Laois County Councillors to picket Dáil over Portlaoise hospital

Minister for Health Simon Harris says he will not meet Laois councillors in Dublin this week

Laois County Councillors to picket Dáil over Portlaoise hospital
By Conor Ganly

Laois county councillors will travel to Dublin this week to fight against any downgrade of Portlaoise hospital — but there will be no Minister to meet them as they had hoped.

All 19 councillors are due travel together to Dublin, this Wednesday, November 9, to protest outside the gates the Dáil over the removal of A&E, maternity, paediatrics and other services from Portlaoise.

However, there will not get a chance to put a case in person to the man who will make the final call on what happens to Portlaoise.

Minister for Health Simon Harris told Sean Fleming TD in the Dáil that he would meet councillors and TDs from Laois but not until after a plan for the hospital is ready.

“No decisions have been made in relation to Portlaoise hospital at this stage, but once the work I have outlined is completed I would be happy to meet with the Laois Oireachtas members and members of Laois County Councillors in the context of the consultation process,” said Minister Harris in a written reply.

At their October meeting councillors in Laois agreed to travel to Dublin in the hope of making a case to the Minister. Cllr Willie Aird led the calls and he insists that councillors will still travel.

“What we decided that the 19 councillors was to show solidarity in support and the only thing left open to us was to show solidarity. If we could have met Simon Harris or the Taoiseach they would have been all pluses. It was not said that if we don’t meet them we don’t go,” said the Fine Gael Portlaoise councillor.

He said the councillors would mount a picket outside Leinster House. He added a meeting could still take place if the picket is seen.

Sean Fleming said any meeting with politicians and meetings with Laois GPs and consultants should “take place before any decisions are made”.

“Any attempt to finalise the process in advance of these meetings would render the process fundamentally flawed and would be clearly open to challenge," he said.

The issue was also raised last week in the Dáil last week by Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley. In reply, Offaly TD and Minister of State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy claimed that the Government was “not a bystander” in coming up with a plan for Portlaoise.

Deputy Stanley rejected that progress had been made toward coming up with a plan.

“We have not moved one jot further forward,” said the Laois Sinn Féin TD.