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President Higgins speaking at Bloom Festival Jane Matthews

Fixing delays with childen's spinal surgeries 'not rocket science', President Higgins says

The President said children in need of surgery should be facilitated to receive it abroad in the meantime.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS has said the issues causing delays with children’s spinal surgeries in Ireland are “unacceptable” and that fixing the causes of the delays is “not rocket science”.

The President made the comments while speaking to reporters at the Board Bia Bloom festival in Phoenix Park, Dublin today where he was delivering a speech as patron of the festival.

President Higgins was asked for his thoughts on the fresh delay with the National Children’s Hospital and the impact it will have on children who have been waiting years and months for spinal surgery. 

It was reported last night that the hospital’s opening has been delayed once again and its doors are now not expected to open until August 2025 at the earliest. 

Meanwhile, several hundred children are currently on the waiting list for spinal and orthopaedic surgery at Temple Street, with some waiting over a year for their operation.

President Higgins said the delays facing these children are “unacceptable”. 

He added that while the issues causing the delays are addressed, the children should be facilitated to receive their much needed surgeries overseas. 

“It would be unconscionable if the delay with the Children’s Hospital, added to what has been acknowledged as an unacceptable delay [with children's spinal surgeries],” Higgins said. 

He added: “In terms of the delay…It’s not rocket science to be able to look at the consultancy issues that are involved.”

“In the meantime, the provision of funding to enable people to get the treatment necessary by having to travel abroad should be immediate,” Higgins said. 

The President added that he “has it on his list” to discuss with the Taoiseach when they next meet. 

Accommodation for asylum seekers

The President also commented on the shortage of accommodation for those seeking asylum in Ireland and said he does not see it as an “insuperable problem”. 

He suggested that unusable office accommodation should be considered as an option. 

Currently there are over 1,900 people seeking asylum in the state without accommodation.

President Higgins said: “ There are many, many ways of housing people.

“It might be time for us to look at all of the unused office space we have and offer an international architectural competition for its transition into residential accommodation. Because this is a problem we have all over Europe.”

Health scare

Elsewhere, the President said he has made “great progress” with his health following a recent scare. 

“I had a mild stroke on the 29th of February. I’ve made great progress but it might be another month or so before I’m able to shake rugby players hands. But it hasn’t stopped me supporting the League,” the President told reporters. 

He added that he has his own physiotheraphy regime that is working “I just have to stick with it”.

Climate Change

Much of President Higgins’ speech at Bloom focused on climate change and biodiversity loss. 

On Ireland’s record on climate change, he spoke of how the country is failing to reach its climate targets and said “we must all do better”.

He received a round of applause from the audience when he spoke of how there is a “huge difference” between people who own farmers to care for animals and those who own farms as “part of their property portfolio”. 

“We learned that lesson a hundred years ago,” the President said as he called for direct payments to farmers. 

“Looking at what is happening in Europe, it is going to be necessary to sustain people in farming if we are to have farming in future generations. The market has destroyed agriculture,” the President said. 

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