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Sinead Ryan: Happy birthday Mary Harney, now give yourself the gift we all want for you and quit

FEW will know - and fewer will care - but it's Mary Harney's 58th birthday today. And let's hope she's having a lovely time with hubby Brian languishing on a State-sponsored fortnight in New Zealand. Well, here's another 58 she can ponder on while she's enjoying the winter sun: 58,000 x-rays never looked at by a radiologist, languishing in Tallaght hospital.

We don't know exactly how Mary will be celebrating while the scandal continues to unfold back here, but here's hoping she does us all a favour and gives herself the birthday gift we'd all like to see and quits.

Mary, let's face it, it's about time you took early retirement. You're one of the few who can afford to, after all.

This week, we heard the "I only just heard about it" defence trotted out yet again by a Government Minister (is this the third time in as many weeks?), swiftly followed by "The important thing is that we are dealing with it" excuse.

Well, forgive me, but it seems that this is the same Minister leading the same HSE who 'dealt with' the deaths of two misdiagnosed cancer patients in Ennis Hospital in 2008. And the same ones who 'dealt with' the misdiagnosis of nine cancer victims in Drogheda two years before that.

Oh, and let's not forget the 3,000 incorrectly read mammograms and 600 ultrasounds that went AWOL at the Midland Hospital over 4 years.

The Minister is not a doctor. And no, she doesn't need to be. However she is the manager of the system. It is simply not good enough to say that the HSE looks after all the cock-ups, especially when hardly one member of her own enormous department lost their job after the formation of the HSE - they're all still there, along with the 100,000 health workers. What are they doing?

Well, they're not 'dealing with' anything, clearly, except the fine-tuning of press statements. The Minister and her Department have learned absolutely nothing about dealing with serious problems that arise in their bailiewick.

It is an impossible expectation that mistakes will never be made in something as vast as a public health system. However, the scale of this latest scandal - 58,000 x-rays which went un-viewed by radiologists - is breath-taking. Where do you even store that sort of backlog? Were they locked in a broom cupboard?

What matters is not who blew the whistle - it's that it wasn't the Minister herself. She knew about this months ago; the hospital long before that. Why were alarm bells not sounded long and loud immediately?

Now we have tens of thousands of terrified people ringing a phone line (which may or may not be answered) while HSE staff are deciding what day they'll down tools next week and the Minister is eating birthday cake.

Another year older, but no wiser.