Dail Speeches Simon Harris

These are Simon Harris speeches to the Dail. Where possible I will include both Video and transcript of speech.

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19/07/2016

Health Minister Simon Harris agrees to the motion put forward by Sinn Fein on the Domiciliary Care Allowance medical cards etc.

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14/07/2016

Minister for health Simon Harris answering questions from around the house and parties on matters under the remit of the department of Health.

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30/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris outlines the reasons the Government is using to kick the Fatal Foetal Abnormality Abortion can down the road. Clare Dalys speech is moving and you can see that Harris knows the Government stance is just plain wrong.

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23/06/2016

Simon Harris as Minister for Health answering questions on Nursing homes on border and the provision of cancer treatment.

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21/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris giving his priorities and “the first hundred days” for the Health Services to the Seanad.

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16/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris gives his closing statement on the Revised Health Service Estimates.

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16/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris opening speech on the motion regarding the revised estimates for the Department of Health.

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02/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris answering questions on the admittance waiting lists and time frames

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02/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris answering questions on the acute problems in Emergency Departments

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02/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris answering Dail Question on the excessive waiting times in the Health Service

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02/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD answering questions on the low staffing levels of front line health professionals.

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02/06/2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris responding to a question on the provision of Ambulance services

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06/05/2016

Simon Harris giving the opening Fine Gael statement on the morning of the vote for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach

Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

All of us must thank the Irish people for their patience and forbearance in what has been a very difficult period since the general election, as all of us in the House in all parties grapple to come to terms with the new political reality. We have been presented by the Irish people with a very diverse political position and I acknowledge the efforts by many in this House to try to ensure the outcome can produce a Government and bring us to this point today.

Today I truly hope we will see the creation of a partnership Government.

This will be a Government that sets out a vision of a strong economy, but a strong economy that will help to deliver a fair society, with each – the strong economy and the fair society – dependent on the other to succeed. The success or failure of any new partnership Government will be measured not just in terms of percentage points of economic growth, bond yields or bond yield changes but rather by the quality of people’s lives and the opportunities for a fair society for all our citizens. A fair community leans on a strong economy and, as we set about trying to put together a new Government, we are determined to build that competitive and adaptable economy right across the country, centred on the aim of decent work for everyone. This is at the heart of the development of the core ambition for a new Government. We now need to use our economic success to make the lives of all our people a little bit easier. The Government, though, will not achieve this ambition working alone. This is a partnership Government and it will not just be for those in government or for those in the Oireachtas to achieve it; we will also need to create the scope to empower communities and citizens so that we can all truly work together to achieve these aims. Ireland has changed and our citizens, rightly, have higher expectations. Politics must now respond to those expectations openly and quickly. It must offer people more choice and diversity and help them to be better able to manage threats in their lives. Our aim in 2016 must be to build a nation that values all our citizens. The deep economic recession and crisis this country faced has meant there have been many lost years and, indeed, many damaged lives from those difficult years. Those gaps cannot be instantly bridged; there will be bumpy periods ahead. There are potential shocks to our small, open economy. We must be prepared for these and, as we handle these difficulties, we must ensure that we put in place a Government that is able to respond to that. I truly hope Deputy Rock, on his fourth attempt, will manage that today. I joked with him that when I nominated the Taoiseach in 2011 it only took one go, but I am sure he will have persuaded us today.

As we form a new Government and as we develop a new programme for Government, the mandate for that Government must be based on three overarching elements: we must create a country that is a great place to rear our children; we must help all our people to fulfil their potential through the early years and through our education system; and we must ensure that work gives decent reward. We must create a great place to work and do business in this country, helping all our people find homes for their families and the supports that give their children a good start in life, in safe and sustainable communities. We must ensure that we create a great country in which to grow old, giving all our people confidence that they can get care when they need it and the chance to remain independent and secure in advancing years. We must be determined that this approach will take root in all our communities, both urban and rural.

One of the weaknesses exposed in the Irish governance system is that it is all too often focused on the short term and does not easily accommodate long-term thinking. There will be an onus on the Government and on all of us in this House to work to build action plans and to get the input of all Members – nobody has a monopoly on wisdom – to develop long-term action plans to address the challenges we face. There are policy challenges where long-term planning and thinking – and a degree of political consensus, I would argue – are vital to executing a timely plan. Such challenges include climate change and long-term funding models for pensions, higher education and health. We need to ask this Dáil to work with the next Government to develop longer-term thinking in those important areas.

