Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that the Minister should be held responsible for not opening particular letters or envelopes in Tallaght hospital. It is nonsensical to suggest it and to the extent that it has been suggested I do not agree with it. However, there is a real issue for political representatives.
Because of all the changes that have occurred and the arrival of the HSE on the scene – many on the Government side have made this point – politicians and political representatives generally have been deprived of an opportunity to raise any serious issue or have serious debate, such as that which has been called for in the Seanad or in the Dáil. The Dáil is a Chamber to which the Government is accountable and responsible under the Constitution although it is not as directly responsible to this Chamber. However not even Deputies can get answers on these issues because Ministers habitually refuse to answer them, often because they are a matter for the HSE. However, when one approaches the HSE there is no serious procedure, basis or opportunity for public representatives to raise these issues and have them debated.
I do not blame people for mistakenly thinking that every issue must be laid directly at the feet of the Minister for Health and Children because the system has been changed in such a way as to render it impossible to get any answers other than calling for the Minister to come to the House. If the Leader of the Seanad has an alternative to propose to us on how we can have a serious and adult debate on this issue I would like to hear it. Otherwise, there is no alternative to people coming here day after day to call for the Minister for Health and Children to answer questions on issues which, in a normal democracy, she would not have to address in the same detail.
It was a complete spectacle to have the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, state that something should be done about Tallaght Hospital. Is there a democracy in the world in which a Minister of State would state that something should be done? We are told that health spending is one of the biggest areas of public expenditure over which the Government and the Oireachtas presides. It beggars belief that there is not a serious basis upon which issues such as what went wrong at Tallaght hospital can be properly debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas.