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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 23 September, 2019
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about supports for those with disabilities, JobPath, a new beef trade deal, and the possibility of a referendum on the public ownership of Irish Water. 

Micheál Martin is talking about supports for those with disabilities and says waiting lists for assessments have increased by 50% with some 29,800 on waiting lists.

6,800 of those are on a list for over six months.

He asks the Taoiseach to acknowledge that things are getting worse.

Leo Varadkar admits that more needs to be done and outlines the measures the government have introduced, such as better access to medical cards.

Martin accuses him of displaying a “smugness” and states that he doesn’t answer the basic questions that are asked.

He says one child referred to assessment in 2014 and had to wait 15 months. Martin says it is criminal.

“Those parents really don’t want to hear the Taoiseach ringing of statistics,” he says.

“They are fed up… I am not worried about backing you or anything, I am worried about the families who want to get beyond the rhetoric,” he adds.

“I assure you I am just as interested in those families with disabilities as you are,” says the Taoiseach, who says that no party has a monopoly on compassion.

I am absolutely willing to accept there are shortcomings, says the Taoiseach, who says he is disappointed that the opposition can’t acknowledge what is being done.

Gerry Adams is talking about beef farmers now and the threat of allowing beef from South America being permitted.

“IFA are protesting in Dublin today against the Commission’s offer of a 70,000 tonne beef quota to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay & Uruguay.

“If true, then, Taoiseach, our beef sector, and the livelihoods of farmers, are being sacrificed for a deal with South America.

“Instead of taking measures to deal with falling farm incomes, EU commission is pushing ahead with its cheap food policy.”

The Taoiseach says he has made it clear to Europe that Ireland exports its standards, and points out that Europe is a free trade block.

He says Sinn Féin needs to decide if it is a Eurosceptic party or not.

I am an avid viewer of your videos, says Adams.

“I think you could relax in terms of your delivery, but so far so good,” he adds.

Adams says the Taoiseach’s track record in terms of CETA is of “grave concern”.

You need to say no to the EU Commission and say yes to Irish farmers.

The Taoiseach says he is also an avid follower of Adams’ tweets, he will be glad to hear.

Bit of a love-in today, it seems. Quite the contrast to last week’s clashes.

Joan Collins is up now and wants to know why there is no plan for a referendum on the public ownership of Irish Water.

She says former Housing Minister Simon Coveney committed to one.

The Taoiseach says a referendum is not urgent anymore as they are not going down the semi-state anymore.

“There is no possibility of the privatisation… it’s impossible.

I understand there was a worry about it,” he says, though he calls it an unreasonable worry.

“Irish Water is no longer a commercial operation,” he says, adding that it now needs a billion euro in subvention.

“Who is going to buy it, nobody.

“It’s hardly relevant anymore

“It wont make a blind bit of difference,” he says.

He says he “doesn’t see a value” in having a referendum on the issue.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy is raising issues with the JobPath scheme.

She is accusing a company operating the State’s jobs activation programme, Seetec Ltd, one of the companies contracted to run the JobPath programme, claimed they had got a participant a job when it was not the case, the House was told.

Varadkar says the Social Protection Minister might be better to answer this. He says JobPath has been a very successful programme.

I can’t really comment on individual case, he says.

The vast majority who interact with programme report satisfactory interaction. He says there is a complaint mechanism and he can’t judge a policy on one individual case.

He says he has no doubt that complaints made are genuine, adding that complaints are often a good way to improve services. He says complaints shouldn’t be the reason to bring down a whole programme.

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