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Tánaiste sharply criticised opposition motion to pay student nurses

DUBLIN: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has sharply criticized the opposition’s motion to pay student nurses working in hospitals. The Tánaiste alleged that it was cheap politics to make the Government look bad. The Solidarity-People Before Profit motion was “non-binding and unfunded,” he said.

The government is likely to face severe criticism in the coming weeks for not paying student nurses. But Varadkar argued that under the existing law, they could only be paid a very small amount a week.

Mr. Varadkar said public pay is not voted on in the Dáil. He said student nurses should be paid in cases where they are acting up and filling in for a staff nurse. “If it had passed, it would not have been worth a single euro to a single student nurse. It was designed to make the Government look bad, the Opposition look good and do nothing for the student nurses. Public pay is not voted on in the Dáil, ever. Public pay is negotiated between the Government and trade unions and negotiations are now under way on the next pay deal,” Tánaiste said.

Mr. Varadkar said there was no dispute that those who worked should be paid. “This is an issue the Government is engaging on, and wants to continue engaging on and will speak to the INMO [Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation] and [trade union] Siptu about this,” he added.

Health Minister asked where the Opposition has been for so long

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was reviewing allowances for all student nurses. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the move was began in October and would be completed by December. The minister asked why it was so late to intervene in the matter.

“[We are] carrying a clear message to this parliament that the public want to make sure that our student nurses, who have stepped into the breach in the middle of the pandemic, put themselves and their families at risk, should be rewarded, and should not be expected to man our wards during this pandemic and be paid nothing for it,” Health Minister said.

Politically motivated

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said it was politically motivated not to pay student nurses. “Student nurses are plugging the gaps in a health system that is under severe pressure. Our student nurses do amazing work,” he said. “The message is simple – stop exploiting student nurses and midwives,” Mr. Doherty added.

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