News & Current Issues
Here are some of the current issues.
RESIDENTS IN Cranmore had concerns that the Community Wardens were to be laid off before Christmas and at the time I contacted ULA Deputy Joan Collins to raise the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Cllr Declan Bree told a meeting of Sligo Borough Council.
"The Minister told her that funding was initially provided from the Sustainable Communities Fund for the Community Warden Scheme. He said the Borough Council sought approval in 2010 to use Regeneration Funding to support the Community Wardens Scheme and approval to this effect issued in August 2011. The Minister said that €72,954 had been provided for the Wardens in 2011 and that his Department will review the continued funding arrangements for the scheme in the context regeneration work programme for this year.
"Given the valuable work the Community Wardens carry out in Cranmore I feel confident that the Minister will continue to fund the scheme.
"During the period 2008 to 2010 the total cost of the Community Warden scheme in Cranmore was €163,350. In contrast in the same period over €1million was provided to cover the salaries of the staff in the Regeneration Office in Cranmore. In addition the Regeneration office separately paid out a sum of €115,000 in Technical fees in respect of the grass mounds in the estate which still remain in place, and over €260,000 was paid in fees to consultants.
"In this context it is clear that the Community Wardens clearly provide value for money." he said.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion:- “That the Borough Council, recognising the valuable work carried out by the community wardens confirms that it will continue to provide matching funds to maintain the community wardens scheme in Cranmore.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Chris MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
IT IS very clear from the draft budget before us this evening that there will be significant cutbacks in a number of areas and these cutbacks will create serious problems for the Council and for the people of this community during the course of the next year, Cllr Declan Bree told the Budget meeting of Sligo Borough Council
"The new government of Fine Gael and Labour is now imposing the same type of cuts as the outgoing crowd.
"I have to say that I find it unacceptable that the Government can cut back on local government services and on health services; that they can cut the pay to ordinary working people, that they can cut the fuel allowance for the elderly; cut disability payments; cut child benefits for large families; cut back the school clothing and footwear allowance; cut back community employment schemes and cuts rent supplements while at the very same time they can provide billions to bail out the bankers and the speculators, the very people who have caused the economic crisis.
"The government would have us believe that the ordinary people of this country caused the economic crisis so as to justify their savage cut backs. I believe that this lie must be rejected.
"It is also clear from the draft budget that the new Household Charge will not result in any additional funds for local authorities as it is set to replace a similar amount that was formerly paid to local councils by the exchequer.
"The Government has been trying to con people into believing that the Household Tax is to be used to supplement the funding to local authorities to improve local services. But that is a lie.
"There will be no additional funding for local authorities. The Household Tax is not about paying for public services. It is about paying off the debts of rogue developers, bankers and speculators.
"The tax is part and parcel of the government and EU/IMF diet of cutbacks and austerity that has seen a slashing of our living standards and has only helped deepen the economic crisis.
"The Government expects every household to register for the tax so the most effective way to defeat this now poll tax is by refusing to register and by refusing to pay. Why should we have to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers." said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion “Alarmed that the Local Government Fund General Purpose grant for Sligo Borough Council has been reduced by 8.98%, and further recognising that the Government is spending billions of Euro bailing out banks and developers, this Council calls on the Government and the Minister for the Environment to provide the necessary funding for this Borough Council to carry out its statutory duties.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Arthur Gibbons and adopted.
IS IT ANY WONDER that Sligo County Council is now considered a basket-case, Cllr Declan Bree asked when speaking at the annual budget meeting of the Council this week.
“The draft Annual Budget which has been presented to us by the County Manager can only be described as yet another work of fantasy.” said Cllr Bree.
“It is very similar to the Budget presented to us last year, and the previous year, and the year before that – budgets that bear no resemblance to reality and budgets that have plunged this Council into spiralling debt.
“At budget meetings we as councillors are warned that if we include proposals for expenditure or income which the Manager believes is unattainable, that the Minister for the Environment will be advised and that the elected Council could leave itself open to being abolished.
“However year after year the County Manager produces Budgets which are clearly unattainable.
“At the end of 2008 there was a deficit balance of €4.2 million. After adopting the Managers budget in 2009 this Council ended up with a deficit €7.5 million. When it adopted the Managers budget for 2010 the Council ended up with a deficit of almost €10 million; and according to the most recent information, the Managers budget which was adopted for 2011 will increase the deficit by another €2.8 million and bring the total revenue deficit up to €12.8 million.
