Tag Archives: Simon Harris

From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris speaking to reporters yesterday; Pro-life protesters outside the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin on January 1

Yesterday, it was suggested by Minister for Health Simon Harris that local authorities could be given powers to impose exclusion zones outside maternity hospitals preventing pro-life protests.

Further to this…

As someone who has carried a tiny white coffin out of Holles Street, I can attest to the anguish caused by the wilful insensitivity of the protesters who assembled there on New Year’s Day.

The lack of Christian kindness and basic human empathy displayed by these people reveals the truth of their oft-cited claims to “Love Both”.

While there is a right to peaceful protest, there is also a right to access legal healthcare without intimidation, and a right to provide care without being subjected to harassment.

Our Government must now act and legislate for safe access zones to protect medical staff and their patients from such interference.

Can we truly consider ourselves a secular democracy while the Vatican has a say in the ownership of our National Maternity Hospital and religious fundamentalists dominate the footpaths outside?

Bernie Linnane,
County Leitrim

Harris Mulls Abortion Safety Zones (Irish Examiner)

Abortion: Minister warns of exclusion zones after hospital protests (Irish Times)


From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris; Alice Leahy

This morning.

Following reports that the High Court heard yesterday that a brain-damaged homeless man has been on remand for more than a year at Mountjoy Prison‘s high dependency unit despite reports that he needs residential care…

The court heard that the man had filthy feet and a rare nail disease not seen in decades, while a doctor told the court that he was told prison wardens had a policy not to invade a prisoner’s personal space.

Alice Leahy, of the homeless charity Alice Leahy Trust, spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One about the case.

Ms Leahy said “common sense” needed to be applied and asked “how could any human being look at a fellow human being in 2019, living in those conditions, and it costing enormous expense, and I know the prisons well, I’ve been in all the prisons…”.

She added that she recently took a photograph of the feet of a man known to the Alice Leahy Trust.

Showing Mr O’Rourke the photograph, she told him:

“This man was staying in supported accommodation run by homeless services, costing a fortune yet nobody felt they could do the man’s toenails or have them seen to.

“And he was hobbling around on a broken down wheelchair so where, what has gone wrong with the services?

Asked if one can be forced to have a bath or shower, or to agree to have their feet washed and toenails cut, Ms Leahy said:

“It’s about building up a relationship with that person.

“And the man we’re referring to here today, who was in prison for a year, surely there must have been somebody there who could build up a relationship with that man and encourage him and help him.

“He shouldn’t be living in those conditions.”

Speaking about the struggles that services are facing, she added:

“I did ask the Minister for Health [Simon Harris] during the summer, I met him at something, could I sit down with him for a cup of coffee to discuss precisely this kind of thing.

“And then I rang up his constituency office, I do know he’s a hard-working minister and I won’t get into knocking somebody but I asked to meet him for a cup of coffee to discuss exactly the point I’m discussing here.”

Asked how the meeting went, Ms Leahy said:

“Well, it didn’t happen.”

Listen back in full here

Brain-damaged homeless man in Mountjoy Prison for a year despite care needs, High Court hears (Irish Mirror)

From top: Michael Kelly (left), editor of The Irish Catholic, and Minister for Health Simon Harris; The proposed new National Maternity Hospital; a tweet apparently from the account of Minister Harris this morning which has since been deleted; Response from Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall

This morning.

Further to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall’s call on the Government to ‘come clean’ on the position between the Vatican and the State on the new National Maternity hospital, and to halt further spending until ownership is resolved…

An exclusive report in The Irish Catholic states that the Vatican is being lobbied to block the Religious Sisters of Charity from transferring land to the State to facilitate the building of the new National Maternity Hospital.

Michael Kelly reports that Rome-based theologian Fr Kevin O’Reilly has said that the Holy See has an obligation to block the plans.

Mr Kelly reports:

[Fr Kelly said:] “Thanks to the 36th Amendment of the Constitution, Ireland – to its great shame – now boasts an extremely liberal abortion regime.

“It is in this context that the Religious Sisters of Charity issued their recent statement concerning the ‘imminent’ legal transfer of their shares in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group”.

However, Fr O’Reilly said that “in the wake of any future abortions, no one involved in executing the transfer to date can reasonably turn around and say that this eventuality was unforeseen.

