Fintan O’Toole: Government cannot walk and chew gum at same time

Sláintecare debacle shows State lacks political will and sense of what to do

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: should beg Tom Keane to come back to the Sláintecare Advisory Council and invest him and his committee with the full authority of the Taoiseach’s department. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: should beg Tom Keane to come back to the Sláintecare Advisory Council and invest him and his committee with the full authority of the Taoiseach’s department. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography

Lyndon Johnson reportedly remarked that Gerald Ford – then a congressman, later president – was “so dumb that he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time”. This is an accurate diagnosis of what ails Irish government.

 Governments have to be able to function simultaneously at two different speeds: crisis management and structural reform. The resignations of Laura Magahy, executive director of the Sláintecare programme to reshape the health service, and Prof Tom Keane, chairman of the Sláintecare Advisory Council, show all too clearly that our system can walk or it can chew gum. But it can’t do both.

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