Before the last general election, the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, personally led a deeply cynical campaign on health promises and health issues. Across the length and breadth of the country, he promised that he and Fine Gael would ensure that no one lost any services and that a set of new, free services would be provided. Upon his appointment, the Minister announced the abolition of the management structures of the health services and that he was taking personal charge, but they have been leaderless and lacking governance ever since. He announced that waiting lists would reduce, prescriptions would be cheaper and free GP care for all was on the way. Since then, waiting lists have lengthened, prescriptions are just as expensive and the extension of free GP care is nowhere to be seen, despite being announced numerous times. He presented a false and dishonest budget to the House last year. He was warned repeatedly about this and was alerted about the crippling position regarding the health finances but did absolutely nothing except to repeat the mantra that front line services would be protected, while he already was implementing disproportionate and unfair cuts on the most vulnerable.
There is a deep sense of despair across the health sector in hospitals and community care. Members of the Government, as well as backbenchers, have been quoted left right and centre across the media as criticising the Minister, Deputy Reilly, and in particular his recent announcements in respect of cuts to those with disabilities. They have described those cuts in that announcement as being a catastrophe and regrettable. One Labour Party Minister was accused of having stated that "he should have had [I will translate - the liathróidí] to... announce the cuts himself, not hide behind one of his HSE lackeys". There is no precedent for a situation in which a Taoiseach praises a Minister for being brave in reversing cuts while the Minister simultaneously still is claiming the cuts never actually happened. The Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, at least has been honest about the failure by the Minister, Deputy Reilly, to manage the health budget by, for example, not negotiating a new agreement with the pharmaceutical sector.