Tuesday 27 September 2016

Less of the commentary please, Minister Harris

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

'Now Harris has taken up the baton.' Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
'Now Harris has taken up the baton.' Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Simon Harris appears to be taking his role as Leo Varadkar's replacement as Health Minister a little too literally. The previous minister developed an annoying habit of being more of a commentator than a decision-maker on the health service.

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Now Harris has taken up the baton. The new Health Minister is wringing his hands ferociously at the row over the plan to move the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street to the St Vincent's Hospital campus. He says that he is powerless to solve what he describes as an "unedifying spat", warning that there is no "plan B" if the mediation process currently under way fails.

The minister was supposed to provide an 'update' on the plans to the Seanad yesterday. Instead, he prattled off what is already known about the turf war between the two hospitals.

They are at loggerheads because of the proposed governance requirements set down by St Vincent's for the new hospital on its grounds in Elm Park. These will place all services, including tertiary maternity and neonatal services, under the control of the St Vincent's board and shareholders, the Religious Sisters of Charity.

Harris says Holles Street is "an entirely inappropriate and sub-standard building" but he just throws his hands up in despair as they are voluntary independent hospitals and "Therefore, I cannot simply impose a solution".

Of course you can do more, minister. At the very least, you can frogmarch the boards of the two hospitals into your office, reflect the views of the people you represent and warn them about the consequence for future funding, then bounce them back out on to Hawkins Street in no doubt about the Government's intentions.

Do something other than merely commentating.

Remembering the young lives cut short, a year on

A year ago today, the lives of six young people in the prime of their lives were ended and the lives of so many of their friends changed forever.

Fate dealt a cruel blow to that group of students enjoying a J1 summer in the university city of Berkeley, near San Francisco in California.

Like thousands of students before them, the group of friends from south Co Dublin headed off to the US to take a job, experience a different culture, gain their independence and have some fun.

Heartbreakingly, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke, along with Ashley Donohoe, never came home after that fateful night. Their friends Niall Murray, Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin and Hannah Waters continue to recover from their horrific injuries.

The horror of this tragedy and untimely loss of young lives touched the entire country. Now, 12 months on, the balcony at apartment 405 has been removed and life goes on in the university town. Building standards have been improved to ensure no similar tragedy happens again.

A stark reminder of the loss of those six young lives is a small shrine on Berkeley's Ketteridge Street.

The victims' families are now going through a torturous legal battle for compensation for the deaths and injuries sustained. The case is expected to drag on for some time before it is resolved and blame apportioned.

However, no amount of money will ever make up for the tragic loss those families have endured.

Irish Independent

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