Laois councillors enter blame game as row erupts over Portlaoise hospital crisis

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Councillors' tempers flare over hospital crisis

Tempers flared at Laois County Council December meeting, with councillors blaming each other's political parties for the crisis facing Portlaoise hospital.

While the public have demanded their politicians remain united in opposition to downgrade, local politicians answered with division today ( Monday December 18) at the final county council meeting of 2017.

Fine Gael councillor Willie Aird was not willing to let his party take the sole blame. The Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan are both in Fine Gael.

He lashed out at Fianna Fáil.

"Fianna Fáil is supporting the Government, ye can run for cover, ye never change. Take the hit you're part of the Government," he said.

Fianna Fáil councillor Paddy Bracken responded.

"If Sean Fleming was a senior politician, he would make sure the decision taken would be in favour of the hospital. Don't throw it back on us now," he said.

Cllr Bracken had said he feared that a political decision was already made.

"If it was good news, the Minister would be announcing the scrapping of that proposal. He wouldn't be bringing two TDs in with him. There is meeting after meeting but my fear is it has gone beyond that and the decision is made at the highest political level," he said.

Cllr Aird said he was "laying criticism" with Laois TDs Brian Stanley, Sean Fleming and Charlie Flanagan at excluding Laois councillors from meeting the health minister.

"No councillor was let in, we don't know what went on," he said.

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley defended her husband and party colleague, Deputy Brian Stanley.

"Brian Stanley is not in government, but he has been flagging locally and nationally that the hospital wasn't funded properly," she said.

She had earlier said how the source who recently leaked the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group plan to Deputy Stanley, revealed to him that it is being launched this Thursday.

"To the best of my knowledge, Minister Harris was not aware. This completely baffled everyone,  I don't believe the Minister told lies, it looks like this one (Dr Susan O'Reilly) is trying to plough on ahead, and push the Minister into a position. This is crazy if it goes ahead, it's bully boy tactics," she said.

Fine Gael Cllr John King then asked her to name the person "doing the leaking".

Sinn Féin Cllr Aidan Mullins defended the unnamed source.

"You are going after the whistleblower again. If anything happens it's with your party, don't lump us in," said 

Cllr Aird tabled a motion asking the Health Minister and the DMHG CEO Dr Susan O'Reilly to meet Laois councillors in January.

Cllr Dwane Stanley proposed that an email be sent to the HSE asking them to cancel Thursday's launch, which includes the removal of the Emergency Department from Portlaoise.

The launch was announced last Friday December 15, only hours after the Minister for Health Simon Harris met and reassured Minister Charlie Flanagan and Laois TDs Brian Stanley and Sean Fleming that he would consult local clinicians before making the ultimate decision. Read more here.

Portlaoise Hospital Action Group will 'bring Dublin to a standstill' in protest