Monday 26 August 2019

Varadkar: 'FF were happy to sacrifice a State car if it meant Harney took Health'

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Mary Harney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has launched a blistering attack on Fianna Fáil, saying if Mary Harney had looked for any other Cabinet position, they would have "pushed her out of the way quicker than you can say 'State car'."

Mr Varadkar, who has been under pressure for shelving Fine Gael's Universal Health Insurance (UHI) plan, told the Irish Independent that Fianna Fáil "ran away" from the Health ministry in 2004.

And he claimed that the "highlight" of party leader Micheál Martin's time in Health "must be the €100m PPARS IT system, which didn't work and which has crippled IT spending in the health service ever since.

"This damning legacy explains why Fianna Fáil hasn't got a single workable proposal for how to improve the health service. Their health policy consists of one plan: to keep the HSE.

"In fact, his (Mr Martin's) party actually wants to get back in power in order to stop Fine Gael dismantling it."

The minister also took aim at the opposition's lead spokesman on Health, Billy Kelleher, who, he said, "likes to talk about emergency department overcrowding".

"He is right that it is a serious problem. But his alternative budget for 2015 allocated no extra funding to address emergency department pressures.

"Compare that to Fine Gael, which has already provided €117m in extra resources and a further €51m to address waiting lists over the last year."

In response, Mr Kelleher said the minister had "an extraordinary brass neck" to make such comments "days after abandoning his party's health policy".

He said: "Minister Varadkar would be more in line to accept that he has presided over an increase in the number of people on trolleys and the wait-times for in-patient and out-patient appointments.

"On the eve of an election now, his party has no health plan. He would want to do some soul-searching."

A supplementary budget estimate of more than €600m for the Department of Health will be announced shortly.

But Mr Varadkar said Fianna Fáil "had already run out of ideas about the health service after setting up the HSE".

"Fianna Fáil were delighted when Mary Harney volunteered her wish to become minister for health. They were happy to let her stay in Health even after her party had ceased to exist and she became an independent.

"Had it been any other ministry, FF backbenchers would have pushed her out of the way quicker than you can say 'State car'," he said.

Mr Varadkar also questioned whether Fianna Fáil intended to honour the Lansdowne Road agreement, saying it wasn't allowed for in the party's pre-budget submission.

"The party's spending plans have no proposals for pay restoration for nurses, young doctors, ambulance drivers, paramedics and therapists," he added.

Irish Independent

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