Tuesday, September 04, 2012


   Disabled people protest outside Government Buildings in Dublin today.
                     (Photo :PA)


The first meeting of the coalition cabinet ahead of the new Dáil session, two weeks from now, had to face massive protest from across the country to dramatic cuts in public health services announced in peremptory fashion by the Health Service Executive on Friday as Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, became the Invisible Man while the storm of protest raged across the media over the weekend.

Senior figures in the Labour Party half of the Coalition reacted strongly. Labour Party chairman, Colm Keaveney, said the €130 million in cuts to home help and services for high-dependency patients announced last week are unacceptable and said he expected the Taoiseach to review the decision at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking on RTÉ radio soon after the HSE announcement, Mr Keaveney said the cuts were unjust and should be reviewed by the HSE and the Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly "as a matter of urgency." “It is my belief that we can identify savings of €130 million rather than focusing on an unjust cut. These cuts are in my view unacceptable and the Minister and HSE should review them as a matter of urgency,” he said. He said members of the Labour Party had contacted him with alarm and concern after the cuts were announced. “I understand there is a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and I would hope and expect the Taoiseach would ensure we would review this situation to the satisfaction of vulnerable people who are concerned about the delivery of services,” he said. He was joined later by North Dublin TD, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Tánaiste (Deputy Premier) Éamonn Gilmore who said it was “regrettable” the HSE had announced cuts in services. “Every organisation, every department and every service has to obviously work within budget,” he added. Mr Gilmore said the priority would be to ensure services needed by people requiring care and assistance would continue to be provided.

Against that background, Ministers arrived for today's Cabinet meeting to face a poignant demonstration outside Government Buildings in Dublin by a large number of disabled people in their wheelchairs who stated their dismay in the reduction of their support services which would leave many of them confined to institutions, at greater expense to the state, than continuing with the current levels of service. Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Enda Kenny, avoided the protest by arriving early.

Of the eight cost-cutting proposals in the HSE plan outlined last week, at least three will affect older people or the disabled exclusively. Services for both groups are likely to be seriously affected by a 600,000-hour cut in home help hours, as well as a reduction of 200 home care packages and a €10 million reduction in hours for personal assistants for people who need high levels of support trying to live independently. Health minister, Dr James Reilly has consistently championed the care of patients in the community in preference to long-term stays in hospital, but advocacy groups predicted the effect of the cuts would be to increase hospital admissions. “If this culture of homecare cuts continues, children with life-limiting conditions will end up back in hospital unnecessarily, which nobody wants and which costs nine times more than homecare,” said Jonathan Irwin, chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation.The HSE had said “the impact of these reductions will be minimised by ensuring that services are provided for direct patient care”.

The outcome of today's Cabinet meeting was an embarrassing climbdown by Government with a withdrawal of the €10M cut in Personal Assistants for disabled people. The repercussions, political and financial, will continue as the €500M overrun in the health department budget for this year will require more debate and controversial decisions in the lead up to the December Budget for 2013 is put before Dáil Éireann. Obviously, with such a big hole in the Health budget, the argument for cuts will continue inside the Cabinet.

The consequences for the Labour Party leadership will be significant as Colm Keaveney's sharp condemnation of the proposed health cuts resonates with unrest and dissatisfaction within the Labour Party rank and file membership. Keaveney was elected Chair of the Party at this year's Annual Conference, in Galway, despite the hierarchy's determined efforts and bureaucratic manoeuvres to prevent him being elected which caused uproar at the conference centre while outside,  several thousand protesters from various political and civil groups besieged the building.

At government level, so far there has been no explanation from Minister Reilly of his failure to control expenditure in his Department. His usual combative and "Lone Ranger" style of politics strangely absent on this occasion. The issuing of the announcement via the HSE and the failure of Minister Reilly to alert Gilmore and the other Labour ministers including the two in the Health Department, Róisín Shorthall and Kathleen Lynch, added considerably to the cabinet tensions.

The severity of Budget cuts in Ireland since the state was forced into a bailout situation by the European Central Bank and the EU Commission with the IMF added as third party, are part of a worldwide agenda of the robber Banks and the Capitalist Financial Elite to make the majority of the population pay for the criminal debasement of the financial sector which is the direct cause of the crisis in the developed capitalist countries, and in our particular case, the Eurozone. There is now a determined and organised agenda to destroy the social welfare structures of European states in the interests of the Criminal Bandit Elite. 

While vicious hardship is being imposed all over Europe and the USA, the twin citadels of World Corporate Capitalism, 92,000 persons of the Criminal Elite have, between them, stashed more than $21 Trillion in tax havens across the globe. This shows that the financial "crisis" is being manipulated by these criminals to enrich themselves further at the direct expense of the rest of us and are boastful enough to declare publicly, as Mario Draghi, head of the ECB, said in an interview in the "Wall Street Journal", last year, "The European Social Model is over". This is a real challenge to the forces of the Left all over Europe which, regrettably, is not being met by the Irish Labour Party and European Social Democracy as a whole.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Meanfhomhair/September 4 2012

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