Wednesday 28 September 2016

Scalded cats, shafted ministers and weird economics – Party leaders have heated debate on INMO strike

Published 24/11/2015 | 16:23

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin ran out of the Department of Health “like a scalded cat”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed.

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The Dáil has heard accusations of ministers being “shafted” and opposition parties have “weird” economics during a heated debate on the health service.

Mr Kenny launched a series of attacks on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin as they tried to get him to admit that the health service is underfunded.

Michael Martin and Gerry Adams both blamed the Government for a decision by the country’s nurses to engage in industrial action from December 15.

Mr Martin said the number of people languishing on hospital trolleys has been rising for 15 months since Leo Varadkar took over as Minister for Health.

He said the situation “is getting progressively worse month after month”.

And he admonished the Taoiseach for using language like “challenge” and “problem” instead of calling the situation a crisis.

“You have no sense of the crisis. It’s not a problem, it’s not a challenge, it’s a crisis and you need to start using that language,” Mr Martin said.

But Mr Kenny responded that the strike “won’t assist a single patient on a trolley”.

And he went on the offence, saying Mr Martin had doubled spending on health during his time as the minister and at one point blamed Tallaght Hospital for not ordering enough trolleys.

“You ran like a scalded cat because you were afraid to accept any responsibility,” he said.

“Remember the financial abyss you left the country in when you ran out of the Department of Health,” Mr Kenny said, but adding that the Fianna Fáil leader “is the last remaining political link to a economic catastrophe perpetrated on the people of this country”.

As the row continued Mr Martin referred to an interview that former health minister Dr James Reilly gave to the Sunday Independent last weekend.

He said Dr Reilly had admitted the Department of Health was under-resourced and that the “writing was on the wall in the 2012 budget”.

“He was shafted by you Taoiseach and is continually shafted by Minister Varadkar who says ‘it was his fault’,” Mr Martin charged.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the nurses are being “forced to take industrial action”. This entire crisis is a direct result “refusal to properly resources a public health service”, he said, adding: “As you joke and banter with Fianna Fáil there are 329 people on trolleys.”

Mr Kenny said that “even with your weird economics” Sinn Féin should understand the economic crisis required serious cutbacks.

He said there was 700 new nurses, money being spent on the Fair Deal scheme to get people out of hospital faster and the emergency taskforce set up by Leo Varadkar was making progress.

“We’re not where we want to be yet but the situation is better than it was and continues to improve,” he said.

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