Opinion

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Government moves from heartless to incompetent

The State put in place a policy of self-protection first, citizens be damned, under Leo Varadkar's nose, writes Jody Corcoran

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris during a press conference on the cervical cancer scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris during a press conference on the cervical cancer scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The Government's handling of the cervical cancer scandal has exposed a fatal flaw at the heart of Leo Varadkar's administration.

The accusation of 'spin doctoring' has been attached to his government, but that scratches the surface.

The charge of a lack of empathy is also made, more so now, although I first used the term the week he was elected and have repeated it several times since.

The fatal flaw, however, is a combination of both, which manifested itself last week in something even more damning - incompetence.

It goes like this: spin to mask the heartlessness borne of hardened ideology to hide the incompetence.

Add to that a sullen, childlike reaction to criticism and we have all the ingredients of eventual implosion with potentially disastrous consequences.

The handling of the cancer scandal, therefore, raises an urgent question, whether Varadkar and several ministers, like Simon Harris, are too young, inexperienced and cosseted to run the country?

The answer to that may also be yes.

The cancer scandal has been running for two weeks, but there is still no sign the Government has a firm handle on what has occurred.

The public has little confidence that the full truth has come out.

More than that, there is an expectation that something will soon, or eventually, emerge to show a political hand in the scandal.

And were that to happen, that really would be the end of this administration.

In her searing indictment, Emma Mhic Mhathuna said the Government needed to go as it was "not capable of minding us". In the immediate aftermath of her Morning Ireland radio interview, that charge was brushed over. It was as though people understood why she would say that but put it down to the trauma of her fatal diagnosis.

Within hours, however, there emerged from the bowels of the HSE, kicking and screaming, damning memorandums of the State.

These showed the HSE was aware of what had happened, that women had been incorrectly diagnosed, and then…

The State decided these women should not be told, not in a timely manner, and chose instead to concern itself with legal niceties and a policy of media management and 'spin'.

All of this went on under the noses of Leo Varadkar first and Simon Harris, both as ministers for health.

They say they did not know, nor did their advisers. We shall see. But if that is so, the question is: why did they not know?

They are charged first and foremost, as Emma Mhic Mhathuna has said, with the protection of the citizens of the State.

Yet they did not know while the State put in place a policy of self-protection first, citizens be damned.

The charge could not be more serious. Spin, heartlessness, incompetence. And that may be only the half of it.

Sunday Independent

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