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Enda Kenny said political charges against James Reilly were a "witch hunt".
Leaders' Questions

Kenny slams Sinn Féin 'witch hunt' against Minister for Health

Sinn Féin has demanded an explanation as to why emergency wards in Kilkenny and Wexford had upgrades ‘fast-tracked’.

THE TAOISEACH has slammed Sinn Féin for its political “witch hunt” against the Minister for Health, James Reilly, after the party demanded explanations on why hospital emergency departments in Wexford and Kilkenny – the home towns of two ministers – were fast-tracked.

Kenny said he could understand the reasons for Sinn Fein’s political charges against the minister, defending the decision to expedite hospital works at Wexford General Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny.

Upgrade works in both facilities had been “in the pipeline” since 2006, the Taoiseach said, saying his government was not prepared to allow Wexford’s emergency unit to continue operating from a converted pharmacy, or St Luke’s to use pre-fab facilities.

“Any public representative would understand that these are two major hospitals,” he said, recalling that Mary Harney had described trolley waiting times as “a national emergency” in 2006.

“Both of these projects languished to the capital programme since then,” he said.

Look at the outcome here. Instead of having more reports, more capital programmes, more proposals sitting on shelves with nothing happening, it’s about time we moved [...] it’s past time we got on with this.

The comments followed the release of documents obtained by RTÉ which revealed that the HSE board had not been informed of the decision to fast-track the hospital procedures until after the respective ministers, Brendan Howlin and Phil Hogan, had publicly announced the works.

RTÉ’s documents also revealed that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform – run by Howlin himself – had agreed to provide an extra €14 million to fund the works in Wexford.

Kenny was responding to Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who had demanded to know the criteria by which the two hospitals concerned were chosen to be fast-tracked ahead of others where new facilities were equally needed.

“Why was the HSE not told until after the ministers had made the announcement?” he asked, adding: “I have to say, I admire your loyalty to your minister.”

Read: Documents show ministers announced hospital works before HSE Board knew

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