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State of the Nation

Is Leo feeling the effects of 'poison chalice' he was handed?

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everyone’s talking about…

What’s Leo Varadkar going to do about universal health insurance?

13/10/2015 Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD is Mark Stedman / Mark Stedman / /

When Leo Varadkar swapped his transport, tourism, and sport portfolio for health last year, he was only too aware of how troubled a department it is.

As a qualified doctor who had proved himself to be a capable young minister, he seemed a good fit for the job ahead.

But that didn’t make him immune to any failings in the Department of Health, and now the focus is on him as plans to introduce universal health insurance seem all but abandoned.

Varadkar has explained that the plan envisaged as part of Fine Gael’s election manifesto will be too expensive for families, isn’t affordable “now or ever”, and will possibly not be deliverable even in the next term of government.

He also told reporters last night that it would have broken laws.

The ESRI is warning that it could increase the health budget by as much as 11%, including a significant amount due to insurers’ margins, saying this is a common theme of UHI across the world.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Varadkar explained the next stage will turn to putting the building blocks in place over the coming years for a system of ‘quality healthcare that everyone can afford’ that will allow the introduction of whatever the alternative will be to UHI.

Varadkar explained that if introduced now, it would reduce waiting lists slightly, but it wouldn’t be a magic fix for the health system.

What the alternatives are or could be haven’t been hammered out yet, but the electorate will be listening as this shapes up to be an issue for Fine Gael coming into 2016.

After taking up his new ministerial position 2014, he knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing:

I’m not sure if I’m able to turn the poison chalice into sweet wine, but I’ll do all that I can to improve our health services.

The agenda

  • The Dáil begins today at 9.30am when Minister for Finance Michael Noonan takes questions on his portfolio.
  • The party leaders will fight it out during Leaders’ Questions at 12pm.
  • Private members business takes place at 7.30pm.
  • The Seanad will discuss amendments to the Childcare Bill 2015 at 12.45pm.
  • Tributes to former Senator Jack Fitzsimons will be heard at 2pm.
  • Private members business takes place at 4.30pm.
  • What’s does the future look like for electric cars in Ireland? The Transport and Communications committee hears from the experts at 9.30am.
  • The Justice, Defence, and Equality committee will take a look at rural crime at 9.30am, and will hear from Age Action on abolishing the mandatory retirement age at 2.30pm.
  • The Education and Social Protection committee discusses the needs of children with special needs in secondary school at 1.30pm.

Inside Leinster House

Here’s the moment the Dáil fell silent to remember the 129 victims of the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday.


What the others are saying

  • The Irish Times reports that Tánaiste Joan Burton has pledged that state employees and contractors for public bodies will be paid the living wage if Labour is re-elected.
  • The same paper reports that the consumer watchdog has said Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald gave the legal profession “a veto” over massive reforms contained in the Legal Services Regulation Bill.
  • The Times (Ireland edition) details how Ireland is set to share more intelligence with France and help with peacekeeping duties under the Lisbon Treaty.
  • Fianna Fáil would restore town councils abolished by the current government, the Irish Independent reports.
  • Legislation doesn’t allow gardaí to prosecute people over some legal highs, a detective inspector told RTÉ’s Prime Time.

In case you missed it

Good day for…

Eamon Gilmore. Everyone wants a look at his book.

Bad day for…

Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. After putting significant work into the Legal Services Regulation Bill, it’s now encountering yet more criticism under the watch of Frances Fitzgerald.

On the Twitter machine

Senators still have to take out the bins, you know.

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