Kenny criticised for hospital promise

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended has handling of the Roscommon hospital controversy in Dáil exchanges this afternoon.

Mr Kenny said he had made a public address on the issue in the street in Roscommon, in which, as a party leader, he had enunciated what Fine Gael party was at that time.

“Part of the duty and part of the responsibility of any leader of any party is to enunciate what party policy was,’’ he added.

Mr Kenny said the first mention of the situation being unsafe in Roscommon hospital came in the Mallow report which was published after the general election.

Had he not accepted the clinical evidence of the independent health regulator, and say that everything was fine in Roscommon and other small hospitals, he would not have neither “conscience nor cover’’ if something happened an accident and emergency unit in a small hospital.

Amid some angry scenes during Leaders’ Questions, which prompted the Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett to repeatedly call for order and for deputies to resume their seats, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin challenged the Taoiseach to finally come clean and admit that his party and himself promised to keep the services open in full knowledge of the issues that the hospital faced “in a crass but effective” effort to take two seats for Fine Gael in Roscommon.

Mr Martin said that every time the Taoiseach was asked a tough question, he attacked the person asking it.

He added that Mr Kenny had been “caught out’’ because there was a recording of the exact words which he had used in Roscommon.

“It was you who personally promised to tell it straight. It was you who denied to RTÉ and to this house that you made any promise in relation to Roscommon Hospital. And you were caught out. And I find it incredible that that you cannot face up to that here in the house today and put the record straight.”

The Taoiseach, he added, had said with “solemn flourish” that the people of Roscommon should understand he had defended the nurses and the doctors and the workers and the people of Roscommon over the years and would do so again.

Nothing knew had been raised by HIQA since February, he said. “In fact, and this is very important, it has emerged today that HIQA has never set foot in Roscommon hospital,’’ Mr Martin added.

“And so the idea that HIQA’s view on Roscommon suddenly changes everything is ludicrous.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the Taoiseach’s handling of the Roscommon hospital issue was an example of the old ways of politics at their very worst.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the Taoiseach cut a contemptible figure, coming into the Dail and using the most pathetic excuses to cover up a cynical betrayal of the people of Roscommon.

Earlier today, Mr Kenny said he had enunciated his party's policy at thousands of locations around the country, as well as Roscommon.

Restructuring and redesign of the services currently provided at a number of hospitals was going to have to take place on the basis of clinical evidence and in the interest of patients, Mr Kenny added.

"The question of personal guarantees or something that would go beyond party policy . . . I said I regretted any confusion caused about that, but I make no apology at all for enunciating what Fine Gael policy given in good faith at that time was," he said.

Mr Kenny said he could not stand over a situation continuing when he was in receipt of information from the independent health regulator stating that facilities were unsafe.

He was speaking outside Government Buildings this morning, following a meeting with European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek.

On Sunday night, Mr Kenny issued a statement expressing regret over “any confusion” after a recording emerged of him telling a Fine Gael rally in Roscommon in February that Fine Gael was “committed to maintaining the services in Roscommon County Hospital”.

Hundreds protested outside the emergency department at Roscommon County Hospital yesterday over the downgrading of services. The department was yesterday replaced by an “urgent care centre” operating from 8am to 8pm.