Wednesday 13 December 2017

'We want to restore honesty to politics in Ireland', says Shortall

Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats meets with Beaumont resident David Gaffney
Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats meets with Beaumont resident David Gaffney

Anger and disillusionment among voters are emotions that Roisin Shortall said she understands only too well.

The only junior minister to resign from the Government said the broken promises of both Coalition parties forced her hand in 2012.

In a relentless downpour, Shortall - who also quit the Labour Party - canvassed homes on Lorcan Avenue in Beaumont to seek support for her fledgling Social Democrats party in Dublin North West.

Under a dripping umbrellas, she listened as people voiced concerns and grievances on many issues.

"I've no time for canvassers. I'd put a sign in the garden saying 'No canvassing' - but my wife wouldn't let me," said David Gaffney (55).

He said the current crop of national politicians was "the worst shower".

"I won't be voting for regular politicians anymore. I'm totally disillusioned with politicians."

Mr Gaffney - who lost his job after 32 years when his place of employment closed down - said he was pleased to discover that Ms Shortall was against water charges.

He was glad to hear the TD speak about her party's plans to bring down the cost of living by tackling prescription charges, high insurance premiums, and other costs.

Ireland gives "the lowest subvention to public transport" and her party would seek to increase the subvention to bring down fares. She wants to reduce college student contributions by €1,000. She is against lowering taxes because it would further damage public services.

Shortall told the Herald she felt she had to resign her job as Minister of State for Primary Care because the then Health Minister, James Reilly, was going completely against the agreed policy of protecting the poor in the Programme for Government.

As a former record-breaking Labour vote-getter, she claimed she was not supported by former party leader Eamon Gilmore in fighting against Reilly's and Fine Gael's moves towards an "American-style insurance based privatised health service".

She said she secured funding for 20 primary health care centres for the poorest, most deserving communities in Ireland.

But Mr Reilly then added Swords and Balbriggan to the list and he allowed Cabinet colleagues to add their own areas, which was a reversion to "old-style crony politics" that would result in some of the most deserving communities being deprived of a new health centre, she said.

Around €20m she secured to recruit 300 primary care staff was withdrawn without her being informed by Mr Reilly.

"James Reilly had committed to making savings on drug costs and on insurance costs and he failed to do that, so he took money away from primary care," she said.

All these betrayals of the Programme for Government by both parties led to her resignations, she said.


When asked about her party's priorities, she said: "our main driving force is to restore honesty to Irish politics."

"We would set up an anti-corruption agency that would have teeth. Most countries have an anti-corruption agency," she said.

"We need a special agency with powers to investigate and prosecute ... It's the only way to restore confidence to the political system," she said.

Householder Noreen Turner encouraged her to make health and homeless children her priorities.

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