Updated: 17/05/18 : 04:55:46
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Marc Mac back in watchdog mode today

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

BOSSES OF our health and police services both met their career Waterloos giving evidence to Oireachtas Committees.

Marc MacSharry, more than any other politician, last week inflicted fatal lances into the career of HSE boss, Tony O’Brien. See link below.

The responses, as such, of O’Brien himself ‘did the damage’ as he failed to deal with the reality of the public testimonies of Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhatuna.

Further Testimony

Yesterday, one of those woman gave compelling further public testimony, to TDs and Senators this time, about not wanting to die ‘in vain.’

The other woman was visited in her Kerry ‘Kingdom’ home yesterday by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.

New Frontier

Both women are dealing with ‘death sentences’ arising from a shambles by the State in the Cervical Check programme. The crisis is that big.

Not just a clinical shambles either but the framework exposed of (effectively) a cover-up by the State, in a policy area committed to ‘transparency.’

Transparency? The Cervical Check shambles recalls the words of Martin Luther King taking his first look at John F Kennedy’s famed ‘New Frontier’ promises.

Nothing much too ‘new’ that he could see; besides, said Dr King, the (promised) ‘Frontier’ was much too near the rear. 

The (counter) argument is, of course, that NO politician ‘did the damage’ last week re: the HSE supremo.

‘All the damage,’ the other narrative argues, was done by revelations involving the health honchos themselves later that day, one week ago.

Any public sympathy that remained for Tony O’Brien was overwhelmed once Jo Public saw and heard certain facts.

Briefing Note

Namely, the briefing note and memos from March 2016 within the Department of Health.

Overwhelmed? For an hour or two or three it seemed as if senior members of the Government could be goners, too.

Marc MacSharry later agreed with TV3 hosts Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper that the State’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) had a case to answer. That is fair.

That particular debate hasn’t gone away and today, Thursday, the State’s Chief Medical Officer faces the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Good Value

The Committee’s forensic oversight of all public officials reduces to one big question.

Namely, did this State get good value for the funds it allocated to particular service(s) under scrutiny.

By logical extension, the PAC will probe and is entitled to know whether the (ultimate) bosses delivered good value and how they quantify the out-turn.

Yesterday the CMO and his team offered a clinicians’ response to the Oireachtas Committee on Health.

Today, though, it is a different focus: The CMO, the ultimate boss, must satisfy the Oireachtas and Jo Public that they got good value for the funds disbursed on clinical programmes such as Cervical Check.

Stark Backdrop

The stark backdrop is that twice as many women are already dead in the identified Cervical Check shambles as died in, say, the 1981 hunger strikes.

Those latter deaths have shaped the contours of our history for decades since. 

The Cervical Check shambles will shape the contours of our politics for decades.

Or will it, too, be swept under the carpet once the current storm has passed.

The hope is it will shape the shake-up — which now seems inevitable — in our State health services model....and its accountability. Will that mood persist?

Angola Landmines

Today is a different task than yesterday and the Department of Health needs to (quickly) acknowledge all that in any opening statement.

That statement can road-test its room for manouvre; Cockiness 0%, Confidence 10%, Contrition 90%. Nothing more and nothing less.

Former Health Minister cum Taoiseach Brian Cowen was so exasperated by Chinese walls he encountered that he dubbed his own Dept of Health as ‘’Angola.”

Yep, so many landmines all over the place that the courage of the late Lady Diana would be necessary to take a dander through it all.

Heads Up

The CMO knows too well that ‘votes of confidence’ from politicians mean zilch. 

Translated, CIE once had a habit of painting up railway stations right before they closed them down.

The CMO will have to explain why, and convincingly so, why no politician got a ‘heads up’ even in the past month as the Cervical Check shambles unravelled.

It is hardly acceptable, either, in any current context for anybody in either the HSE or Health to claim pressure or unfair treatment in the past week.

To paraphrase Marc MacSharry, himself quoting TD Kate O’Connell, ‘This is not about you,’ collectively or individually. It is about the Cervical Check shambles.

It’s about all the women and their families, about full accountability, it’s all about ensuring that what follows is not in vain. 

Link: See Sligo Today 11/5/2018.