A new partnership Government will be, it is fair to say, unlike any other established in this country since the foundation of the State. This will be a Government that comprises great diversity, but the diversity in the Thirty-second Dáil need not result in division. Diversity is not the same as division, because I believe those of us in government and, indeed, those of us in this House, are united in our common cause to make life better for every person in every part of this country. We will argue over the modality of how best to do it, but much more will unite us than will divide us. This is the shared ambition that will burn strongly through the newly published programme for Government.

It is worth acknowledging the process we went through in order to reach a point at which we could endeavour to put a Government in place. There are have been formal processes of meetings and agreements since 24 March. There have been many hours and, indeed, days and weeks of formal discussions, informal conversations and sharing of priorities and perspectives. I truly hope those discussions will result in a Government that can address the challenges that this country continues to face.

The period of waiting must end for the Irish people. We thank the Irish people for their patience. However, the challenges ahead are building up. The opportunities for this country are great and many, and a new Government working with a new Dáil in a new manner can ensure that we collectively work in the interests of all our people.

 

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05/05/2016

Simon Harris standing in for the minister to give the closing statement on the crime debate in the Dáil

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28/04/2016

Simon Harris standing in for the minister with the closing statement on the Refugee Crisis Debate in the Dail

Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

On behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Government, I thank Deputies from all sides of this House for the wide range of contributions that have been made throughout this debate. The level of engagement from all sides recognises that this is an issue on which there is cross-party concern and one, I hope, on which we can generate cross-party consensus in terms of how this country, the EU and the international community must respond to the humanitarian refugee crisis. That is what it is: a humanitarian crisis. I agree with those who call it that.

I echo the point made by many that we are well-served by the fact that this House, traditionally and right through to this Thirty-second Dáil, has always been one which has agreed and responded positively to requests for solidarity and action in assisting refugees seeking protection within the EU. I was struck by the number of my constituents contacting my office by telephone and e-mail asking that more be done, that this country must do more and that they want Ireland to play its part in supporting refugees in their relocation efforts. That is a message we have all received in this House. It is one that we have to hear very clearly. Our citizens want Ireland to be to the fore in pushing for solutions to this humanitarian crisis.

I was moved by Deputy Brady’s reference to the poem Home by Warsan Shire which I just looked up. I think it puts words to the very serious humanitarian crisis which can be all too often dehumanised in the media and in politics. These are real people. Nobody puts their child on a boat or into an awful situation should they not feel the absolute necessity to do so for the safety and well-being of their family.

In response to Deputy McGrath’s point, I too am very proud, as I presume all Members of this House are and as many have expressed, of the role being played by the Irish Navy. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, confirmed earlier today in this House that the Navy will continue to make that effort and that there will be a further deployment this Sunday regarding members of the Naval Service. Their continued assistance and involvement is something we all welcome.

I refer to the point made by Deputy McGrath and others about the importance of Ireland in helping the resettlement and relocation of the 4,000 people that we have committed to. That commitment still stands from this Government and this State. The difficulties of the low numbers to date arise from external issues. The target of 4,000 people is still very much the commitment of the State. It is a number that could increase when family unification is taken on board.

Ireland continues, and will continue, to play its part at an EU level to implement agreed solutions to this refugee crisis. We will continue to ensure that all measures taken are in full respect of human dignity and in line with our EU and international obligations. At home, we must ensure that Ireland remains a welcoming and inclusive society for those in need of our protection. This House has a role to play in fostering public debate which supports the humane and respectful treatment of asylum seekers and persons fleeing war and persecution. That has always been our tradition here. Our response to persons seeking protection does not end once they reach our shores, however. Persons arriving under the relocation and resettlement programmes are being given all necessary support to assist them and their families in their integration into Irish society, including the schooling of children, language classes for adults, full health checks, emergency welfare payments, full board and accommodation. Some of those arriving have experienced significant trauma and they are receiving all appropriate supports.

It is clear, however, that our asylum system is in need of reform. That is a point that has been raised throughout this debate. This Government has introduced reforming legislation. Last December, the House debated and passed the International Protection Bill. The International Protection Act will reform the system for examining and determining applications for international protection in Ireland through the introduction of a single application procedure. Under the single procedure, an applicant will make only one application and will have all grounds to seek international protection and to be permitted to remain in the State while being examined and determined in one process. This single procedure will replace the current multi-layered and sequential protection application and appeal system and is intended to achieve the desired balance in treating asylum seekers with the humanity and respect they deserve, whilst also ensuring that we have a more efficient asylum and immigration procedure and safeguards in place.