“It is bewildering that those who have facilitated the process to date clearly do not possess any degree of moral foresight.

“One can only hope that the competent officials in the Vatican will act in accord with the Church’s constant teaching and the dictates of right reason by forbidding this unconscionable act,” he said.

Mr Kelly spoke to Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about his article and how the transfer not only needs Vatican approval, it also needs the permission of the Archbishop of Dublin – which has been given by Diarmuid Martin.

However, he said “this isn’t over by a long shot” and later noted that because Diarmuid Martin is due to retire next April, his successor could take a different view to Archbishop Martin.

During the interview, the Health Minister Simon Harris allegedly tweeted Morning Ireland saying “Eh……no nun will be on the board”.

This tweet has since been deleted.


From the interview:

Michael Kelly: “They call it, in Canon Law, the alienation of the property. And that stands whether the land is sold or as in this case it’s being given as a free transfer. The nuns, because it’s over the value of €3.5million, they need permission of ecclesiastical authorities so in the first instance, you’re absolutely correct, that the Archbishop of Dublin.

“And he’s already given his permission and he’s actually recommended to the Vatican that they give approval as well. Now it’s in Rome at the moment and Rome is coming under increased pressure I suppose, lobbying in fact going on, to try to get them to block this proposal.

“Precisely because the new National Maternity Hospital, as [Health Minister] Simon Harris has pointed out will facilitate every procedure that is legal in the State.

“Now since the amendment to the Constitution that obviously now means abortions, terminations of pregnancies, which the Catholic church has pretty clear and consistent opposition to so that’s really where the lobbying is coming from, to try to get the Vatican, the Roman Curia to block this proposal.

“The sisters say it’s imminent, I understand from Rome that they’re not in any hurry to do anything about it. But part of the confusion I suppose is that a lot of the discussions around this has been saying that Vatican permission is not necessary. The law is very clear on it – Canon Law does require Vatican permission. This is church-owned property, it’s not something that the sisters can grant to anyone without the approval of their superiors.”

Dobson: “So where’s this lobbying coming from, who’s involved? Who’s saying that this transfer should be blocked?”

Kelly: “So some of the lobbying that’s going on is coming from moral theologians in Rome for example. One of the people we’re quoting in the newspaper this week is a Professor Kevin O’Reilly, he’s an Irish man but he’s a professor at the Angelicum University in Rome and he’s arguing that this shouldn’t take place, precisely because it would mean that this land would be transferred. He’s saying that that would be directly facilitating abortions to take place.

“He’s basically saying if the State wants to abortions to take place at a new National Maternity Hospital, they should find their own site. I understand that also quite a number of people here, particularly people who’ve been involved on the pro-life side of these debates have been writing to the Vatican ambassador in Dublin, the Papal Nuncio, asking him to make representations to Rome on the issue as well.

“So it’s not over by a long shot.”

Dobson: “Opponents of the move, or at least the new structure that would be in place, for example, Peter Boylan, former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, say that significant problems arise in relation to this new entity would be managed, would be governed, would be put together.

“The Religious Sisters of Charity will still have a presence, he argues, a controlling role in the new board. How will that square with how the Vatican would see this arrangement.”

Kelly: “You see, Simon Harris is trying to give the impression here that this is all going to be very straight, that you known you can have the Religious Sisters of Charity on the board and that will mean that everything that takes place there will comply with current legislation. The difficulty that arises there is, you know, the issue of abortion, is a very, very grave one for the Catholic Church. The Vatican is certainly not going to stand over a situation whereby the sisters are involved in a hospital where abortions are taking place.

“This doesn’t happen in any Catholic hospital in any part of the world.

“So I think there’s a vagueness there, around the structures that probably needs to be clarified but certainly the Vatican will not permit a situation whereby a Catholic institution, even if it’s only Catholic in name, is involved in the provision of the termination of pregnancy.”

Dobson: “We had a statement from Minister Simon Harris. He said that in advance of building works commencing, all outstanding issues would need to be resolved and he’d like to see progress on these as quickly as possible but he could be waiting.”

Kelly: “I think he very well will be waiting because I think the Vatican are not going to do anything in a hurry. Remember the Archbishop of Dublin is due to retire in April with his retirement that creates a whole new page and a successor could think something very, very differently from Diarmaid Martin.”

Listen back in full here.