“These figures clearly confirm that the budgets which the County Manger presents to the elected council each year are absurd and unattainable. This does not happen in any other County Council in the country. It’s as if the Management of this Council was living in a parallel universe - and it makes a mockery of the Budget exercise we as councillors participate in each year.” Cllr Bree said.
“In addition, in July 2010, the County Manager asked the members of the Council to authorise borrowing of €18 million by way of a term loan of €15 million and a temporary overdraft of €3 million. We were told then that the main reasons for the loan and overdraft totaling €18 million was due to an accumulated deficit on the revenue account of €7.5 million and that there was expenditure of approx €10 million on capital related activity that awaited funding.
“However despite the fact that the Council borrowed the money to clear the €7.5 million deficit last year, we discovered this year that the deficit was not cleared.
“And it should also be noted that this year the County Manger recommended to the Council that the overdraft be increased from €3 million, then to €5 million, then to €7.5 million and then to the current €11million overdraft.
“And now we have this draft Budget before us today, which can only be described as another work of fantasy and which will lead to further increased interest repayments and another huge deficit at the end of 2012.
“Unfortunately the major political parties on this Council find this acceptable
“Is it any wonder that Sligo County Council is now considered a basket-case. If any business in the private sector behaved in such a fashion it would have gone to the wall long ago.
“And the question we have to ask the County Manger is: Why is Sligo County Council the only Council in the entire country where the revenue deficit is consistently increasing year by year?
“There are 34 County and City Councils in the state, and there are 34 County and City Managers. In this context I believe it is reasonable to ask the Sligo County Manager: Why is Sligo the only Council in the country where the revenue deficit is consistently increasing year by year?” said Cllr Bree
THE GOVERNMENT'S new household tax is unfair, unjust, immoral and must be resisted, Cllr Declan Bree said when he spoke at a meeting of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes at the weekend.
“The government expects each household to register for the tax and to send the tax payment directly to the government. Fines and court proceedings have been threatened if people refuse to register to pay the tax. Contrast this with the manner in which the government has dealt with the bankers, developers and speculators who have ruined our economy. How many of them have been fined or jailed?
“This is the opportunity many homeowners have sought - to have their say against all the cut backs and austerity that has been foisted on them. Unlike the universal social charge, the cutbacks, and all the other measures which have taken money out of our pockets, this is something on which we will have a choice. We can boycott the tax by refusing to register.”
“I will certainly not register for the tax and I will not pay this tax. And I will appeal to people in the community to take similar action.” declared Cllr Bree.
“This is not about paying for public services. This is about paying the bank debt. The new household tax, like the universal social charge, and the ongoing cuts in health and public services is in essence a form of collective punishment against the great majority of Irish people who are being forced by government to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers.
“A pensioner or low paid worker will pay the same as a millionaire. By any standard of fairness, it is wrong that the household tax will be imposed on people regardless of their ability to pay. One hundred euro may not seem a lot to government ministers who believe it is appropriate to pay advisers in excess of €135,000. To the unemployed or working poor, however, it represents a significant burden.
“Across the state a major campaign is being built to oppose this tax. The Campaign against Household and Water Taxes will be based on a refusal to register and a refusal to pay this new poll tax. Building this campaign will need the active involvement of ordinary people both urban and rural.” said Cllr Bree.
AT ITS monthly meeting the members of Sligo Borough Council adopted a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree calling on Health Minister James Reilly, to meet with a deputation from the Save Our Cancer Service campaign group
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said “Six months ago the Save our Cancer Services campaign group wrote to the new Minister for Health Dr James Reilly, with a request that he meet with a deputation to discuss the restoration of the Breast Cancer service in Sligo General Hospital.
“Given that Minister Reilly and the Tanaiste Mr Eamon Gilmore, and Minister of State John Perry, and Deputy Tony McLoughlin, and Senators Imelda Henry, Susan O’Keeffe and Michael Comiskey, had all given solemn commitments that the Breast Cancer service would be restored to Sligo, the campaign group was understandably concerned with the lack of progress in delivering on the commitments.
“Their concern grew to dismay last month when the Minister refused to accede to their request for a meeting. The excuse he offered to the Cancer campaigners was that he had a ‘very heavy schedule of government and departmental business’.
“Surely this can only be described as an insult to everyone in Sligo and the region who have campaigned for the breast cancer services in recent year.