Many of the Deputies raised the issue of direct provision. The report of the working group which was published by Government last June made a total of 173 recommendations. Many of these have implications for a number of Government Departments and services. The Department of Justice and Equality recently completed a consultation exercise on the status of the recommendations across all the responsible divisions, Departments and agencies. The exercise has shown that 90 of the recommendations have been fully implemented and a further 26 are in the process of being implemented. Some 116 recommendations have been progressed since the report’s publication in June 2014 and a further 46 recommendations are the subject of ongoing consideration by the Cabinet committee on social policy. This represents yet another need to form a Government so that we can progress these further.

I believe it is important that we continue to pursue this issue and that we do not simply have a one-off debate. This is something that is going to require work from all Members of the Thirty-second Dáil and I hope it is something on which we can continue to build political consensus.On behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Government, I thank Deputies from all sides of this House for the wide range of contributions that have been made throughout this debate. The level of engagement from all sides recognises that this is an issue on which there is cross-party concern and one, I hope, on which we can generate cross-party consensus in terms of how this country, the EU and the international community must respond to the humanitarian refugee crisis. That is what it is: a humanitarian crisis. I agree with those who call it that.

I echo the point made by many that we are well-served by the fact that this House, traditionally and right through to this Thirty-second Dáil, has always been one which has agreed and responded positively to requests for solidarity and action in assisting refugees seeking protection within the EU. I was struck by the number of my constituents contacting my office by telephone and e-mail asking that more be done, that this country must do more and that they want Ireland to play its part in supporting refugees in their relocation efforts. That is a message we have all received in this House. It is one that we have to hear very clearly. Our citizens want Ireland to be to the fore in pushing for solutions to this humanitarian crisis.

I was moved by Deputy Brady’s reference to the poem Home by Warsan Shire which I just looked up. I think it puts words to the very serious humanitarian crisis which can be all too often dehumanised in the media and in politics. These are real people. Nobody puts their child on a boat or into an awful situation should they not feel the absolute necessity to do so for the safety and well-being of their family.

In response to Deputy McGrath’s point, I too am very proud, as I presume all Members of this House are and as many have expressed, of the role being played by the Irish Navy. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, confirmed earlier today in this House that the Navy will continue to make that effort and that there will be a further deployment this Sunday regarding members of the Naval Service. Their continued assistance and involvement is something we all welcome.

I refer to the point made by Deputy McGrath and others about the importance of Ireland in helping the resettlement and relocation of the 4,000 people that we have committed to. That commitment still stands from this Government and this State. The difficulties of the low numbers to date arise from external issues. The target of 4,000 people is still very much the commitment of the State. It is a number that could increase when family unification is taken on board.

Ireland continues, and will continue, to play its part at an EU level to implement agreed solutions to this refugee crisis. We will continue to ensure that all measures taken are in full respect of human dignity and in line with our EU and international obligations. At home, we must ensure that Ireland remains a welcoming and inclusive society for those in need of our protection. This House has a role to play in fostering public debate which supports the humane and respectful treatment of asylum seekers and persons fleeing war and persecution. That has always been our tradition here. Our response to persons seeking protection does not end once they reach our shores, however. Persons arriving under the relocation and resettlement programmes are being given all necessary support to assist them and their families in their integration into Irish society, including the schooling of children, language classes for adults, full health checks, emergency welfare payments, full board and accommodation. Some of those arriving have experienced significant trauma and they are receiving all appropriate supports.

It is clear, however, that our asylum system is in need of reform. That is a point that has been raised throughout this debate. This Government has introduced reforming legislation. Last December, the House debated and passed the International Protection Bill. The International Protection Act will reform the system for examining and determining applications for international protection in Ireland through the introduction of a single application procedure. Under the single procedure, an applicant will make only one application and will have all grounds to seek international protection and to be permitted to remain in the State while being examined and determined in one process. This single procedure will replace the current multi-layered and sequential protection application and appeal system and is intended to achieve the desired balance in treating asylum seekers with the humanity and respect they deserve, whilst also ensuring that we have a more efficient asylum and immigration procedure and safeguards in place.

Many of the Deputies raised the issue of direct provision. The report of the working group which was published by Government last June made a total of 173 recommendations. Many of these have implications for a number of Government Departments and services. The Department of Justice and Equality recently completed a consultation exercise on the status of the recommendations across all the responsible divisions, Departments and agencies. The exercise has shown that 90 of the recommendations have been fully implemented and a further 26 are in the process of being implemented. Some 116 recommendations have been progressed since the report’s publication in June 2014 and a further 46 recommendations are the subject of ongoing consideration by the Cabinet committee on social policy. This represents yet another need to form a Government so that we can progress these further.

