Minister Martin held to account

MINISTER Micheál Martin, as usual, is long on rhetoric and short on fact (Irish Examiner August 25). It was Mary Harney who estimated the cost of the nursing home debacle at E1 billion.

The Travers report found that Micheál Martin had been given a detailed brief but his defence is that ‘I didn’t read it.’

His two junior ministers, Ivor Callely and Tim O’Malley did read it and Mr O’Malley told Travers he understood ‘the legal, operational, financial and political implications.’

Mr Callely covered himself by telling the Taoiseach. Mr Martin’s personal adviser was also present at the critical meeting. Travers found there was a conflict of evidence between Martin and the secretary general of the Department of Health who, according to Travers, “indicated that he discussed the long-term care charges issue on two occasions with the minister.”

These are the facts. Unless you believe in the tooth fairy the only conclusion possible is that Martin well understood what he was being told and decided to take no action. Indeed inability to make decisions is the hallmark of his time as minister for health with the single exception of the smoking ban, for which I compliment him. And, of course, there is the missing file, last seen in the minister’s office, which never got to the attorney general, although the secretary general told Travers of his “belief that I would have brought it to the attention of the minister.”

But dashing Micheál can’t remember.

The nursing homes debacle is a costly legacy for the taxpayer and Martin fulminating about my political record, of which I am proud, or Brendan Corish’s decision in 1976, cuts no ice.

This debacle came to light not in 1976 but after the inadequately thought-out decision to extend medical cards to the over-70s which was designed to help win the 2002 general election.

Mr Martin ought to be held accountable for his role in this affair, and I make no apologies for doing so.

This is not personal abuse; this is political accountability.

Pat Rabbitte

Leader

The Labour Party

17 Ely Place

Dublin

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