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The healthcare crisis is escalating as the nurses and midwives remain on strike for another day this week.

The impact on tens of thousands of patients is causing chaos, as members of the public are asked not to use out of hours GP services as hundreds of doctors gather for a protest in Dublin.

News has since emerged that a rally will take place this Saturday, allowing members of the public to support the nurses and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Over 35,000 nurses and midwives voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action late last year, with their first 24-hour stoppage taking place on January 30 and second strike occurring yesterday.

The Facebook post reads; "Join the nurses' protest, called by the INMO, this Sat 12.30pm Parnell Square Dublin. Leo Varadkar and the Fine Gael led government are refusing to negotiate with the nurses."

It continues, "They are ignoring the huge public support for their legitimate claims. Most of us know that nurses deserve equality of treatment with other professional grades, better pay will help ease the recruitment crisis and that means better patient care in our hospitals."

"Nurses do not want to strike – they would prefer to care for their patients. We can help by turning our sympathy into a major display of solidarity." it concludes, calling on the public to text their numbers to join the rally at the Garden of Remembrance.

Further strike action is expected to take place on February 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, and 21, which is sure to affect a huge amount of patients.

Patients are being asked by the National Association of GP Co-ops to travel to emergency departments, or to wait to see their own GP if any ailment is experienced.

Other disruptions include the cancellation of outpatient appointments, non-urgent surgery, and respite, rehabilitation, and day centre services. An estimated 50,000 patients in the past week were affected.

Another strike is expected tomorrow, with up to 75,000 people likely to be affected. 

As of last night, there appears to be little hope of resolving the pay dispute, with the INMO accusing the Government of “recycling” ideas and calling on them to “come to the table unconditionally”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that direct contact should have been made with nursing unions regarding further talks at the Workplace Relations Commission to resolve their dispute, instead of through a press release.

He responded to critique from  Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who claimed the statement was an "appalling and a pathetic way" to approach the dispute.

Yesterday, the Fine Gael Government issued a statement saying it was willing to engage in talks on issues other than pay to try to overcome the nurses' strike.

General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the Government had not communicated directly with the unions.

Adult mental health services are also coming under huge strain today and tomorrow due to a ban on overtime, including night rosters, as members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) engage in industrial action. 

Doctors will join the disagreement by heading to the Dáil to protest at conditions and pay cuts, which was organised by the National Association of General Practitioners.

Other aspects of the healthcare crisis involve a lack of beds, and the disastrous cost of the new National Paediatric Hospital, which sum now stands at €1.7 billion.

Feature image: Extra.ie

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For the past two days, the Dail has been in discussion regarding the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. 

In a break through moment, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the delegation that he supports the repeal of the amendment. 

‘If we are sincere in our compassion for women, and if we are sincere in respecting their choices, then we must act,’ he said.

‘The 8th Amendment has been shown to cause real damage to Irish women,’ he continued.

’Following a  long period of reflection and assessment of evidence before the Oireachtas committee, I believe we should remove the Eighth Amendment from Bunreacht na hÉireann and I will vote accordingly,’ he finished.

Martin's words are a departure from his original stance of being against a repeal of the amendment. 

His words were met with praise by pro-choice activists.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is expected to reveal his own views on the 8th at the end of this month.

'The Abortion Rights Campaign is glad to see that the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and the JOC have been accepted by a majority of TDs, including Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin,' said ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh.

'We’d like to commend all TDs who spoke in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment and adopting the JOC recommendations.'

'Many TDs have educated themselves on this topic and are finally in line with the majority of the Irish people.'

'We want to acknowledge how they bravely faced up to a conversation and debate that successive governments have avoided for decades.'

However, Ms Kavanagh expressed concern about reports that the government may decide to replace rather than repeal the 8th Amendment:

'Abortion and the healthcare of those who can get pregnant in Ireland should not be a constitutional matter,' she said in a statement. 

'Repealing the 8th Amendment is the first step in making the much needed changes to our healthcare system to bring us in line with international standards and medical best practice.'

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Sentences for child sex offenders could be extended to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Fianna Fáil yesterday put forward a bill that would increase jail time served by sexual offenders from seven to 15 years.

The proposals were introduced in the Dáil yesterday but need cross-party support to become law.

Noeline Blackwell, head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) says she fully supports the proposed changes.

She said: “It doesn’t mean that everyone will get 15 years but it says society takes this so seriously that we insist on having one of our most severe penalties."

“The damage that is done in sexually exploiting a child can be lifelong.”

The proposal comes after the leniency of Tom Humpries' prison sentence was heavily criticised. 

Last month, the former Irish Times journalist was jailed for just two-and-a-half years after he was found guilty of sexually abusing a young girl and grooming her two years.

The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to four counts of inviting a child to participate in a sexually explicit, obscene or indecent act between January 2010 and March 2011.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement of the child between December 5, 2010 and February 19, 2011.

Speaking at the time of sentencing Noeline form the DRCC said:  "We may need to look at sentencing, but certainly just the implementation of sentencing is what's important about this case."

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The hashtag #AskFiannaFáil is trending in Ireland right now, but probably not for the reasons they had hoped. 

TD and Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte tweeted out to the public, telling them that Fianna Fail would answer their questions if they had any. 

And boy, did they have some.

From snarky suggestions about the state of the country, to genuine queries about love, life and the universe, we're thinking this hashtag is getting a little out of hand. 

Here are a few of our favourites:

 

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Finding The One can be a tough slog. As can finding The One You Want To Vote For.

Well, now you can combine those two searches (kinda) with one app – TDer. Like Tinder, you can swipe through profiles of different men and women looking to get your attention and fill your ears with sweet nothings.

Unlike Tinder, they don't want to date you. They just want your vote.

Okay, Irish digital agency Friday might have been having some cheeky fun when they invented TDer, with its Tinder-esque profile for each General Election candidate, but we reeeally wish it was real.

After all, who could say no to this beautiful face (and mountain of chest hair)?

Or Mr. Inda Kinny himself?

Joan also gets a look-in…

Oh, and she liked us back:

Gerry got his pet goat in for his profile pic…

And Lucinda's still looking for love…

Check out TDer yourself here, and who knows, you could find your (political) match.

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As the election date was selected last week, a flurry of campaign posters happened to magically appear on nearly every lamp post in sight.

But something quite magical indeed was this Harry Potter-themed election poster for Fianna Fáil.

In case you missed Harry Potter (where have you been??), that's supposed to be Lord Voldemort and he's using a spell that makes people to lose their memories.

It was created by artist and designer, Morgan Art, and we just think it's brilliant altogether.

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