SIPTU representatives have written to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, today (Wednesday, 15th March), seeking action by him to address the disparity in payments to public healthcare workers who are victims of serious physical assault in the workplace.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “SIPTU representatives highlighted the disparity in payments to healthcare workers who are victims of serious physical assault at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in February.
“We highlighted the fact that under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme, healthcare support workers are only eligible to receive payments for three months while other grades may receive payments for up to a year, even if they are assaulted in the same incident. SIPTU representatives also provided statistical data that demonstrates that support workers suffer the second highest level of assaults in healthcare workplaces, after nursing staff.
“Our union had to seek the intervention of the Minister for Health on this matter. This follows our lodging of a claim to have equality for support workers under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme in late 2021. While the HSE noted the merits of the claim, we were advised that it would need the sanction of the Department of Health to address our concerns. The matter has remained with the Department of Health since then with no sign of resolution or progress. As such, we have decided to call for action directly from the Minister for Health.”
He added: “There is no justification for support workers being treated any less favourably than their healthcare colleagues when they are dealing with the fallout of an assault in their workplace. We expect the Minister to now take action to resolve this completely unacceptable situation.”
We write to you with an important update regarding the Valuing Care Valuing Community Campaign.
The story so far:
Members will be aware of the history regarding the campaign for pay justice in the Section 39, Community and Voluntary sectors.
Most recently, in July of last year workers in a number of community organisations engaged in strike action in pursuit of decent pay within their sector. This was followed by further action in September 2022 in which thirteen Section 39 agencies and community organisations took part in a day of strike action in pursuit of pay justice.
The actions were deemed to be a success. A number of high-profile public representatives publicly endorsed the campaign and called for a mechanism for addressing pay within the sector. In October, there was support across the Dáil for a Labour Party motion which called for support for the Valuing Care, Valuing Community Campaign. At the time Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte spoke in support of a process, under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, to address the long-standing pay issue within these organisations.
SIPTU supported the call for the use of the WRC and referred the matter for conciliation in October 2022. The Union maintained pressure on all parties to attend the WRC and honour the government’s commitment to resolve this long standing pay dispute through talks. The Union confirmed to employers our members’ willingness to take further action in progression of their claim, if necessary.
There was initial resistance by relevant government agencies and departments to attend. However, only this week it was confirmed by the HSE that it would attend talks, bringing us one step closer to resolving the dispute. The Department of Social Protection has confirmed its availability to attend the WRC and an engagement is scheduled for next week.
It is important to note that the relevant parties only agreed to attend the WRC when they realised that our members, with the support of their Union, SIPTU, would accept nothing less than their fight for pay justice to be treated as anything other than a priority.
We understand that a date for talks will be issued shortly and we will endeavour to keep our members updated with regards to any developments on the campaign.
SIPTU will revert to its members in Section 39, Community and Voluntary organisations on possible next steps, if sufficient and timely progress is not made on this claim.
It is important that you speak to your colleagues about the value of being in the Union and join SIPTU as we progress the matter of pay justice in your sector.
SIPTU met with HSE Management this week to further discuss the situation regarding the increase in activity in the country’s acute hospitals. Below is a summary of that meeting.
The HSE provided the following update to the meeting:
• Attendance at ED is considerably higher than the same timeframe in 2022. (10,500 additional presentations)
• Highest ever recorded attendance of 75+ years patients.
• Influenza cases continue to rise
• RSV cases are evidencing a decrease
• COVID cases are steady
• The HSE acknowledged the work being undertaken by staff in all grades of the health service during this difficult period.
• The meeting was advised the National Crisis Management Team is meeting every week and local reviews are ongoing daily.
• The HSE accepted additional capacity is required in the private sector & community care.
• They advised they are engaging on a national agreement with private hospital representatives, but this has not been concluded. They stated funding has been made available.
• The meeting was informed of transfers being undertaken of medical patients to private healthcare.
• Site visits are ongoing across the country.
• They are seeking to increase resourcing over 24hrs and weekend service is being looked at.
In response, SIPTU and fellow health unions outlined the following:
• We stated it was unacceptable that many sites had failed to have any local engagement with union representatives on proposed changes to service provision.
