Ireland’s hospitals would have to ‘shut down’ without international workers, says Minister

TDs defend role of workers from other countries in wake of anti-immigrant riot in Dublin last week

Ireland’s hospitals would have to “shut down” and the health service would “collapse” were it not for workers from other countries, the Oireachtas health committee has heard.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly praised the work of healthcare workers who responded to the stabbing of three children and their carer in Dublin last Thursday, as well as caring for people injured in the subsequent anti-immigration protests and riots.

He said he spoke to international workers in the Mater and Temple Street hospitals and they were “shook” by Thursday’s events and were worried leaving the hospitals that night.

Mr Donnelly said: “I know several of them were harassed on their way home” and he said gardaí “responded superbly” to several hospitals where there were concerns.


He pointed out that there are people of 65 nationalities working at Temple Street Children’s Hospital alone and Ireland’s international healthcare workers are “hugely valued for everything they do on all of our behalf every single day . . . Long may they stay here in Ireland and long may they continue coming to Ireland.”

Mr Donnelly said: “If those on the streets chanting those racist slogans about people going home to other countries, if that were to actually come true we would have to shut down every single hospital in the country.

“These very same people shouting these racist slogans, whenever they need hospital care as inevitably we all do, or children do, or our parents do . . . they will be cared for by fantastic international healthcare workers.”

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane echoed Mr Donnelly’s comments saying he has visited 18 hospitals over the last year and a half.

He said there has been feedback in relation to “burnout” after the pandemic and amid ongoing pressure in emergency departments.

“But I’m also taken by the very talented people from a multiple of different countries working in the health services,” he said.

“And not only are they welcome in my view but very welcome and they’re needed. And if they were not there our health services would collapse.”

Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall said migrant workers are keeping Ireland’s healthcare services going as well as other services such as public transport.

She thanked them and said it also “does raise the question that the Government needs to be much stronger and indeed the Garda authorities need to be much stronger in tackling the threats to migrant workers in this country and the emergence and growth of right-wing politics . . . and need to get to grips with that failure last week to do that”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times