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Halligan threatening to leave government over Waterford hospital resources

“Obviously he’s not happy,” a Fine Gael source said today.

Image: Leah Farrell

INDEPENDENT TD JOHN Halligan’s position in government looks to be under threat after the Waterford politician said he may resign if services were not increased at his local hospital.

During the formation of the current minority government, the Waterford TD requested that a cardiac unit be added to University Hospital Waterford, claiming that the facility was severely under-resourced.

The government agreed to conduct an independent review of hospital, but it is understood that the report hasn’t favoured the Independent Alliance deputy’s request for a new unit.

Fine Gael sources have told TheJournal.ie that “discussions are ongoing with Halligan and the Minister on the hospital – obviously he is not happy”.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said that Dr Niall Herity’s independent review of the hospital’s need for a second cardiac unit “has been received by the department, and is currently under consideration”.

When questioned on the issue today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that “it was not politically possible” to change a world-class clinician’s recommendation.

He also said that Halligan had been offered “a series of outcomes and proposals that would very much help the situation in Waterford”.

The Taoiseach added:

The Minister knows those [options] now and he can outline what the Minister is able to offer in the absence of a positive recommendation for a second cath lab [a catheterisation lab specialises in examining the heart].

Sources close to the Independent Alliance said that despite a successful ‘”detailed” meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris and Finance Minister Michael Noonan on Monday, the cardiac unit has become a “sticking point”.

Halligan 

Halligan has made a number of comments and decisions recently which have threatened to bring down the government.

Before the European Commission ruled that the Irish government was owed €13 billion in unpaid taxes, Halligan had said that Apple should pay Ireland the amount of tax owed.

“Everyone should pay their taxes, full stop,” the TD said.

Back in July, he said he’d go against the Government’s position and wouldn’t vote against an amendment to the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, criticising the party whip system while doing so.

Not a local issue

In an in-depth interview with this website earlier this year, Halligan said that the decision to request a second cardiac unit for University Hospital Waterford was not just a local issue.

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“The issue in Waterford is not a Waterford issue,” he insisted.

“It is a South East issue affecting 560,000 people where you had a hospital designated a primary intervention cardiovascular service hospital – but not having the same service as designated to other hospitals.
How could something be a local issue where 560,00 people on Friday evening in any of those areas – Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Dungarvan, Lismore, Cappoquin, Tramore – that there was no service available? Sure that was intolerable and it was the huge big election issue.
This was an issue, the electorate made this an issue, they made it an issue in the election before that… What was I supposed to do? Say ‘Sure I’m not going to bring that into the negotiations’ – but sure that would be silly stuff. So I did.

In the same interview, he also said that he wasn’t sure if the current minority government would work:

I don’t know what I expected it to be. I was never in the position before as a minister for state. I have never been part of government, I never thought I’d be part of a government. Not sure I wanted to be part of a government, but as it transpired, that is what happened in the negotiations.

Members of the Independent Alliance are meeting today at 4.30pm to review the issue.

A meeting is then due to be held with the Minister Harris at around 5pm.

Sources stated it would not be a “showdown” or “a head to head” with the minister.

With reporting from Christina Finn.

Read: Gerry Adams says Apple tax appeal ‘has as much credibility as a heap of horse manure’

Read: A motion requiring all new units in O’Devaney Gardens to be public housing has been overturned

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