Donegal TD Pearse Doherty has reacted angrily to a statement made by Health Minister Simon Harris this week in which he ruled out the reintroduction of the Gaeltacht Allowance for new entrant nurses.

The Minister was responding to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Deputy Doherty asking if the Government would give consideration to the reinstatement of the payment, which previously was paid to nurses proficient in Irish and working in Gaeltacht areas, including west Donegal, prior to its abolition for new entrants as part of a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Review of public sector allowances carried out in 2012.

Commenting on the Minister’s reply, Deputy Doherty said: “As part of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 2012 review of all allowances paid to public sector workers, the Government decided to cease the payment of the Gaeltacht Allowance to all nurses pending the outcome of the review process.

“Following its conclusion, the Government completely abolished the Gaeltacht Allowance for all new entrant nurses as and from September of that year.

“Up until then, the allowance was provided to nurses proficient in Irish stationed in Gaeltacht communities and was a percentage of a nurses basic pay."

He continued: “The withdrawal of the payment for newly recruited nurses was a blow for nursing staff in terms of their pay and conditions, but it was unwelcome too considering that the payment provided a modest incentive to nurses and recent graduates to live and work in rural Gaeltacht communities where traditionally it has always been more difficult to attract professionals, including positions within the health service.

“Understandably, ever since the shelving of the payment, nursing organisations and unions have continued to resist the removal of the payment and have made on-going calls for it to be reinstated.

“However, this week I raised the reintroduction of the allowance with Minister Harris in the Dáil where I asked if the Government would give consideration to reintroducing the payment for new entrants working in our Gaeltacht hospitals and community healthcare settings."

He added: “However in his response, the Minister has clearly stated that his Government will not reinstate the Gaeltacht Allowance for new nurses entering the work force, despite him admitting that the issue of reintroducing the payment was the subject of recent talks between it and the INMO and SIPTU.

“The Government’s unwillingness to concede on this issue has and continues to case much hardship for rural based nurses in Irish speaking areas, including those working here in the Donegal Gaeltacht."

Concluding Deputy Doherty said: “These rural areas continue to find it extremely difficult to attract healthcare professionals and the Government’s stance on this payment is only serving to worsen this problem by keeping rural communities unable to lure highly skilled and qualified healthcare workers.”

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