Sinn Féin TD would seek to convince unionists on all-island health cooperation

David Cullinane said cross border care ‘makes sense’

Mr Cullinane said he understands that more cross border cooperation is “anathema” to some unionist politicians.

David Cullinane would seek to convince a Unionist counterpart in the north that increased all-island cooperation on health “makes sense” if he was appointed minister in a future government involving Sinn Féin.

Mr Cullinane said he understands that more cross border cooperation is “anathema” to some unionist politicians.

However he said: “we have to go and make the reasoned argument that this makes sense for children in Belfast… or for adults across different areas like cancer care”.

Mr Cullinane said that from his contacts with doctors in the North “they want to see more integrated healthcare on the island - they get it”.


He said: “They’re up for this, they want it to happen. The problem is the political block”.

He was speaking as he launched a report on understanding the causes of waiting lists based on his engagement with doctors, patient groups and unions - including visits to 14 hospitals - during his time as Sinn Féin health spokesman.

It includes recommendations on recruiting and retaining staff, capital investment and on boosting cross border cooperation as part of Sinn Féin’s goal of creating an all-island national health service.

He said: “the challenge for any future minister for health is to convince the Minister for Health in the north as well, that all-island cooperation makes sense.

“Can we leverage that critical mass of the population that we have to maximise resources?”

He said such efforts would be made whether a Nationalist or Unionist held the job in the North.

He said he didn’t know if Sinn Féin will seek the health ministry in the North after the next Assembly elections and “that’s a matter of party leadership to decide”.

On the south he said: “we’re not presumptuous enough to think that we are going to be in government.

“It’s not an inevitability but if we were I would hope that we would seek health…

“I don’t see health as a poisoned chalice.”

He added: “I see it as possibly the best opportunity that Sinn Féin has - as well as housing and childcare - to make a really substantial difference to people’s lives.”

He said he met Departmemt of Health Secretary General Robert Watt recently and asked him if providing universal GP access, removing private healthcare from public hospitals and implementing Sinn Féin’s waiting list strategy could be done over a ten-year time period.

Mr Cullinane added: “he said yes we could. “So for me, that comes down to the political will to deliver.”

Asked what he believed is the main blockage for achieving such plans Mr Cullinane replied: “Institutional inertia I think is the biggest challenge” adding: “it’s a culture as opposed to individuals.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times