Estimates represent more of the same from tired government – Ó Caoláin
Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin finance spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD described last week's estimates as, "more of the same from a tired government bankrupt of ideas and too long in power." Deputy Ó Caoláin, who is also Sinn Féin Health spokesperson said, "Increased health spending without a strategy for equality will not address the long-term crisis in the system."
He said, "These estimates represent more of the same from a tired government bankrupt of ideas and too long in power. They are spending money but they have no strategy for equality and for delivering public services in a more equitable and efficient way.
"After 10 years of this government we have a health system still mired in crisis, housing is unaffordable for many thousands of families and inequality and poverty are still with us despite the Celtic Tiger.
"For Sinn Féin at this time of affluence the priority must be using the additional revenue available to government to address the plight of those who have been left behind - people on housing waiting lists, those who are most vulnerable to heat and electricity price rises and those surviving on social welfare payments which are inadequate to keep them out of poverty. We will have to wait until Budget day to see if the Minister will make any significant commitments in regard to these.
"While the Health budget has risen the reality is that it continues to be ploughed into a system that is both inefficient and inequitable because of the two-tier delivery of healthcare. The two-tier system with two waiting lists and two levels of care is being reinforced by Health Minister Harney with her private hospital co-location scheme. She confirmed in reply to a Dáil Question from me last week that she intends that contracts for the 10 private hospitals on public hospital sites will be signed by the first quarter of 2007. No cost-benefit analysis has been done on this scheme which has met with widespread opposition. It has no mandate. It was not in the election manifestos of either the PDs or Fianna Fáil. It was not in the Government's Health Strategy. It was not in the Programme for Government. Yet it is being forced through without reference to the Oireachtas in the dying months of this administration and in the run-up to a General Election. It is a fundamentally flawed scheme and it should be stopped now.
"I emphasise again, increased health spending without a strategy for equality will not address the long-term crisis in the system.
"The first pre-Budget submission published by Sinn Féin was nine years ago in November 1997 when the Fianna Fáil/PD Government was but a few months in office. We stated then: 'This government has a real opportunity to go beyond the policy of simply attempting -and often failing - to shelter the disadvantaged from the worst effects of inequality. It has the ability to tackle inequality itself.' Nearly a decade later we see that this Government has reinforced inequality in Irish society and it deserves to be rejected by the people for that reason alone." ENDS