McGimpsey ally accuses SF/DUP of scapegoating
A SENIOR UUP member close to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of attempting to scapegoat the health chief after the Executive failed to approve adequate funds to build, staff and run a proposed new radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin.
The UUP source told the Sentinel it was ironic to now hear the First Minister and Deputy First Minister promise money for the unit after twelve months of the Health Minister consistently pleading for such a promise.
He branded “ridiculous” the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’ claim that the decision to postpone the cancer centre was “sectarian.”
Why - in that case - was the decision taken to proceed with the new enhanced local hospital at Omagh in West Tyrone which has a Catholic majority? he asked.
The UUP man also said it was only after the Health Minister’s statement to the Assembly last Wednesday - in which he pointed out his unsuccessful attempts to contact his southern counterpart to discuss funding for the centre - that a letter from Dr James Reilly pledging support was produced.
“Some of the pigeons have come home to roost after Mr McGimpsey’s statement to the house,” the source told the Sentinel. “Sinn Féin and the DUP are trying to scapegoat Michael McGimpsey but this is after they turned the screw on the health budget.”
He argued: “The real point is that for months and months Michael McGimpsey was arguing that if you impose these budget constraints then we won’t be able to proceed with some of these projects.”
He said the two larger parties had no problem finding money for their own Departments and pet projects in Budget 2011-15.
“They were able to find tens of millions for Casement Park and for the new road from Londonderry to the border. Now I’ve nothing against either of these, I think they are good projects and should be funded, but if I was living in Donegal I’d rather money was found for a cancer centre at Altnagelvin than have 20 minutes cut off my journey to Dublin,” he blasted.
The source concluded by saying no-one in Northern Ireland now believed the cancer centre would not proceed given the mobilisation of the main political parties and promises from the First and Deputy First Ministers that it would now go ahead.
But he said it was a pity it took the Health Minister’s drastic announcement before Sinn Féin and the DUP pledged to loosen the Executive purse strings and find the extra cash required to fund the cancer centre once a new Executive was formed.
“This is what the minister has been asking for and warning about for over a year,” he said.
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