I welcome the partial reinstatement of Dáil questions which brings back some measure of accountability and oversight of the Government, although questions are limited to those in relation to Covid-19 and its impact.
In this regard I have tabled several Dáil questions, among which include payments to student nurses, student accommodation, direct provision and nursing homes.
On the issue of student nurses it is imperative that the government clarifies it’s position on the financial package to be offered to those students who were recalled for placement in our hospitals. I have also asked for clarification on the steps being taken to protect the health and well-being of these students in the event of any one of them becoming symptomatic and/or contracting Covid-19. I have asked for clarification on what progress, if any has been made by the Minister for Education in relation to students who have vacated private student accommodation and the arrangements in place in order for the Leaving Certificate to proceed
Clarity from the government is also essential for the people residing in direct provision centres, two of which are in Galway city, and also in relation to the additional emergency accommodation provided. While the announcement by the government of 650 extra beds is welcome, the absence of detail is worrying. For example, it is entirely unclear whether the existing and newly acquired accommodation provided allows residents to socially distance and/or self-isolate in compliance with government guidelines. Moreover, there is no evidence from the Minister for Justice and Equality or from government of any action plan or procedures setting out what is to happen in the event of any resident contracting Covid-19. I have also sought clarity in relation to what provision has been made to adequately accommodate people working in healthcare and essential services and whom reside in direct provision.
In relation to nursing homes, it was apparent from the outset that nursing home residents and those working in nursing homes were particularly vulnerable, and it is difficult to understand how they were not prioritised from the beginning. Indeed, in terms of what has been asked of the community in the context of Covid-19, much more has been asked of those over 70 than of any other group. In return it is incumbent on the government to give full and frank answers to the questions posed on these issues and others
Full and frank information from the government is all the more important now in circumstances where parliamentary accountability has been severely restricted and the government has been given extraordinary powers by the Dáil.