Taoiseach on John Halligan threat to quit: Government will not be 'held to ransom'

Enda Kenny speaks to Newstalk about the controversy threatening to bring down the coalition

Taoiseach on John Halligan threat to quit: Government will not be 'held to ransom'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside Government Buildings in Dublin | Photo: RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that Independent Alliance minister John Halligan will not secure the extra cardiac services he has requested for his local hospital.

In an interview this weekend, the Waterford TD threatened to "bring all hell down" on his cabinet colleagues if his demand for a second catheterisation lab was not met. It came days after he said he was prepared to resign over the matter.

The government has already indicated that it will not overturn the recommendations of a clinical review which found that there was no need for a new unit at University Hospital Waterford.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Mr Kenny warned that the government could not be held "to ransom" every week.

"John Halligan has 11 responsibilities at national level, including dealing with the doubling of apprenticeships, to the school transport scheme, to research and development," he said.

"I would like to hear him devote himself to those responsibilities."

The Fine Gael leader also criticised the manner in which Mr Halligan challenged his colleagues in the expletive-laden Sunday Independent interview, describing him as a "very direct individual".

"I don’t find that kind of language suitable for these kind of interviews,” he said.

"I can understand people ... speaking out very plainly. The issue here is a difference of opinion. We have stood by what we said we would stand by."

Increased resources

The programme for government committed to providing the hospital with a second cath lab "subject to a favourable recommendation from an independent clinical review".

The assessment was requested by Mr Halligan, who had expected it to support the provision of increased services.

However, a review undertaken by Dr Niall Herity concluded that the needs of the catchment area could be accommodated in a single unit.

The Belfast-based consultant instead recommended investing in existing cardiac services, including increasing the number of weekly sessions at the existing lab.

Mr Kenny said that the government's commitment to Mr Halligan had been honoured in full.

"What Fine Gael has signed up to was published and approved and vetted, and the minister for health has gone beyond where he could have gone by giving Waterford the best deal possible arising from a completely independent report...

"I am not in a position to direct any medical clinician to change his opinion."

He told the programme that the hospital lab would be given increased hours and staff, ensuring it is "revamped and re-energised".

The dispute has threatened to undermine the fragile stability of the Fine Gael government, which needs a minimum of 58 votes in the Dáil. Currently, with Minister Halligan, it has just 59.

Watch the full interview on the Newstalk Facebook page.