Vatican urged to block nuns’ hospital transfer (Michael Kelly, The Irish Catholic)

Yesterday: Waiting For The Vatican

Tweet pic: Ronan Kennedy

This morning.

Printworks, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD speaking at the launch of a new HSE patient advocacy service.

To wit:

The new service offers a confidential helpline with experienced advocates on-hand to provide information and support to patients who want to make a formal complaint to the HSE about the care they experienced in a public hospital.


New advocacy service to provide support for concerned patients (Irish Examiner)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Health Minister Simon Harris; Lorraine Walsh, Stephen Teap and Vicky Phelan surrounded by some of the 221 cervical cancer patients affected by the CervicalCheck scandal outside Leinster House yesterday

Earlier this morning.

Morning Ireland‘s Audrey Carville asked Health Minister Simon Harris about the apology Taoiseach Leo Varadkar delivered in the Dáil yesterday to those affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.

Mr Varadkar had apologised for the “humiliation, the disrespect and deceit” caused to those affected.

Ms Carville also asked him about the forthcoming Patient Safety Bill.

From their discussion.

Audrey Carville: “What was deceitful about what took place?”

Simon Harris: “Quite frankly, I think the concealment of information from women. Deceit refers to having information and not telling people.”

Carville: “And do you believe that was deliberate?”

Harris: “You know what I’m actually not sure it was deliberate. It sounds to me more like a situation whereby they intended to disclose and then, as we all know, Dr Scally reports there was a complete and utter litany of failures in terms of closing that loop.

“But regardless of the deliberate nature or not, it was extremely hurtful and extremely painful…”

Carville:But that’s what deceit is, isn’t it? It’s intent.”

Harris:I think it often does involve intent. But, certainly, what the Taoiseach’s words yesterday were, were a reflection of how the women and their families felt. And they certainly felt deceived and I can fully understand why they did.”

Carville:What do you believe was the most scandalous element of what took place?”

Harris: “I genuinely think the non-disclosure. I mean audit is a good thing, we should be auditing and checking and making our systems better and making our screening service better but the idea that you would set up an audit that intended to disclose and then not disclose, and then add insult to injury, and I don’t wish to open, you know, old wounds here. I know it’s been a very, very painful time for so many people.

“But people have been really, really hurt and certainly in my own statement yesterday to the Dáil, I made the point that, you know, partial information, having to be drip-fed into the public domain because all of the facts weren’t there added insult to injury and worried people well beyond the 221+ group. Women were looking to me and others for reassurance that quite frankly we weren’t in a position to give them. And so, for that, I’m very sorry.”

Carville: “So it all centred on the women not being told and as part of his speech to the Dáil yesterday, Leo Varadkar said there is no information about a patient that a patient shouldn’t know. And yet, in the Patient Safety Bill, for which we were told full, mandatory disclosure was going to be part of, you talked about it, almost as soon as the Vicky Phelan case was complete 18 months ago. There are going to be exceptions to that?

Harris: “Well, I’m going to work with the Oireachtas to identify what those are. I mean there’s a very big difference, as I think everybody listening will appreciate, between mandatory disclosure of a serious reportable incident and between the day-to-day issues that can arise at a hospital.

“Like between maybe, you know, the food not being adequate and the like. That’s a very different situation to the very serious issues.”

Carville: “But is the option of not telling a patient about a mishap or an error – will there be that option in the Patient Safety Bill?

Harris:Absolutely not and I thank you for asking me the question because it’s important to give that assurance. I mean serious reportable events will refer to anytime, anything went wrong in relation to your care. Anytime there is information known about your well being that obviously has to be shared with you so we will bring, I will bring the full Patient Safety Bill to Cabinet next month…”

Apology ‘a reflection’ of how women felt – Harris (RTÉ)

Listen back in full here

From top: Minister for Health Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil yesterday.

Earlier this morning.

Health Minister Simon Harris spoke to broadcaster Audrey Carville on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the Dáil voting controversy.

It follows reports in the Irish Independent this morning that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar voted for colleagues in the Dáil chamber, while the colleagues were in the chamber.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said he never voted for anyone who was absent from the chamber.

From the interview…

Audrey Carville: “Just finally, our political correspondent reporting this morning that the Taoiseach has confirmed he voted for colleagues who were in the Dáil chamber but who weren’t in their seats. Did you ever do that?”

