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Leaders' Questions: Micheál Martin says health service is a 'catastrophe'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced questions from the opposition in the Dáil this afternoon as TDs returned to action with plenty of fiery rhetoric.

Enda Kenny in the Dáil this afternoon.
Enda Kenny in the Dáil this afternoon.
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY came in for strong questioning over the performance of his Health Minister James Reilly in the Dáil today as the first Leaders’ Questions of the new term was held.

Reilly faces a motion of no confidence later tonight and ahead of that, Kenny came in for criticism over the state of the health service which Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, himself a former health minister, described as a “catastrophe”.

Martin said that the performance of James Reilly in the post had left “a deep sense of despair across the health sector”. Reilly has come under pressure over the budget overspend in the HSE this year.

Martin said that the health service budget was “false and dishonest” and pinpointed comments from the junior ministers in the Department of Health whom he said had not expressed their confidence in Reilly in recent media interviews.

He said: “Minister Shortall was asked specifically had she confidence in Minister Reilly […] So was Minister (for Social Protection Joan) Burton and so was Minister Jan O’Sullivan… They all refused to say, quite simply, I have confidence in Minister James Reilly.”

“Is Minister Shortall correct in saying that the government’s commitment to health reform is being threatened because of his lack of proactive engagement with the issues?” he put it to the Taoiseach.

Kenny pointed to “the mess” that he said Martin and his party had left behind in the Department of Health during their time in government and pointed to a reduction in the number of patients on trolleys of 22 per cent.

He said that the number of adults waiting over 12 months for inpatient and day case surgery is down since the coalition took office and said that legislation regarding pricing was being brought before the Dáil tomorrow.

‘Monster you created’

Kenny admitted that legislation regarding the provision of free GP care was behind schedule but said that this was on the “A list”. “Work continues to get that bill in here as quickly as we can,” he added.

Kenny insisted that Reilly had the support of both the Fine Gael and Labour parties and slammed Martin for his party’s handling of the health service when in government.

“You never bothered to look at the monster you created, and that’s going to change now,” the Taoiseach said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams questioned the Taoiseach on cuts to mental health assistance and called on the Taoiseach to admit that the health service is in ‘deep crisis’.

Unsurprisingly the Taoiseach did not admit this and batted away further criticism from independent TD Shane Ross who raised the issue of the effect pre-budget speculation is having on pensioners.

“What is happening here is that the middle classes and the lower paid are being prepared for another blow which they cannot take,” Ross told the Taoiseach.

On the issue of the property tax, which was also raised, Kenny said that the only decisions made on this were that it would be administered by the Revenue Commissioners and would take effect from 1 July next year.

He also said that the IMF recommendation of it being levied at 0.5 per cent of the house value would not be taken on board.

Kenny insisted: “Anything else outside of those decisions is speculative. I’ve seen one newspaper saying that a decision was made that the rate would be at a certain level. All of these things are being speculated.”

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Hugh O'Connell

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