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The National Maternity Hospital dispute May 26, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

What an interesting Irish Times podcast this last week, the one that dealt with the National Maternity Hospital issue.

I don’t know is it that in the context of a conversation the political correspondents feel a bit more relaxed, but Jennifer Bray made a number of points that struck me as intriguing given narratives abroad. For example, she compared Stephen Donnelly’s approach in the last week with that of An Taoiseach. And it was this latter aspect that was most telling. 

…from my perspective I thought he put in a really good performance, I thought he answered the questions politically that he could…he was calm, he didn’t do the Micheál Martin thing of ‘this is all nonsense, stop talking about it, get over it, move on, nothing to see here.’

Now there’s a useful insight into the modus operandi of our Taoiseach and an intemperate and unmeasured side which will be no great surprise to those who watch debates but may be somewhat at odds with a wider public perception of him. 

On the substantive matter Bray’s analysis was a world away from the simplifications and reductionism of the likes of Stephen Collins who had the following:

The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of the new National Maternity Hospital is a welcome sign that the Taoiseach and his Ministers are willing to face up to the Opposition, the social media mob and assorted objectors on an issue of major national importance.

One of the weaknesses of the Coalition since it took office in June 2020 has been a tendency to run scared in the face of contrived outrage, usually fomented by a combination of Opposition politicians and vested interests, often mistakenly portrayed as representing public opinion.

And then there was the Examiner, whose columnist here was but a step away from ‘won’t anyone think of the children’ in this piece here where any concerns were dismissed as unreasonable and in a peculiarly gendered comment ‘female’ politicians were taken to task for those concerns. The fact that members of the HSE Board were themselves concerned publicly about the issue is apparently of no great interest to those commentators. 

Bray pointed out that concern was widespread within Fine Gael, and a feeling that little had been explained to anyone’s satisfaction despite this rumbling on for almost a decade. And this after meeting Donnelly in a meeting. 

And those concerns? Well, precisely the same as those expressed by other political representatives – what was the nature of the ownership, what was clinically appropriate, what were the procedures that would be permitted and so on. And Bray had a searing point to make. 

Why had this been left to the very last week? If all these things the government were presenting as watertight facts where there were no problems in X, Y or Z, how come they left it to the last week actually after a mooted Cabinet decision to sort this out, when they knew for years what the concerns were, we’ve talked about them for a decade so they were the problems, a bit shaky on Tuesday night, it might not get through.

The feeling was after his appearance at the Health Committee most or all of these fears were allayed – albeit as she notes the additions, or notes, added are of no real substance. Pat Leahy didn’t underplay the concerns people had either in the same episode though he thought the issue itself was of limited traction further down the line.

But there’s another twist, that even in Fianna Fáil, according to Bray, there were concerns that Micheál Martin had ‘pushed this through’ and had made no effort to listen to  or even communicate with his own TDs on the matter. What is that about, perhaps no more than the detachment of leadership, but if so it appears to be widespread in this government, and Bray made a further point, that losing these TDs was likely to have an impact on the government, whatever the seeming lack of interest in that dynamic on the part of politicians or commentariat. 

So the dismissive contributions of certain commentators, or the efforts to paint this as emanating from just one political side are deeply incorrect as well as arguably an attempt to reframe this. 

Where matters stand in a year or five is a different matter. But then the protagonists are likely to have long since departed the field by then.


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