Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Adams - Time to increase the pressure on Government

21 October, 2006


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this afternoon addressed a major health rally in Dublin City centre and called on people across Ireland to increase pressure on the government to deliver a public health system that delivers on the basis of need and not ability to pay.  He said this government’s disastrous privatisation agenda is causing huge hardship and has meant that there is now huge inequality in healthcare delivery. 

 

 “Sinn Féin is demanding change.  We are putting equality and the demand for healthcare as a right at the top of the political agenda.  We believe that health spending should go into public services not private health care.  We believe that tax breaks to developers of private hospitals should end.  We believe that subsidies to private healthcare should stop immediately. Sinn Féin will make healthcare delivery a priority in the run up to this year’s budget, in the election campaign and beyond.  We will continue to fight for health as a right until it is delivered.

 

Mr. Adams went on to say:

 

“No one should have to languish on a hospital trolley in a corridor.  Not in 2006, in the era of the Celtic Tiger. No one should be on a waiting list for years. Every citizen should have access to the same standard of care.  The fact is the money and resources are available to provide a first class health service for everyone. What is missing is the political will to achieve this.

“Successive Irish governments, and especially the current coalition, have rejected the principle of health as a public service. They have pursued a policy of privatisation and the creation of a two tier health system.  Public money, taxpayers money, your money is given away by this government to their friends in the private health sector.

 

The result of these policies is:

  • There are one third less beds in our acute hospitals than there were in 1980.  Yet the demand today is far greater. 
  • There is huge inequality in the health system today with the disgraceful fact that the poorest people in Ireland are now 200 times more likely to die from the main causes of death than the richest people in society.
  • Hardly a day goes by without some major controversy or exposure of failure within our health system.

“The health system we have reflects the government’s agenda for inequality. Their agenda for inequality is just as clear in their bad policies on education, rural regeneration, workers rights and many other issues.” ENDS

 

 

Full text

I want to commend all of those who helped organise today's march and rally. This large crowd and your attendance here today is testimony to the importance - the key importance - of the issue of health in this state and on this island today.

More articles are written in newspapers, more news reports are produced in the broadcast media, more comment and conversation is made around health than probably any other single issue.

The state of our health service impacts on all us.

 

It affects babies born in poorly resourced, understaffed maternity units.  It affects children and adults who queue for hours in overstretched A & E units and it affects our elderly who lie on hospital trolleys and sometimes die there. The health care and attention given to mothers can dramatically affect babies even before they are born.  Unemployed women are more than twice as likely to give birth to low birth-weight babies as women in the higher income groups.

Infant mortality rates are higher in families where the father is an unskilled manual worker.      Overall people in Ireland have a lower life expectancy that the average in the rest of Europe.

How we are treated and cared for within the health system throughout our lives, and especially when confronted by serious illness or old age, is a major worry for all but the most wealthy.

Our individual state of health is linked directly to our jobs - if we have one - to our housing conditions, to education, to our environment - in essence to our quality of life.

Earlier this week a report was issued by the Institute for Public Health which said that the poorest people in Ireland were 200 times more likely to die from the main causes of death [including cancer, respiratory diseases and accidents], than the richest people in society.

Another report concluded that death rates in Ireland are higher than average when compared with 19 other countries of similar development and wealth. There is hardly a day goes pass without some major controversy or exposure of failure within our health system.

Whether it is in the provision of and access to cancer treatments; the availability of screening services and maternity services; or the state of our Accident and Emergency Units and the number of our relatives who daily languish on hospital trolleys, the issue of health care is a major issue for all of us.

The fact is that society in this state is more unequal than it was 15 years ago at the beginning of this period of economic growth. 

Most people are better paid, but they are working longer hours and commuting long distances because they cannot afford to live near their place of work.  They are struggling to keep up with spiralling costs in housing, education, childcare and basic services like ESB.

There are also - to the Irish government's great shame - tens of thousands living in poverty.  At a time of unprecedented growth, 15% of all children live in consistent poverty, while one in four children are deemed by the government's own statistics to be at risk of poverty.

And this after 9 years of successive budget surpluses.

The predictions are that the government will have a surplus of €1.8 billion this year and another €1.3 billion over the following two years. A government committed to a decent health system could make effective use of such resources.

 

What has this government and their predecessors done?

They have cut the number of acute hospital beds to one third less than it was in 1980, from 17,500 to 12,000. Yet the demand today is far greater.

Successive Irish governments, and especially the current coalition, have rejected the principle of health as a public service.

They have pursued a policy of privatisation and the creation of a two tier health system.  Public money, taxpayers money, your money is given away by this government to their friends in the private health sector.

Sinn Féin is committed to ending the two tier health service.

Sinn Féin is committed to the delivery of a public health system accessible to all on the basis of need.

That's what people work and pay taxes for. No one should have to languish on a hospital trolley in a corridor.  Not in 2006, in the era of the Celtic Tiger. No one should be on a waiting list for years. Every citizen should have access to the same standard of care.  What is missing is the political will to achieve this.

The fact is the money and resources are available to provide a first class health service for everyone.

We are a republican party. Why doesn’t the government take it’s lead from the Proclamation, read on the steps of this building 90 years ago this year.
 
The Proclamation promotes equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens.

The Proclamation is a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights based society in which the people - in which you - are sovereign.

And it set a standard for the future care of citizens, "to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally."

Government policy is totally at odds with this.  Government policy is based on the notion that inequality is good for society.


For our part we believe that healthcare is a right, not a burden.

We believe that health spending should go into public services not private health care.

We believe that tax breaks to developers of private hospitals should end.

We believe that subsidies to private healthcare should stop immediately. Sinn Féin would make this a priority in government.

The health system we have reflects the government’s agenda for inequality. Their agenda for inequality is just as clear in their bad policies on education, rural regeneration, workers rights and many other issues.

The debate about our health services is really part of a wider debate about the kind of Ireland we want.  Right now the wealth of Ireland is not being used to benefit of the    people of Ireland.  We have to change that.  We have to put equality at the heart of government policy.    

Ireland is in transition north and south.  We are moving slowly but surely from a partitioned island to a new agreed Ireland.  There are many challenges facing republicans in the time ahead. But we need change in the here and now not just in the north but across the island.  What price freedom if we have a Thatcherite Ireland.  Republicanism is about citizens.  It’s about rights.  Healthcare is fundamental to the wellbeing of our people and our society.


Today's rally is part of an all-Ireland campaign to demand and win a radical transformation of the health system. 

Working together we can deliver a public health system that works for all the people. We will accept nothing less.”ENDS



 

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