FG senator told Harris a cath lab 'would help politically'
A Fine Gael senator pleaded with the Health Minister to open a second cardiac lab in his constituency, saying it would give him "political cover" until after a general election.
Waterford Senator Paudie Coffey wrote to Simon Harris saying approving the modular cath lab as a temporary measure would help him politically.
In an email, he wrote: "If we can deliver this, it would give me political cover until review is complete or until after an election, whichever comes first."
The senator defended the use of the term "political cover", saying the message had been sent to Mr Harris's special adviser.
"The last general election, I lost my seat by a few hundred votes and there is no doubt it was down to issues around the cath lab - others [local politicians] made very public demonstrations they would deliver it. I never promised it but this was always a very hot political issue in Waterford for the last five or six years.
"I was writing to the special adviser and I want to distinguish that. I was making a political point to a political adviser about the political impact. I was using the avenues available to me to try and get movement on the issue. I make no apologies for making the political point. I feel justified. Simon Harris listened to us and overruled the officials."
According to records released under FOI, in his email to the department in March, Mr Coffey forwarded a brief that had been prepared by local campaigners looking for improved cardiac services in the region.