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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 15 November, 2019


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TALK OF INDUSTRIAL action is dominating the headlines and airwaves today.

We have the teachers, the gardaí, and now there’s talk of some doctors going on strike.

Government is not budging on the line that the Lansdowne Agreement is the only show in town.

Enda Kenny is to face questions from his fellow party leaders in Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independents 4 Change.

Follow it all here.

Well it’s another day and another threat of strike action. This time it’s doctors, according to The Irish Times.

The government is dealing with a lot of pay claims, but Cabinet members such as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe is holding firm.

This is what he said yesterday:

And we’re off.

Micheál Martin is up and talking about Cystic Fibrosis which he says is a very difficult illness to deal with.

He is talking about a drug that has shown a 40% in reduction in hospital admissions and has been approved in the US. It can apply to 50% of patients, says Martin.

Martin mentions Orla Tinsley, who recently testified about the positive outcomes that are possible on the drug.

Isn’t it time for a separate fund from the health budget to pay for these new drugs, asks the Fianna Fáil leader.

He said the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi is life-changing for some people.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says it used to be the government decided on whether to accept what prices the drug companies put forward for a medicine.

Now he says it is done with a clinical assessment based on the successful outcome of being treatment of a particular drug.

Kenny says he hopes an outcome can be arrived at where the price can be reduced.

“I will have the Minister for Health give me an update,” says Kenny.

“It is a really important question,” he adds.

Martin says it is a matter of life and death.

He says it is a cost issue – and it keeps interrupting the approval of new drugs.

Referencing Tinsley’s article recently published in The Irish Times, Martin says he would respectfully suggest that the approval process has dragged on far too long.

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Kenny said it would cost €390 million for the drug, but acknowledges that pharmaceutical companies often charge “astronomical” prices for drugs.

He says he will look at the issue of making a separate budget to the health budget to deal with new drugs that require funding.

Gerry Adams is up now talking about issues of staff shortages at the Mater Hospital.

He criticises the allocation to the health service in last week’s Budget.

Adams says Sinn Féin alternative Budget, which he says is costed, committed over €400  million, which would be sufficient.

Kenny says he is genuinely interested in issue in the Mater Hospital and he heard Professor Walsh on Morning Ireland this morning.

The Mater Hospital’s cardiology unit says it has been waiting for a new consultant since 2007 and cardiac services have been stretched to critical levels.

The Taoiseach says it is a highly specialised field. There was an advertisement for the job made as far back as 2009 – but no one applied.

“The money is there to fill the position,” he adds.

Kenny says there are 600 more consultants in the health system than there were in 2007.

He says the Budget announced last week is substantial.

He repeats that the vacancy at the Mater is a worldwide position, and urges anyone interested to apply for the position.

Howlin is up now talking about the room-to-rent scheme.

He says people deserve assurances that initiatives are on the way that will control rents.

Labour has a bill that will limit increases in rent linked to the Consumer Price Index, he says.

Howlin says he had many conversations with the Taoiseach on the issue of rents over the years and says Fine Gael blocked any plan to introduce rent controls.

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Kenny says the rent strategy from Housing Minister Simon Coveney will be published before the end of the year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says their focus is on boosting housing supply.

Howlin says if rents are going to surge by 25% people have no hope of saving for a house.

“I don’t think you can leave it to the marketplace alone,” says Howlin.

Kenny says he has no date for the publication of the rental strategy.

Kenny says the government is acting – he reiterates his point that rents will rise unless the issue of supply is dealt with.

Kenny is now being asked about road traffic deaths and garda resources.

The Taosieach says where gardaí are allocated is a matter for the Garda Commissioner,  but says it is a political decision to boost the funding to garda resources.

Deputy Tommy Broughan asks about the allocation of funds to the various areas of the gardaí.

Micheál Martin is talking about funding for the Vision for Change for mental health.

“It is time for less rhetoric and more action,” says Martin, who says the figure of €35 million has been bandied around for years.

Adams says it is funny that Fianna Fáil is lamenting aspects of the budget and then questions the very things the party supported.

The Sinn Féin leader moves on to the issue of refugees being resettled.

Ireland has missed its target of taking in 4,000, he says.

Kenny said yesterday’s story that a family was found in a container in Wexford shows the lengths people will go to to escape the situation in Syria.

Now we’re on to promised legislation questions.

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan wants to know about the new legislation being brought in to speed up planning permission for construction.

Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy asks him about the reopening of garda stations and now AAA-PBP’s Paul Murphy is asking about the Social Welfare Bill.

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You can tune in to the rest of the proceedings here.

That’s all for today. Join us back here tomorrow.