Kenny.

Martin says Ireland used to be rather advanced at getting new drugs, but says something is wrong with the Irish system.

Donnchadh ÓLaoghaire is raising the issue of a social worker system that “has been stretched to breaking point”.

He talks about a boy called Joe who was known to child services. He was listed as a high priority but was not assigned a social worker. He took his own life at 15, says ÓLaoghaire.

He raised the case of Dylan who died at 17 . He was known to social services. He had a successive number of social workers, but not long enough have a relationship with any of them.

ÓLaoghaire says these cases were included in the HIQA national review of Tusla which  found systemic failures, he says.

He says the failures could be attributed to high turn over of social workers

The Sinn Féin TD says system that is broken with social workers being overworked

Kenny says that Tusla is a rather new agency – but ÓLaoghaire says that excuse won’t wash anymore. He says vulnerable people are dying and the State are doing nothing to solve the issue.

Brendan Howlin of Labour is up now and he wished the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe well in his impending public pay talks.

He is highlighting that some public servants can’t avail the right to strike – like the gardaí and the defence forces. He says if they could be full members of Ictu it would be beneficial.

Will you bring forward legislation recognising the union reps of the gardaí and defence forces, Howlin asks the Taoiseach.

Do we want a situation where the Garda Síochana on strike, asks Kenny.

He says a working group has been established and is considering some of the “practical issues” that may arise.

He says legislation will come before the House.

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Minister of State Paul Keogh is tasked with reviewing the defence force issues. Howlin says there doesn’t be the same commitment to the defence forces as there is for the gardaí.

Kenny says the report from the task force will deliver report by 31 May and the Dáil will have a chance to consider it.

The Taoiseach says there is issues that need to be addressed before giving the gardaí or the defence force the right to access the Labour Court and other State industrial relation tools.

Independent TD Michael Collins is now talking about the women who he says have been forgotten about.

He says the Homemakers Scheme is discriminatory.

Collins says their contribution to society is being ignored and their pensions are not equal.

He asks will it backdated to 1970. Kenny says to do that would cost some €300 million.

Kenny says the issue will come before committee soon.

Collins asked him to address the issue immediately, adding that women’s contribution and their years out of work to look after children or sick relatives, is being ignored.

The Taoiseach says it is all about options – and there is not enough resources for everything.

Micheál Martin is up again and taking swipes at Leo Varadkar’s welfare cheats campaign.

He says Willie O’Dea have got a detailed reply to a parliamentary question which states that the State does not save €500 million – but €41 million.

Martin says this is an extraordinary of “fake news” pedalled by the Minister and the Department.

Martin says the idea that the minister would sponsor such an expensive media campaign of untruths is extraordinary.

“It doesn’t really speak to just and fair government” that was mentioned in the programme for government.

Well, that’s it for Leaders’ Questions today. No mention of the elephant in the room – Enda’s final farewell.

Stay with us today and we’ll bring you the latest as we get it.

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