When is a political issue not a political issue?

When you have a minister for health that ignores medical evidence, quotes out of date and inaccurate statistics and refuses to acknowledge a differing opinion, are you faced with a medical issue or a political one? When our TD's and senators are unable or even unwilling to help, where can you turn?
They all talk about best medical practice and best patient outcomes, yet choose to ignore evidence that meets and even surpasses these standards. If this was truly a medical issue, then surely there would be no issue. The answer would be simple, the evidence enough and the decision already made. But this is not the case, this is not how things work anymore in the new Ireland, complaints don't go up, they go around. Theres no-one to take responsibility because nobody wants it, its better not to know, its easier.

So how exactly did we get to this point? Our politicans hide behind misplaced party loyalties, more concerned with the anger of their party then the health of their constituents. With a blatant disregard for the constitution, Mary Harney delegates to anyone willing to accept the responsibility (or at least until they can in turn delegate to someone else). These elected representatives scream that Sligo's cancer services is not a political issue, yet when the medical evidence is presented, its duly ignored.
Where does it end? at what point will people say enough? at what point will it be too late?
Its a dangerous experiment we're involved in, people will get hurt and careers damaged if not destroyed but if thats what it takes for people to listen, for people to care, then maybe its a very neccesary experiment.

Its not just Europe that's angry

The result is not in question, 33 out 43 constituencies agreed to disagree with Lisbon. Theres no doubt that the people came out and the people said no. The only question is why?
Jimmy Devins would have us believe that 'Sligo was one of the better results', if 57% No was a good result, then what would they call a bad result? Maybe Mary Coughlan could answer that, Donegal South and North both returned No results above 60%.
Theres a hundred different reasons people voted no, some valid, some a little less so. In the northwest there was definitely one good reason, the people don't trust Fianna Fail, they simply don't trust their own government. When a newly appointed Tánaiste can't carry a vote in her own constituency, you know theres more than uncertainty.
Call it what you will, explain it anyway that makes you comfortable but its hard to escape the truth, mere doubt doesnt make people leave their houses to vote.
I suppose it sort of answers one particular question; How many times can you lie to people before those same people stop believing your lies? I guess last week, people stopped believing the lies but its probably a year to late.
Mary Coughlan lied about the northwests cancer services, Jimmy Devins and Eamonn Scanlon too, around the country similar groups of people vented their anger at a government that turned its back on them. The vote was a NO to the government, a no to corruption, a no to a crumbling health system, a no to a failing economy, it was simply no.
No more.

Let them eat cake...

A young Fianna Fail counsellor asked me yesterday;
Why they are hated so much now?
What did they do?
Don't people want the new bus?
Why is everyone blaming Fianna Fail?
He questions seemed earnest and his concern real, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I tried to explain it to him as best I could. I tried to describe how this empty gesture appeared from our point of view or more importantly a patients, he couldnt or maybe didnt want to understand.
If Im honest, I couldnt see it from his point of view either, no matter how hard I tried.
This went back and forth for 20 minutes or so, we debated the issue and the debate was friendly but it turned out to be utterly pointless. Thankfully it turned to smalltalk, then we both left with a handshake, a bad joke and little else. Its strange but I know this man, I know his friends and Im sure he's a good guy but outside of that I actually dont know this man. I dont understand him, I don't understand the blind allegiance that I see in these people or where it comes from. How is loyalty to a party more important than a persons life? How can you privately profess that you support something but everything you say or do in public screams the opposite? They cannot all be liars, I know that much but if anyone has a better answer, please tell me.

We're campaigning for patients rights, their rights of equal access to health care, their human rights, the very things our constitution speaks of. We are trying to stop our government and minister for health closing down our health services based on statistics from the end of the last century.
We want to make sure that people who are already scared, already suffering and in some cases dying dont have to be seperated needlessly from their loved ones. That they wont have to endure any unnecessary pain and discomfort, that they have the choice of treatment other irish people have. That they are not herded like livestock onto a bus day after day, week after week for treatment that could, treatment that should be freely available to them.

And what is the governments response? the Fianna Fail response?
A new bus....... and yet he doesn't understand

The Politics of Men.................

You could tell she was slightly awestruck by his presence but not intimidated, she spoke up, said what was on her mind, declined his leaflet and continued on with her shopping. I heard her say the names 'Scanlon, Devins' and the word 'disgrace' and the source of her anger became immiediatley obvious. The sight of Sligo's favourite son immaculate in navy blazer and cream trousers handing out 'Yes to Lisbon' flyers didnt surprise her as much it did me. Here was a man used to warm welcomes, hearty handshakes and generous compliments, a former minister for finance and EU commisioner, a man not prepared for the quiet anger of a middle aged woman in the centre of his town.
I know that this man has lost someone dear to him but I wondered who it was she had lost.

