Eggs, cheese and democracy

 

Madam, – Mary Harney has criticised the protesters who threw eggs and cheese at her car for failing to use reasoned debate and democratic methods to further their aims.

This is surely a little hypocritical as, at least in the case of her decision to close St Luke’s Cancer Hospital, she has used neither.

Campaigners for this existing “centre of excellence” have tried peaceful marches, lobbying, public meetings and this summer handed in a 150,000 signature petition to the Minister, while a Bill to close St Luke’s was before the Dáil.

There was some excellent debate in the Dáil and Seanad, involving Ruairi Quinn, Jan O’Sullivan and Dr James Reilly. However, Ms Harney would not consider amendments put down by Labour and Fine Gael. The Bill was passed by four votes when the six Greens, who we understood supported St Luke’s, voted to close it.

This month the campaign has published a book, Cancer in a Cold Climate – the Shafting of St Luke’s Hospital (www.originalwriting.ie) in a further attempt to encourage rational debate about the flawed decision process that led to this outcome. The book, written by our PRO Enid O’Dowd, argues that the real motive for closure is profit for private medicine, and is not best practice and best outcomes for patients, as the Minister claims. Incidentally, patients were never consulted in the process.

It is ironic that the Minister claims it is about best practice and best outcomes for patients when St Luke’s with its 179 beds is to be replaced by a new cancer unit which is merely an outpatients centre on the St James’s campus with no beds and no food for patients. At some stage, somewhere in the main hospital, there will be 12 dedicated cancer beds, for the whole of the Eastern Region South.

The only “threatening” protest in which our campaign engaged was to shout “shame” at the Green TDs in the Dáil lobby after they had voted to close St Luke’s. One committee member was threatened with arrest for this.

Could your readers suggest what other methods we could use to get this Minister to listen to us? – Yours, etc,

JOE GUILFOYLE,

Chairman,

Save St Luke’s campaign,

Luke Wadding Street,

Waterford.

Madam, – Following her recent egg and cheese incident, Minister for Health Mary Harney said it was “a great pity” that people did not use our democracy to engage in debate (Home News, November 13th). Is the irony lost on her? We have spent the last few years watching helplessly while a government has guillotined bills through the Dáil without adequate debate and resorted to the courts to delay the three byelections. Proper use of democracy indeed! – Yours, etc,

DAVID REA,

All Hallows Square,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.