• We advised we could not accept forced outcomes which sought to dismantle existing terms and conditions of employment of our members.
• Any proposal should come from local consultation and agreement with our membership & their representatives.
• We had sought a document from the HSE outlining the challenges and the perceived solutions. This was still awaited.
• We sought clarity what supports would be put in place for healthcare workers during this crisis, both those in work and those who have taken ill due to a workplace sourced infection.
• We asked for clarity on the arrangement with the private sector. What level of additional bed capacity, and where, is expected to come from that agreement? What level of additional support has been sought for the National Ambulance Service and diagnostic services?
The HSE confirmed:
• They are seeking to develop a document which will be shared with the unions.
• A management meeting was happening this evening to respond to the union call for supports for healthcare workers during this crisis. Further clarification would issue on this shortly we were advised.
• There would be no ‘ripping up’ of existing agreements with unions. Any proposal would have to recognise existing agreements. Local dialogue was key and would be supported at national level by the HSE.
• Agreement with private sector is not finalised. Local sites are required to identify what they need.
• Management accepted demands could not be made of staff. While a request may be made, subject to the agreed terms, acceptance would be on a voluntary basis only.
• Management also accepted any proposal for change to provide weekend cover could not simply be achieved by moving existing 5 day staff across a 7 day pattern.
• Management stated they had not received a request internally for additional capacity from the private sector for diagnostics.
The meeting adjourned and management agreed to revert on several key points asap. This includes:
• Provision of a composite document
• Clarity on the supports which will be provided to staff during this phase.
A further meeting was proposed for early next week. The date and time for this meeting is to be confirmed.
SIPTU and ICTU Health unions are to meet the HSE later this week to discuss the upsurge in activity faced by the acute sector. It follows a a meeting which took place on December 30th to discuss the situation.
At that meeting, management advised of the following:
• Different issues and pressures are presenting on sites across the country.
• The current challenge is not only prevalent to emergency departments and is being experienced across all areas of the acute system.
• There is significant absence of healthcare workers being recorded due to illness.
• The current level of activity within the acute system has not been experienced since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
• The level of flu symptoms presenting have not spiked and are continuing to climb. This is causing a significant level of concern.
• The meeting was told members of the National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) are visiting all acute sites across the country. This is an ongoing situation.
• NCMT is engaging with all sites and advising them to use whatever means are deemed necessary to address the upsurge.
• Solutions are being identified locally as they will be different depending on the challenges arising.
• Management stated they have been planning for winter 2022/2023 for a considerable period but the current patterns are presenting a sudden surge with no ending in sight.
• Discharges are being prioritised.
• This is an exceptional influenza season. Due to post covid, flu was very low in the last two years. The season normally peaks at week 4. This is now week 7 and is still climbing.
• Cases of RSV (in children of 5 years and younger) appear to be falling.
• No new COVID variant has been identified.
In response, SIPTU requested the following:
1) A composite document from the HSE which outlines all the challenges presenting across the country, the local solutions identified to address them and confirmation they will be supported with necessary funding. The HSE stated they would seek to have a document prepared for the unions and this would be shared at the next meeting.
2) Confirmation from the HSE of what protections and supports they will put in place for healthcare workers themselves who are striving to provide care to their patients in this extremely difficult period. The HSE stated this would be considered and they would seek to respond next week.
3) Clarification regarding the use of additional capacity within private hospitals. We were advised additional capacity within private hospitals has been secured across the country. Th Union understands this includes additional capacity within the private hospitals we organise within. The meeting was advised the specific use of additional capacity within private hospitals will depend on what is available and the local needs arising. The exact arrangements will be agreed at local level.
4) Clarification if additional capacity is being utilised by the National Ambulance Service (NAS). The meeting was advised NAS already has arrangements for the use of private or voluntary ambulance services. SIPTU requested specific information relating to what additional capacity is currently being used by the NAS to address the upsurge in activity. The Union was advised this would be sought from the NAS and presented at a further meeting.
5) Management stated additional capacity within diagnostics is a central element of the plan to address the current challenge arising. SIPTU requested clarification of what specific provisions are being made available for additional diagnostics capacity.
