Longford Leader Columnist Mattie Fox: Minister Harris not suited to health minefield

Mattie Fox


Mattie Fox



Simon Harris

Minister for Health Simon Harris

We watched with a degree of horror and alarm as Simon Harris, the Health Minister apparently excitedly declared that “we’ll have 79 new beds before the end of this year, and 2,600 in the next decade!”

We’ve often been struck by the amazing disconnect between the government and the people.

Well now we know, for once and for all that the gap is wider than our most expansive wonderings could imagine.

How on God’s earth could the minister sound excited when announcing that 79 new beds would be available “before the end of this year” if he really had any genuine objective perspective of the scale of the problem facing the health service.

I have no doubt whatever but that Minister Harris is a conscientious man, who means well in everything he says, and who maybe did not merit the assertions of Tony O’Brien, the former head of HSE. Mr O’Brien belongs to the mindset that absolutely believes that nothing wrong was done, but rather a systems failure.

No wonder he retired, with a hefty handshake.

Whatever about the complexities in the health service department, maybe he should have felt sufficiently strong pangs of regret to be a little more apologetic when the scandal broke.

A little sad, perhaps. Nonetheless it is perhaps understandable since, whatever else, Tony O’Brien is not someone who gives false information, or twists any story to give it a cleaner image.

The berating splattered across the pages of newspapers spoke volumes about what the media think of Tony O’Brien.

But they too, reported inaccurately about stuff that went on back in the early days of the cervical scandal breaking.

A sorry saga, that still gives nobody any comfort, least of all the women who suffered, and are still suffering because of the scandal.

For Minister Harris to say that 2,600 extra beds would ‘become’ available in the next decade.......what can one say?

When he became a TD he made a brilliant maiden speech in the Dáil. Here was a man who really did believe in helping people.

However, it’s important to find the right ministries for young TD’s.

Health is such a minefield that it was not a good decision to appoint him to that area, despite his well known penchant for lobbying in the interests of children with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit disorders. As a Junior Certificate student he lobbied politicians to get better facilities to allow children with such disabilities to be integrated into mainstream education.

So his track record is well known.

However political expediency caused his hurried promotion to happen far too soon.

He’s in an awful department, and is still too young to make the sorts of decisions not suited to anyone still learning their trade.
A wiser, more calculating head was, and is, called for.

After all, Simon Harris is still only 32.