“Last month when there was a proposal to close down a Community Nursing Home in Abbeyleix, the government deputy from the area Charlie Flanagan T.D. organised a meeting between a local deputation and the Minister for Health within 72 hours.
“This is a constituency with five government Oireachtas members - a Minister of State, a Dail Deputy and three Senators. What in goodness name are the doing? Have they no clout? Have they no influence? Or do they just not care?” asked Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was unanimously adopted: “Concerned at the refusal of the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly T.D., to meet with a deputation from the Save Our Cancer Services NW to discuss the re-opening of the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital; and recognising the pressing need to have the service restored; this Council calls on the Minister for Health to reverse his decision and to meet with the deputation from the Save Our Cancer Services committee without undue delay; and further this Council calls on Government Oireachtas members from the area to make the necessary representations to ensure that the meeting with the Minister takes place.”
SLIGO COUNTY Council pays the highest resurfacing costs in the country for the resurfacing of roads under the Roads Restoration Maintenance Programme, Cllr Declan Bree told this month meeting of Sligo County Council.
“Last year Sligo County Council paid an average of €10.87 per square metre for the resurfacing of Regional Roads while Clare County Council paid an average of €3.78 per square metre, Louth paid an average of €4.38 per square metre and Leitrim paid an average of €4.76 per square metre.
“And last year Sligo County Council paid an average of €11.53 per square metre for the resurfacing of Local Roads while Cavan County Council paid an average of €2.72 per square metre, Mayo paid an average of €3.72 per square metre and Roscommon paid an average of €4.56 per square metres.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
“Information held by the Department of Transport will confirm that other counties can resurface three to four miles of road for the sum it costs Sligo County Council to resurface one mile.
“The County Manager told us at our last meeting that the work carried out by Sligo County Council was of a much higher standard than in other counties and that it represented good value for money.
“However, as far as I am concerned that is nonsense and unacceptable. We are not taking about rocket science here. We know that that the Department of Transport and the NRA set down the same standards for all local authorities. These standards were put in place by the Department specifically to ensure that public monies were not squandered.
“And it’s clear that the Minister and the Department doesn’t accept the County Manager’s view that we are getting good value for money.
“Because Sligo and a small number of other councils couldn’t justify the exorbitant costs they were paying for resurfacing, the Minister was obliged to intervene this year, and the Department set maximum costs of €4.50 and €5.50 per square metre for surface dressing for local and regional roads respectively.
“The Department has also made it clear in its Circular that where these rates are exceeded without sufficient explanation a Council’s grant will be reduced by an amount equal to the excess cost. This has major implications for Sligo given the fact that the County Manager believes it is acceptable and good value to pay €11.83 per square metre for resurfacing.
“Recognising that Sligo can ill afford to lose out on grant aid from the Department for the resurfacing of our roads I am now proposing that this Council calls on the County Manager to comply with the requirements as set out in the Department Circular.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion: “Recognising that Sligo County Council pays the highest resurfacing costs in the country for the resurfacing of roads under the Roads Restoration Maintenance Programme; and noting that Sligo County Council paid an average of €10.87 per square metre in 2010 for the resurfacing of Regional Roads while Clare County Council paid an average of €3.78 per square metre; and noting that Sligo County Council paid an average of €11.53 per square metre in 2010 for the resurfacing of Local Roads while Cavan County Council paid an average of €2.72 per square metre; and noting that the Department of Transport by way of Circular letter (RLR 2/2011)has set maximum costs of €4.50 and €5.50 per square metre for surface dressing for local and regional roads respectively; and further noting with concern that the Circular states that where these rates are exceeded a Council’s grant will be reduced by an amount equal to the excess cost; this Council calls on the County Manger to comply with the requirements as set out in the Department Circular.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors attempted to justify the council’s exorbitant road costs and voted down Cllr Bree's motion.
THE MEMBERS of Sligo County Council supported a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree at this month’s meeting of the Council, calling on the government to reinstate funding to PwDI - People with Disabilities Ireland.
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said, “Last month the Labour Party Minister of State Kathleen Lynch T.D. announced that the government was withdrawing all funding to People with Disabilities in Ireland – PwDI,and she said she had established a new National Disability Strategy Implementation Group for people with disabilities.
“The government decision can only be described as outrageous. It will plunge people with disabilities back into the days when they had no voice, nor say in decisions made at both local and national levels and had little contact with each other.
