Mayor of Lismore PJ Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil over the weekend in protest over the Government’s failure to provide radiotherapy in the region. After 30 years with the party, he stunned colleagues on Saturday night by cutting his ties over the radiotherapy issue.
Before the local elections in June last year, city councillor Mary Roche also resigned from FF over the radiotherapy issue. And, in the local elections, the party retained just one of its four seats. Michael Ivory lost his seat, as did Sean Dower. Tom Murphy alone was returned. Mary Roche was elected as an Independent.
In the county council election, Geoff Power, Tom Cunningham, Nuala Ryan and Paddy Kenneally all lost their seats. The radiotherapy issue was a huge factor in that loss.
Responding to the potential crisis looming for Fianna Fáil in the next general election over this issue, Waterford’s only voice at the Cabinet, Transport Minister Martin Cullen, said the party is committed to delivering on this crucial issue for the area.
“It is absolute bottom line that all patients have full access to radiotherapy. A big step in delivering radiotherapy to the South East has been taken with the new Whitfield Clinic which will treat all patients, both public and private. Coupled with this we are working to ensure that Waterford Regional Hospital continues to benefits from state of the art oncology services,” said Mr Cullen.
However, local people are unhappy that a public facility for radiotherapy is not being developed. Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Kenneally said he told the Taoiseach in the past weeks that unless radiotherapy is delivered for Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH), he fears the party will lose even more votes.
“There is no question but that the radiotherapy issue cost us votes in the city and county council elections. We are now getting indications of a possible public private partnership at WRH. It is critical that we get news on this soon, not just in the run-up to an election.
“The Whitfield Clinic proposal will not satisfy the people of Waterford,” he warned. “People want a service on the grounds of WRH. I’m hopeful that it can be sorted out soon. I’ve met with the Taoiseach to stress with him the seriousness of the matter. We know that even if the centre got the green light next week, it would not be operational before an election. But we need a commitment now.”
The Mayor of Waterford City, Labour councillor Seamus Ryan, wants all Oireachtas members to keep the radiotherapy issue and the new oncology ward for Waterford Regional Hospital top of the political agenda.
According to Mr Ryan, with chemotherapy and surgery currently being provided at WRH, it is essential that radiotherapy would also be made available there. “The campaign for full Cancer Care including radiotherapy must continue and the message to our Oireachtas members must be to keep the issue top of the political agenda,” he said.