2,159 women have been forced to travel to access abortion services since the government was elected
Precedent set for government parties to hold different positions – in 1983 to introduce 8th Amendment – Labour Tanaiste voted against Fine Gael Taoiseach
Campaigners from AAA-PBP, the Abortion Rights Campaign, National Women’s Council, Coalition to Repeal the 8th, USI, People Before Profit-Pro Choice, ROSA, USI and Doctors for Choice gathered at the Dail today in support of the AAA-PBP Repeal Bill which is due to be debated tomorrow.
The campaigners highlighted that since the government came to power 2,159 have been forced to travel abroad to access abortion services or have ordered abortion pills online. This is based on 9.45 women per day travelling to the UK, 0.032 women a day in Dutch clinics, and 3 women a day using abortion pills.
They called on the Independent Alliance not to allow Fine Gael to block a vote on the AAA-PBP Bill through the use of a technical counter motion.
Ruth Coppinger TD said “In light of Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran’s interview on Sean O’Rourke this morning, it seems as if Fine Gael is still trying to put pressure on the Independent Alliance to vote against the AAA-PBP Bill.
“They should maintain their principles and vote for it like they did 18 months ago. There is precedence for two parties in government to hold different positions on issues. In fact, 33 years ago when the 8th Amendment was introduced to the Dail by a Fine Gael/Labour government, the Labour Party had a free vote on it. This saw the Labour Tanaiste vote against the Fine Gael Taoiseach.
“Neither should they let Simon Harris implement his plan to block the AAA-PBP motion using a technical motion on standing orders.
“Under Standing Order 148 the government can try to delay the Bill from proceeding through the Dail, or under subsection 2, before the Bill goes to a vote they can say that they’re not accepting it for a variety of reasons such as the existence of the Citizen’s Assembly, and refuse to vote on it. Women have waited 33 years already, they shouldn’t be forced to wait any longer.”
Brid Smith said: “Over 2000 women have been forced abroad or had to access abortion pills since this Government came into office. The Citizens’ Assembly will just mean more delays and more suffering for woman.
“This bill is a chance to right the wrongs that woman have suffered since the amendment was introduced in the 80s. It’s a chance to draw a line under the Ireland that forced woman abroad, that saw woman die and that refused to grant them bodily autonomy.
“Every opinion poll shows a majority in favour of repealing the 8th amendment. We can win a referendum.
“A new generation of woman have made it clear they will not accept the status quo. Ireland needs to change with them.”
In a statement today Brid Smith, People Before Profit TD, is calling on the Government to immediately re-instate all drugs that have been removed from the GMS Medical Card scheme since 2014
“The Government’s proposed reduction in the Autumn Budget of the threshold in the Medical Card is pointless while they are systematically removing the availability of key drugs from the Medical Card List.” according to Deputy Smith.
One example of a drug recently removed is Macushield which prevents the growth of brown spots within the eye, a consequence of Type 2 Diabetes which affects a huge cohort of pensioners.
The additional cost to an individual will amount to almost €1,000 per year for the patient with Type 2 Diabetes. This will be an enormous burden on a very vulnerable section of the population.
In 2008 when the Fianna Fail/Green Government attempted to remove the Medical Card from Pensioners, there was a national revolt of the Grey Voters against the move and the Government were forced to retreat following protests of tens of thousands of pensioners.
This Government and their predecessor are removing the value of the GMS Medical Card Scheme by stealth.
Deputy Brid Smith has stated: “This is an outrageous attack on those dependent on the Medical Card. We have to establish how many drugs are and have been removed and how many people will be affected by these moves.
“I have asked the Minister to clarify the number and names of drugs removed and the number of people who will be effected by this.
“In one case brought to my attention an individual pensioner will have to pay out €82 per month from their OAP allowance. This is unconscionable and must be stopped. I call upon the Minister Simon Harris to reinstate the drugs removed from the scheme.”
Drastic measures required due to short fall in funding and staffing levels
People Before Profit fully support the decision of the Psychiatric Nurses Association members to go on strike in reaction to chronically low staffing levels in hospital and community services. The members of the PNA have voted by a margin of 87% for strike action.
