Health Minister Leo Varadkar has come in for stinging criticism for rejecting a meeting with local politicians over the ongoing crisis at St Christopher’s because of work commitments.
Councillors had been seeking a meeting with the Dublin West TD in an attempt to rectify the Longford service provider’s €450,000 debt overhang.
However, in an email sent to Longford County Council’s administrative officer Anne Lee last Tuesday, Mr Varadkar cited his heavy workload and media obligations as the reasons for his refusal.
“Given my commitments at Cabinet, in the Dail and Seanad, in my Department, in the media and the public functions I have to do, there is simply not enough time to agree to your request,” he wrote.
It was a response which drew widespread condemnation from both sides of the chamber.
Cathaoirleach and Independent Councillor, Mark Casey led the outbursts, describing the rebuttal as further evidence of Longford’s lack of political clout.
“To come in here (council chamber) and see this email sent flippantly on such an important issue, there’s no other word for it but disgusting,” he remarked.
Fianna Fail Councillors Mick Cahill and Martin Mulleady summed up the prevailing mood as they heaped pressure on their Fine Gael counterparts to push for a meeting with Mr Varadkar.
“This is a political decision,” said Cllr Mulleady. “You can say we are having a go at Fine Gael, but this is a political decision.”
Those words brought with it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, equally disparaging remarks from several government party members towards Mr Varadkar.
Cllr John Duffy said he had been left “insulted” by the emailed response, as did Cllr Colm Murray who branded the Health Minister’s stance as a “slap in the face” to all.
Cllr Peggy Nolan was slightly more considered in her approach, saying the time had come for councillors to show a united front in the battle to save St Christopher’s.
“Every single one of us knows the importance of St Christopher’s,” she said.
“It is the jewel in (Longford’s) crown.”