Harney feted Down Under as scandal tops agenda at home
TRADITIONAL Irish fare got an upmarket makeover Down Under as New Zealanders sought to give Health Minister Mary Harney a send-off to remember on her last night in Auckland.
So instead of plain old bacon and cabbage, Ms Harney's green vegetables of broccolini and savoy cabbage came drizzled with Guinness at a swanky St Patrick's banquet.
The sumptuous supper, at the city's Langham Hotel, included local delicacies such as shucked Waiheke oysters, champagne cocktails and dessert with a Jameson twist.
Ms Harney, who arrived at the banquet with a bandaged left arm, steadfastly refused to answer any questions about the X-ray scandal at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.
The beleaguered minister enjoyed dinner with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh, whose parents were born in Co Armagh, and other New Zealanders with connections to the Irish community.
Guests turned out in various shades of green to honour Ms Harney and in turn were treated to a lavish affair with all the trimmings.
But it was the 58,000 X-rays which were not read by radiologists and the 3,500 letters written by GPs on behalf of their sick patients and ignored by health officials that provided the minister with the most food for thought.
As the controversy continued to rage at home, St Patrick's Day kicked off early in Auckland with the parade taking centre stage on Saturday.
The early celebrations were designed to accommodate Ms Harney's 15-day tour to both the north and south islands, with her entourage including her husband and three advisers.
In recent days, her busy schedule has taken her to the Starship Children's Hospital, where she participated in discussions on patient safety and the need for quality care, and some flag-waving at the St Patrick's Day parade in Auckland's Queen Street.