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Another Wednesday, another set of questions for Enda Kenny.

The Taoiseach faced some tough grilling from Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams on the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi.

He also fielded questions from Independents 4 Change TD Thomas Pringle over the Government’s failure to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae also used his time to question Kenny about traffic measures and improvements in Killarney.  

And we’re off.

Martin opens up questions talking about cystic fibrosis sufferers and access to the Orkambi drug.

Martin details the concerns and stories of CF sufferers who are anxious to live their lives to the best of their ability.

“There’s a lot that is to be desired about how this entire situation has been handled on both sides,” says Martin.

Martin says governments don’t make drugs but companies do, and he said the Government needs to accept the positive effects of Orkambi.

He says drugs like Orkambi are hard to make a profit from and other approaches need to be taken.

“There has been too much spinning, too much leaking,” he says in relation to negotiations about the drug.

Kenny says he understands the problems faced by CF sufferers and that there has been negotiations with company Vertex to lower price.

Endaz

He said he was disappointed that the negotiations had finished without the issue being resolved.

Kenny said Health Minister Simon Harris had got in touch with other countries where the drug wasn’t available in order to “significantly reduce the cost of the drug”.

Kenny says the drug needs to be given at a better value.

“This company are using cystic fibrosis patients,” says Kenny.

“I would urge them to get back to the intensive discussions,” he says.

Martin hits back saying the easy thing to do is “attack Big Pharma” but that that does little to help people suffering.

Kenny cites Professor Michael Barry who said the drug wasn’t cost effective at nearly €160,000 per year per patient.

Martin shouts back that the company had come down in the price.

He says “there will be realistic discussions with no animosity” in the future around the drug and bringing its cost down.

Adams up next and it has to do with Orkambi once again.

Adams says Ireland has the highest proportion of CF sufferers in the world.

Adams

Adams cites more patients suffering badly with CF, saying that only 40 patients have been given the drug Orkambi.

Adams says the families have been told by Vertex that they were open to risk sharing measure.

Adams says Kenny made “an extraordinary allegation” around the company Vertex “ripping off the taxpayer” and asks him if all avenues around getting the drug have been explored.

“Tell us what you’re going to do,” says Adams.

Kenny comes back with a similar answer that he gave Martin.

“It is not I that says the company is ripping off the taxpayer,” he says.

Kenny again says the company needs to come down in its price for Orkambi.

Once again cites NCPE and other experts that the drug is “not value for money”.

Kenny says the country will work with other countries to secure drug.

Adams says CF sufferers “have hope” but are very concerned.

He finishes by asking Kenny would he enable CF sufferers to receive the drug while negotiations with Vertex are ongoing.

Kenny says the company would have the power to do that.

Up next is Thomas Pringle of Independents 4 Change.

Pringle outlines a letter from a Donegal man suffering from a disability Frank Larkin.

The letter describes the difficulties faced by those living with disabilities.

He calls on the Taoiseach to ratify the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities.

“You should feel embarrassed,” says Pringle, that the convention has not been ratified.

He says the fact Ireland has not ratified the convention 10 years after signing it is a disgrace.

“This is disgraceful carry on,” says Pringle

He questions when the convention will be ratified.

The Taoiseach says Pringle was right to raise the issue.

He apologises to Larkin for not replying to the letter.

He states that although the convention has not been ratified, the rights of people with disabilities have improved.

Kenny continues to say that various elements of ratifying were causing “difficulties” for Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath and that it would not be ratified by the end of the year.

“It is almost at a conclusion where we can ratify,” says Kenny.

Pringle says Kenny’s words would be “cold comfort” to people suffering with disabilities.

He states that the issue has been long fingered and calls for Kenny to commit to an actual date.

“I can’t commit to an actual a date,” says Kenny. “Because I’m going to need your help.”

Kenny says the laws surrounding the ratification will need cross party support to be passed through the Dáil before the convention is ratified.

Prin

And it’s Michael Healy Rae who starts his questions saying he may be “accused of parochialism” in his question about Killarney traffic.

Healy Rae gets a few shouts as he lists off prominent Killarney businesses and businesses people.

Healy Rae calls for adequate traffic measures to be introduced in Killarney; a new 300 car park be added; improvements be made to roads.

This is for “the tourist capital of Ireland,” says Healy Rae.

Healy Rae finished up by taking aim at the hecklers:

“Shame on the lot of ye that ye wouldn’t have a small bit of cop on when someone’s trying to make a point,” he says.

healy

Kenny responds says that the matter had to do with Kerry County Council in their budgets.

He says that the budget around traffic needed to be dealt with by the council and not the national Government.

“I’m quite sure the traders.. will respond to the council in these matters,” he says.

Kenny also says that Donegal will challenge Killarney as “coolest town” in Ireland.

He takes Healy Rae’s point.

Martin up again and it’s now to do with defined pension schemes.

Martin refers to recent difficulties at Independent News and Media around pensions and question will the Government be bringing forward legislation on pensions.

Kenny states that any legislation could not be retrospective in addressing the problems around pensions but it was a “serious issue”.

Adams now talks about the “14 hooded men” who were tortured by the British army in 1971.

He asks Kenny about the human rights of the men involved.

Kenny has a strong word for Adams, saying he might address the “human rights of Brian Stack” when he makes his statement later about the 1983 murder by the IRA of a prison officer.

Ruth Coppinger questions Kenny about setting up a committee around a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Kenny says the committee will have to wait until the Citizens’ Assembly reports back.

Healy Rae up again and his question has to do with farming and families being “targeted by revenue”.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed answers, saying the matter will be discussed at a committee later.

Mattie McGrath is up and he uses his time to congratulate all those involved in the rescue of a prize greyhound after it was stolen.

“We’re always on bad news stories!” says McGrath, heaping praise on the gardaí and taking aim at animal rights groups.

“Sit down,” says the Ceann Comhairle.

More promised legislation questions coming for Enda.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty questions him on tracker mortgages and wonders “where will the accountability be” for banks who led to families being taken off mortgages and losing out on money without being informed.

“I’m glad that these were found out,” says Kenny.

Doherty is up and not happy with the Taoiseach’s response, shouting from across the gallery that his response wasn’t good enough.

And that outburst finishes up a Leaders’ Questions that was at times heated and at other times full of laughs.

Join us for the next one and enjoy the rest of your day!

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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