Monday 5 December 2016

Varadkar draws line in sand on Health job for after the election

Published 11/01/2016 | 02:30

Leo Varadkar said he will only continue as Health Minister after the election if he is given adequate 'resources and authority' Photo: Gerry Mooney
Leo Varadkar said he will only continue as Health Minister after the election if he is given adequate 'resources and authority' Photo: Gerry Mooney

Leo Varadkar has given his clearest indication to date that he feels he is being hampered in his role as Health Minister.

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The outspoken politician took to the airwaves yesterday and warned that he will only remain in the Department of Health after the election if he is given adequate “resources and authority”.

“I accept that overcrowding is unacceptable, indefensible and it is going on for too long, and when you do that and you call it as it is, you get criticised for being a commentator,” the Dublin West TD told ‘Newstalk’.

“If I am given the opportunity, I would be happy to be re-appointed, but I would want to have both resources and authority to make the decisions that need to made and that isn’t always the case as a line minister,” he added.

Fine Gael sources last night insisted that Mr Varadkar’s remarks should be taken at face value – he wants more money and more control.

Mr Varadkar’s plea for additional resources is nothing new.

The Cabinet heavyweight secured one of the largest departmental budgets in the history of the State last October, with health spending set to exceed €13bn for the first time since the crash.

As recently as last Thursday, Mr Varadkar told Eileen Dunne on RTÉ News that if he received a lump sum of €100m, he still would not be able to solve the crises that continue to engulf the health service.

If he is to make even a small amount of progress in the Department of Health, the purse strings need to be loose enough.

But it is Mr Varadkar’s use of the word “authority” that will spark a particular sense of intrigue in both health and political circles.

Sources say the reference is firmly aimed at his own Fine Gael party.

Mr Varadkar feels he inherited a vision for the health service, shaped partly by his predecessor Dr James Reilly, that he deep down does not believe in.

His immediate decision to put Universal Health Insurance (UHI) on the long finger – and then all but scrap the proposal at a later date – is one of the best examples of him trying to assert muscle over health.

Mr Varadkar will now take a central role in devising Fine Gael’s health proposals in the context of the general election manifesto.

But if Mr Varadkar remains in health after the election, he will unlikely be afforded the luxury to continue playing the blame game.

Irish Independent

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