Within seconds her place was taken by an elderly couple, again leaflets were offered, this time one was accepted. The husband enjoyed his chance to shake hands with this elder statesman, the wife refused to acknowledge him and as impatience got the better of her, she quickly walked off, leaving behind her husband and his awkward attempts at small talk.
We spoke with this statesman, he berated us for implying that this was a political issue, how the recent Dail motion did more damage then good and that a lifetime in politics told him as much.
I asked if this was so true, why he hadn't spoken out before? why wait until a week after the motion? The answers were short and impatient, 'the government has to vote against the opposition', 'Castlebar and Letterkenny should never have been included'. I asked why loyalty to a party was more important then loyalty to the people who elected them? his face flushed and he turned his back on us.

'People are going to die Ray' and he turned to face us again but this time his attentions focused on the woman to my right. Although not given to raising her voice and small in stature, she has a commanding presence. Her soft voice hides a quiet determination and dignity that only suffering brings and thus makes it all the more impossible to ignore. It dawned on me then, that it would be women that would solve this problem, I didnt have time to wonder why this was but whatever the reason, Im certain it's so.
We left with his angry promise 'I will bring them to Drumm and Keane myself' referring to the medical reports the HSE has chosen to ignore, the ones that the government wishes didnt exist, the ones that expose the lies and also the liars.

No more than two hundred yards away we ran into a Fianna Fail TD and senator, the TD ignored us, the senator looked on anxiously, we let them know we wished to speak and waited. To pass the time we joked about what we would say and how we would say it, I looked for familiar faces in the crowds but saw none. As the senator finally approached us, she nervously appraised us. We had tried and failed to meet with her on a number of occasions and I sensed this was partly the reason she seemed apprehensive. We discussed the closing of Sligo's cancer services, the conditions the men and women have to endure every day on their journey to and from Galway. We discussed how the region will be left without any diagnostics as Breastcheck has no schedule for the Northwest, we discussed how Mary Harney and the HSE were allowed to use figures and statistics that we all know to be out of date and incorrect but yet go unchallenged, we discussed.

Its a conversation we've all had many times now but its one that we've grown weary of, we all agree whats happening is wrong, yet can agree on nothing else. Still I was glad to have met this senator, having only previously spoken to her over the phone, I knew little of her and was less than impressed by how little she knew on that occasion. In person there was a different side to her, I think she felt genuinely ashamed by what was happening and wanted to be of help. Yet despite this, her party allegiance reared its head when I blamed their policies, I'm still surprised by this misplaced loyalty and its blindness, have they lost the ability to doubt or to think for themselves?
The myopia of these people, these 'leaders' and their stubborn reluctance to question what they know to be untrue is staggering, I dont know how to describe it because I cant understand it. I dont doubt she wanted to help, I only doubt if she could.

Later I thought of another woman, it was the agreed meeting with her this very morning that had first brought us into Sligo centre. In her office she described how she would try to help us, she was careful not to give us false hope but she did however, give us hope. It wasnt hard to imagine her in her former career, teaching honours maths to nervous students. As she detailed the positives and negatives of our proposal, an analytical and intelligent mind revealed itself. I pictured her in Europe, an Independent, an Irish woman and MEP, free from the party ties that seem to strangle our local representatives. I tried to imagine how hard she must have had to work to get that far, it made it very easy to admire her.
She didnt need to make any promises to us, we instinctively knew she would do as she said and left her to it.

Its the promise that was made later on that saturday afternoon that worries me. Those reports have already been presented, those reports have already been ignored.
Did this man mean what he said? was it another false promise to get rid of an increasing annoyance? Was this another lie designed to cloud the real issue at hand? Theres no way to be sure and thats what concerns me.
One certainty though, is that we will keep you to that promise Ray. But if you break that promise, its not the men of the Northwest you need to be wary of.

The Awful truth

Centres of excellence, Critical mass, Economic effectiveness, best practice, best international practice. If you've ever had the pleasure of talking to a member of Fianna Fail or the DOHC / HSE about the future of Irelands cancer services, these terms will be rolled out with an unnerving ease.
You'll hear all about how 'it's best for the patient', how Professor Keane won't change his mind, how even Bertie tried to convince him but the stubborn professor just wouldn't budge.
They'll even try to convince you that they tried their best and with a defeatist shrug of their shoulders exclaim 'what else can we do?'
Good oul Fianna Fail, sure they did what they could and what else can you ask for?

The truth is always a good place to start.

The problem is that, truth, honesty and decency are not words you tend to associate with Fianna Fail. It seems that getting caught is their only concern. On the same day Brian Cowen hit the streets of Galway to boost the flagging Lisbon campaign, his predecessor is beguiling the rest of the nation with his unbelievable luck at the track. All this fuss over 'a few quid and sure didnt he win it after all'.
So where do you start?
Is it even possible to penetrate this cult of dishonesty?
Where does 'cute hoor' stop and criminal begin?
Does anyone even care?

If nothing else, maybe we'll at least get the answer to that final question.


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