“The decision will not only affect PwDI, but a significant group of smaller disability groups who were helped by PwDI to host conferences and events that were out of their reach as stand alone disability groups.” Cllr Bree said.
“People with Disabilities in Ireland, PwDI, is the only national cross disability organisation. Its ambition has been to help all people with disabilities to take part in and influence the decision making process that impacts on their lives and opportunities.
“It is an organisation for all people with disabilities, whether those disabilities are physical, sensory, intellectual or emotional/mental health and it also welcomed the involvement of parents, carers, siblings, partners and disability groups.
“PwDI has a national network of local committees who raise and address local issues and organise events such as conferences and activities for members. It offers a bottom up model of giving members a louder voice to raise issues on a national stage.
“PwDI has over 8,000 members and affiliated organisations, 26 local network committees across Ireland with many giving their time on a voluntary basis to build the organisation
“Since its formation over ten years ago the Sligo Network Committee of PwDI has been pro active in all areas of Disability within the county. They have lobbied and advocated on behalf of their members with regard to Access, Employment, Transport, Health, Planning and Development and any issues brought to their attention by their members.
“The Network has significant links with the HSE and the Local Authorities. They have three representatives on the Sligo Borough Council Access Committee, also three representatives on this Council’s Disability Consultative Group, a representative on the HSE Regional Co-ordinating Committee, a Director on the Sligo Sport & Recreation Partnership, a Director on the Sligo Citizens Information Board, a member on Sligo Community Forum, a member on HSE Regional Data Base Committee and the HSE Care Group. And their Board Member, Mr Oliver Durkin represents PWDI nationally on an Advisory Group within the Department of Social Protection.
“I am aware that their involvement with the Borough Council Access Committee has resulted in many access issues being resolved successfully. In addition, their input into the County Council Disability Consultative Group has highlighted many issues regarding Employment, Transport, Housing and Access in the county.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was unanimously adopted: “Recognising that over the past decade the PwDI (People with Disabilities in Ireland) has been accepted by statutory and non statutory organisations and agencies as being the acknowledged expert voice of people with disabilities in Ireland, this Council expresses its dismay at the government decision to withdraw all funding from the organisation; and recognising that PwDI is the umbrella organisation which brings people together locally and nationally to work on common issues that affect all people with disabilities, this Council calls on the government to reconsider its decision and to reinstate the funding without further delay.”
THERE ARE no plans currently to reinstate breast cancer diagnosis and surgery at Sligo General Hospital, however the Minister for Health intends to keep the current arrangement for cancer treatment at Sligo General under review, the members of the Regional Health Forum West were told this week.
In response to a formal question submitted by Cllr Declan Bree, asking if the necessary staff and resources had been put in place to ensure the re-opening of the service in accordance with commitments given by the Minister for Health and other government representatives, the Forum was told, “Sligo General Hospital is one of a number of Hospitals from which breast cancer diagnosis and surgery were transferred in line with the HSE’s Cancer Control Plan. No new referrals of patients presenting with symptomatic breast disease have been accepted at Sligo General Hospital since August 2009, and women in the Sligo area are now provided with breast cancer diagnosis and surgery at Galway.
“A follow-up service for patients with breast cancer who require annual mammography will be put in place at Sligo General Hospital on an outreach basis from Galway when additional radiographers are recruited. Interviews are being held in order to fill the two radiography position in Galway. These two positions will enable restoration of the follow up mammography service to Sligo for one day a month. In addition an equipment review has been initiated and the supplier will be visiting Sligo to validate and test the mammography equipment within the next two weeks.” the Forum was told.
Responding Cllr Bree told the meeting he was very disappointed and concerned at the reply. “In advance of the recent General Election both Fine Gael and the Labour Party gave solemn commitments that the Breast Cancer Service would be restored to Sligo General Hospital.” he said.
“In addition Eamon Gilmore and Senator Suson O’Keefe of the Labour Party gave a firm commitment that Sligo would be designated as the 9th Cancer Centre of Excellence.
“The Government has had more than adequate time to at least set a date for the restoration of the service in Sligo. Now a growing number of people believe that cancer victims were used for vote catching purposes by Fine Gael and Labour. If that should prove to be the case then both parties will pay a heavy price when they next contest an election.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
THE GOVERNMENT'S new household charge can be defeated through a nationally organised campaign of mass non-payment, the Socialist Party Deputy Mr Joe Higgins, told a Public Meeting organised by the Campaign against Household and Water Charges in Sligo last night.
