FG forces rebel TD to quit Dail health chair
FORMER Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten was given an ultimatum yesterday by his former party about a €9,500 post: quit or be fired.
He was told by Government chief whip Paul Kehoe that if he did not resign as chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, the Government would move a motion in the Dail to remove him.
Mr Naughten said he chose to resign because it meant he would be allowed to stay on the committee as an ordinary member.
"I felt it was important that with all that has gone on that, I was there to formally contribute to that," he said.
Mr Naughten lost the Fine Gael party whip last week after he voted against the Government's decision to close Roscommon County Hospital's 24-hour A&E unit.
During his brief period as health committee chair he had arranged for Health Minister Dr James Reilly and the HSE to to visit the area and explain changes being made to local hospitals. That meeting will take place next Thursday.
Mr Naughten said he was not bothered by the loss of the €9,500 annual payment, which will now go to his replacement -- Fine Gael Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer.
Mr Naughten said there was a 50-50 split between Fine Gael TDs in Leinster House who knew he had promised to defend the hospital and those who believed he should have toed the party line.
"Politically, I'm going to be ostracised now and I know personally I will be ostracised as well. But within the constituency people seem to feel I took a principled stand and they are standing by me," he said.
Although the Roscommon A&E closed on Monday, it has emerged that services at one of the local hospitals on the "downgrading list" will be retained for at least six months.
The commitment to retain the round-the-clock emergency services in Navan hospital in Meath was made by Dr Reilly at a meeting with hospital supporters.
Navan has already lost its right to carry out complex or emergency surgeries but it continues to have on-site anaesthetic cover and can care for a broad range of patients. Sinn Fein Meath West TD Peadar Toibin, who is the chairman of the Save Navan Hospital group, said Dr Reilly had pledged to keep the A&E department open for at least six months and possibly up to a year.
However, Dr Reilly told the group that the hospital's laboratory would close.