I believe it is important that we continue to pursue this issue and that we do not simply have a one-off debate. This is something that is going to require work from all Members of the Thirty-second Dáil and I hope it is something on which we can continue to build political consensus.

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27/04/2016

Simon Harris speaking for the Minister of Finance at the end of the debate on the EU Stability Report.

Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

I am pleased to have an opportunity to discuss the stability programme update. I thank Deputies from all sides who contributed to the debate.

I would like first to address Deputy Mary Lou McDonald’s concern in regard to a point made by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton. I will attempt to reiterate the point he was making, which is an important one, namely, that nobody in this House has a monopoly of concern for the well-being of the Irish people. There is much talk about new politics. The best way to approach new politics would be for each of us to accept each other’s bona fides. Everybody in this House wants to see our housing crisis tackled, people to have jobs, mortgage arrears to be tackled and the benefits of economic recovery shared. We will debate vociferously and rigorously in terms of how best to do that, which is the point the Minister, Deputy Bruton, was making. It is a point we should all accept as we embark on the Thirty-second Dáil.

It is important to acknowledge and accept what this stability programme update is and is not. It is a technical document which we are legally required to submit to Europe. When we were a programme country we were not required to submit it so the fact that we are submitting it is a sign of the economic progress that Ireland is making. This document is not a budget or a spring economic statement, which are matters for the incoming Government. I echo the comments of the Tánaiste and others that the incoming Government will be put in place shortly so that we can put in place the policy measures that Deputies have rightly referred to as policy measures one would expect to see in a spring economic statement and a budget. Policy matters and we need to get into the meat of those discussions.

The data provided in this stability programme update show the great economic progress that has been made. There is a recognition from all sides that such progress has been made. The challenge for the incoming Government and the Thirty-Second Dáil is to make that recovery felt in every home and community in every part of the country. The message which I picked up on the doorsteps during the general election campaign, which message I am sure other Members also picked up, is that people realise there is an economic recovery but they need to feel it in their lives. That is our collective challenge, and a particular challenge for the incoming Government.

My colleagues, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, spoke earlier about the statistics in this document. They are not the Government’s statistics, they are the facts. This is not how we tell our story to the world, as some asserted, this is the truth. These are the economic positions in which our country finds itself. The statistics provided are endorsed by the independent Fiscal Advisory Council. It is important to reiterate a point made by other Deputies, namely, economic recovery has not come about without significant sacrifice and pain on the part of the Irish people. Economic recovery was not easy. It hurt people and caused people pain. People had to make sacrifices. We do not need to be patted on the head by various economic institutions or European authorities and told we are great boys and girls. It was painful. The challenge now is to ensure the hard won fruits of the structural reforms of the outgoing Government, supported by the Irish people, are felt by every family.

It is important to also acknowledge that the recovery has been job-rich. This is beginning to make a real impact on people’s lives. We ensure economic recovery is felt by everybody through employment.

We have seen an additional 140,000 people in work in Ireland since the launch of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs initiative in early 2012. I hope the incoming Government will continue that mechanism of an action plan for jobs. In response to Deputy Dara Calleary’s points, I hope the incoming Government will acknowledge the need to spread it to all parts of the country through the new regional Action Plan for Jobs.

I take the point Deputy Peadar Tóibín made about corporation tax. I know that this is an issue he has raised and accept his bona fides on it. In a letter to the Minister for Finance published on the Department of Finance’s website we have seen the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners acknowledge that it is not seen as cyclical but as sustainable. However, the Deputy is right. This House and any new committee need to monitor the position carefully.

This will be a real test of new politics. “New politics” cannot just be buzzwords. It is going to move to choices and a new budget committee. It is going to involve Deputies debating how we want to spend the limited extra resources available to us. That is not what the SPU is about. It is about the facts. The next phase of the debate is about policy. That is a debate I hope we can get to very quickly.

The final point I wish to make is that we are not balancing the books for the sake of it. Balancing the books is not something one does for the fun of it or to have a bit of craic. One balances the books to have resources in case there are external shocks such as Brexit or anything else in order to continue to provide services such as the State pension, for the minimum wage and the extra investment in services that we need. Balancing the books and being concerned about debt-to-GDP ratios are not issues that should be dismissed as something about which the Government and civil servants care. They matter to working class people, as Deputy Mary Lou McDonald likes to put it, and the people she wishes to represent.

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Simon Harris responding as minister of state in the department of finance to the many speakers contributions regarding the horrendous cost of insurance.

