Statement by An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D. in response to INO's motion of no confidence

5 May 2006

'It's a pity. Debates like these don't really contribute to solutions for patients. And they don't diminish my determination one iota to achieve the world class health service that Ireland deserves.

'Notwithstanding this vote by one nurses union, I have to say that all nurses retain my confidence. Without their skills and commitment it is not possible to run the health service.

'I am fully committed to supporting their profession, by improving their conditions and by making changes that further recognise their professional competence.

'The tax payers of this country are currently paying €13 billion towards health. That figure may well rise to €20 billion in six years time.

'We have to strike the right balance between funding new services for patients and increasing pay for existing staff. Patients should come first in that balance. That is why I believe the claim by the INO is not appropriate or affordable.

'I agree nurses should be well rewarded for their work, and they have already made major strides in that regard, but there's more to work than just pay.

'The nurses pay demand, which has a price tag of €1.5 billion, when knock on effects are taken into account, should be dealt with in benchmarking and partnership talks.'

'However additional pay alone for nurses will not lead to any improvement in existing services for patients.'

'I want nurses to be part of a properly functioning health service that satisfies both patients and staff.

'To get that kind of outcome we're going to have to come together and co-operate in a commitment to change and reform.'