It’s a day on from the bombshell resignation of Roisin Shortall from government. I was shocked by the move but to be fair, knowing Roisin as I do, She is an honourable woman. What you see with her is what you get. She has always been someone of values who believes in principle. today I was reminded of how over 10 years ago as Education spokesperson she raised the teachers dispute despite it being very unpopular. About 20 years ago she was one of a number of Labour TD’s to resign the whip in protest at the Cahill Plan for Aer Lingus.
The debacle will stand out for the remainder of the time that this government is in power as a watermark. But it shouldn’t. The loss of Willie Penrose shouldn’t have happened either. When Willie resigned it was put to Labour that a local decision cannot be made as the wider interest demanded a strategic organisation of the defence forces. So Mullingar lost its barracks while Athlone retained its military presence. Here we have the direct opposite, local decisions are now being made when it suits Fine Gael. Strategic organisational decisions to plan the delivery of a service can now be made based on local criteria. The logic for the decision that led to Willie Penrose’s resignation is now binned. If anyone should reflect on the last 24 hours and ask what if, it’s Willie.
So let’s park the personality issue because I have no insight into how relations work within a department and instead let’s look at the policy and in particular the criteria around the decision. If you look at the list of primary care centres Ballymote in South Sligo is 25km from the Ballaghderreen centre that was added by Dr Reilly. Balbriggan also added by Dr Reilly is 14 km from Laytown which in turn is 11 km from the Drogheda primary care centres. Minister Reilly points to population in the case of Swords demanding a primary care centre so let’s grant him that. Nearly 50,000 do have health need. So are there 50,000 people living in both North Roscommon and South Sligo to justify each getting a primary care centre? Do these bordering areas have such high levels of deprivation? Or is there a big enough population between Drogheda, Laytown and Balbriggan to justify 3 of the 35 centres to be built nationally? 4 if you add Swords a motorway junction or 2 south of Balbriggan?
A lot of Labour voters and members have contacted me in the last 24 hours to make it clear that they resent the behaviour of Minister Reilly towards Roisin Shortall. That makes this matter different to the resignation of the whip of other Labour TD’s. This will have implications for day to day government into the future and make framing a budget harder. I’m not saying there won’t be a budget, the reality is that there will be as the need to drag the country out of the FF & green slump is all consuming and essential.
However it will make all the work like the children’s referendum, the public service, local government re-organisation which is upcoming fast, all harder. This was needless.