End of stale­mate as new health min­is­ter calls for cross party unity

Bray People - - OPINION -

IT took our politi­cians only marginally less time to form a gov­ern­ment than it took Willy Fog to travel around the world. Af­ter 70 days of de­lib­er­a­tions – at times bor­der­ing on the ab­surd af­ter weeks of stale­mate over water and other dis­parate is­sues – the na­tion fi­nally has a gov­ern­ment. On Fri­day af­ter­noon, a re-jigged con­glom­er­a­tion of per­son­nel, with a splash­ing of new and fa­mil­iar faces, was pre­sented be­fore a fa­tigued elec­torate.

But there will be no hon­ey­moon for this mar­riage of po­lit­i­cal con­ve­nience as this was an elec­tion that started in spring, ended in sum­mer and in­volved much pos­tur­ing and many dance-offs along the way.

As the min­is­te­rial posts were handed out on Fri­day evening, the Shake­spear­ian phrase, ‘ heavy is the head that wears the crown’ came to mind as 29-year-old Simon Har­ris was en­trusted with the hap­less Health port­fo­lio. Yet, pos­i­tiv­ity is a wor­thy ri­poste and Min­is­ter Har­ris was first out of the blocks, call­ing for a cross-party com­mit­tee to im­ple­ment a 10-year health plan, re­gard­less of who is in power.

Some might claim Har­ris’ move in of­fer­ing the poi­son chal­ice of Health for ev­ery­one to take a sip, is some­thing straight out of the Machi­avel­lian school of thought. How­ever, his calls for a uni­fied health strat­egy make sense when weighed against the non­sen­si­cal treat­ment of Health in the past.

Har­ris rightly states: “Ev­ery time there’s a change we’re start­ing from scratch…we need a 10-year plan that has cross-party po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus”. There­fore, the new Health Min­is­ter’s first pitch is a pos­i­tive, bold and sen­si­ble one, a call that cuts through the po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing and grand­stand­ing of the past 70 days.

It also takes the heat off for­mer Health Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar who last month had the un­en­vi­able task of an­nounc­ing the ‘ tem­po­rary’ trans­fer of funds from men­tal health ser­vices to other ar­eas.

Health is an essen­tial and core com­po­nent of any civil­i­sa­tion and it’s time it was given a real so­lu­tion rather than a po­lit­i­cal one. A two-tier sys­tem where health so­lu­tions are con­tin­gent on one’s earn­ings is a shame­ful in­dict­ment of a so­ci­ety’s claim to mo­ral and eth­i­cal suit­abil­ity.

Min­is­ter Har­ris’ call for a united front on health is given greater clar­ity when the many top­ics that held up progress over the past 70 days are taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Are water charges re­ally the equal of health, hous­ing and job cre­ation? Should turf cut­ting be the fi­nal ob­sta­cle to a gov­ern­ment’s for­ma­tion?

The an­swers lie within each of us as in­di­vid­u­als but, as of now, Simon Har­ris’ in­ter­ven­tion could be con­sid­ered a re­turn to rea­son.

We need to un­der­stand that when we cast our vote, TDs be­come more than just the pur­vey­ors of dis­parate is­sues. They must, in­vari­ably, be­come del­e­gates of the na­tional over the parochial. Simon Har­ris is the first TD of the 32nd Dáil to do this.

Let’s hope more fol­low his lead.

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