Labour party will support motion of no confidence in Harris

The Labour Party has stated it will support the motion of no confidence in the Health Minister.

Leader Brendan Howlin said on Tuesday that the Government needed to be held to account.

Simon Harris faces the motion in the Dáil on Wednesday.

Health Minister Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Féin proposed the motion in Mr Harris after a number of issues in his department came to a head in recent weeks, most notably the significant cost overruns in the construction of the National Children’s Hospital.

Speaking at Leinster House, Mr Howlin said: “We can’t keep going on like this. We can see a degree of dysfunction in parliament across the water but that dysfunction is migrating here.”

He added: “(It’s) a very worrying situation for all of us who depend on parliament to be the watchdog of the people.”

Fianna Fáil has said it would be an act of “national sabotage” if it were to back the motion and put the country through a general election at a time of deep uncertainty over Brexit.

Independent TD Dr Michael Harty said on Monday that he would back the vote.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Harty said the delay in providing a 60-bed unit at University Hospital Limerick sparked his decision.

Mr Harty had indicated that he would abstain on the vote of no confidence on the basis of ensuring the Government did not fall at a critical time for Brexit. But in the statement he said he had “lost trust” in the minister and the Government as a result of the lack of commitment to delivering the Limerick project as promised.

Speaking at Leinster House, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “The botching of the children’s hospital project speaks for itself and will have real consequences and effects on the ground.”

She added that the outcome of the vote rests with Fianna Fáil.

“It’s on Fianna Fáil’s watch and with their support that this minister fails so spectacularly,” she said.

“If they sit on their hands, if they chose to tolerate and facilitate bad decisions, bad government and incompetence, well then, Simon Harris will remain in office.

“If they have the courage of their convictions, if they are actually to act as opposition deputies and to assist us to hold the government to account, and delivering for citizens, well then, they’ll come in and they’ll support our motion.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (Michelle Devane/PA Wire)

Asked whether she agreed with Fianna Fáil’s claim that it would be an act of sabotage, she replied: “Absolutely not, and really that kind of language suggests that Fianna Fáil are doing the wrong thing and they are knowingly doing the wrong thing by sitting on their hands.”

She added that the motion being passed would not thrust the country into a general election because the Taoiseach and the leader of Fianna Fáil Micheal Martin had both said there could not be one because of Brexit.

Ms McDonald said:

There won’t be an election because both of these men have told us so and they shouldn’t be reaching for that as an excuse not to deal with the issues that have arisen within health and in particular around the incompetence and the mismanagement in terms of the children’s hospital.

The Government has come under increasing pressure over spiralling costs of the new hospital, on the campus of St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

It has soared from an original estimate of €650 million to more than €1.7 billion.

The controversial overrun has heaped pressure on Health Minister Simon Harris.

An independent inquiry by PWC, which was set up to assess the errors, is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

- Press Association

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