John Halligan’s declarations regarding a second cath lab at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and the currently less discussed runway extension at Waterford Airport were well-intentioned, ‘but it’s backfired on him’.
That’s the view of Fine Gael TD John Deasy, who chewed the fat on the local and national political landscape with The Munster Express during a lively interview on Thursday morning last.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with John Halligan – John is a good guy - but I can’t help feeling that he has fallen into his own trap,” said Deputy Deasy.
“He decided to pick out a few issues, important and all as they were, highlighted them intensively and then used language like ‘a formality’ and a ‘fait accompli’ when it came to the cath lab at UHW, which, in my view was a big mistake – I feel he’s gotten it badly wrong.”
Deputy Deasy also called on “the people of Waterford and the media in Waterford city to start asking serious questions” about UHW consultants whom he feels “didn’t do enough” to prevent the break-up and fragmentation of the former HSE South East region.
“The past few weeks have, in my opinion, set back the progression of the second cath lab, something many of us have raised and considerably lobbied on for many years, very, very badly.
“And I’ve found how the consultants have positioned themselves in recent times interesting, particularly when setting it in the context of what led to the break-up of the former South East Hospital Group, in which Waterford Regional Hospital was the primary health service provider.”
Deputy Deasy said that ever since UHW was reconfigured into the South/South West Hospital Group, the prospect of services at UHW being downgraded or even withdrawn was both “real and unfortunately inevitable”.
“That services which ought to be provided at UHW would be either be recommended or increased at Cork University Hospital was on the cards from the moment this new group came into being, and effectively relegated UHW.
“And we’re now living with the failure of consultants to stand together more forcibly before this reconfiguration was set in stone. On top of that, the events of recent weeks, I feel, have set the provision of the second cath lab back even further, and now the consultants are trying to justify their actions again. And I do feel they have questions to answer on issues that have yet to be put to them sufficiently.”
During our interview, Deputy Deasy was adamant that he wasn’t breaking any perceived silence that’s been particularly alluded to on social media since the general election.
“I’ve been very busy since the election, my office has been very busy, and we’re getting through a lot of work,” he said, stating that he didn’t wish to engage in a discussion about where he has been in recent months. “I have been very busy, doing the work I was elected to do.”
As for the challenging political landscape, John Deasy believes that “Fianna Fáil are preparing for an election, and I’d say we’re talking about the middle of next year”. Reflecting on his own general election vote, which saw him go from 2011 poll-topper to fourth past the post in February, he added: “It was still the second highest vote I ever received. People thought I was safe – I didn’t – and the same thing happened to my Dad during his time.
“Look, once Paddy Power had me at 1/80 for re-election, then how I did, no matter how I ended up doing, was inevitably going to receive some attention. The reality is that people split their Fine Gael vote, and when people feel a candidate is certain to be elected, that kind of thinking can end up proving deadly for any such candidate. Thankfully, in my case, that’s not how it turned out and my vote was actually a good deal better than how a great many people perceived it either on election night or since then.”
As for Waterford Airport, whose long-term viability was one of the topics he raised with most regularity in the previous Dáil, Deputy Deasy believes it’s far from an ‘all is lost’ scenario for management at Killowen.
With sources close to the Airport suggesting that management are quietly pleased with their search for a commercial carrier to replace VLM, Deputy Deasy said it was important to point out that the removal of the latest service was down to VLM, and not the Airport.
“VLM went bankrupt, let’s remind ourselves of that. The route to Luton was actually doing quite well and the management had worked hard to make it successful, and they’d done just that. And I don’t buy the line that the airport’s geography (between Cork and Dublin) means a successful commercial carrier into London can’t make a sustainable go of things out of Waterford. And, of course, key to this, in the long term, is the runway extension. We all know that.”
John Deasy added: “What is disappointing, however, is that funding to the Airport from the Department of Transport, has been made conditional on the delivery of a new carrier. Even when the Airport had had its difficulties when losing previous carriers, the funding was never cut, and that I was something I fought tooth and nail for…
“Waterford Airport is the key infrastructural issue for the city, county and the entire south east region, and I’ve never had any doubt in my mind about that. And we need people to stay focused on this critical economic issue when it comes to the long-term gains that can be made once a new carrier is secured and the runway is extended. And we must not lose sight of that goal.”