Tánaiste dismisses ‘posturing’ over her INO no-show

NURSES’ leaders yesterday hit out at the Health Minister for her failure to attend their annual conference, an attack dismissed as “posturing” by her spokesman.

Yesterday the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) — whose AGM gets under way in Cavan today — expressed disappointment that Tánaiste Mary Harney, who was invited to the event in January, would not be attending. It is the first time in 30 years that a health minister has missed the event.

INO general secretary Liam Doran said: “We hope her absence is not as a result of the public position the INO has taken, on behalf of patients, nurses and midwives, on A&E overcrowding and other issues over the past 12 months.”

However the Tánaiste’s spokesman said she had accepted a request to speak at a medical conference in the USA prior to receiving the INO invitation.

“The Tánaiste was asked last October to speak at a major conference in the US and she accepted.

“The INO made their request in January and were told in February that, unfortunately, she had a prior engagement and that Brian Lenihan would be attending instead. This is just posturing by the INO.”

Ms Harney is due to speak at a two-day symposium hosted by the Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

However, she will be in the country during the first two days of the INO conference. Yesterday INO deputy general secretary, Dave Hughes, said Ms Harney was welcome to attend the conference whenever it may suit.

However, her spokesman said this was the first such offer from the INO. He added that the original invite had been for Friday, by which time she will be en route to the USA.

The minister is the first speaker on the second day of the Philadelphia conference. Her speech will look at tailoring research to individual patient needs, her spokesman said.

Ms Harney will also visit cancer care facilities in Philadelphia and Washington during her trip.

Meanwhile the INO conference, which opens to the media tomorrow, will focus on standards of care and standards of pay.

Major debates will include a comprehensive review of the INO pay campaign; the effect of privatisation on the public health service; the impact of staffing levels on standards of care and a critical review of the Tánaiste’s performance.

The conference will debate a total of 70 motions.

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