Embattled junior minister John Halligan has put talk of resigning on hold but insists Health Minister Simon Harris will have no alternative but to agree to funding a second specialist cardiac lab for the South-East.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to take the heat out of the standoff yesterday by calling on his ministers to knuckle down to work, ahead of budget preparations and Brexit negotiations.
However, the row over Mr Halligan’s demands for a second catheterisation lab at Waterford Hospital looks set to rumble on despite new Government commitments for staff at the hospital and a fresh review of cardiac care.
The Independent Alliance TD has effectively left the decision on his political future in the hands of local clinicians at the hospital, who he wants to meet Mr Harris.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner yesterday, Mr Halligan put talk of his resignation to bed for the moment. He said the “vast majority” of views expressed to him by local people in Waterford was that they want him to remain in government, and that he has met with consultants in the region and they, too, asked him not to leave government “for the time being”.
“I would prefer to stay in Government,” said Mr Halligan. “It is the consultants in the South-East who are up in arms, all of them.
“What I am saying is I am convinced that once [Health Minister Simon Harris] meets the consultants, I don’t think he will have any alternative but to have a quick review, and it will have to be a quick review, because I think he would have to reverse the decision and guarantee the second cath lab.
“I will see what happened over the next week. I am trying to be as reasonable as I can here. I made an honorable commitment to government to stick with them.”
However, he said that the current position would have to change: “It has to happen.”
Mr Halligan’s future in government remains up in the air over alleged broken promises around a second catheterisation laboratory in his constituency.
The Waterford TD also claims Fine Gael ministers, who persuaded him to enter government, gave him a private promise that the second cath lab would go ahead.
Mr Halligan has also said a review of cardiac services at Waterford is flawed and, after demands, has now received a commitment from Mr Harris for a second fresh review.
The row over the cath lab consumed the joint Fine Gael-Independent coalition this week. This follows several previous confrontations between the alliance and Fine Gael over abortion legislation and the Apple tax judgment.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to calm tensions yesterday: “I’d like for everyone [ministers] to apply themselves to their jobs and we have a big responsibility in uncertain times. Everybody get down to business and apply ourselves to what have to as a people and as a country.”
Galway-Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who left the Independent Alliance after refusing to support the Government, suggested Mr Halligan should not have become a minister without getting a solid commitment for the second lab.
“If it was me, I wouldn’t be [in],” he told Newstalk.
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