20/04/2016

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
I am pleased to be in the House. It is a great honour to be a Member of the Thirty-second Dáil and to have heard the contributions of many new and returning Members on all sides of the House. I hope this Dáil lasts for some period of time. It is a surreal experience to see everyone talking as though everything is normal when we are in a situation that is anything but normal. I share the views expressed during the debate by Deputies on all sides of the House to the effect that this period of political impasse can end in order that we can get on with tackling the many issues Deputies have raised about this important sector, the insurance industry and cost of the insurance industry. I wish you all the very best in your role as well, a Cheann Comhairle.

The insurance sector makes a vital contribution to the economy through employment, attracting global capital and, most important, through serving the needs of our consumers. Insurers play a key role in providing the stable long-term investment needed to drive sustainable economic growth. I look forward to seeing this sector continuing to grow and provide more employment. We are working closely with the sector through the IFS 2020 strategy in terms of attracting more foreign direct investment in this sector to our country, especially into regions throughout the country.

The discussion today has been about the cost and availability of insurance for people and businesses. The cost of insurance affects businesses in terms of their ability to price competitively, employ more people and innovate. Community and voluntary groups are affected in their ability to provide services and events that enhance community life. Motorists, householders and families are affected by the cost of motoring. The issue of flood insurance, an issue I am familiar with, has come to the fore again in 2015 and I will comment on that in a moment.

The Minister for Finance pointed out in his opening statement that the Department of Finance is close to completing its work on the review of the motor insurance compensation. It is carrying out this review jointly with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It should be remembered that this is a complex issue in respect of which it is important that any changes made do not result in unintended consequences for policyholders, the Exchequer or the industry. Taking this into account, the review, which started in January of this year, is being completed as quickly as possible, but it is also being done in a thorough manner. When it is completed in the coming weeks, the Department will continue its work in respect of the overall review of policy in the insurance sector. The cost of insurance will be an issue of particular focus. I believe we all agree that it is important for this review to have a successful outcome. In other words, we wish to see the cost of insurance reducing as a result. That is a shared objective of all Members. However, this is not straightforward. Insurance premiums cannot be directly influenced and the Government cannot interfere in how insurance companies price their insurance products. Moreover, insurance premiums have a renewal cycle, so whatever improvements can be generated will only be seen by individuals over time.

The Solvency II directive came into effect on 1 January 2016. It represents a substantial overhaul of the risk evaluations in European insurance regulation. It sets out new stronger EU-wide requirements on capital adequacy and risk management for insurers with the key aim of increasing policyholder protection, something that is important to achieve. It is expected that this new regime should reduce the possibility of consumer loss or market disruption in insurance. Solvency rules have a consistent application across the European Union.

I wish to focus on the issue of flood insurance because it is an issue that has particular relevance to me in my current role as Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works. The State is going to invest €430 million in putting in place capital flood defences in the coming five years. This means the country is going to spend more on flood relief projects in the coming five years than we have spent in the past 20 years. If taxpayers are to do that and fork out significant funds to put in place robust flood defences, clearly it is not acceptable that at the end of that process there are still people in towns and villages in Ireland who cannot access flood insurance. If we accept that as the starting point, the question is how we tackle the issues.

The Taoiseach had the chief executives of a number of insurance companies in and we had a good robust discussion with them. The Department of Finance is carrying out a review of best international practice and what other countries do. The relevant group is due to report to the Government in June and whoever is in government in June will have policy options.

People have spoken about the United Kingdom flood relief system. I am very interested in looking at it, but that system has only been in place for 16 days. It came into effect on 4 April this year in the United Kingdom. Let us see how that beds down. It does not include small businesses; it only includes householders. We have an open mind. I heard Deputy Troy refer to the Fianna Fáil Bill. No side of the House has a monopoly of wisdom on this. We have an open mind but we must ensure we do not have unintended consequences. We have no wish to put up the cost of insurance for a large number of insurance holders to ensure a small number can get it. We have to get this balance right and that will be the challenge.

Deputy McGuinness raised several cases. If he wishes to pass on those details, I will bring them to the attention of the relevant Ministers.

We have a great deal to do. On the issue of insurance as a whole, the Minister mentioned the lack of insurance data and statistics. This is an important point. The lack of data presents difficulties from a policy analysis and development perspective. It is important that data are gathered in a comprehensive format and presented in a standard format. As mentioned earlier, the Government is supportive of the industry trying to make progress on this point. We are speaking in terms of specific measures, targets and results. This means that whatever recommendations arise from the various reviews in the Department of Finance, we are going to need a whole-of-government approach and the collective wisdom of this House. Once we get beyond this political impasse I believe we can take many of the ideas that were garnered here this afternoon and make progress on them in the coming months.