“The household charge is part and parcel of the government and EU/IMF diet of cutbacks that has seen a slashing of our living standards and has only helped deepen the economic crisis.” he said.
“This new tax will be charged at a flat rate. So a millionaire living in a mansion will pay the same rate of household tax as a workers living in a modest house. This is deeply unjust and is yet another example of the government trying to force ordinary people t o pay for the greed of the rich
“The government expects each household to register for this tax and to send the annual tax payment directly to the government. So the most effective way to defeat the household tax is through a mass campaign of non-payment. We can simply refuse to pay this unjust tax.” Deputy Higgins told the meeting.
Independent Socialist councillor Declan Bree told the meeting that “The new household charge, like the universal social charge, and the ongoing cuts in health and public services is in essence a form of collective punishment against the great majority of Irish people who are being forced by government to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers.
“The proposed household charge is unfair, it is unjust, it is immoral and it must be resisted.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
THE FINANCIAL Report on the Revenue Account for the quarter ending end of September 2011 which the County Manager has had circulated to councillors can only be described as an insult to the Council, Cllr Declan Bree told this months meting of Sligo County Council
“For the past three years the County Manger has withheld the quarterly financial reports from the members of this Council.
“When I recently complained to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government about the lack of information being provided to councillors, the Minister replied to me and told me the that the Local Government Audit Service Report on Financial Management Reporting in Local Government, published in 2007, recommended that financial management reports should be provided to the elected Council on a regular basis, at least quarterly, to support councillors in their financial governance role. The Minister said that the recommendation was to be implemented by January 2008.” Cllr Bree told the Council.
“The record will show that in the period since January 2008 to date the County Manager has witheld all the quarterly financial management reports from the members of this Council. And despite the fact that this Council sought information on our finances it was not provided to us.
“Local self government is supposed to be about openness and transparency and about accountability. Yet the fact is that the information which this elected Council was entitled to was consistently withheld from us. Some councillors appear to find such a situation acceptable, but I certainly don’t.
“Now that the Minister has intervened, we are provided with a Financial report for the 3rd Quarter of 2011 which consists of one sentence:- “At the end of September 2011, the Revenue Account balance is indicating a Deficit of approximately €2.5.million.”
“That is not a financial report and it is unacceptable.” said Cllr Bree.
“It has to be said today that what is happening in terms of the finances of this Council is unsustainable.
“Last year the County Manger encouraged the Council to borrow €15million to clear debts including the 2009 revenue deficit of €7.5 million.
“However despite taking out the loan we discovered this year that the €7.5million Revenue deficit wasn’t cleared and an additional €2.46 million from 2010 had been added to it.
“In addition, in March this year the County Manager encouraged the Council to increase its overdraft from €5 million to €7.5 million and despite such a significant increase, the Manager came back two months ago and recommended that the overdraft be further increased, from €7.5 million to €11 million. And in addition today we are told that the Revenue Balance up until September this year is indicating a deficit of approx €2.5million.
“Add that €2.5million to the €9.46 million Deficit Balance carried over from last year and in addition consider the €11million overdraft, plus the €15million that was borrowed last year and it will give us an indication of the manner in which the finances of this Council are being managed. This is clearly unsustainable.
“While other councils may have had difficulties, the fact of the matter is that Sligo County Council in the only Council in the entire country where the revenue deficit is increasing year by year. This Council is now on the verge of bankruptcy.” Cllr Bree said.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion: “Recognising that the Local Government Audit Service Report on Financial Management Reporting in Local Authorities recommends that financial management reports be provided to the elected Council at least quarterly, and further recognising that each local authority in accordance with the EU/IMF Financial Support Programme, is required to report on its financial position on a quarterly basis to the Department of the Environment in a prescribed format, this Council resolves that a copy of the said quarterly report in the same prescribed format be provided to the elected members of the Council each quarter.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
I AM PROPOSING this motion asking that the County Manager explain to the elected members why an application was made to the Department of the Environment seeking €500,000 from Cranmore Regeneration funding in the current year for the improvement of O’Connell Street, taking into consideration the fact that the necessary preparations had not been made by Council officials to have the improvement works in O’Connell Street carried out in the current year; and also to ask the County Manager if the funding for O’Connell Street which is not being used can now be spent on house improvements and refurbishment in Cranmore rather then returning the funding to the Department, Cllr Declan Bree told this months meeting of Sligo Borough Council.
