Fianna Fáil rival attacks Varadkar for taking a festive break in the Canaries
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has come under attack for taking a break in the Canaries in advance of hospitals gearing up for a surge in emergency department overcrowding.
Councillor Jack Chambers, the Fianna Fáil general election candidate in Dublin West, the minister's own constituency, said Mr Varadkar should have stayed in Ireland during the entire festive period to ensure he kept "hands-on" control of the health service as it faced into one of its toughest times of the year.
"The minister was silent while the crisis was escalating. He should have been co-ordinating managers and directors during this crucial time," said Mr Chambers.
Responding to the criticism, the minister said: "I was in Dublin for Christmas and was the minister on-call for the Government on the 27th and 28th of December. I took four days' leave in the entire Christmas and New Year period between December 29 and January 2. I was back in action and working well before any overcrowding.
"Jack's father, who is a hospital consultant, was on the return flight. This personal and unfair attack demonstrates exactly why Jack Chambers is a poor candidate ... who does not deserve the votes of the people of Dublin West."
Mr Varadkar's constituency rival, who is a medical graduate, said, however, it was a matter for the minister to take responsibility when the situation was "acute".
The health service was about to plunge into crisis mode and it was not a time to leave the country, said the councillor. The same applied to senior health staff, he added.