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Taoiseach contradicts himself on medical cards

28 April, 2004

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has said the Taoiseach contradicted himself in the Dáil today when on one hand he welcomed the fact that less people now qualified for medical cards and on the other said he wanted to extend qualification. Deputy Ó Caoláin highlighted the Fianna Fáil pre-election promise of 200,000 extra medical cards and pointed out that two years on, 20,000 less people qualify.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Taoiseach cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim that less people qualify because there is less unemployment and also claim he wants to extend qualification. Does he deny that those just above the disgracefully low income limit are in real hardship?"

"On Sunday last the Taoiseach addressed some of the Fianna Fáil faithful at Arbour Hill to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Rising. But the 25th of April 2004 marked another anniversary ? a very significant one in Irish politics. I refer to the publication of the Fianna Fáil General Election Manifesto of 2002. The now infamous manifesto stated that "in government Fianna Fáil will permanently end waiting lists in our hospitals within two years through a combination of bed capacity, primary care, secondary care and targeted reform initiatives". Exactly two years on that promise has become due but there are still some 27,000 people on hospital waiting lists. Every one of these is a real person with a real illness and living in pain, discomfort and anxiety for want of the hospital care which they need and deserve but are being denied. The Taoiseach must apologise to the Irish people for misleading them so outrageously two years ago?

"Does the Taoiseach recall that the manifesto he launched with such fanfare two years and three days ago also promised to extend medical card eligibility to over 200,000 extra people with a clear priority being given to families with children? Does he realise that there are now 20,000 less people qualifying for the medical card than there were in 2002?

"Will the Taoiseach also apologise to the Irish people for this broken promise, especially to low-income families who struggle desperately to meet the medical needs of their children?"

Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to describe the Taoiseach's response in which he listed off a litany of statistics in relation to healthcare as "meaningless". He said,

"The Taoiseach responds with his usual litany of figures. They are meaningless to the people who look to the government to fulfil the commitments it made - People in desperate need of assistance because they are months or years on hospital waiting lists or are unable to afford medical bills for their families and are earning just above the disgracefully low income guidelines for medical card qualification." ENDS

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