SIPTU will endeavour to keep members updated on the outcome of the next meeting.
Members of SIPTU and INMO are preparing to ballot for industrial action due to the failure of the HSE in St. Anne’s CNU and Clifden District Hospital, Clifden, Co. Galway to engage with the trade unions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, following the unilateral imposition of rosters and failure to be transparent in the future of Clifden District Hospital.
Conciliation talks under the auspices of the WRC failed to progress due to management’s refusal to comply with the provisions of the Public Service Agreement as it pertains to roster changes and service reconfiguration of the service delivered from Clifden District Hospital.
It is the belief of our members that management have orchestrated a situation whereby there is critical shortage of nurses leading to an inability to maintain services on both sites. The blatant lack of workforce planning has resulted in this situation occurring.
Management proceeded to unilaterally impose rosters and have failed to provide any cogent information regarding the future of Clifden District Hospital.
Staff and the community are very concerned regarding the future of Clifden District Hospital.
SIPTU’s Health Division is supporting a HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation campaign aimed at supporting all healthcare workers experiencing grief, bereavement, and loss.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a new and difficult experience for many healthcare workers who may have been exposed to more death, illness, and distress than usual in the workplace. The campaign notes that healthcare workers are an important consideration for bereavement supports as numerous facets of their work, such as exposure to deaths of patients and colleagues, can make them vulnerable to cumulative grief. It also acknowledges that prolonged exposure to loss can lead to physical and psychological burnout.
Research suggests that a supportive and understanding workplace environment can help those dealing with bereavement in the workplace. This campaign is also encouraging senior managers to be particularly aware of the impact of grief on employees and how they can support their staff with personal and professional grief.
The HSE has published guidance on dealing with grief as a healthcare worker which is available here. They have also published videos in a range of languages which are available online.
HSE workers are reminded that the HSE Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is available on 0818 327 327 if they need to speak to someone who can help. This is a free and confidential service.
Healthcare workers outside of the HSE can use their own EAP service, if available, or call the IHF Bereavement Support Line on 1800 80 70 77 (Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm) for support.
SIPTU, and fellow health unions, are continuing to argue for a replacement scheme to Special Leave with Pay that better protects healthcare workers whose health has been impacted by Covid 19.
Following the decision to restrict the Special Leave with Pay scheme from the 30th of June 2022 to only include Government recommended isolation periods, SIPTU has sought to negotiate a new scheme for healthcare workers who cannot attend work due to a confirmed COVID infection. To date, the HSE and Department of Health has refused to negotiate on a new scheme but instead sought to impose a temporary replacement scheme on the health service.
It is understood that the terms of the replacement scheme have been issued within the HSE. There are several concerns regarding the replacement scheme, including the fact that it only covers a period of 12 months up to the 30th of June 2023 and that it will only cover healthcare workers in certain settings.
SIPTU has raised the fact that Long COVID has been confirmed as an Occupational Disease by the EU Advisory Body on Safety and Health at Work. The Union has also raised a recent case in Scotland in which Long COVID was confirmed as a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 by the Scottish Employment Tribunal.
SIPTU has argued the need for this dispute to be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission. The HSE and Department of Health are resisting those efforts. They have stated they will publish the circular to allow those covered by it to get the new payments, instead of sick leave, as soon as possible. SIPTU has advised the employers they are doing so without agreement as the Union claim remains to secure a new scheme fitting of all healthcare workers who require it.
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said “SIPTU’s priority is ensuring that any replacement scheme to Special Leave with Pay will take account of the risks posed by Covid 19 to healthcare workers performing their duties. Health unions have sought to negotiate a new scheme for healthcare workers who cannot attend work due to a confirmed COVID infection. It is our view that the appropriate forum in which to have these discussions is at the Workplace Relations Commission. Unfortunately, the HSE and Department of Health has delayed engaging with us in such a forum. It is important to note that the withdrawal of Special Leave with Pay, and its replacement by an inferior scheme, has taken place at a time in which the World Health Organization’s European office has warned of a “challenging” autumn and winter due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the region.”
