TAOISEACH Brian Cowen should have refused to accept the resignation of Defence Minister Tony Killeen and other ministers last week in order to stabilise the Government.
That’s according to Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, who claimed the Taoiseach could have avoided the embarrassing scenario of ministers that are not contesting the next general election tendering their resignations.
“It is not a desirable situation where you have a number of ministers saying they are not contesting the general election that was contributing to the disfunctionality of the Government.
“There is nothing unusual about a minister staying in office until a new government is elected. Ireland has had experience before when a government loses an election, there is a caretaker government over a period of two or three weeks until next administration takes over,” he noted.
“There would be nothing untoward about Tony Killeen staying on as defence minister for seven weeks until the election was held. Ultimately, this was the Taoiseach’s call; he could have said, ‘I don’t want you to resign and you can stay on until the general election is held’,” he added.
Speaking to The Clare Champion two days before Brian Cowen stepped down as Fianna Fáil party leader on Saturday, Deputy Gilmore said he accepted that the Clare Fianna Fáil deputy was honest and didn’t play political games.
“There was no need for him to resign. I have the height of regard for Tony Killeen, he has been a great servant for Clare people, a good minister and I respect the decision he took not to contest the election,” the Labour leader said.
In a statement issued to The Clare Champion, Mr Killeen said only deputies contesting the next election should be in Cabinet to ensure the cohesion of government.
He refuted claims that the resignation of so many ministers was a “cynical exercise” and said the country would not be damaged by the appointment of new ministers.
“When I was not to contest the next general election, I thought it best to appoint a new minister in my place and I expected it would happen when the Dáil returned last week but other events overtook that,” the former Minister of Defence stated.
Asked if the Taoiseach had asked him to delay his resignation, Mr Killeen replied that he told the Taoiseach he would stay in Government until it suited Mr Cowen to appoint a new minister.
“I thought he [Taoiseach] agreed that it would be better not to have Cabinet members who were not contesting the election remaining in Government.
“He was also worried about the cohesion of Government and I think he was right,” he added.
Asked if it would have been better not to have resigned, Mr Killeen said there was an understanding after the Christmas recess that ministers not contesting the election would step down, a decision he supported.
Labour leader promises major reforms in healthcare
EMERGENCY department services at Mid-Western Regional Hospital Ennis should be available on a 24-hour basis, according to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.
However, he declined to spell out exactly what type of services would be provided in Ennis if Labour forms part of the next government after the general election.
Flanked by Labour Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald; Independent Councillor Patricia McCarthy, who resigned from the Labour Party in 1985; Shannon Labour Councillor Tony McMahon and Clonlara-born and Limerick East Deputy, Jan O’Sullivan, Deputy Gilmore was on hand in Shannon to officially launch the general election campaign for party hopeful, Michael McNamara.
Deputy Gilmore told The Clare Champion that hospitals like Ennis would be funded differently as part of a radical overhaul of health services. Over the coming weeks, he revealed, Labour would publish a very detailed and costed document setting out how transform health services.
Asked if Labour would reverse the closure of the 24-hour emergency department, which was removed from Ennis and Nenagh in April 2009, he confirmed Labour would be aiming to roll back the negative changes made by this Government.
“It will take time to do that and it will be done in context of a reform, it will not be a case of going back to what was there before, it will be a case of an overall reform package – a better hospital service for Clare.
“One of problems with healthcare is that it has been incremental. There is a need for 24-hour accident and emergency service in County Clare and it is our policy that we should keep those services locally. Yes, we will be looking at reconfiguration of acute hospitals in Clare and Limerick with a view to ensuring that if people have an emergency, they have the quickest possible access to services,” he said.
Under the existing service, he claimed hospitals are funded on basis of annual budget and there are certain times of the year when it paid the hospital to keep the bed empty. If Labour’s plan is implemented, hospitals will be paid to ensure it keeps beds in use.
“Labour also intend to free hospitals from HSE, there would be boards of management; we are recasting existing funding that is going into the HSE.
“A lot of work going into casualty should be dealt with in primary care through a reformed GP service. Labour are going to put a big emphasis in primary care that will involve increasing the numbers of doctors in the system and increasing roles for clinical nurses in GP system.
“In the British system, the first person you meet is a doctor; the first person you meet in the Irish system is a receptionist and then you wait,” he added.
Regarding Shannon Airport, Mr Gilmore said it featured during his appointment as Labour Party leader and the official launch of the party’s 2007 General Election campaign. Deputy Gilmore visited Shannon to voice his support for the then campaign to restore Aer Lingus’ Shannon to Heathrow flights in his first official engagement as party leader.
“Getting out of recession is not just about sorting banks, Shannon Airport is such a major piece of infrastructure that I am glad to be kicking off the Clare Labour campaign in Shannon. It makes a statement in terms of local economy.
“Securing an economic recovery is about making the best use of facilities and resources like Shannon Airport. “Labour has published detailed policies of tourism industry and its potential for growth and access to Ireland. Shannon is a key part of that strategy,” he said.
McNamara moots community schemes to tackle jobs crisis
CLARE Labour candidate Michael McNamara proposes a radical expansion of Community Employment Schemes to alleviate unemployment and get some money flowing through small businesses and shops in the county.
Finishing ghost housing estates and improving water services are major targets for the works programmes, while the Scariff farmer and barrister insists they will also contribute to the development of vital public infrastructure in healthcare, arts heritage and tourism, sport, environment and education.
Mr McNamara said this is a programme for the short-term to enable the country return to full employment in the longer term.
“Talented unemployed people will be recruited for various programmes. The additional cost to the State of moving 100,000 from a life on unemployment assistance to work on expanded community employment schemes is estimated at €372 million. Clare would receive at least 2,500 work places.
“In the context of the money the Government has shovelled into the banking system, this is a relatively small amount,” he says.
He claims the schemes have the potential to increase the total housing stock in Clare by more than 50% within a short period of time and completely remove the waiting list for accommodation within a decade.
With nearly 11,000 people on the live register in Clare, Mr McNamara claims every extra person on the dole costs the State €20,000 in social-welfare payments and lost taxes.
“It is now time to consider a national back-to-work programme by radically expanding existing Community Employment Schemes. The schemes should be administered by whatever successor to FÁS is decided by the incoming Government.
“The differential in what participants are paid on Community Employment schemes and what they would receive on unemployment assistance is not that much, so if a scheme such as this were expanded to combat long-term unemployment, the net cost to the exchequer would not be much different.
“One hundred thousand workers on these Community Employment Schemes implies a net cost to exchequer of €2 million per week – or €104m per year over what it would pay them out on Jobseeker’s Allowance,” he said.