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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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Leo Varadkar is back from his meeting with Emmanuel Macron, but he still has to deal with the fallout of the tracker mortgage scandal.

Today he was asked about the failings in the retention of staff in Defence Forces, hospital waiting lists, and the tracker mortgage issues.

Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe is due to make his big speech on the issue later today.

Micheál Martin is kicking off Leaders Questions, and says there is a crisis in the Irish Defence Forces.

He highlights a report, which states that some members can’t get a mortgage, have no money to live and are forced to leave the force to survive.

Martin says one senior officer is quoted as stating that a serious accident is just waiting to happen.

Leo Varadkar said they are still recruiting for the Defence Forces,  but said there is a problem with recruitment in the air force. He said the budget has increased for 2018.

He said the public pay deal will bring two pay increases next year.

“Very much reversing the pay cuts,” he said.

Martin says he asked him if he accepts there is a crisis in the Defence Forces – yes or no.

He said he wants to know if the Taoiseach is satisfied with the health and safety issues within the air corps.

You failed to acknowledge the “shocking failure” of retention of staff in the army.

He says Senator Gerard Craughwell said yesterday that never has army been so neglected.

“We have been raising this for well over a year,” Martin tells the Taoiseach.

Varadkar says he does not accept there is a deep crisis in the army. He says Junior Minister Paul Kehoe will meeting with personnel  to discuss the new report shortly.

Gerry Adams wants to talk about the North and newspaper reports last week which said that Michelle O’Neill was blocked by senior members of Sinn Féin from making a deal with the DUP.

“Michelle O’Neill is a senior member of the party,” he tells the Taoiseach.

He says none of the reports is true, stating that O’Neill “contradicted the spin” last week.

Adams said he knows the process is slow, which he says because of the stubborn efforts for progress.

He says it is bout restoring agreements that have already agreed upon, stating that those in North have the right to same rights as those in the South.

Which ones should the give up on? he asks.

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Varadkar says he does not know much about the internal workings of Sinn Fein and doesn’t care to know either.

He says the Executive needs to get up and running so that the people of Northern Ireland can have a say in Brexit and other issues.

He says Adams is trying to blame someone else for not getting a deal off the ground. Varadkar criticises Adams use of language about the DUP, which the Taoiseach said they are trying to broker a deal with.

The Taoiseach says it sounds like language from someone that has given up.

Adams hits back and says he never gives up.

You have learned nothing Taoiseach, these were government briefings, said Adams, accusing Varadkar of giving government briefings to the media to undermine Michelle O’Neill.

“Why would you want to undermine Michelle O’Neill… do you think the people don’t read your remarks?” he asks.

The Taoiseach said he will not explain government briefings, just as Adams will not account for Sinn Féin briefings.

He urges Adams to make compromises, and stop trying to “spread the blame”.

Independent TD Michael Collins raises the issue of one man who has to travel miles to get simple operations like cataract operations. He says it is not fair on the elderly, who require urgent care, to travel so far for healthcare. He says a hospital in West Cork is lying empty.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he does not have specific information on Bandon or Bantry hospitals.

He says he does not like to hear about about the case of that man who had to wait a long time for his operation, but said he was glad to hear he could get care over the border.

Though he said it wold obviously be preferable for Irish patients to get care in their own country.

Varadkar says waiting lists are coming down, but he says we must aim to do better in terms of cataracts operations.

He says more than half will wait less than six months.

Seamus Healy, Independent TD for Tipperary, says he asked former Taoiseach Enda Kenny to call in the gardaí to investigate the banks.

He says he refused to call in the gardaí.

Six months later we see the extent of the fraud. It is now abundantly clear that there has been systemic collusion, he says, adding that no formal complaint has even been given to the gardaí.

He calls on the Taoiseach to send in the gardaí so that bankers can be held to account.

Leo Varadkar says the Central Bank has engaged with the gardaí on the matter. He says the Taoiseach is not in the position to send in the gardaí.

He said there are probably 40,000 people affected by this. They have been subjected to unnecessary hardship and there was a breach of trust, says Varadkar.

He said Paschal Donohoe has sought detail on the status of each bank’s redress programme and why they were so “unbelievably slow”.

Healy says the Taoiseach knows all too well that no formal complaint has been made to the gardaí.

The citizens have suffered desperate suffering for bailing out the banks, with customers still being charged one of the highest variable mortgage rate in Europe. He says Donohoe has merely given the banks a “slap on the wrist”. He wants to know why the Taoiseach  has not made a move to make a formal complaint to the gardaí.

“Send in the fraud squad and do it now,” he says.

The Taoiseach says he does not know if a formal complaint has been made to the gardaí. He said anyone can make a complaint if they have the evidence to back it up.

He says it doesn’t work like that, that the government can send in the fraud squad.

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