SIPTU members employed as Covid test centre swabbers are calling on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to directly intervene to resolve their dispute with the HSE and the Department of Health concerning a review of pay rates for these essential workers.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, Damian Ginley, said: “This dispute centres on the failure of the HSE and Department of Health to honour clearly written commitments to have the Covid test centre swabber grade reviewed as part of a wider job evaluation scheme for health sector support workers.
“Our members are appalled and angered at the lack of respect being shown to swabbers. Covid test centre swabbers provide a key role in the test and trace approach adopted by this Government in response to the pandemic. When test centres were rolled out across all counties, swabbers took up temporary positions to support the Government in meeting the enormous demands faced on the service at the height of the pandemic.
“They met these demands in very challenging environments when there was enormous uncertainty as to the severity of the virus and very limited access to PPE. These workers put both themselves and their family members at risk to serve in the Government response to the pandemic.
“All our members are seeking is for the commitment to allow the swabber grade to be considered under the support staff job evaluation scheme to be honoured. They were available to partake in evaluations only to have their review appointments cancelled by the HSE.”
He added: “Despite numerous attempts to have this matter resolved our members were left with no alternative but to seek an urgent referral of the dispute to the Workplace Relations Commission. As the Government proposes to significantly scale back current Covid testing facilities from 30th June, our members are requesting that the Minister for Health personally intervenes at this late stage to ensure that this matter is addressed immediately.”
SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 13th April) informed the management of the HSE that if it has not completed an audit of Section 39 organisations by May Day (Tuesday, 1st May) union members will reactivate a notice for strike action.
The move follows a meeting, chaired by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, where representatives agreed to an HSE request to allow their officials two additional weeks to complete the audit of Section 39 organisations.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Having received a partial audit of Section 39 organisations, which had been due to be completed by 31st March, we have taken the decision to accede to a request by the HSE to extend the time agreed to complete this critical work.
“We have also alerted the Workplace Relations Commission, the HSE and the Department of Health that we are insisting that all the parties to the dispute re-engage on May Day.”
He added: “We have informed the employer that if this vital audit is not completed, to our members’ complete satisfaction, by May Day, it will face the reactivation of their notice for strike action.”
The speech below is from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohue. He was speaking at the IRN Conference in Dublin on Thursday 9th March on “industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’
I find the theme of this year’s event — ‘Where are we now? Industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’ — both apt and timely in the current context. But before getting into that in more detail, I’d like to ask you all to take a minute to reflect on where we are coming from.
This country has come through a deep crisis over the last decade — but it has done so in a climate of widespread industrial relations peace across its public service.
To my mind this is a huge achievement — especially when we see the unrest that other countries have endured — and one that probably doesn’t get enough credit.
There is little doubt that industrial peace during those difficult years contributed in a very tangible way to restoring Ireland’s international reputation and creating the conditions for economic recovery to take root and for jobs to return.
It is easy to take this for granted and we should take care not to do so. It took a huge investment of time and effort by all concerned to deliver and sustain industrial peace during this challenging period.
This deserves to be acknowledged.
Three collective agreements have provided the framework for that to be achieved — the Croke Park Agreement, the Haddington Road Agreement and the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Together these agreements have enabled the delivery of an ambitious agenda of public service reform, together with significant savings and efficiencies in the public service pay bill.
Ensuring that both formal and informal lines of communication between the parties were fully utilised was critical during these very difficult times, as well as proactively using the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for within the agreements to overcome problems as they arose.
More recently, for example, we have re-invigorated the oversight structures under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and this has helped us to respond effectively to the challenges faced in recent months.
THE CASE FOR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT
As I speak to you today, we are preparing the ground for negotiations on a further collective agreement. So a valid question to ask at this juncture is: Do we need a new agreement? I believe we do.
Why? Because a collective agreement encompassing as many parties as possible is the surest way to guarantee a stable and fair industrial relations environment into the future.
More broadly speaking though, an agreement and the stability it brings is, I believe, important for successfully managing a small, open economy such as Ireland’s which has a high level of external economic challenge: it furthermore provides clarity and certainty around the management of the Exchequer pay bill which accounts for over a third of all public expenditure.
Industrial relations stability also helps Ireland to continue to attract foreign direct investment, delivering much needed employment.
