Harney under fire over hospital’s McDonald’s link

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney was last night accused of a serious conflict of interest after she officially opened a children’s hospital project funded by a charity with close ties to the global food giant McDonald’s.

Labour’s health spokeswoman Liz McManus said the decision to perform the opening ceremony at Ireland’s first Ronald McDonald House showed “the department really is not taking the drive against obesity and unhealthy eating seriously enough.”

“I cannot believe that she opened the centre yet the Government is supposed to be running a serious drive to encourage healthy eating and fight the growing epidemic of obesity. Fast food outlets like McDonalds do not serve the interest of the health services at all,” Ms McManus said.

The €3.75 million Ronald Mc Donald House has been built on the grounds of Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin by the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Ireland (RMCC) and will offer ‘home away from home’ accommodation for 16 families who have sick children in the hospital and are forced to spend long periods away from home.

The Department of Health yesterday strongly denied that attendance at the opening was a conflict of interest.

“The campaign against obesity and to promote healthy eating will continue and we don’t see a conflict of interest,” a department spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Mc Donald’s Ireland said that Mr Harney’s presence showed that the department did not actively discourage the eating of fast food and that Mc Donald’s encouraged moderate eating habits.

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