Leo Varadkar accused of deflecting blame for HSE failures

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of trying to shift the blame for HSE failures after he threatened in an email that senior “heads would role” if the trolley crisis was repeated this winter.

Fianna Fáil accused the minister of being behind the leak of the memo in a “cynical” bid to make him appear tough. In a reference to the controversy surrounding the departure of former garda commissioner Martin Callinan, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the minister was preparing to “do a Callinan” on his officials.

“The minister and the Government have the neck, at the end of their term in office, when they had no blueprint coming in, when their reform proposals were pie in the sky with no substance or depth to say that they will do a ‘Martin Callinan’ on it, they will do a ‘Fennelly’ on it: when all else fails, to save our political hide we are going to sack people, we are going to sack civil servants; that will look good; that is good public relations,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

Mr Martin has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of effectively sacking Mr Callinan, while the Fennelly probe into the controversy found the Taoiseach’s decision to send a senior official to the commissioner’s home was the catalyst for his resignation, it concluded the decision was Mr Callinan’s in the end.

Mr Martin said Mr Varadkar had presided over the failure and now wanted to pass the blame.

“He was told what would happen back in summer 2014 if action was not taken immediately in terms of delayed discharges, resources for the fair deal scheme, and not the possibility or probability, but the certainty that there would be a crisis in accident and emergency departments during that winter if action was not taken,” said Mr Martin. “He ignored that advice. He now wants heads to roll. He wants the heads of people whose advice he and his predecessor, Deputy James Reilly, have consistently ignored in respect of health matters.”

Mr Kenny defended Mr Varadkar, saying he was trying to improve the lot of patients.

Sources close to Mr Varadkar denied he had leaked the email.

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