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FG faces councillor revolt as Roscommon A&E shuts down

Two councillors quit Fine Gael over the Roscommon downgrade, as Kenny admits: Yes, I promised to keep services.

Roscommon residents protest against plans to downgrade Roscommon's A&E services last week. The A&E ward will close this morning, replaced with an urgent care unit that closes at 8pm nightly.
Roscommon residents protest against plans to downgrade Roscommon's A&E services last week. The A&E ward will close this morning, replaced with an urgent care unit that closes at 8pm nightly.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

TWO FINE GAEL county councillors have quit the party over the decision to downgrade services at Roscommon General Hospital from this morning.

Councillors Dominick Connolly and Laurence Fallon – the two Fine Gael councillors representing the Roscommon town area where the hospital lies – have resigned over the party’s U-turn in deciding to close the hospital’s A&E ward from this morning.

From 8am today the Accident & Emergency unit will be replaced by an urgent care unit which will only operate from 8am to 8pm, with patients then required to go to other larger hospitals elsewhere in the West.

RTÉ’s Morning Ireland said the two local councillors were associated with TD Denis Naughten, who was removed from the Fine Gael parliamentary party last week after he voted against closing the Roscommon A&E unit.

This morning Connolly told TheJournal.ie that he had canvassed for the party in the last general election, backed by a written guarantee from the party’s then-health spokesman James Reilly that the hospital’s services would be not alone kept, but enhanced.

“Enda Kenny came down here on another occasion and said the same thing – that Roscommon [hospital services] had been on the agenda for 30 years, and he was going to take it off the agenda for all time.

“Why they would have done that, without checking anything like the status of junior doctors, the cost of A&E services… it seems a very amateurish way of doing it,” he said.

He added that his resignation, and that of Fallon, was not likely to be reversed – and that the acid test of how the hospital issue affected Fine Gael’s support would be in how many people would offer to canvass for its presidential candidate Gay Mitchell.

Other FG councillors are also considering their membership, with Connolly saying he had spoken to a number of other members who had not yet made up their minds on staying with the party.

Climbdown

The political fallout from the closure is continuing, with Enda Kenny last night being forced into an embarrassing admission that he had promised to safeguard Roscommon’s services during the general election campaign.

Having told a radio interview on Saturday that he hadn’t made any personal commitments to maintain all services, the Sunday Business Post disclosed a pre-election audio recording in which the Taoiseach said:

We are committed to maintaining the services at Roscommon General Hospital.

Kenny said he had made that commitment in good faith, but that the government could not ignore the expert advice of HIQA, which said it was unsafe to provide A&E services in Roscommon and in other small hospitals.

The statement met with ire from opposition leaders, with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams saying the volte-face was “not good enough”.

“The Taoiseach should do the decent thing – that means keeping his promise. Full accident and emergency services should be restored to Roscommon,” Adams said.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said Kenny’s denial was “just another aspect of increasingly arrogant behaviour by the government”.

“He was the person who said repeatedly in February that he would operate to high standards and honour a bond of trust with the public. Yet every time he is challenged he refuses to be accountable,” Martin said, claiming Kenny had misled the Dáil on the matter.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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