By James Ward, PA
Health Minster Stephen Donnelly has been accused of “incompetence” during heated exchanges on the vaccine rollout in the Dáil.
Mr Donnelly was criticised for a lack of transparency by the Opposition after appearing to give conflicting figures for vaccine deliveries.
Responding to a question from Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane, the minister said the Government expects an average of one million vaccine doses a month to arrive in April, May and June.
Minister Donnelly said the figure may be “slightly less” in April.
He added: “I’m reluctant to give specific forecast figures that we all know are going to change … giving very specific amounts that we all know are going to change has caused a lot of anxiety.”
Mr Cullinane raised reports from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that the Taoiseach had said 860,000 doses would arrive in April.
He added: “You’re now saying it’s going to be a million and this is what confuses people. Then you’re saying ‘well, we can’t be 100 per cent accurate’.
“People need to know exactly what the figure is, or at least what the estimated figure is. If it changes, it changes. If it’s down to pharma companies, it’s down to pharma companies, but the people have a right to know.”
Labour leader Alan Kelly followed up on the vaccine figures, asking “What the hell is going on here?”
He said: “You say the one million doses for April may be slightly less than that coming forward. Slightly less than that is 140,000 vaccines, which would probably do the whole of my county of Limerick. It’s not just a minor reduction.”
Mr Kelly said he had been provided with the figures in a note from the Taoiseach but that Minister Donnelly would not provide them to the Dáil.
He added: “What the hell is going on here? You’re responsible to Dail Eireann and you’re responsible to the people of Ireland.
“You refuse to give out the estimated figures for vaccines for the next three months, which the whole country is dependent on. It’s not acceptable.
“This isn’t about having confidence in you, this is about incompetence.
“This is not fair, this is not right. The people of Ireland have been let down. This is incompetent.
“It goes beyond politics. You have to be accountable to this house and when you’re asked questions in relation to figures, you give them as you know them at this moment in time.
“I will not blame you if the figures change, we all know at this stage that the figures change.”
The Minister replied: “Thank you Deputy, you’ve asked some very important questions, and you’ve made some accusations, which obviously are your right to make.
“But you’ve left me 10 seconds to respond. I can respond to all of these and, in fact, Deputy I have here, I thought you might be looking for the figures.
“I brought in most detailed figures I can give you but you haven’t left me any time to give them to you.
“I brought the figures in to give you, but you haven’t left me any time to actually give them to you, so I will revert to you on that.”
Mr Donnelly did not provide the exact figures to the Dáil.