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John Downing: 'Kate O'Connell lobs grenade in Leo's direction'

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Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Photo: Damien Eagers

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Photo: Damien Eagers

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Photo: Damien Eagers

Papering over the cracks involves acts of blind faith and hope. But, as winter tightens her cold wet grip, and viruses are announced, the Government braces itself for considerable hospital troubles.

Last week, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was left defending a belated €24m "winter plan" to help ease the eternal pinchpoint that is the overcrowded A&E service.

This week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar himself was fielding questions about three key Dublin children's hospitals putting so-called "routine procedures" on hold.

Yes, those political travails bear no comparison with sitting interminably on a plastic chair, or fretting on a hospital trolley, when seriously ill or injured. But realpolitik dictates that any Government must soldier on.

Then enter one of "their own crowd" stage left. Kate O'Connell, Fine Gael TD from Dublin Bay South, launched a mini-grenade yesterday. She told a Dáil health committee that she was embarrassed by the crowded scenes in Crumlin Children's Hospital A&E when she attended with her sick child.

In an experience which will resonate with many other citizens, she said she waited eight hours, and then decided to "give up" and leave. She described the state of the emergency department as "unacceptable" and said she was afraid somebody would recognise her as a politician.

She said children should not be forced to endure such delays and reasonably decided her child was probably the "least sick".

Ms O'Connell's colleagues will consider her remarks with interest. There is no denying the ring of truth which harks back to many fretful parents' encounters bearing a sick child through a health system which is under serious pressure.

But there is also the issue of winter pressures adding to the health services and an election just months away.

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