Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Political World

Hobson’s choice for Reilly – stay in Angola or shift to the backbenches

Avatar

Published

on

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Brian Cowen coined the phrase ‘Angola’ to describe the Department of Health when he became the minister there in the 1997 – because, politically, this huge sprawling hard-to-control department was full of landmines.

You still hear Angola being repeated from time to time – but mostly to describe claimed third world conditions in our health services.

There is no other department that is as tough or has an equal attrition rate on its ministers. Michael Noonan was there in the 1990s and his and his department’s poor handling of the Brigid McCole case blighted his subsequent short leadership of Fine Gael. Mrs McCole was a woman who contracted Hepatitis C from a contaminated blood product. The Department fought tooth and nail – and in a very legalistic fashion – in defending itself in court against her. She died before the proceeding could come to an end.

Mícheál Martin was also there for almost five years and had a mixed innings. He created the Health Services Executive replacing the old health boards, such as the Western Health Board. But the problem was that merging all these organisations into one led to huge duplication and overlap.

The result was a terrible fudge – eleven health boards with different set-ups and different ways of doing things (and different emphases of service) coming together to create an ungainly, inflexible and unwieldy behemoth.

One of the big controversies around that time was the introduction of the PPARS payroll system, which would replace the different systems that had been in operation in each health bord and bring some uniformity.

The difficulty was that not alone were the payroll systems different, employees at similar grades in different health boards had different take home pay, working conditions, holiday arrangement and hours, because of localised deals that had been made.

In the end, the cost of introducing PPARS assumed biblical proportions, running into hundreds of millions of euro before the Comptroller and Auditor General said stop.

Mary Harney went into the Department with an ambitious reform agenda. Her big long-term plan was to locate private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals to create an unashamed genuine two-tier health system.

Some of her early innovations did work. The National Treatment Purchase Fund was designed to reduce waiting lists for non-emergency operations.

There were anomalies that sounded a little unjust. A person waiting for over a year or perhaps two years for a surgeon to perform a procedure on the public system could get seen by the same surgeon in short order if the NTPF crossed his palm with euro. Some patients were sent abroad.

It was costly but it worked.

Another major creation of Harney’s was the Health Information Quality Agency, under Dr Tracy Cooper, which has ensured qualitative improvements in the standards of care in hospitals.

The recent HIQA report about University Hospital Galway’s treatment of Savital Halappanavar when she was in its care is a case in point. It was explicit and comprehensive in outlining the litany of shortcomings evident in UHG.

Despite a promising start, it became increasingly obvious that faced with the massive challenges in health, Harney had lost appetite.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

Avatar

Published

on

Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

Avatar

Published

on

Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Biden brings normality back to world’s most powerful office

Avatar

Published

on

US President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his victory with his wife Jill and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

I did not want to make the same mistake I made four years ago. Then I stayed up until about 1.30am and it looked like it was going okay for Hillary Clinton in Florida. So I said to myself, that big buffoon is done for. When I woke up the next morning Donald Trump was the President of the United States. He had somehow managed to win Florida and dismantled the Blue Wall of Democrat States in the Mid-West by taking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

This time I stayed up until 4.30 in the morning. And that was a mistake too. For the picture was as unclear then as it was 12 hours later.

It was too close to call but already commentators were talking of a red mirage; most on-the-day voters plumped for Trump but early voters – whose votes were counted last – had steered very sharply towards Joe Biden.

It was historic. It’s really hard to knock out an incumbent president seeking a second term. It had been done only eight times before that in two and a half centuries.

Was it his inept handling of Covid-19? Had people grown sick of his vanity and his self-serving boasts? Did this natural disruption just cause too much turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives? Did his partisan views, that red-mist madness, repel more than it attracted?

Well, the evidence is in the poll. The answer to all those questions is yes. To me, the outcome was clear. Biden won the popular votes. He also won the electoral colleges.

The majority was small and reflects a very divided society. Trump is the champion of rural, less educated, blue collar white, conservative, Hispanic and white America. Biden is popular among the middle classes, the urbanites, the better educated, and black voters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads

Advertisement

Weather

Weather Icon
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending