Fianna Fail councillor Tony Flaherty has said it “was about time the scaremongering stopped” after an article on fears for the future of the MIDOC service appeared in last week’s Longford Leader.
Speaking at last week’s Town Council meeting, Cllr Flaherty criticised the article on the front page of the Leader in which details about discussions on driver time-allocations were revealed, in which it was said the outcome could possibly threaten the future of the service – despite a statement from the HSE saying this was not the case.
Rounding on Cllr Peggy Nolan, who was quoted in the article, Cllr Flaherty said: “We’re here trying to be positive but Cllr Nolan has been at the same thing for 10 or 12 years. If it’s not Mullingar that’s closing or downgrading, it’s St Joseph’s. If it’s not St Joseph’s, it’s casualty that’s closing or downgrading but yet all are still wide open and running” Cllr Flaherty said.
Cllr Mae Sexton agreed that such stories were “frightening people” but mooted that this information was being “put out there to keep people’s eyes off the main ball”, making reference to the curtailing of some services at the Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar.
A clearly taken aback Cllr Nolan, who was later elected Mayor, said her character was being called into question once again, adding that “calling someone a scaremonger is the cowardly way of calling someone a liar.”
This is the second time within a month that Cllr Nolan has been accused of scaremongering on health issues after Fianna Fail Cllr Padraig Loughrey said she was frightening people on the issue of St Joseph’s losing beds during an interview on Shannonside radio in May.
In response, Cllr Nolan said: “I didn’t say MIDOC was closing. I was told by the journalist that she was informed there were threats to the service. All I said was there is no way the service should stop. My character is being called into question once again.
“Services go because people aren’t informed; I intend on keeping people informed and that is not scaremongering,” she added.
During a heated debate, Cllr Nolan found support from Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock who said it was “quite clear this was a political ambush.” Defending Cllr Nolan, Cllr Warnock said it “would be remiss of any elected representative not to raise concerns that would have a detrimental effect on the people she represents, as she was led to believe by her sources.”
In reply, Cllr Flaherty stressed: “I never called anyone a liar. This is no political ambush, I’ll say what I have to say. If I can’t criticise an article in the paper without being accused of political ambush then it’s madness.”