THURLES Town Council descended into a shouting match on Monday evening as Councillors fought furiously over a motion of no confidence in Minister James Reilly. Councillors Jim Ryan, David Doran, and Noel O’Dwyer urged the Council to support a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Health Minister James Reilly “due to the appalling cuts in health services in North Tipperary that are having a severe negative impact on the general public.”
During heated and sometimes personalised attacks, some Councillors argued that Thurles would suffer even more if the motion was adopted.
Cllr Jim Ryan pointed out the “serious concerns” over Nenagh Hospital, mental health services moving to Clare, cuts to home helps, the resignation of Roisín Shortall over “stroke politics”, and the “blatant” u-turn the Minister made on not re-opening the 22 beds at the Hospital of the Assumption. “He told lies to the (Hospital Action Group) committee. This man has no idea, or concerns for how to run the health service,” said Cllr Ryan.
Cllr David Doran said they had gone to Dublin with over 7,000 signatures on a petition urging the Minister to re-open the Community Hospital. “We went to Dublin at our own expense,” said Cllr Doran. The Thurles Councillors met Gerry Adams and Míchéal Martin, who raised the issue in the Dáil. The three North Tipp TDs charged with raising the issue had completely failed to do so, said Cllr Doran.
A public rally to save the beds will take place in the Tipperary Institute next Thursday at 7.45pm (see pg4). Cllr Doran urged people to express their anger. Cllr Noel O’Dwyer said: “I have no faith in the way the Minister and the HSE are responding to the requirements of the people desperate for the re-opening of respite facilities. It is an absolute scandal to see a purpose built facility partially closed, which would, in relative terms cost petty cash to maintain at full capacity. There needs to be a broader appraisal of the methods necessary to ensure the re-opening of these respite beds irrespective or recruitment embargoes or financial constraints.” Next Thursday’s meeting in the TI will “leave the invited Dáil Deputies under no illusion as to the gravity of the situation.”
Cllr John Kenehan said the motion was counter productive. The move would only “antagonise the Minister”. “We want to remain on side with people in that Department,” insisted Cllr Kenehan. “”He made promises that he should deliver on. A vote of no confidence will not help that.” The Council should also have concern for the new Primary Health Care centre planned for Thurles. This centre could house up to 200 medical staff and treat patients in such diverse areas as psychiatry and osteopathy, with a Pharmacy on site. Cllr Kenehan said the motion could deter the Minister from approving such plans. “We need that high level of care for Thurles. We should hold him to that.”
Cllr John Kennedy said he had been in contact with officials who had assured him that a site had been earmarked for Thurles. “I think the timing of this motion is wrong.” Cllr Kennedy said Thurles should get a slice of some E22m recently promised by the Minister for Older People Kathleen Lynch. “It could open another five, seven, or 10 beds.”
Cllr Michael Grogan said if the motion was passed, the Minister would tell Thurles to “go to hell.” There shouldn’t be “bad vibes” going out ahead of any decisions made by the Minister. Cllr Grogan also urged Councillors to “keep politics out” of the Hospital Action Group (HAG). Cllr Ger Fogarty said he had to support the motion in principle. Cllr Evelyn Nevin said she had no faith in the Minister. Working in the Special Needs Section, she had seen the effects of the Minister’s decisions first hand on the old and vulnerable.
Mayor Michael Cleary said they should not “cut off our noses to spite our faces”. “We need to play this game to get our beds back,” said Mayor Cleary. “It disgusts me when politics is dragged into the (HAG) committee. We should all be united. I have had family members up there...” Mayor Cleary said the trip to Dublin had gone to the three Councillors’ heads. Watching Oireachtas report, it seemed there had been a little “role play” from the Thurles delegation. David Doran appeared like Gerry Adams or perhaps “Mary Lou in drag,” Noel O’Dwyer like Ming Flanagan, and Cllr Jim Ryan that “former disgruntled” element of Fianna Fáil. “This Minister is not wondering about what’s happening down in Thurles,” said the Mayor. “We have to aim to get those beds back.”
Cllr Doran said he was “aghast with the rant” from the Mayor. “If it was not so serious it would make you laugh.” Cllr Doran attacked the government’s record on health care in Thurles. “I feel very passionate about the elderly in this society. The people of Thurles have been antagonised enough.” Cllr Kenehan argued that the Minister has the final say on where resources are allocated. “Being practical, a vote of no confidence in the Minister will mean he has no confidence in Thurles.” During heated exchanges, Cllr Ryan and Kenehan clashed over the other’s record in health. The motion was passed by five votes to four, with Cllrs Grogan, Cleary, Kenehan voting against, and Cllr Kennedy abstaining.