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Kenny under pressure: Ex FG councillors demand apology

Two Roscommon councillors today demanded Taoiseach Enda Kenny apologise to their constituents as they quit Fine Gael over the downgrading of hospital services.

Dominick Connolly and Laurence Fallon have accused Mr Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly of reneging on promises to protect Roscommon hospital's A&E.

Mr Kenny has come under pressure after he was forced to deny misleading voters when a tape recording revealed he made a pre-election pledge to maintain services at the midlands hospital.

Several hundred people today protested outside the hospital’s new ‘urgent care centre’ which replaces the A&E department.

As the emergency department at Roscommon shut, Mr Connolly claimed promises had been broken.

"I think the Taoiseach and James Reilly should come down here to Roscommon, to the hospital, and offer an apology to the people of Roscommon and the staff and the patients for misleading them in those statements in February," the councillor said.

The A&E department shut today and was replaced by an "urgent care centre" operating from 8am to 8pm.

For four weeks only, from 8pm to 8am, the unit will be staffed by a non-consultant hospital doctor supervised by a consultant surgeon.

The urgent care centre will not accept heart attack or stroke patients or people in need of major or complex trauma surgery. They will be transported to Galway, Sligo or Mayo.

Mr Kenny was forced to issue a statement yesterday after a tape of a pre-election pledge emerged in which he promised to maintain services at Roscommon - despite claiming on Saturday he had not been travelling the country making promises he could not stand over.

The Taoiseach said that, since the election, the Health Information and Quality Authority said A&E services at Roscommon and other smaller hospitals were not safe.

"The Government cannot ignore this expert advice and, consequently, this element of Fine Gael's commitment is no longer tenable," Mr Kenny said.

"I regret any confusion that may have arisen from my comments yesterday. It was never my intention to mislead anyone on this matter."

But Mr Connolly questioned why facts were not checked before Mr Kenny made his pledge.

"I wouldn't say it was deliberate, but why they didn't do their homework and check to see that the junior doctors were in place and it was feasible to keep it open."

The resignations come just days after local Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten voted against the Government on a Dail motion linked with the downgrading of hospital services and was subsequently expelled from the parliamentary party.

Constituency and party colleague Frank Feighan backed the Government in the vote.

Mr Fallon said he does not know why the pledges were made but said he was disappointed that they were not kept.

"They (Taoiseach and minister) should apologise but at the end of the day, apology is one thing, but they need to take control of what's happening in the Health Service Executive and need to look at the dangers that they are causing for the people going forward," Mr Fallon said.

"So it's more than an apology."