Anne Rabbitte criticises Stephen Donnelly for no-show at nurses pay debate 

Anne Rabbitte criticises Stephen Donnelly for no-show at nurses pay debate 

Stephen Donnelly did not attend the Dáil debate on nurses pay. File picture: Julien Behal

Health minister Stephen Donnelly was criticised by his own junior minister Anne Rabbitte for not attending a Dáil debate on nurses pay on Wednesday morning.

Ms Rabbitte, who is junior minister for disability told a private meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that Mr Donnelly should have been in the Dáil for the debate and at the meeting.

“We should show respect for nurses and frontline staff,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Stephen Donnelly told the Irish Examiner that he was not present in the Dáil because he was attending a meeting of EU health ministers to discuss the response to Covid-19.

His attendance at that meeting is required and he normally would have travelled to Brussels for it.

Several TDs including former minister Dara Calleary said nurses registration fees this year should be waived this year. 

“We light candles and clap them and then take €100 off them. It is not good enough,” he said.

Kilkenny TD John McGuinness called for the Department of Health to pay the nurses Reg fee of €100, pay increases to nurses, and pay student nurses as did Cavan TD Niamh Smyth.

Cork East TD James O’Connor called for the pay issue related to student nurses to be addressed and also suggested a Christmas bonus for them.

Speaking at the meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he had gotten significant feedback over the last number of days on the move to Level 3 with modifications from Level 5. He said the plan is to make Christmas meaningful.

The Taoiseach told his party that there is broad public support for measures and people needed a respite and break. “We said we’d exit Level 5 after 6 weeks and we have,” he said.

Mr Martin said the winter initiative of €600m of additional health spending is working resulting in a 70% reduction in trolley figures and admissions are down 13%.

The Taoiseach also said Brexit is at “crunch point” and there could be an emergence of an agreement by the end of the weekend.

Sligo TD Marc MacSharry was critical of the lockdown strategy which he said amounts to "hide under the bed and then let them out to go mad".

At the Fine Gael meeting, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that he was "reasonably confident" that a vaccine rollout could happen as early as January. He said that in this case, widespread immunity, which could pave the way for a return to normality, would be achieved by September or October.

An all-party campaign will be needed to support the fight against vaccine misinformation, the Tánaiste has told his party.

Mr Varadkar said that communication around the safety of any approved vaccines would be key. Mr Varadkar told the meeting that the overall safety profile of the vaccines look promising, though he said that there were "unknowns" around the jabs, including how long they offer protection for.

Mr Varadkar echoed concerns of some at Cabinet-level raised this week that assuring the public that the vaccines were safe and effective would be a key concern. He suggested that this would best be tackled across the Oireachtas. Government sources have suggested that leaders of parties could be given the vaccine together.

Mr Varadkar also spoke about the levels of personal abuse he receives on social media. He said that on any given post, 10% of the replies would be homophobic and a further 10% racist.

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