Nurses better off emigrating, says SF
Graduate nurses asked to accept 20 per cent less than the normal starting salary in Ireland would be better paid abroad, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil.
Ms McDonald said a claim by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that the initiative would stem the tide of emigration was farcical. In London, a graduate nurse would earn £33,000 (€38,900); farther afield, he or she would earn the equivalent of €40,000 and more.
“The Government is cynically engineering a situation where young highly qualified graduates will earn €22,000 a year,’’ she added.
“I need not say the contrast this makes with the Tánaiste’s pay packet and that of many others throughout the public service and Civil Service.”
Defending the initiative from strong Opposition criticism, Mr Gilmore said it was about creating jobs.
“That is our top priority,” he added. “It is about getting people into employment and gaining experience.”
He said the 35,000 nurses working currently in the system would be increased to 36,000.
“These are additional posts for graduate nurses . . . and, you know, at a time when there is so much unemployment, when there are so many young graduates who cannot get work at all, I think members of this House should be welcoming the creation of jobs rather than coming in here and complaining about it,” the Tánaiste added.
Mr Gilmore refused to be drawn on comments by Minister for Health James Reilly on the issue when challenged by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
Mr Martin said Dr Reilly had said that nurses and midwives unhappy with the initiative could emigrate or opt to work in fast-food outlets. This was a “let them eat cake” approach, Mr Martin added.
The Fianna Fáil leader said that the Government, “in a new farcical high”, had said it would be inappropriate to disclose the number of applicants for the posts while the competition was in progress. “The bottom line is that this is annoying people,” he added. “I put it to the Tánaiste, as a former Siptu official, that he knows this is not the route to go.”
Mr Martin said no new jobs were being created, given that 1,000 agency jobs would be lost as a result of the provision of the so-called new jobs.
The deal had been done without discussion with the unions and no alternative savings had been examined by the Government, Dr Reilly or the HSE, Mr Martin said.
“Nurses throughout the country view this initiative as a downgrading of their profession, which explains why so few have applied for the posts.
“We were told that up to last week only 30 applications had been received, hence the decision to extend the initiative to 2010 and 2011 graduates.”
Independent TD Mattie McGrath, on behalf of the Technical Group, said Mr Gilmore had displayed righteous indignation when in Opposition.
“Is this Labour’s way – to tell deliberate untruths and be mischievous about creating 1,000 new jobs? Nothing could be further from the truth. No new jobs are being created.”
Mr McGrath said the young graduates were part of the caring professions and Irish people did not want them to emigrate. “It would be worse than the Flight of Earls,” he added.
Mr Gilmore said the State’s biggest problem was unemployment, which had to be addressed on a number of levels.
“One of the ways of doing it is by the recruitment of 1,000 graduate nurses in our health service,” he added.
“It is about putting people into employment, nothing else. That is what is intended here.”