Fianna Fáil leader accuses Government of living ‘a lie’ on health budget

Micheál Martin launches withering attack on Taoiseach and former health minister Reilly at his party’s think-in in Roscommon

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin alleged that the Government has "cooked the books" and misled the opposition and the public about its health budgets, as well as its plans for universal health insurance, over the past few years.

Mr Martin launched a withering attack on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Minister for Health James Reilly as his party's annual parliamentary party "think-in" began in Roscommon yesterday. He alleged that decisions taken by Government on foot of what he claimed were fraudulent figures had put patients' lives at risk.

Mr Martin said the Government had consciously and deliberately presented a budget last October knowing the figures to be wrong on health spending.

In relation to plans to dismantle the HSE and introduce a system of universal health insurance (UHI), Mr Martin said briefing papers prepared for the new Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, showed conclusively that UHI was never going to happen.


He claimed the papers showed that the Department of Health knew the proposal was a “complete sham”.

Citing confidential papers first disclosed by The Irish Times, Mr Martin alleged that the Government deliberately and consciously presented a budget with misleading figures.

He said that HSE head Tony O’Brien had stated in the service plan for 2014 that the net reduction in funding for the health services would be close to €1 billion, whereas the Government adjustment in the budget was €666 million.

Impossible health savings

Mr Martin said the Budget had provided for savings of €108 million from “medical card probity” whereas Mr O’Brien, he said, had stated such savings were non-deliverable. He also said

Mr Kenny

had consistently denied to him in the Dáil that there was any change of policy in relation to medical cards, where the evidence now suggested a deliberate policy to remove 250,000 medical cards from the system.

“The Government has lived a lie for the past three and a half years on health,” Mr Martin charged.

The two-day meeting at the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon yesterday heard presentations on housing, on childcare and on the economy given by former government adviser Prof Alan Ahearne of NUI Galway.

Today Prof Yvonne Galligan from QUB will address the meeting on gender quotas. Fianna Fáil has the poorest gender balance of all parties among its elected representatives.

Responding to the latest poll findings, which shows his party with support levels of 18 per cent, Mr Martin denied that Fianna Fáil had become “becalmed” and was handing the initiative to Sinn Féin.

Up in the locals

Mr Martin said the last real test of party support was the local elections, which showed support for Fianna Fáil at 25 per cent and Sinn Féin at 15 per cent. The party’s candidate,

Ivan Connaughton

, is the early favourite to win the Roscommon-South Leitrim byelection.

He said his leadership would not become an issue in the event of losing the byelection.

He also said that it was Fianna Fáil pressure that had resulted in concessions from the Coalition in the areas of health and justice, and he rejected the assertion that Sinn Féin was more effective in opposition.

Mr Martin also said that his party was willing to serve in government after the next election, in his clearest statement on this issue. “We want to contribute in government after the next general election, depending on the wishes of the people.”

But he also seemed to rule out any deal with Fine Gael.

“In our view, Fine Gael has been very regressive and very right-wing in its policies and they would not in any shape or form be comfortable bedfellows with us.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times