29 May 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

In the following opinion piece, local socialist political activist Paddy Grenham takes aim at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and questions their past and present policy approaches to some of the urgent issues confronting Irish society: Evidence abounds as to the true level of stupidity, greed and hypocrisy among our two main political parties: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

At least they had been our two main political parties since 1927 until the last General Election when Sinn Féin pushed FG into third place on seats and came out ahead of all parties on first preference votes cast. Over those 89 years, bacon factory fiddles, heifer scheme scams, hospital sweepstake chicanery, planning scandals, brown envelopes, Ansbacher accounts and the odd expenses and tax fiddle come to mind.

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the dishonesty from the sheer stupidity and incompetence. A case in point here is the recent takeover of the private hospitals by the Department of Health for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

According to the Irish Times (April 16 2020) it is estimated that the total cost to the taxpayer of taking over the private hospitals is around €115 million per month and that over €90 million of that had already been paid over in advance by April 1 – what an appropriate date! Paul Murphy TD has pointed out in Dáil Eireann that the Government is renting beds from the private sector in this country at approximately €44,000 per month which is almost four-and-a-half times more than the British Government is paying to rent beds off their private sector at €10,000 per month.

Of course, it may not be just idiocy that is at work here – it could be our political masters wish to shovel money into the pockets of their billionaire supporters – many of whom don’t even pay taxes in this country! Denis O’Brien bought The Beacon Medical Group for €35 million and this State is paying him €44,000 per bed per month so in just four months they will have paid Mr O’Brien well in excess of the €35 million purchase price he paid for the whole Beacon Group and have nothing to show for it. What’s in it for FF? Well beef baron Larry Goodman owns the Blackrock Clinic, The Hermitage and the Galway Clinic – a total of 440 beds – and will also be benefiting from the scheme – or should we call it the Billionaire’s Dole? The rest of the private hospitals are owned by religious orders, foreign investors and a vulture fund.

Of course, FF also have form for this sort of thing. In 2002, FF Minister for Education Dr Michael Woods signed a deal with the religious orders on child abuse that limited their liability to €120 million, while to date that deal has cost the taxpayer €1.4 billion (Irish Times April 2019). PUBLIC HEALTH When it comes to public health neither party have a clue. FF wanted to build the Children’s Hospital on a cramped site beside the Mater where access via the M50 would be a nightmare but then FG decided to dig a hole beside St James’ and start shovelling money into it under the guise of building one of the best paediatric hospitals in Europe.

The projected cost back in 2014 stood at €800 million. However, in November 2019 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted in the Dáil that the price now stands at €2 billion. But the cherry on this cake of incompetence must be the €450,000 of taxpayers’ money being paid to a private firm to investigate why it is costing so much to build the hospital! This is the sort of thing I would expect from a Government that presides over a country’s health services where a man with mental health issues had to be held in Mountjoy Prison just last year because there wasn’t a more suitable treatment setting.

The President of the High court Mr Justice Peter Kelly is quoted as saying that it was “… a truly awful situation and one that should not exist in a civilised state” (Irish Examiner, December 7 2019). Let us not forget the more than 10,000 patients lying on trolleys in February of this year, a 23% increase on the year before according to the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation. This was before the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Ireland. The very politicians now…

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