It must be lovely for the Minister of Health to be able to go off to bed every night after a nice mug of cocoa and sleep soundly in the full knowledge that nobody is going to ask him any awkward questions in the Dail the next day. It is not that there are no awkward questions to be asked. It is rather that they do not seem to occur to those on the Opposition benches. Forget about Hanley. Forget about ‘health initiatives going forward’ and all the rest of that sort of gobbledygook. The question that I want to hear John Gormley or Pat Rabbitte or Enda Kenny ask is this and it is quite a simple one:

“Can the Minister explain to this house what the health benefits will be of adding to the Nation’s drinking water supply a quantity of hydrofluosilicic acid that is of ‘no significant benefit’ to the population, according to the Minister’s own scientific committee, the Forum on Fluoridation. And will the Minister further explain to this house how it is taking him so long to form his much heralded ‘Irish Expert Body on Health and Fluorides’ that he promised would be rolled out last March?”.

Now, is there not one single person sitting across from the Government benches capable of putting these very simple and straightforward questions to Micheal Martin? You know this is not exactly rocket science. This is dead straightforward simple stuff. It is proposed to add a sub-therapeutic dose of a chemical to our drinking water and in spite of repeated promises; an expert body to oversee this deliberate act of water pollution has yet to be formed. Nor do I make any apology for the word “pollution”. Deliberately adding some chemical to people’s drinking water that is officially known to be of no benefit is pollution. What else is it?

If I as a doctor had an adult patient with known pneumonia and I prescribed for that patient 25 mgs. of ampicillin to be taken twice a day for five days, I would be guilty of negligence and malpractice and would rightly have my name struck off the medical register. Getting the dose right is a fundamental of good practice. Minister Martin has been told by a scientific committee of his own making, the so-called Forum on Fluoridation, that there is too much fluoride being added to our Irish drinking water supply and that this is causing problems as evidenced by an increasing incidence of dental fluorosis in children.

He was told that almost two years ago. Would you not think that a responsible and caring Minister would simply suspend the practice of fluoridating water schemes until the question of proper dosing was sorted out? Would that not be a very simple, sensible and responsible thing to do? But not at all. No, no, no. The Minister will not suspend the fluoridating of water even for a short while because to do so would be to admit that there just may be a problem and such an admission is, for whatever reason, beyond the Minister’s capacity.

Of course Mr Martin has a problem and it is this. He puts together his own scientific committee that he called The Forum on Fluoridation. At the inaugural meeting of this committee the Minister addresses the assembled scientists and experts and proclaims that in his view the fluoridation of drinking water is a great idea and should be continued. Nice one Mr Martin, so now we know the answer even before the Forum has sat for its very first meeting. It seems the Minister in utterly incapable of grasping the fundamentals of scientific review, which are impartiality and not predetermining the outcome before the thing starts. You may hope for a certain outcome. You may even anticipate a certain outcome. But you must not predetermine the outcome most especially if you are the person commissioning the job in the first place.

But, even after breaking this fundamental rule on day one, things did not go altogether smoothly for the fluoridating zealots afterwards. After much deliberation the Forum found that there was an increased incidence of dental fluorosis in Ireland and that therefore the amount of fluoride being added to our drinking water should be reduced from one to point seven parts per million. Elsewhere in its deliberations this very same group of handpicked scientists and experts said that at a level of less than 0.8 parts per million fluoride was of “no significant benefit” to quote it directly. This internal contradiction was not spotted on the day the report was published but clearly what has happened is that the Minister’s very own scientific committee, the Forum, has handed him a document that is fatally flawed and that has left him up a gum tree.

Where are these experts anyway, these “Milk of Magnesia” technocrats and why are they refusing to come out of their dressing rooms and go on stage so as we can all get a good look at them? Its time to start slow hand clapping I fear. In the meantime would someone please turn off the overdose fluoride tap up in Poulaphouca so as we can have a decent glass of water while waiting to see what the next dose will be. We have had enough of this circus thank you.