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Where's Harney?

Has ANYONE seen Mary Harney?

Any information leading to her recovery can be sent to

AS THE STATE faces yet another health crisis, with swine flu rates doubling in a week, hospitals battling severe overcrowding, and VHI announcing a dramatic price hike, the Minister responsible is nowhere to be seen.

Health Minister Mary Harney’s office issued a short statement yesterday on the VHI price increases, saying that there was ample choice in the market, but the Minister herself failed to give any media interviews.

She also declined to attend a press conference last night, at which it was announced that Ireland’s second swine flu epidemic may prove worse than the first.

Last night, 492 people were on a trolley in Irish hospitals, as they waited for a bed – down from a record 569 earlier in the week, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The worst hit hospital was Beaumont, which had 35 people on trolleys, while Tallaght and Cork University Hospital each had 34. Thirty three people were on trolleys in the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick. Between 20 and 30 people were on trolleys in St Vincents, Connolly Hospital, Naas General Hospital, the Mater, the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes.

The Irish Daily Mail speculates that Harney may be on holidays in Florida or South Africa, prompting Labour spokeswoman Joan Burton to say:

The Minister has always been uniquely hands-off in relation to her responsibilities – now her feet aren’t even on the ground. There is a clear lack of responsibility being shown by Mary Harney. A minister for health is required to show some solidarity with those who are quite literally suffering.

Asked this morning by whether there were any plans for the Health Minister to cut her break short to return to work, given the extent of the crisis in the health service, a spokeswoman replied that she ”didn’t have that information to hand.”

The Irish Independent reports that she will be back at her desk on Monday morning.

In yesterday’s poll, over 90 per cent of people voted that it was time for Harney to announce her resignation.

You can still have your say in our poll here >