Labour Minister Kathleen Lynch ‘assured’ of split in Department of Health for primary care, mental health, and disability

Labour Minister Kathleen Lynch said she was given assurances around splitting the Department of Health by the leadership of her party as far back as September, in return for her contesting the general election.

It comes as Fine Gael is seeking to radically overhaul the make-up of Government departments, including a major review of the operations of Brendan Howlin’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner , Ms Lynch said the formation of a new department for primary care, mental health, and disability was a central issue when she met with Mr Howlin about running in the upcoming election.

At the time, the Cork TD had not put herself forward to run, despite the party deadline for doing so being passed. She met with Mr Howlin to ensure the Department of Health would be split in two if Labour was returned to power.

“I had to get reassurance, not just even about the next government, but about, you know, were people still as committed to the type of change programme that I want to introduce,” she said.

“An idea that I have been promoting, both within government and indeed to the different sectors within government, is that in the next government we would have a department of social and primary care, and bring children into it as well.”

She said this department would bring all health services outside of hospitals under an “umbrella of delivery”.

“It was my idea originally so I am very much in favour of it. There is always this nervousness about territory within departments and government.”

Although she said she did not canvass for the position she said she would love to take up the role as minister if a new department were to be established.

“If it was this particular portfolio I would absolutely love it, I would love it.”

Away from health, the review of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is aimed at examining its role in a “post-crisis” situation.

[timgcapBrendan Howlin]brendanHowlin2_large.jpg[/timgcap]

Fine Gael sources have stopped short of saying they want to abolish the department, recognising that no junior coalition party would want to give up having control of one of the two finance ministries.

“It is more to do with ensuring that a department which was set up to fix a crisis can operate fully in a post-crisis scenario, which is where we are,” said a senior Government source.

It is expected the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government could be split, as it is felt it has too wide a brief.

It is felt that responsibility for environment issues could be separated and merged with the OPW brief, to ensure flood management is in the control of a Cabinet minister. At present, the OPW is under the charge of Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris.

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has signalled strongly in recent days that if re-elected, this change would be effected. It is also believed that the portfolio of defence would again be made a ministry in its own right and some have argued that the floods brief could easily come under such a portfolio.

It has also been suggested that to make room for the new ministries, the arts portfolio could also be subsumed into defence, given the ceremonial aspect to the brief.

In 2011, defence was downgraded and was merged with the justice portfolio under then minister Alan Shatter.


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