“The Department of the Environment allocated a sum of €2 million for the Cranmore Regeneration this year and of that total funding the County Manager asked that €500,000 be provided for the improvement of O’Connell Street.” said Cllr Bree.
“However we now know that the County Manager did not make the necessary preparations to expand this money on O’Connell Street in the current year and my concern is that if the money is not used it will be returned to the Department.
“Earlier in the year the Department approved a proposal from the Borough Council to refurbish up to 53 Council houses in Cranmore at an estimated cost of €445,000. However many more houses in Cranmore require refurbishment works to be carried out.
“Now that the €500,000 earmarked for O’Connell Street is not being utilised on the street it stands to reason that it be used for refurbishment works in Cranmore before the end of the year.
“When Minister Penrose was asked in the Dail two weeks ago if the unspent money earmarked for O’Connell Street could be used for alternative remedial works on local authority and privately owned houses in Cranmore he said that so far no proposal had been received by his Department from the Borough Council in relation to further improvement works in the Cranmore Estate.
“I assume that there are plans in place for further refurbishment works in Cranmore and I would ask the Manger to have these plans submitted to the Department for sanction without further delay so as to ensure that the funding will be used for further house improvement and refurbishment in Crannmore before the end of the year. Otherwise the money could be lost to Cranmore.” said Cllr Bree.
He then proposed the following motion “That the County Manager explain to the elected members why an application was made to the Department of the Environment seeking €500,000 from Cranmore Regeneration funding in the current year for the improvement of O’Connell Street, taking into consideration the fact that the necessary preparations had not been made to have the improvement works carried out in the current year; and to ask the County Manager if the €500,000 can be spent on house improvements and refurbishment in Cranmore in the current year rather then returning the funding to the Department.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Chris MacManus and put to a vote.
Those voting in favour were councillors Declan Bree, Chris MacManus and Arthur Gibbons. Those voting against were councillors Veronica Cawley, Jude Devins, Daniel McGarrigle, Marcella McGarry, Rosaleen O’Grady. Councillors David Cawley, Matt Lyons, Jim McGarry and Sean MacManus were absent. The motion was defeated.
SPEAKING AT the most recent meeting of the Regional Health Forum West, Cllr Declan Bree, warned of the increased outsourcing of health services to the private sector.
“At our last Forum meeting when I submitted a question I discovered that the HSE in the West was making significant payments to the Mater Private Hospital. said Cllr Bree.
“Last year the HSE West paid the Mater Private Hospital a sum of €4,921,000. This was to cover the cost of oncology services provided to public patients in the Mid-Western Radiation Oncology Centre, which is located on the campus of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.
“I was also told that the HSE West makes payments to other private hospitals but in order to extract details from the HSE financial systems specific hospital names would be required.
“In addition it has been brought to my attention that a private for profit medical company, Euromedic, has set up business in Sligo General Hospital specialising in MRI and CT Scans.” Cllr Bree said.
“Euromedic has many of its operations in Eastern Europe. Its main shareholder is Merrill Lynch & Co. which is the wealth management division of Bank of America. The fact that international banks are moving into the health care sector in Ireland with the blessing of the government and the HSE will surly be a worry for every citizen.
“Everyone now knows that the former Health Minister Mary Harney promoted private medical companies at the expense of the public health system. Her policy was to privatise the health system. While the public health system was being starved of funding Ms Harney and her government colleagues not only encouraged the private companies but provided them with millions of Euro in state subsidies and tax breaks so as to increase their profits.
“If we are to avoid healthcare being bought and sold as a commodity, and if we are to avoid the type of primitive health system that exists in the USA, then all of us need to be vigilant and we must demand adequate resources for our public health services and hospitals.” said Cllr Bree.
NOT ONLY has the Government failed to date to deliver on its commitment to restore the Breast Cancer Service to Sligo General Hospital, we now learn that the commitments made in June by Minister Reilly and Minister Perry, to restore the mammography service at Sligo General Hospital in the fourth quarter of this year, will not be delivered upon, Cllr Declan Bree told a meeting of the Regional Health Forum West.
The Sligo councillor had submitted a question asking “if the necessary staff and resources have been put in place to ensure the re-opening of the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital in accordance with commitments given by the Minister for Health and other government representatives, and on what date will the re-established Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital become operational.”
