FG & FF Cllrs ‘buckle’ on Harris motion

Councillors call on HealthMinister to consider position

LOCAL Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Councillors have been accused of buckling under local election pressure by supporting a motion calling on Health Minister Simon Harris to “consider his position”. The motion, proposed by Sinn Féin Cllr John Hearne at the May plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council held in Dungarvan on Thursday last, asked that the Council call on Health Minister Simon Harris to consider his position and immediately address the situation in relation to the mortuary and refrigeration facilities at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

Cllr Hearne pointed out that the facilities had been deemed unfit as far back as 2004. “The issues highlighted in the recent letter sent by four consultant pathologists need to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said. Councillors in attendance at the meeting unanimously supported the motion – including members of the Minister’s Fine Gael party as well as Fianna Fáil Councillors whose party supports the government as part of the confidence and supply arrangement. Expressing his surprise, Cllr Hearne said he had expected to encounter resistance when discussing the motion and suggested that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Councillors are “buckling under the pressure of local elections” by “selling out their Minister”.

“I was delighted to see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and all the Independents support my motion calling on Waterford Council to ask the Minister for Health Simon Harris to resign,” said Cllr Hearne.

“Anyone who leaves old people on trolleys or decomposing bodies on the floor or on trolleys should go and go now.”

Cllr Hearne pointed out that “as far back as Pagan times we always treated our dead with respect and dignity”.

He outlined different stories of hospital experiences which had been relayed to him.

He noted that €3 billion is being spent by the government on the provision of rural broadband while “we can’t get the essentials right”. His party colleague Cllr Siobhan Whelan seconded the motion.

Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Apart from the Mayor Cllr Declan Doocey (Fine Gael), Cllr Sharon Carey was the only Fine Gael Councillor left in the Chamber as the rest of her party colleagues were either absent from the meeting or had departed early.

She immediately indicated her support for the motion when a vote took place.

Fianna Fáil Councillors also lent their support. Cllrs John O’Leary, Jason Murphy, Eddie Mulligan, Tom Cronin, M J O’Ryan and James Tobin were all present when the motion was unanimously supported with a show of hands.

Their party colleagues Councillors Adam Wyse, Eamon Quinlan and Ray Murphy were absent from the entire meeting.

While expressing his surprise at the decision of so many Councillors to support a motion calling on the Health Minister to resign, Cllr Hearne said it was not surprising given that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Councillors are “buckling under local election pressure”.

However, he also praised Cllr Carey by saying her decision to support the motion took “a bit of bottle”.

“I was recently asked by a person who votes for Fine Gael who he should vote for,” he explained.

“I told him to vote Sinn Féin but if you’re a Fine Gael diehard I’d vote Sharon Carey as she has, on a number of occasions, voted for what’s best for her community regardless of party affiliation and that takes a bit of bottle for a first term Councillor. Fair play to her.”

Asked to confirm the vote of each individual Councillor, Meetings Administrator Honor Dunphy said the motion involved “a show of hands with a majority in support – no count was taken.”

In addition to the Councillors who were absent, the final plenary meeting of this current term of Waterford City & County Council saw an exodus of Councillors at various stages throughout its duration – leaving a Council chamber interspersed with empty seats by its conclusion.

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