People Before Profit Industrial Relations spokesperson, Bríd Smith, said “the levels of staffing in psychiatric wards at both the hospital and community level are disastrously low. It is quite clear that the past government and the current government, have totally disregarded the importance of mental health services. What we in People Before Profit are saying is that the mental health budget should be doubled from 6% of the health budget to 12%. We are also calling for a massive increase in the field of mental health nursing.
“The PNA nurses are absolutely right to vote for strike action and further more I would call on all unions involved in the delivery of the health service to follow suit and ballot for strike action. A united front would pile real pressure on the government to implement the changes that are required for the health service and end the recruitment embargo.
“It is quite clear that the recruitment embargo needs to be stopped and new nurses should be employed immediately. We need to bring the numbers of mental health staff up to 12,000 immediately to deal with this situation. The embargo on recruitment has been disastrous for the health service in general and for mental health services in particular.
“Pay for nurses is also a massive factor that needs to be addressed if we are to stop nurses, newly qualified and current, from going to the UK. People Before Profit will be putting forward a motion in the Dail during Private Members Time to repeal the FEMPI legislation which has capped the pay of nurses and implemented a two-tier pay structure in the health service, and amongst all public servants. We need to recruit more nurses and pay them properly.”
Government failing to find sources of drugs which are far cheaper abroad
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has today lashed out at the government for failing to get tough with Pharmaceutical companies who are charging extortionate charges for vital drugs and denying sick and suffering people access to these drugs to protect super profits.
Deputy Boyd Barrett also said that the government failing to identify cheaper available alternatives. He cited a number of examples for other countries where the same drugs were bought for far cheaper than Ireland.
He also spoke about the ridiculous situation where Orkambi, a drug for treating Cystic Fibrosis, is being denied to patients by the National Centre for Pharmaeconomics because of cost reasons. It currently cost €160,000 per person for the drug. This is despite the fact that the drug has massive benefits for Cystic Fibrosis patients according to the same body, the NCPE.
Richard Boyd Barrett said “what we can see is that the government are completely subservient to these massive pharmaceutical companies. These companies are charging outrageous prices to people who are very vulnerable. These companies are parasitically profiteering from sick and vulnerable people. In the case of Orkambi, it is a disgrace that that these drugs have been rejected due to price.
“Our government is completely failing to identify cheaper alternative drugs. There are plenty of examples of how the exact same drugs are cheaper abroad. Harvoni, which is used to treat Hep C in Ireland cost €45,000 for 12 week course where as in Australia it is available at €1,000 for a 12 week course. Similarly, Paracetamol in Boots in the UK costs 35 cents for 12 tablets. In Ireland this can be 99 cents for 12 tablets in Boots or up to €1.55 for 12 tablets in Tesco.
“What we would like to see done is for the government to get tough with these pharmaceutical companies by punishing them through tax measures for charging outrageous prices for drugs or capping the price of drugs in this country unless they reduce the price.”
No change to disastrous policies of privatisation in key areas of social housing , health and vital infrastructure
- No change – No serious commitment on inequality, wealth distribution or women’s rights
In a statement today, Richard Boyd Barrett who spoke on behalf of AAA-BPB in the Dáil today, has said that the new programme for government shows ‘no sign of the much triumphed ‘new politics’, but instead is filled with the construction of the same failed policies of the last government.
Richard Boyd Barrett stated that it was particularly alarming that there was no change in the fundamental direction of policy in the areas of health and social housing and vital infrastructure. He said in these key areas, the new government intends to continue and accelerate the same policies of privatisation and reliance on the private sector that produced such disastrous crises in housing and in the public health service and vital infrastructure, such as water.
Richard Boyd Barrett has condemned the programme’s failure to honour the clear democratic mandate of the Dáil to immediately abolish water charges and the failure to clearly commit to a referendum on Repealing the 8th amendment.
Richard Boyd Barrett said, “For all the rhetoric about new politics that we have heard over recent weeks, and there is more of it to be found in this programme for government, we have instead a continuation and in many cases acceleration of the same policies of privatisation and reliance on the private sector that have already produced such disastrous crises, in housing, our public health system and crises of vital infrastructure, such as water services”.
In a wide range of areas where there are acute crises, the government has fudged and kicked the can down the road to committees, commissions and reviews.
