Children’s Hospital; Energy; Obesity and; Banking Inquiry

[Speaking during Order of Business in the Seanad]

Link to video:

In the context of news reports earlier today, will the Leader seek clarification from the Minister for Health and his Department on whether the discovery of a hitherto unsuspected complex and fairly ancient sewer system under the site for the proposed national children’s hospital could delay construction? As Senators are aware, conditions at the existing children’s hospitals in Dublin range from unacceptable to simply Dickensian. There has been an understandable tendency to defer any major refurbishment of units in those hospitals pending the development of the proposed and long-delayed national children’s hospital. I am somewhat alarmed because it appears that, despite a commitment to the contrary earlier in the year, the advancement of the next stage of the planning relating to the new facility has been delayed beyond the current budgetary year. I am seeking to ensure that this in not merely a budgetary strategy. In addition, I am of the view that the problem which has arisen is not insurmountable.

I support the calls for a debate on energy. As the Leader is aware, I have proposed that a public consultation forum on energy policy should be established. Such a forum would provide the right platform to allow us to invite large numbers of people to come before us to discuss food, water and energy, which are the three things that will determine our survival as a species during this century. If we get it wrong in respect of any one of them, then we will find ourselves in existential difficulty.

I echo what Senator Noone stated in respect of the obesity epidemic. I have just returned from a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, at which some tremendously interesting and also quite sobering data was presented. For example, it is estimated that all of the advances made in respect of the treatment of breast, colon and other cancers could be completely undermined by the number of new cases of cancer that will result from increasing obesity. Combating obesity makes incredible sense from both a health-humanistic point of view and also a health-economic one.

I urge all Senators to support the proposal that Senator Barrett should represent Seanad Éireann on the committee that will carry out the banking inquiry. One of the reasons for the establishment of this House was to bring into the Oireachtas non-professional, part-time politicians who have expertise in specific technical areas. I intend no disrespect to the full-time politicians who are also needed but there is something wrong if the most senior economist in the Seanad is not appointed to serve on the committee.

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