Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Legacy of Mary Harney

Take an example of a surgeon or nurse who takes a deliberate professional decision knowing it will result in serious injury and deaths, that individual will in all likelihood lose their job, their pension rights and face criminal prosecution and possibly jail for their actions. One would assume this to be the norm in all professions but as events in the past week have shown once again, it is not the norm at all.

Over the past week we have witnessed the rush by Ministers in the Fianna Fáil/Green party coalition to abandon the sinking ship of an administration that has brought the economy of this state to its knees.  Minister after Minister including such 'luminaries' as Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey, Micheál Martin, Tony Killeen and Batt O'Keefe all handed in their resignations as the final collapse of the administration draws ever closer.

The resignation of Mary Harney as Minister for Health however was probably the most talked about among communities the length and breadth of island.  While all those who served as Ministers in the coalition and their party colleagues that voted through their legislation collectively bear responsibility for the actions of this administration, Harney was the inspiration and driving force behind the deliberate run down of the public health service and the relentless push to privatise it.

The unfortunate reality is that there probably isn't a working class family throughout the state who has not been directly effected and who have not suffered as a result of decisions initiated and forced through by Harney regardless of the suffering they would cause and the lives they would ruin.

As éirígí Dublin City Cllr Louise Minihan said  in the immediate aftermath of Harneys resignation, she will be remembered "for her extremely callous and uncaring attitude and the unnecessary hardship, suffering and death caused as a direct result of policies implemented by her."

She added:  "Far too many families have mourned their loved ones who died because of delays in diagnosis and treatment as a result of policies she implemented. Few will mourn the resignation of Harney the minister for death.”

As Minister for Health Mary Harney planned and overseen the dismantling of our hospitals and public health system at the same time as she and her colleagues were pumping tens of billions of euro into bailing out the banks.

She has slashed hospital budgets as well as the numbers of nurses, junior doctors and other essential front line staff. She has closed more than 1600 beds, shut down wards and accident and emergency departments and reduced and removed essential services, including vital diagnosis procedures and cancer care facilities.

Hundreds of sick patients every single day are forced to lie on trolleys in Accident and Emergency departments awaiting a bed.   An all-time high was reached earlier this month when the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) revealed that there were 569 ill patients lying on trolleys awaiting a bed in public hospitals around the state on the 5th of January.

There are massive waiting lists and ill people are forced to travel longer distances to receive vital treatment, as local services are reduced significantly or shut  down completely.  People are having to endure unnecessary suffering and are ultimately dying, and will continue to die, as a direct result of Harney's decisions. 

Make no mistake about it, she was fully aware of the consequences of her actions.   Her decisions were not knee jerk reactions or decisions forced upon her.  All were carefully thought out, planned. and implemented.  And all the while the medical professionals, trade unions and patient support groups had all made clear to her on an ongoing basis the effect her policies were having on patients and staff alike including the huge risks placed on patient safety. 


But, unlike the example of the surgeon or nurse we mentioned at the start of this article, Harney and all her other colleagues who have wreaked havoc on our health service and the economy now walk away with a massive pension and without fear of criminal prosecution. 

The fact that she has not been forced to hand back her pension and will not face justice for her actions exposes yet again the two tier nature of this state. It is fundamentally corrupt.  The justice system is designed, not to dispense justice, but to protect the interests of the wealthy political and business class.

In the same week as Harney resigned, peaceful protesters went on trial and were convicted  for demonstrating against the bank bailouts, while not one banker or politician has faced justice for their role in the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank and the complete banking sector.  Now despite the massive unnecessary suffering and death she was responsible for, along with her ministerial colleagues and the Sean Fitzpatrick's and Micheal Fingleton's of this world, she is allowed to evade justice and is simply allowed to walk off into the sunset to continue to live a lavish extravagant lifestyle at our expense. 

That is the reality of the state we live in - fundamentally corrupt and rotten to the core.  Talk of reforming the system is meaningless.  What is needed is the complete dismantling of the system and the creation of  a new one, a socialist one - Revolution, not reform.

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