In all these areas, particularly social housing, health, water, infrastructure, womens rights and poverty, we don’t need talk and we certainly do not need more privatisation. What we do need is a major increase in direct public investment in all these areas – there is simply no change- just half measures and worse, misguided measures.
The failure of this government to simply honour its mandate on water charges and abolish them is outrageous.
The failure of the programme to commit to a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment is an utter scandal and insult to women and families affected by fatal foetal abnormalities.
Given the dramatic increase in child poverty, poverty generally and inequality in our society, it is a travesty that there is no over-arching commitment to greater social equality or the redistribution of wealth in a fair way in this country”.
Keep religion out of our hospitals
People Before Profit to call on Minister Varadkar to intervene in National Maternity Hospital dispute
People Before Profit spokesperson, Brid Smith TD, has said that allegations that the religious order, the Sisters of Charity, that runs St. Vincent’s Hospital, could seriously restrict reproductive health services such as contraceptive services, IVF, sterilization operations and gender reassignment surgery, are very concerning and should be investigated by the Department of Health.
Deputy Smith has called for the Minister for Health to make a statement on the matter.
The issue arises due to the proposed move of the National Maternity Hospital to St. Vincent’s which operates on a Catholic ethos.
Deputy Smith said “I am very concerned by the allegations that modern medical procedures may be restricted in St. Vincent’s hospitals on Catholic, faith based grounds. For anyone to reject access to modern medical procedures, which are freely available around the world, is a disgrace and morally wrong.
“Access to medical care and procedures should not be a matter that the religious beliefs of the members of hospital boards play any role in. These hospitals are publicly funded and if these services were to be denied to people it would be a national scandal.
“If the allegations prove to be accurate, then, once again we can see the Catholic Church having an interfering effect on matters of state.
“The situation regarding the 8th Amendment, for example, is an ongoing disgrace in this country. We should not be allowing the Catholic Church to decide what medical procedures the people of this state are allowed to avail of. All of these procedures impact directly on the ability of women to have autonomy over their bodies. In nearly all other countries in the developed world abortion is a standard procedure. And yet Ireland remains in the Dark Ages.
“These allegations, if proven, demonstrate the need to get religious prejudice out of the management of our hospitals. Women should be able to access all medical procedures in any hospital in the State. We could be looking at another Savita case in the future if this is not taken seriously and stopped.
“Minister Varadkar should investigate if these allegations are the case, provide evidence that the procedures are available and make a statement on the matter.”
People Before Profit to Host Public meeting with Oasis, Wednesday 10th at 8pm, Mounttown Community Facility
The Oasis outreach service workers walk the greater Monkstown Farm area late at night talking to groups of young people about drugs and other important issues, they link them in with other local services and regularly host workshops and day trips for local teenagers.
In a statement Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “It is totally scandalous that this outreach project, that has been operating in the area since 1996 should just be scrapped because of some arbitrary decisions by people who have no local knowledge and clearly no care for teenagers with drug addiction needs. This comes on top of a 60% slash of the funding for DROP who work with adults and teens in Dun Laoghaire town.”
There was no public consultation with the community or with those engaging with the service before the HSE decided to axe this invaluable project. Any new project couldn’t possibly replace the years of local knowledge and expertise that the Oasis Outreach workers brought to the job. The HSE created arbitrary criteria and along with Southside Partnership, they tested Oasis to see whether it met their new requirements. They decided it didn’t and wiped it out altogether with no plan for a replacement service.
We are asking people to get organised and challenge this cut and come to the meeting in Mounttown Community Facility at 8pm on Wednesday the 10th“.
Richard Boyd Barrett will be calling for alternatives to medication and coercion in mental health
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett will be speaking at 6.30pm at a sold-out debate this evening as part of the annual First Fortnight arts and mental health festival, where political parties will be asked to state their plans for mental health, if elected. The evening will be chaired by broadcaster and historian John Bowman.
The debate will take place at the Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civic Offices.
People Before Profit’s Mental Health Policy calls for alternatives to medication and coercion in mental health.
Richard Boyd Barrett said, “It is essential that policy on mental health has an integrated approach and eradicating homelessness, poverty and reversing cuts in health and education will be vital to improve the lives of people with mental health problems.
It is also time to look at alternatives to medication and coercion and look at strategies that involve people in decisions about their own health and well-being ”.