Sinn Féin’s healthcare policy

The principle of universal healthcare

Sir, – The NHS may be “falling to bits”, as Pat Leahy suggests (“Is Sinn Féin’s pledge of an Irish NHS a policy or a threat?”, Opinion & Analysis, September 30th), but that is the result of chronic underinvestment and a staffing crisis caused by a decade of Conservative government neglect.

The Health Foundation reported that in the decade before the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK spent £40 billion less per annum on healthcare than the EU average.

This has resulted in record numbers leaving the service as nurses, ambulance workers and junior doctors have gone on strike for better pay and conditions. But we need to separate the health model represented by the NHS of universal healthcare free at the point of delivery from the crisis-ridden service it has become in Conservative hands.

The medical journal the Lancet wrote on the 75th anniversary of the NHS, “we must maintain the principle of delivering free care at the point of need, which is the foundation for a just society”.


This approach to healthcare should be the aspiration of all nations as the bedrock of social justice and equality. All we need is the political will to achieve it. – Yours, etc,



A chara, – Pat Leahy ridicules Sinn Féin Health spokesperson David Cullinane TD’s plan to introduce universal health care and cites my medical treatment in New York a decade ago as part of this.

He fails to tell your readers that the treatment I received was not then available in Ireland, North or South. I made this clear at the time.

Since then I have availed of the same treatment again. This time as a public health patient here and as a result of co-operation between the NHS and the HSE.

So progress is possible. Citizens have the right to a public health service based on need, free at the point of delivery and paid for by direct taxation. Other parties have failed to establish this. Indeed some have actively supported privatisation.

Sinn Féin and David Cullinane have a genuine commitment to public services, including health services.

I have no doubt if given the mandate this will be made a reality. – Is mise,



Sir, – Pat Leahy’s column contains three informative sentences derived from a conversation with Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane.

“We’re not looking at any other country as a model. What we’re calling for is the principle of universal healthcare. That’s what we mean by an Irish NHS”, writes Leahy, quoting Cullinane.

Pat Leahy devotes his entire article to a British-specific interpretation of the term “Irish NHS” in a fashion that determinedly ignores Mr Cullinane’s clear, concise, and unambiguous explanation.

As an opinion writer, Pat Leahy is entitled to his polemical views. However, Mr Cullinane’s quoted remarks render the column utterly redundant. What’s the point? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – In relation to Pat Leahy’s article, headlined “We ‘will in our arse’ have an Irish NHS” for your online edition, Pat Leahy seems quite dismissive of the idea of universal healthcare.

Yes, there are problems with the NHS, but he doesn’t seem to factor in that there are plenty of other countries with universal healthcare that are getting along just fine.

Prof Martin Curley wrote for The Irish Times in June that Ireland spends roughly the same amount as Denmark and Austria on healthcare per capita but they are ranked number three and four in the world (“Ireland’s health system is one of the lowest performing in the northern hemisphere”, Opinion & Analysis, June 21st).

Most alarmingly, Ireland “is the only Western European country that does not offer universal coverage of primary care”.

Can Ireland have nice things like the rest of Europe?

We will in our arse. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.