I think you will agree that stability is essential in a time of such global flux and uncertainty as we now face.
An agreement is positive too for those workers within that agreement. Remember, a natural response to the fiscal crisis we faced might have been compulsory redundancies, but we didn’t go down that road.
Sacrifices were undoubtedly made, but through the various collective agreements, we made every effort to minimise the burden of pay cuts on the lower paid and to prioritise these groups in the restoration of pay.
What the agreements give to public servants is a fair deal and a level playing field.
They ensure no lay-offs but they also ensure no leap-frogging.
For me, the inherent fairness of this approach is really important. We shouldn’t set public pay based on a reactive response to those who shout loudest or who are better placed to exert influence.
We have to ensure an equitable approach that considers all of our public servants on equal merit.
An inclusive collective approach is the best way to do that in my view.
Step outside of that framework and you are stepping into an “I win — you lose” negative and perverse type of situation in which there will inevitably be more losers than winners.
And one group guaranteed to be losers in that ‘win — lose’ scenario is the public who cannot afford to be used as pawns in this way.
To return to the theme of the conference — we are at a time of heightened expectations. Of that there is no doubt.
In many ways though, this is a by-product of a growing economy that is emerging from a difficult period.
So, in that sense, rising expectations are an indicator of success — it shows that people generally are confident that things are moving in the right direction.
However, we need to temper these expectations or we will end up right back where we began.
We have to ensure that the huge sacrifices of our citizens, including the public servants who have worked longer hours for less money, are not lost.
Thanks to prudent planning, we are in the relatively better position of having escaped the fate of many of our neighbours in Europe: we are a country in recovery, with steadily declining unemployment and steadily rising economic growth.
With recovery taking hold, it would be unforgivable, therefore, to seek to return to the type of decision-making which necessitated the very difficult sacrifices in the first place.
Nor is it realistic to think that we can meet every present demand or every past grievance that surfaces.
If we want to see the end of financial emergency legislation for good, then we can’t make reckless fiscal choices.
I believe a collective agreement encompassing public service pay and further reform will be key to ensuring that we grow expenditure and pay in an affordable and sustainable strategic way.
It will allow Government to strike a balance between affordable pay increases for public servants and other social priorities including improvements in housing and health care.
An agreement can also ensure that we continue to deliver further public service reform and service improvements for citizens.
I have made the case for a collective agreement, but I would like to sound a note of realism about what is possible from a fiscal perspective.
And here I am very anxious to avoid any suggestion that I may be commencing the negotiations process in public — which is a matter for a later time.
But nevertheless, there are fiscal realities and constraints within which we as Government must operate and I would like these to be better understood — which is not easy given their complexity!
In simple terms, even if we didn’t have obligations under the EU fiscal rules, there would be an onus on us to manage our pay policy in a disciplined and prudent fashion.
The current rules mean, however, that notwithstanding heightened expectations and strong economic growth, resources remain significantly constrained over the medium-term.
We are still running a deficit for example — in 2016 we were still borrowing close to €7m a day to fund the delivery of public services. And we are still working to meet our Medium Term Objective under the Fiscal Rules by 2018 which, if achieved, may provide Government with more latitude in future years.
So constrained resources mean difficult choices have to be made.
A growing but ageing population means we face increased demand for public services, whether in health, education or social protection.
Investment has to be made in these services to meet this demand, as well as in other areas where pressures are emerging as a result of a growing economy — childcare, housing and infrastructure for example.
In a public service context, our frontline services are under immense pressure, with staffing levels still in the process of being consolidated.
Government recognises this and is working to address these pressures by investing in the recruitment of additional front-line staff.
Increasing staff numbers, however important and worthwhile, add to the costs of the Exchequer pay bill.
As do pay improvements for public servants which is a sign of a normal functioning efficient economy and rightly aspired to by all interests concerned.
So a balance has to be struck here between these two important levers if we are to maintain control and stability over expenditure in the coming years and comply with our fiscal obligations.
PRODUCTIVITY AND REFORM
This speaks to the need to focus on further productivity and efficiency improvements in our public service in the years ahead.
I have mentioned the significant programme of savings and reform that were achieved under both the Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements.
