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28 September 2006 Edition

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Bigger resigning matters for government

Leinster House resumed on Wednesday after the summer recess amid a political storm over payments to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during his time as Minister for Finance.

What is very clear since Ahern's interview with RTÉ television on Tuesday evening, is that Sinn Féin's position on appointments to state boards has been vindicated by the Taoiseach's admission that he appoints friends to such bodies.

Sinn Féin has previously challenged Ahern in the Dáil on this issue and has called for all such appointments to be made on the basis of open competition. Bertie Ahern has opposed this.

While Ahern has been subjected to intense pressure in recent days over his personal finances, both he and his Government are responsible for much more serious issues. As Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said on Wednesday: "These are resigning matters not only for the Taoiseach but for this Government - far more so than the issues in the current controversy."

The ongoing housing crisis, exacerbated by the Government allowing its developer friends to buy their way out of obligations to provide social and affordable housing, is one obvious resigning matter. Another has been the disgraceful privatisation of the state airline Aer Lingus.

One issue, which witnessed the seething anger that exists throughout the 26 Counties burst into the open this week, is the chronic situation in the health service. As featured in this week's An Phoblacht, last Monday up to 10,000 angry people turned out in County Monaghan to make clear their vehement opposition to the government's destruction of Monaghan General Hospital. A powerful message was sent to the Government and the Health Service Executive for the restoration of the hospital services which have been axed at Monaghan.

Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney and the Health Services Executive must be made to recognise the weight of opinion from patients, relatives of those who have died as a result of the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital, and the expert testimony of frontline healthcare workers in the region. To date the Minister and the HSE have placed more value on the reports of faceless consultants.

Last Monday's display of people power must be maintained so that the government fully recognises the depth of public anger that exists over this issue not just in Monaghan but throughout the 26 Counties. Sinn Féin is asking all those people who are concerned with the state of the health services, including the downgrading of local hospitals, to attend a major rally in Dublin on Saturday 21 October which will demand Healthcare Rights for All.

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