Róisín Shortall: No regrets
There is no disguising her sense of disappointment at the lack of support from Labour Ministers, though she acknowledges they were probably not made aware of the work that had been done to draw up a list of primary care centres based on objective criteria and weighted in favour of the disadvantaged.
“Some of them were aware of the huge difficulties within the department and would have known that Reilly was not singing off the same hymn sheet as Labour. He’s ideological. They would have known from Cabinet that he was a difficult customer and hard to pin down.” Still, the Labour bosses backed the senior Minister, and what really galled Shortall was the clumsy attempt by Cabinet to justify actions that she feels were simply “not plausible”. She says she has been ostracised by her former senior colleagues since leaving. She would have gone this December anyway, unable to support a Budget she says is unjust and regressive.
“Given there are so many people at their wit’s end to survive, for the sake of cohesion there needed to be a demonstrable measure in the Budget to show that we’re all in this together.” She suggests a 5 per cent “solidarity levy” on incomes over €100,000 and caps on the tax relief applying to pension contributions would have obviated the need for child benefit and respite care cuts.
Pondering her own support for Labour going into Coalition in early 2011, she says that at the time she believed there was “enough” in the programme for government to make it worthwhile. “There seemed too to be a mood to challenge the troika. I thought there would be a much more serious facing down of them. There was certainly a mandate for it.”
While Shortall has moved on after a public bust-up, the other Labour Minister of State in the department, Kathleen Lynch, has expressed confidence in Reilly. “Kathleen uses different tactics,” she says by way of explanation. Shortall is Old Labour, while Lynch came into the party via Democratic Left and the Workers’ Party. So is there a Labour/DL cleft? “That’s for another day,” she replies.
“There’s a huge amount of dissatisfaction within the wider Labour Party. Members feel let down. For the time being I’m staying within the party because I subscribe to its values and tradition. But I think at leadership level it has been disappointing for members and supporters.”
Healthcare heartaches: Controversy and cashflow
This past year has been a hugely controversial one in health, but let’s start with the positive news.
In the past, the controversies in health have often involved medical disasters such as misdiagnoses and infected blood products. In many cases, the consequences were catastrophic for patients and their families.