Tuesday 6 December 2016

Halligan set to resign after demand for new hospital lab rejected

John Mulligan and Niall O'Connor

Published 08/09/2016 | 02:30

Junior minister John Halligan. Pic Tom Burke
Junior minister John Halligan. Pic Tom Burke

The coalition was plunged into fresh crisis last night as Waterford TD John Halligan was set to resign.

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Mr Halligan returned to his home constituency of Waterford following lengthy talks with Fine Gael over the decision by a senior doctor to advise against the introduction of a second catheterisation (cath) lab at Waterford General Hospital.

Mr Halligan told colleagues he was consulting his supporters and may return to talks on Thursday.

However, sources in the Independent Alliance believed Mr Halligan will quit the government following the independent review.

If Mr Halligan quits, as anticipated, the government will have just a wafer majority in the Dail with the support of Fianna Fail.

The issue of Mr Halligan's expected departure was due to be discussed at Cabinet this morning.

Mr Halligan was not available for comment last night.

The Irish Independent can also reveal that no Government funding has been earmarked for the extension of the runway at Waterford Airport.

This is despite claims by Halligan that millions of euro were secured for the project in return for his support for Fine Gael following the general election.

Read more: Crisis talks as Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan threatens to pull government support

Mr Halligan first threatened to quit Government over the findings of the independent clinical review into cardiac services at Waterford General Hospital.

The review of was carried out by Belfast-based cardiologist Niall Herity.

While it advised against the introduction of a second cath lab, it did recommend a series of improvements and extra resources at the hospital.

A second cardiac catheterisation lab would cost nearly €2m just to build. The cost of running it, including staffing, would also run into millions annually.

The Independent Alliance TD reacted furiously to the findings, which he described as "flawed" and "outrageous".

Health Minister Simon Harris was forced to attend a meeting with Mr Halligan in Leinster House. The latest row has once again exposed the vulnerability of the minority Government.

No Government funding has been earmarked for an extension of the runway at Waterford Airport. The Department of Transport - headed by Minister Shane Ross - has confirmed that it only funds projects at the State's four regional airports that relate to safety and security.

And Waterford Airport - which has no scheduled air services after losing a link to London Luton in June - has also not secured any of the money from a €335m 'Connectivity Fund' that was established by the Government following the sale of its 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus last year.

Mr Halligan - who once sat on the Waterford Airport board - said in May that Waterford Airport was set to get a share of that €10m in extra funding, and said that the runway was "agreed in principle" in the capital funding. But the Department of Transport has not yet decided on any allocations under the capital plan. A spokesman for the department said that runway development schemes are not specifically funded under the capital plan.

Irish Independent

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