| 12.1°C Dublin

Andrew Lynch: Lame duck Harney -- always AWOL in a crisis

So what has Mary Harney got to say for herself now?

Back in March 2006, she declared it was "a national emergency" when 495 patients were left waiting on hospital trolleys.

Over the last few days, the situation has been even worse -- and this time, the Minister for Health is nowhere to be found.

While the rest of the country returned to work at least a week ago, Harney is apparently still enjoying her Christmas break at an undisclosed location.


The phones in her office are going unanswered, while her spokesman can only promise that she'll be back at her desk by Monday morning.

Even if she is genuinely indisposed, there is no excuse for not sending out one of her junior ministers to speak on her behalf.

In fact, the single official communication from Harney this week has been a desperately bland statement about the decision of VHI to jack up its premium costs by up to 45pc.

Although this is certain to drive many older people into our overcrowded and underfunded public hospitals, her only advice is the old mantra: "Shop around".

Since her own disastrous policies are directly responsible for creating this mess, that just isn't good enough -- and her silence today is as close as we'll ever get to an admission of failure.


You don't need the memory of an elephant to recall that Harney has form here.

When the scandal of unread X-rays at Tallaght Hospital broke last year, the Minister was off conducting a St Patrick's Day parade in New Zealand.

Despite the national outrage, she remained Down Under for the best part of two weeks.

The former PD leader is on record as saying that the HSE doesn't need "a meddlesome minister".

Frankly that sounds a lot better than a lame-duck minister who goes AWOL whenever the health system is engulfed by another crisis.


Mary Harney is currently in her last few weeks as Minister for Health.

For the many people suffering as a direct result of her woeful mismanagement, the end can't come soon enough.