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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Drafting of WHO's Pandemic Treaty

I thank the Cathaoirleach for his kind words this morning and for attending a coffee morning in aid of UNICEF. I thank my colleagues and all the team members who helped to raise much-needed funds for UNICEF.

I welcome H.E. Gergana Karadjova. It was lovely to have her, as part of the diplomatic corps, to support UNICEF this morning. It is lovely to have her here celebrating the day for the people of Bulgaria. I visited her country for the first time approximately 33 years ago. I was pregnant with my son at the time but nobody told me I could not ski. I was skiing when I was two or three months pregnant with my son. That was the first of many visits to Bulgaria. It is a country that has progressed enormously in that time. H.E. Johnston and his team are also very welcome.

I call for a debate in this Chamber with the Minister for Health and the World Health Organization CA+ convention. The so-called "pandemic treaty" is currently being constructed by the WHO intergovernmental negotiating body, whose fourth meeting is taking place this week in Geneva.

The stated goal of the WHO CA+ is to achieve greater equity and effectiveness for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response through the fullest national and international co-operation and to this end it will contain both legally and non-legally binding provisions dictating the behaviour of governments party to that treaty. Provisions in the zero draft of the convention include a commitment to ring-fence a percentage of total healthcare expenditure for exclusively pandemic-related matters, as well as the allocation of an as yet unset percentage of gross domestic product to be gifted to the WHO for use in foreign countries. I am not sure whether or not the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, would say that the instant disappearance of 5% of the healthcare budget would have no impact on services or whether the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael McGrath, feels that the Exchequer's coffers are bursting at the seams and we simply must offload some of the money or we will have nowhere to put it. Whatever its final provisions, the treaty is a document that will have a significant impact on future governments' approach to health emergencies. Perhaps that is one reason we have heard so little about it. It will only affect future governments and we are not the best at looking past the current election cycle.

I raised this matter in the Chamber on 26 April 2022 and voiced my concern that the Minister for Health had taken it upon himself to voice Ireland's support for this convention when its provisions were entirely unknown and, critically, no protection of the sovereignty of parties to the agreement had been detailed. To my dismay, the raising of this matter was met with allegations of my having given false information and that I was perpetuating untruths. The Cathaoirleach will appreciate that in this Chamber, no Member may impute deliberate falsehoods to another Member and that enforcement of that rule is essential if orderliness is to be maintained and the dignity of the House preserved, as per section 421 of the salient rulings of the Chair. I hope that will be the case as we move forward in the Seanad this year. The Minister should attend the Chamber for a debate on what Ireland would like to see included in the CA+ and, equally as important, what we would not like to see included.

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