By Luke O'Reilly, PA
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said opposition parties need to “stop playing politics” on climate change “while Europe burns”.
Speaking at St Vincent’s University Hospital on Wednesday, Mr Donnelly hit out at the opposition, in what appeared to be a reference to Sinn Féin calling on the Government to scrap an increase to the carbon tax.
Asked by the PA news agency if the Government had done any work to prepare hospitals for extreme weather events such as heatwaves, Mr Donnelly said: “Can I just say one of the characteristics of this Dáil is a Government that has brought in – by any yardstick – what is an incredibly ambitious climate change plan.
“We’ve never done anything like it. And yet, in opposition, they’re against climate change, but they’re also against the carbon tax.
“So the first thing I’d say is if we’re going to take climate change seriously, which we must, then the opposition need to stop playing politics with it and say, ‘Oh, yes, we’re for all of these climate measures, but not now, while Europe burns’.
“If not now, then when?
“So the first thing I’d say, the opposition needs to stop playing politics with climate change, step up, and support what are difficult decisions. This is not easy.”
Returning to the original question, Mr Donnelly said much of the HSE estate was old and energy inefficient.
“We’re working to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings, so we have some wonderful facilities like (St Vincent’s University Hospital), which are already a pretty good space.
“The reality, though, is if you look at the HSE estate across the country, a lot of it is old. A lot of it is not energy efficient.
“And so there’s a big piece of work going on and a lot of money required, first of all to reduce the carbon footprint around health care.”
Mr Donnelly said the Government also needed to look at “emergency plans” for if Ireland ends up dealing with the temperatures experienced this week in southern England.
“Secondly, yes, we do need to look at surge plans,” he said. “We need to look at emergency plans.
“We need to look at different models of care that might be required, if we end up in Ireland dealing with what they’re dealing with, not only in Spain and France, but now in England.
“You know it is getting much closer.”