Opposition fury after Coughlan snubs call for debate
TANAISTE Mary Coughlan sparked uproar in the Dail yesterday when she snubbed calls for a debate to probe fresh revelations about the X-ray scandal at Tallaght Hospital.
Amid protests from the opposition, Ms Coughlan said the Government would first await the results of an independent investigation before making further comment.
And she insisted the Dail would not break its annual 12-day holiday for St Patrick's Day for ministers to deal with the crisis.
This week it emerged that 58,000 X-rays -- taken between 2005 and the end of last year at the hospital -- were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist.
It led to delayed diagnoses for two patients, one of whom has since died, while a second is undergoing cancer treatment.
It has since been claimed that thousands of letters from GPs referring patients to the hospital were not opened.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday said this new information had created a "far worse situation" for those involved.
Insisting there must be accountability on life-and-death issues, he said an extra hour should be set aside to allow the catastrophe to be probed during a Dail debate.
Supporting the proposal, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it would provide TDs with the opportunity to probe the issue before the Dail went on holiday.
It was one thing to force hospital waiting lists on people, but "utterly incredible" that nobody at a hospital would open a GP's letter, he said.
He said that, despite this absolute scandal, Health Minister Harney was on a two-week trip to New Zealand and the Dail would be closed until March 23.
"We now have a minister who is on a visit to New Zealand for two weeks on an itinerary that according to the newspapers today reads more like 'The Lord of the Rings' trail than it does like a State visit; the only thing missing is dinner hosted by Bilbo Baggins," he said.
Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain called for the Dail to sit for a full day next week to allow ministers to discuss the debacle.
However, Ms Coughlan said such changes to Dail business would not be accommodated as the full facts of the matter hadn't been obtained.