These savings and reforms have allowed us to legitimately say that we were ‘doing more with less’.
They have also contributed in no small measure to ensuring that the normal pay increase expectations on the part of public servants and their representatives can be realised both now and into the future.
The reform and productivity measures in the previous agreements have delivered — and continue to deliver — real results in terms of supporting the delivery of front-line services on which all of our citizens depend to varying degrees — at a time when public expenditure was reduced.
Some examples of what I’m referring to include:
The additional hours secured under the Haddington Road Agreement, which remain critical to enabling us to meet increased demand in front-line service areas and to improve services to the public generally.
The establishment of streamlined shared service operations across the public service, such as SUSI in the education sector and the National Shared Service Office.
Consolidation and re-organisation to deliver efficiencies involving the merger of agencies and creation of streamlined structures, such as the Education Training Boards and in local government.
Moving more services online, including motor tax and Revenue’s myAccount for example.
Developing integrated one-stop shop solutions for the public, such as the INTREO office network in the Department of Social Protection.
Reform is also about improving the work environment for public servants through initiatives aimed at improving our approach to learning and development and facilitating opportunities for greater mobility.
You may think the urgency has passed in relation to all of that but let me assure you it hasn’t.
Because the only way we can respond to both the increased demands on our public services and the expectations of public servants to see their pay start to grow again — within the limited room for manoeuvre we have on the public finances — is to look again at how we can further improve on productivity and efficiency gains in the public service.
This means building on the structural reforms and work practices changes introduced under previous agreements.
My Department are now in the process of drawing up a new three-year Public Service Reform Plan which will set out our vision for the next wave of reform.
We will be looking to consolidate the good progress made to date and to set out the further steps that need to be taken to realise our goals around ensuring we deliver top quality public services in a cost effective way.
Of course, public servants are taxpayers and citizens too — something often conveniently forgotten by those seeking to foster division — and will make their own minds up on how the available fiscal space should be allocated across pay, staffing, tax reductions, childcare, housing, health and other priority areas.
There is perhaps a feeling in the air — given developments over the last year — that we can’t continue as we have or that collective agreements in the public service have had their day. I disagree.
This is an incredibly short-sighted way of looking at things. It is effectively refusing to make choices that are necessary for the greater common good. That approach — if universally applied — would be very destructive and counter-productive.
Everyone ultimately loses in this scenario.
For all of the reasons I have outlined — not least the need for inherent fairness and balance — a collective approach is as important as ever.
We can — and must — continue to do the hard work together to maintain industrial peace, with all the benefits that brings to our public servants, our economy and our society.
And we must also collectively continue to try to balance competing priorities with an awareness of their implications elsewhere.
Those who seek to prioritise their own narrow agenda over a wider settlement are shirking this broader responsibility toward fairness and balance. These same people will criticise any agreement as a ‘sell-out’, rather than recognising that one can be pragmatic and remain principled. We simply cannot afford to listen to such people.
Before we begin negotiations, we await the report of the Public Service Pay Commission.
This report, due soon, will provide a key input to the talks process by providing evidence-based objective analysis on a number of key issues, including how the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest — or FEMPI — legislation should proceed, as well as for example, the issue of the value attached to public service pensions.
The process of moving to a post-FEMPI world commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and will be further advanced under any new agreement.
This is an important development because it signals a normalisation in our approach to both pay and industrial relations in the public service and is an indicator in itself of our re-emergence as a normal functioning economy.
For me, the priorities are simple — we need an agreement that is affordable, sustainable and fair.
However, the very real fiscal limitations we face, coupled with the many competing demands, including on pay as I’ve outlined, when set against the expectation levels that are prevailing, make these forthcoming negotiations arguably one of the most challenging.
It will not be easy to secure an agreement in such circumstances. I recognise that. I do not underestimate the challenge.
But let me conclude by saying that the Government is clear that it wants to reach an agreement and will put its best foot forward in an attempt to do so.
Pragmatism, realism and compromise will certainly be required on all sides.
If our experience with Croke Park, Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road is anything to go by though, I know there will be no shortage of these qualities on offer over the coming weeks and that should give us the confidence to collectively succeed in achieving a mutually acceptable outcome.
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