Labour Senator may not go for election unless Roscommon A&E opened

John Kelly wants ‘feasibility’ of reopening accident and emergency service considered

Leo Varadkar, who will be asked to debate the issue. Photograph: Alan Betson

Leo Varadkar, who will be asked to debate the issue. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:00

Labour Senator John Kelly has said he may not run for the party in the Roscommon-South Leitrim byelection unless the Government considers the “feasibility’’ of reopening accident and emergency services in Roscommon hospital.

Mr Kelly based in Ballaghaderreen is the obvious candidate for Labour, as a sitting member of the Oireachtas who polled 4,455 first preferences in the last general election.

The byelection is expected to be held on the same day as the Dublin South West byelection in late September or early October.

Mr Kelly said yesterday that while he was anxious to run, he wanted a number of issues relating to Roscommon, principally the hospital, dealt with before deciding to put his name forward.

“I did not agree with the closure of the accident and emergency service at the time, and I do not agree with it now,’’ he added.

“I will be asking for a proper debate on the issue with the new Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, and will make my decision on the byelection based on the response.’’

He said the service was of particular importance to elderly people living in its vicinity, adding that during the last general election Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly, later to become minister, had given a commitment it would be retained.

Divisions

The issue has already caused huge divisions within Fine Gael in the constituency, with TD Denis Naughten leaving the party to become an Independent following the withdrawal of the service.

The other sitting TD for the constituency, Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan, has come under huge pressure locally.

The vacancy in the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency was caused by the election of Independent Luke Ming Flanagan to the European Parliament.

So far, the only candidate selected to contest the byelection is Fianna Fáil’s Ivan Connaughton, an auctioneer based in Athleague.

Three candidates have been chosen for the Dublin South Central vacancy caused by the election of former Fine Gael minister of state Brian Hayes to the European Parliament. They are Fianna Fáil’s John Lahart, Fine Gael Senator Cáit Keane and Labour candidate Pamela Kearns.