Gerry O'Carroll: Crippled HSE is asking for an extra €2bn, so let's reply by abolishing it
The news that the HSE is seeking almost €2bn in funding in the forthcoming Budget has sent out the usual shockwaves.
These figures were contained in a confidential HSE budgeting and service planning estimate submission.
But are we surprised? After all, the HSE's budget for 2015 is already in tatters, with an overrun of €497m predicted.
The HSE Director General Tony O'Brien has warned that the service needs €650m in 2016 just to maintain standards.
This is depressing news indeed, given that it emerged yesterday that the use of trolleys in emergency departments is up 40pc year-on-year. Some standards!
The HSE's €2bn call is unwelcome news for Finance Minister Michael Noonan. If he conceded the cash it would destroy any plans he has for tax cuts in next month's Budget.
If this demand came from a fit-for-purpose organisation it would be one thing. But the HSE is in crisis, once again (is it ever not?)
Despite receiving billions of euro annually the organisation has proven itself incapable of managing such enormous funding.
It has also emerged that, despite the downturn, the number of senior managers hired by the HSE went up by 30pc over the last three years.
This was inexcusable and outrageous, at a time when vital services are being cut back, suspended or delayed at every level in the health services.
It beggars belief that at a time when there are over 70,000 patients waiting for planned surgery and the further 400,000 waiting to see a consultant that the HSE would spend millions of euro of taxpayers' money in hiring and promoting managers on enormous salaries.
All this while wards are unable to open in hospitals because of a shortage of nurses and other skilled medical personnel.
Over the past years the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation has stated that about 5,500 nurses have left the public sector. Many of these have departed to take up positions abroad because of poor working conditions, long hours and poor salaries at home.
It is an utter disgrace that the HSE bosses have spent three years hiring senior managers instead of recruiting extra front-line staff.
Having gone through with this recruitment the HSE now has the cheek to look for an extra €2bn in funding for 2016.
Over the years this ill-fated entity has been rocked by scandal after scandal, the most publicly disgraceful and ongoing of which is that of patients on trolleys in the country's emergency departments.
This is a national disgrace - some 6,518 patients were on such trolleys last month.
Since its foundation a decade ago the HSE has become a monstrous super-quango. To be honest I doubt if it was ever anything else.
But it's now a monster that's swallowing billions of taxpayers' cash annually.
It's time to consign it to the scrapheap.
Awaken the force of good publicity and welcome cameras to Skellig Islands
Barring any last minute changes the cameras will this month return to Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast to film scenes for the first film in the new Star Wars series The Force Awakens.
Footage for the same series was filmed on the rock last year, of course, leading to criticism from some conservationists.
I've enjoyed the Star Wars movies. However, I do understand why some officials at the Office of the Public Works, and An Taisce, expressed reservations about filming in what's a unique location.
Skellig Michael is a magical and mystical place. That's why it has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site. It is a priceless treasure which should be protected and preserved by the Irish nation for posterity.
The ex-Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has welcomed the return of the Stars Wars crew to the rock.
He says - and I agree with him - that these films will show what a gem Skellig Michael is.
He has also reassured An Taisce that last year the Star Wars film crews left the rock in the pristine condition in which they found it.
Tourism is our one of biggest and most lucrative industries. The publicity generated by these films will bring the magic, mystery and splendour of this magnificent landscape to worldwide audiences.
The fact that Disney Lucasfilm came last year and were welcomed on this island has been a huge boost to our film industry.
I think the fears and reservations by An Taisce will be unfounded.
The Star Wars series will showcase Skellig Michael to millions of people. You simply can't buy that exposure.
We're bracing for another bruiser at Croke Park
IS the 'curse of 1951' - Mayo's All-Ireland famine since that year -set to be lifted?
At times last Sunday, during the last 10 minutes of their game with Dublin - I thought that it might.
The game was a mesmerising encounter - and a bruising one too - that lived up to all the hype.
One of the things that struck me (pardon the pun) was the ferocious nature of some of the tackles. It wasn't pretty, at times I was wincing on the sofa.
To be honest I felt for referee Joe McQuillan.
He needed eyes in the back of his head to pick up a lot of what went on in what was a very physical game.
Diarmuid Connolly was sent off (above) - but others could have followed him.
Will we see more of the same next Saturday? Of course.
In fact, I think I'll get an icepack for myself this time!
I'm sure that the pictures last week of former conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf on their first day of school brought smiles to all our faces. The twins were nicknamed 'the little fighters' after they were born and their courage in the face of overwhelming odds was an inspiration. It was great to see them starting school.
I was appalled and disgusted to read the comments from Chrissie Hynde, who has claimed that some rape victims have to take responsibility for what happens to them, especially if they are drunk or dress provocatively. This utter and dangerous nonsense is deeply insulting to women, especially victims of such crimes.