Cllr Bree told the meeting “Up until its closure the cancer unit in Sligo had operated to the highest standards and was serviced by an experienced and highly qualified team of medical and nursing staff
“However in advance of the recent General Election both Fine Gael and the Labour Party gave solemn commitments that the Breast Cancer Service would be restored to Sligo General Hospital.
“In addition Eamon Gilmore and Senator Susan O’Keefe of the Labour Party gave firm commitments that Sligo would be designated as the 9th Cancer Centre of Excellence.
“Despite the commitments and promises made by Fine Gael and Labour, the Breast Cancer Service has not been restored nor has a date been announced for its restoration and it is now clear that even the minimum request that the Mammography service be restored in the current year will not be delivered on.” said Cllr Bree.
In a reply the meeting was told “The National Cancer Control Programme has not changed its policy in the current reconfiguration of the National Breast Cancer Services. As the National Cancer Services Programme is directed by government policy and implemented by the National Cancer Control Programme, the Area would require a direction from the National Cancer Control Programme in relation to any changes in the current organisation of the provision of symptomatic Breast Cancer Services.
“Breast cancer diagnosis and breast surgery are the only cancer services to have ceased at Sligo General. As one of the two designated cancer centres for the HSE West region, Galway has a critical mass of expertise, sufficient throughput of cases and relevant multi-disciplinary specialist skills in cancer services which, as outlined by international evidence, achieve the best outcomes for patients.
“As part of the breast cancer service it is intended that one radiographer would attend Sligo General Hospital one day a month to undertake follow up mammograms for women in this area who currently travel to Galway.
“Despite repeated efforts it has not been possible to date to increase the radiography complement at University College Hospital Galway (UCHG). In the circumstances the priority in UCHG is to support the symptomatic service in Galway. The number of women involved is approximately 20 per month who travel to UCHG for their follow up mammograms. When UCHG has sufficient mammography staff it is intended to provide the follow up service in Sligo.
“While these posts were prioritised unfortunately given the current financial position the HSE has had to put in place a recruitment pause. As a result these and other positions are currently on hold.” the meeting was told.
In response Cllr Bree said “There are a growing number of people who are of the opinion that the Fine Gael and Labour representatives may renege on their commitments. If it is the case that cancer victims were used for vote catching purposes then the Government parties will have a price to pay.” he said.
DOCUMENTS RELEASED under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that John Perry, was the only Government Oireachtas member from the Sligo/North Leitrim constituency who made written representations relating to the Breast Cancer service, to the Minister for Health in the period from the new Government was appointed in March to the end of June. Cllr Declan Bree said today.
“There is no record of any of the other government T.D or Senators from this area making written representations to the Minister for Health regarding the reinstatement of the Cancer Service.” said Cllr Bree.
“There is not one letter on file from Deputy Tony McLoughlin, Senator Imelda Henry, Senator Susan O’Keefe, or Senator Michael Comiskey. Nor is there any record or minutes of the Fine Gael/Labour Oireachtas members having a meeting with the Minister for Health to discuss the reinstatement of the Breast Cancer Service to Sligo General Hospital.
“On the basis of the official records held by the Department of Health the only formal meeting with T.D’s and Senators took place on the 23rd June, and that was a meeting with a cross party delegation of Oireachtas members from the region.
“It’s as if the Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members from Sligo-Leitrim forgot about the restoration of the Breast Cancer service once they managed to get themselves into Leinster House.” said Cllr Bree.
“In a letter from Minister of State John Perry to the Minister for Health James Reilly, on the 1st of April relating to the reinstatement of the Symptomatic Breast Unit, Deputy Perry said, “This was a pledge that was made by yourself (James Reilly) as Fine Gael Health Spokesperson at a public meeting in March 2010 in the Sligo Park Hotel (whereby were Fine Gael in government within the subsequent 12 months the service would be reinstated) and was also reaffirmed during the recent election campaign.”
Deputy Perry went on “In addition, the Tanaiste also gave a commitment pre-election, in his capacity as Labour Party Leader, that Sligo would become a 9th Centre of Excellence should Labour be elected to government. While I realise that this is an unlikely prospect, what is essential is that the services which were removed, i.e. the Symptomatic Breast Unit, are now reinstated.
“It is now a matter of credibility for the government, notwithstanding the detrimental effect the lack of such services have on the people of this region.
