No faith, little hope, but at least we have clarity


Dáil Sketch:If clarity begins at home, you’d be worried for the women of Ireland. Particularly as James Reilly stressed yesterday that he is determined to bring it to them.

It’s over two months and counting since the Minister for Health was to produce the criteria underpinning his political stroke policy for primary care centres.

When Calamity James presented with the classic signs of a nod-and-wink induced political stroke, he responded in textbook fashion to stiff Opposition treatment: injured waffle and outright denial followed by acute brassification of the neck.

Why did you bump up locations in your constituency (and a few belonging to politically needful colleagues) on to a carefully prepared and weighted national list, and on the evening before it was due to be published? The clarity of Dr Reilly’s explanation in October is worth revisiting.


“They’re quite extensive criteria and, because all of them act in different ways, it’s a bit like a multiplier. One and one makes two, and two and two make four but four by four makes 16 and not four and four makes eight and so it is with this. It’s a logistical, logarithmic progression, so there is nothing, there is nothing simple about it.”

That fairly shut people up.

It’s hard to laugh and talk at the same time.

However, in the light of the new information, the Fianna Fáil leader decided to return during Leaders’ Questions to the saga of the primary care centres. He’s still looking for clarity on the criteria, despite all the documents sent to him by the Department of Health.

He brandished a file as thick as the health minister’s neck but said nothing in it explained why Dicey Reilly plumped at the last minute for extra locations in his north Dublin bailiwick.

“A shambolic and chaotic decision-making process,” he declared, adding that the new documentation “gives the lie to the excuses and explanations offered by Minister Reilly.”

So Enda decided to supply some clarity. But not before he gave Micheál a dressing down: “It ill behoves you to come in here and talk about what you are talking about.”

He then mounted a defence of Calamity James, which few in the Chamber could follow – judging by the bewildered expressions on their faces.

The Taoiseach endeavoured to explain there was nothing complicated at all about the way his health minister came to have his political stroke. He banged loudly on the ledge in front of him to drive home his point.

Or wake people up.

After meandering on, Enda concluded that he had identified “the three methods” by which Dr Reilly chose his locations. And besides the places on the original list, loads more will be chosen under the three methods.

“One for everyone in the audience,” sniffed Micheál.

“You asked him to stand for the presidency,” snorted FG backbencher Patrick O’Donovan seizing on the Gay Byrne connection.

The primary care controversy is now over, as far as Enda is concerned. Clarity reigns.

“I gave Deputy Martin the three headings that apply: direct funding, leasing arrangements and public-

private partnerships,” he said, outlining how he expected the primary care programme to proceed under them.

“There are no three methods,” protested Micheál.

There are now. One has to wonder why James Reilly didn’t know about them back in October, when the controversy first erupted.

He blustered about multipliers and logistical, logarithmic progression, when all the time it was just three reasons, three methods. It took Enda two months – and God knows how many civil servants – to come up with this line.

Not that anyone is buying it. Still, at least the Taoiseach’s robust defence cheered up Dicey Reilly, who started to smile for the first time since he entered the Chamber. He sat up in his seat and chanced a softly boiled heckle.

Mattie McGrath looked across at Enda and asked: “Have you not got a job in Europe for him?”

“The dogs in the street know his position is untenable,” said Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald.

Greece lightning

Shane Ross, the Winston Churchtown of Dublin South – always a model of clarity – took the heat off Calamity James when he congratulated Greece on getting a debt write-down. “What has Greece got that we haven’t got?”

“Meltdown!” chirruped FG’s Tony McLaughlin.

“General strikes,” whooped Richard Boyd-Barrett.

“Sunshine,” sighed Labour’s Colm Keaveney. Some of that would have been nice.

Already, party spokespeople were discussing the report of the expert group on abortion. Thankfully, above all the babble, we have James Reilly – talking about “giving clarity to the women of Ireland”. No worries for the women so.