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Deputy Róisín Shortall also stressed she played no personal part in the decision not to make members of the Seanad eligible for membership of the Committee.
A number of Fine Gael Senators, including Senator Reilly and Senator Colm Burke, are aggrieved that they are not allowed to be members of the Committee, which was established earlier this year in order to provide a 10-year strategy for the health service.
Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Senator Burke, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Health in the Seanad, said: “There is no reason whatsoever why we can’t become full members. It’s a very simple process. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to sit at the Committee. An amending motion could be put to the Dáil once it resumes to include Senators [on the Committee]. There is huge expertise in the Seanad that is being excluded from the process.”
However, Deputy Shortall told MI the Committee was established following a vote in the Dáil at a time before the Seanad elections and appointments took place, which is the reason why membership consists of only TDs, not Senators.
“Who was to know that James Reilly was going to be appointed to the Seanad? It is really petty stuff that is going on, I have to say, and it is an attempt to derail the Committee.”
Deputy Shortall pointed out that by the time correspondence was received from Senators about their desire to be members, the work of the Committee had already commenced and it was deemed impractical to extend membership, which would have required another Dáil vote.
“At that stage we were well underway in the work and were very conscious of the tight timeline. For that reason I conveyed the request to the Committee and there was a unanimous and strong view that we couldn’t turn the clock back and that we needed to press ahead.”
The Committee is due to issue its final report at the beginning of next year. See analysis pages 4-5.