Contrasting cost of spin unit with health funding ‘bad politics’

Leo Varadkar says he feels for scoliosis sufferers after Martin criticises €6m used for PR

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: ‘I take it very seriously and it is something I am very committed to because I really feel for these kids and their families.’ Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: ‘I take it very seriously and it is something I am very committed to because I really feel for these kids and their families.’ Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The Taoiseach has said contrasting the cost of his strategic communications unit with funding for scoliosis surgery is “bad politics’’.

Leo Varadkar was replying in the Dáil to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said €6 million was being spent on staff and marketing for the new unit.

“I think it is actually quite extraordinary growth, given the Taoiseach mentioned 11 people have been employed in the unit in double quick time,’’ Mr Martin added.

Mr Martin said last week the House was told the children’s hospitals would be the focus of a marketing strategy by the unit.

“However, the lack of scoliosis operations will not be the focus of that unit,’’ he added.

Mr Varadkar said he was not sure what the connection was between departmental and political staff and the scoliosis issue.

He suggested it was “an attempt to use scoliosis and the people suffering from it and their families’’ to have a go at him.

“I think that is bad politics, quite frankly,’’ he added.

He said the Opposition parties had State-funded staff.

Labour TD Joan Burton said Mr Varadkar was the Taoiseach and the issue was about providing the resources to assist scoliosis sufferers.

Mr Varadkar said he was a doctor by profession and he understood scoliosis.

“When I was a medical student, I remember seeing kids who were waiting on operations whose lung function was getting worse by the day and by the month because of the delays in getting treatment.’’

He said he had vowed if he ever had the privilege to hold political office, to be minister for health or taoiseach, he would try to do something about it.

“I take it very seriously and it is something I am very committed to because I really feel for these kids and their families,’’ Mr Varadkar added.