Fine Gael fears local election backlash over health crises

Frustrated Fine Gael politicians have lashed out at Government leaders over the health crisis amid ongoing criticism about the nurses’ strikes and the national children’s hospital scandal.

Fine Gael fears local election backlash over health crises

Frustrated Fine Gael politicians have lashed out at Government leaders over the health crisis amid ongoing criticism about the nurses’ strikes and the national children’s hospital scandal.

TDs and senators warned Fine Gael could be hammered at the upcoming local elections over health, in a similar way to the party losses from medical card cuts in 2014.

“Mistakes of the past” must not be repeated, Senator Ray Butler told ministers, with concerns echoed by senators Jerry Buttimer, Colm Burke, John O’Mahony, and Martin Conway.

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd warned: “My job is on the line, all our jobs are on the line.”

Mr Butler said Fine Gael politicians are getting criticism on the doorsteps while he and others said it is time to rein in overspending in the health service.

It is understood Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said talks would continue with nurses but that the Government could not allow unions to queue up with pay demands.

He said he would bring something to Cabinet next week to address concerns.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told party members the children’s hospital would go ahead and come in on target.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris faced hours of questions at the Oireachtas health committee yesterday. Mr Harris said an “early warning” should have been sounded about the huge costs for the hospital. Nonetheless, he said the €1.4bn project is a “reasonable price” and a PwC probe would find what went wrong.

He denied he was aware of officials raising red flags about costs throughout 2018. Eventually, in August, he was told of problems, he said. Mr Varadkar and Mr Donohoe were not told of a €450m overrun until November.

Several TDs criticised health officials and Mr Harris for failing to raise the alarm around the project before the budget in October.

Opposition parties have stopped short of seeking a resignation from Government over the scandal.

Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly said if a motion of no confidence was tabled, with no government in place, there would no opportunity to reduce the hospital costs.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said: “When will the penny drop with the Government that the minister for health is simply not up to the job?”

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