“The onus is therefore on us as a government to ensure that the pre election pledges are delivered upon as a matter of the utmost priority and that the services removed by the previous administration are put back in place as soon as possible.” said Minister Perry in his letter.
In a reply the Minister for Health James Reilly ignored the issues raised in John Perry’s letter and stated that he would “shortly meet with Dr Susan O’Reilly, Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, to discuss a range of strategic issues in relation to cancer services, including the provision of breast cancer services at Sligo General Hospital.”
The documentation also confirms that the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’Reilly, refused to meet with Minister of State John Perry following a request for a meeting from Minister Perry.
Other documents released include an email dated 19th May from Dr Mary Hynes, Cancer Network Manager West, National Cancer Control Programme to Ms Mary Jackson Principal Officer, Cancer Policy unit of the Department of Health referring to a question on the restoration of the Breast Cancer service submitted to the HSE by Cllr Declan Bree for the Regional Health Forum meeting in Galway on the 24th May.
Another email dated 16th June from Dr Hynes to Ms Jackson refers to a notice of motion and a question on the reestablishment of the Breast Cancer services which Cllr Bree submitted for the Regional Health Forum meeting of the 21st June.
The documents confirm that the Minister for Health met with Dr Susan O’Reilly, the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme on the 15th of April, where she outlined the cancer services provided at Sligo General Hospital. According to the internal notes of the meeting the Director “confirmed that breast surgery had moved to Galway in line with agreed protocols.”
Speaking this week Cllr Bree said “on the basis of the released documentation it is obvious that the Fine Gael and Labour Oireachtas members did little or nothing to have the breast cancer services restored to Sligo General Hospital.
“Minister Perry was the only one to make written submissions and it is clear that his efforts were ineffectual. To add insult to injury the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’Reilly, refused to meet with Minister Perry to discuss the cancer services in Sligo.
“I fear now that the Fine Gael and Labour representatives have no intention of honouring their promises and commitments. If the breast cancer service is not restored and if it is the case that the issue of the cancer service was used solely to win votes, then the Fine Gael and Labour representatives in the Dail and Senate will pay a heavy price.” Cllr Bree warned.
CUTS ANNOUNCED by the Government in recent weeks will affect some of the most vulnerable sectors of Irish society, Cllr Declan Bree, told a meeting of People First in Sligo this week.
“The cuts in special needs assistants and reductions in resource teaching allocations will have a seriously detrimental effect on the lives of children with educational needs, their teachers, families, classmates and indeed society as a whole.” said Cllr Bree.
“In addition the government decision to cut fuel and household allowances to pensioners and social welfare recipients will cause significant hardship in many households throughout the country.
“The fact that the Ministers imposing these savage cuts are Labour Party ministers clearly confirms that Labour in Government is prepared to sacrifice children’s needs and the needs of the most vulnerable in Irish society to placate the greed of the ECB, the EU and the IMF.” Cllr Bree said.
“Pensioners, carers and the unemployed will be hit by a serious of government cuts to fuel and household allowances, effective from September.
“The number of free units of electricity under the electricity allowance is to be cut by 25%, this at a time when electricity prices are set to rise. In addition the telephone allowance is to be cutback and the smokeless fuel allowance is being withdrawn.
“These cuts will cause increased hardship and place the health of many elderly people at risk this winter.
“The Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, defended the cuts as ‘an ongoing necessity to achieve savings due to our commitments with the IMF/EU/ECB troika.’
“Ironically at the same time the Fine Gael Minister for Finance Mr Noonan, confirmed that the IMF/EU are set to make €9 billion profit from Ireland’s bailout. This surely makes a nonsense of the assertion by the government and the political establishment that the EU/ECB is some kind of ‘kindly uncle’, a benefactor that has the Irish people’s best interests at heart.
“The fact is that the bill for the bank bailout is now being presented to the Irish people in the form of cutbacks. The EU/ECB is insisting that the money will be spent paying the bankers and speculators In essence this is about shifting the burden of debt from the banks and the bondholders and those who created the financial crisis onto the backs of the ordinary people of this country.
“There is no justification for ordinary people pay for the speculation of private institutions. We are being forced to pay a debt that is not of our making. The banks’ debt is not sovereign debt. It was not borrowed by the Government to build schools or hospitals, or to develop our natural resources: this is private and corporate debt, and we should refuse to pay it.” Cllr Bree said.