Health Minister James Reilly has come in for stinging criticism over his refusal to attend a meeting with Longford Town Council concerning the long term future of St Joseph’s Day Care Centre.
In a letter sent to the local authority’s market square headquarters in recent days, the Fine Gael minister said he was not in a position to discuss the Dublin Road facility’s long term plans with elected representatives due to a busy schedule.
Cllr Tony Flaherty, who last month led calls for health officials to establish a palliative care unit, described the snub as a “slight on the people of Longford”.
He said: “He (Mr Reilly) has no interest in Longford or the welfare and services that are in this county.
“What chance have we got of getting anything done for this town if ministers won’t even meet us? I just think the whole thing is very bad form,” he said.
Supported by Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock, the stance taken by Cllr Flaherty was given further weight by his party colleague, Cllr Michael Connellan.
“I think the letter we have got back is disrespectful and is a display of arrogance,” said the Longford town based solicitor.
“Whether he (Mr Reilly) has connections to Longford or not is irrelevant as he is a minister and as such has an obligation to attend (meetings).”
Cllr Connellan suggested the council make contact with local Fine Gael TD James Bannon in an attempt to force through a meeting with the health minister.
One time Labour Cllr Mae Sexton advised against such a move, citing Mr Reilly’s perceived lack of interest in opening talks with local councillors.
“I really think the minister has no notion of meeting us. There is an arrogance there (in letter) that the Town Council isn’t worth meeting,” she said.
In an attempt to deflect criticism aimed at Mr Reilly, Fine Gael representatives hit back. Cllr Denis Hughes said he was more than content to allow Town Mayor and long time health advocate Cllr Peggy Nolan to champion the cause of St Joseph’s.
For her part too, Cllr Nolan said she had held an earlier meeting with Mr Reilly in which she received an “iron clad” pledge over the facility’s long term future.
“That’s probably why I have been so quiet on St Joseph’s,” she remarked. “No matter what party a minister is from when you get that (promise), you have to believe him,” she said.