Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle Says Universal Sick Pay Will Do More To Stop Covid Than Enhanced Garda Powers

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said gardaí already have sufficient powers to police issues related to lockdown, and said he would not support the Government proposal to give them more.

He said the most effective step the Government could take to stop the spread of coronavirus would be to introduce universal sick pay.

Addressing the Dáil on the Health (Amendment) Bill 2020, Deputy Pringle said: “The whole intent of this legislation appears to be to place the blame on householders.” However, he said, current problems stem from the Government’s decision to open businesses and lift other restrictions in the summer, earlier than had been expected.

“I think the biggest thing you could do to defeat this virus is to introduce universal sick pay,” he said, adding that the virus has been prevalent among people who are low paid and neglected through their workforce.

“If you were serious about defeating this virus, what you would actually do would be to bring in universal sick pay,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “Recently, you have been blaming the public for the resurgence of Covid, and while people definitely must take personal responsibility, you have to take responsibility too, Minister – for the mixed messages, the bad communications and the consistent undermining each other from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“Your behaviour has shown the Irish public that we are certainly not ‘all in this together’.”

Deputy Pringle said: “We are over seven months into this pandemic and experiencing the expected ‘second wave’. Back in March, we did feel like we were all in this together and communities pulled together.

“Then the great coalition happened, and things started to fall apart. The scandals, the ‘Fianna-Fáilness’ of your behaviour, GolfGate, Phil Hogan’s whistle-stop tour around Ireland instead of quarantining, the rotating agriculture ministers – never mind rotating Taoiseachs – grated on the public’s patience and nerves, and rightly so.”

He said Liam Herrick, the executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said they highlighted many areas in March where the legislation needed to be improved from a human rights perspective, but those improvements weren’t made and that debate hasn’t happened.

Deputy Pringle said: “The Irish public have been rightly skeptical about the Government’s focus on house parties and personal responsibility while ignoring the grave problems in meat-processing plants and direct provision centres.

“It is also noted that certain legislation can be rushed through the Houses, but not when they relate to workers’ rights, such as statutory entitlement to sick pay. People keep being told to work from home, but what if they can’t?”