Friday 19 January 2018

Harney rules out deal with Grealish over cuts

Michael Brennan and Barry Duggan

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney last night ruled out doing a deal to win back the support of independent TD Noel Grealish for the Government.

Mr Grealish announced that he was withdrawing his support as long as the HSE West continued to impose cutbacks to tackle a potential budget deficit of around €90m. His departure has reduced the Government's already slim majority from six to four.

But Ms Harney insisted last night that there could be "no deal" with Mr Grealish to stop the HSE West trying to rein in its budget deficit.

"We don't have additional monies to supply to the health service in the west of Ireland, everybody has to live within their budget," she said.

Ms Harney said the country was facing very serious economic challenges and needed to take tough decisions . She pointed out that the HSE West's deficit was €90.8m out of a budget of €2.1bn.

"To put that in context, that was the budget for the entire health service in the country in 1995.

"I expect all budget holders to live within budget. I know that Noel himself understands this, he's a businessman and knows you have to live within budgets," she said.

Ms Harney previously stood up to Fianna Fail Sligo North Leitrim TDs Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon when they attempted to reverse the withdrawal of breast cancer services from Sligo General Hospital.


They subsequently gave up the party whip in August last year and have remained outside the Fianna Fail parliamentary party ever since.

It is understood that she again has the backing of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in her latest stance against a deal with Mr Grealish.

In Limerick yesterday, Mr Cowen gave no indication that he would be cutting a deal with Mr Grealish when he meets him next Tuesday.

"I think what we all understand is when it comes to the likes of the health services or any other services, there are limited budgets -- we have to make sure that we get more for less," he said.

Mr Grealish said yesterday that his "door was open" for a deal with the Government and that he was not seeking to bring it down.

"The Government as of now cannot count on my support. The historical underfunding to HSE West has to be addressed," he told RTE.

The Galway West TD, who was elected to the Dail for the now defunct Progressive Democrats party in 2007, has never voted against the Government.

Galway-based Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames last night accused Mr Grealish of pulling a "stunt" to "save his political career".

Ms Healy-Eames added that Mr Grealish's posturing that he intended to pull away from the Government was fooling no one because it was "painfully clear" that he had no firm intention to do so.

Irish Independent

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