From top: Emma Mhic Mhathúna on The Late Late Show last Friday; Anne Marie McNally
On this morning’s commute I was listening to a Dua Lipa tune and one lyric in particular struck me and immediately brought Emma Mhic Mhathúna, and the many other women to mind.
The lyric goes ‘You say you’re sorry, but it’s too late now, so save it, get gone, shut up..’ and I just thought, how utterly appropriate. All the sorrys in the world cannot right the wrongs perpetrated against these women and their families but as we know from previous scandals in this country, sometimes a sorry can be hugely important.
When Enda took to his feet in the Dáil that day to apologise to the Magdalene women it was a powerful moment.
However this current situation feels different; maybe because it is still so recent and therefore raw? Or maybe because sorry rings hollow when it come from within a system that hasn’t changed to reflect any acknowledgment of just how badly it failed.
When I was a kid pleading ‘I’m sorry’ while being chastised, my mother used to say to me ‘sorry means I won’t do it again’ and the problem with the current sorrys emanating from officialdom is that they simply don’t come with the promise that it won’t happen again.
Because it could. Because it might well be already happening in other areas of our health service.
Just last week in the Public Accounts Committee it was revealed to Catherine Murphy TD that there are currently four pending court cases involving patients of the BreastCheck service who believe they failed to have their cancers diagnosed appropriately.
We are all acutely aware that our health service is dysfunctional. Yes, there are millions of fantastic stories of people who have had great individual experiences once in the system (I include myself in that) but those individual cases are down, in many cases, to just sheer luck on the day and also to the tireless and often thankless work of the front-line staff in our health service.
But whether you’ve had a good experience or not, the simple fact is that the overall system is dysfunctional and those fantastic staff are working against the backdrop of a system that fails them and us daily.
At this stage people have heard so many calls for the abolition of the HSE that those calls now seem to ring hollow. There’s a general sense of malaise with our health service and an almost resigned acceptance that ‘this is how things are’. But it shouldn’t be.
Before I turned on Dua Lipa this morning I listened to RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland where Emma O’Kelly, the Education Correspondent, had a package regarding the complete lack of therapeutic supports for disabled children attending St John of God’s School in Islandbridge, Dublin 8.
The package included an interview with a couple whose child is impacted. The couple happened to be French citizens living in Ireland and they said they were shocked that vital public services like this are outsourced to a private charity.
They spoke about how lucky they are that they have the financial means to pay for private speech and language therapies and occupational therapies but that was offset by a young lone parent living in the flats I grew up in whose son is profoundly disabled and totally reliant on the services supposed to be provided in the school because she can simply not afford to arrange those services privately.
So one child will be guaranteed a better future than another child from the same school, all on the basis of the income of their parents. There is no other way to view that than as a complete abdication of responsibility by the State.
Similarly those women who are terrified right now by the thought that maybe their smear test wasn’t accurate or maybe they ignored other symptoms because they’d been reassured by a clear smear, can either face a waiting period in the public system through their GPs or, if they can afford it, they can go an pay roughly €85 to a private clinic and have an immediate smear.
I could point to every other treatment required by people and there’d be a similar Private Vs Public story of one person guaranteed a better outcome than another all because of the balance in their bank account.
Our two tier system is the definition of unfair and it is an indictment of the failure to create a true modern Republic.
The unprecedented cross-party agreement to the Róisin Shortall led SláinteCare initiative to create a truly universal publicly accessible single tier health service is the only show in town but we need true dedication from Government to really get that show on the road and the many vested interests who profit from the current two-tier private/public model will have to be faced down completely.
Anne Marie McNally is Social Democrats Political Director and General Election candidate for Dublin Mid-West.
Top pic: RTÉ