Simon Harris: “You know I’ve been in the Dáil nearly nine years and voted thousands of times and I don’t recall a specific time I did it but I’m not ruling it out because the rules do allow it and I think what we’ve seen is, it has become quite commonplace. But there is a huge difference.

“There’s been a very, very successful job done to muddy the waters in recent days here. There’s a very big difference between doing that and breaching the constitution of Ireland.

“The constitution says you must be present in the Dáil chamber.

“We know Timmy Dooley wasn’t present. We know Niall Collins voted when he wasn’t present. We know Lisa Chambers voted for someone who wasn’t present.

“There has been no evidence…and this, by the way, wasn’t started by Fine Gael. This was investigative journalism by the Irish Independent that showed Fianna Fáil TDs, in my view, breaching the constitution.

“And tomorrow we’ll have the Ceann Comhairle’s report. I’ve full confidence in his ability to get to the bottom of this. We need to tighten up this thing of, you know, voting and seats, I fully agree with that.

“But that shouldn’t be allowed to distract from people, you know, heading out the M8 down to Clare while somebody else stays in the Dáil and votes six times for them. We’re legislators, you turn up, you do your job and you vote.

“And if you can’t vote, if you’re busy or you’ve something on, you certainly don’t ask your buddy to press the button for you.”

Carville: “Thank you very much, indeed, Health Minister Simon Harris in our Dáil studio.”

Varadkar admits he has voted for colleagues who were in chamber (Cormac Quinn, Irish Independent)


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

This morning.

Via Independent.ie:

The instance where a vote was cast for Mr Martin in his absence happened during a Dáil debate on reducing the number of seats in the EU Parliament in February. Mr Martin is recorded as not being present for two of the three votes on the legislation. However, for the last and final vote the Fianna Fail leader’s vote is recorded as being present.

for the third and final vote, Mr O’Brien is not recorded as voting in his own seat. Mr O’Brien last night admitted he may have incorrectly pressed Mr Martin’s voting button during at the end of the debate.

Vote cast for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin when he was not in the Dáil chamber (Independent.ie)


John Wall (left) and Minister for Health Simon Harris

This evening.

Father-of- three John Wall, aged 48, from Quin, Co Clare, who following a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer had his Emergency Medical Card abruptly revoked twice, writes:

I met today with Minister of Health Simon Harris and senior representatives from the Department of Health, Primary Care Reimbursement Service and the HSE.

The meeting lasted well over an hour.

A full apology was received from the Deprtment of Health and the HSE for my experience to date regarding the Medical Card fiasco

Initially, the minister committed to establishing a review group to ensure that my issues are not repeated. Items to be reviewed include the application process, patient communications and generally enhancing the process to ensure a more streamlined experience.

That group will be comprised of department officials, representatives from various NGOs, including the Irish Cancer Society, Marie Keating Foundation and myself. It will be established before the end of November.

Of significance, there was a commitment to review the Terminal Illness Card with specific reference to the current necessity to be have a prognosis of 12 months or less left to live.

I have campaigned for this period to be significantly extended as it is my firm belief that terminal patients should be entitled to a terminal illness card without the current limitation attached.

Of note is that, once approved, this type of card will never be reviewed nor ever expire.

Separately, I will be working alongside the National Cancer Control Programme as a patient representative which will give me a platform to influence the National Cancer Strategy from a patient’s perspective.

Overall, it was a very productive meeting that met expectations and will lead to significant change which will, in turn, lead to a significant overhaul of the Medical Card system and the associated application process.

I very much look forward to working alongside the various government departments for some time to come and very much welcome the minister’s intervention, commitment and time on issues that have personally become very important to resolve and, as a result of today’s meeting, I am confident they will be.

In fairness.

Previously: John Wall: Notes On A #medicalcardscandal

They Come Up Against A Wall

From top: John Wall and medical card entitlement for ‘Frontier Workers’



Frontier worker?

Rollingnews/ Clare FM

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris

He [Simon Harris] became health minister in 2016, in a government led by Enda Kenny, his political mentor and then-leader of the center-right Fine Gael.

When Kenny resigned a year later, Harris backed Simon Coveney, now deputy head of the Irish government, to be his successor. But current Prime Minister Leo Varadkar won instead.

Harris was the only one from the old government to keep his job.

He is now careful to stress his support for Varadkar and said he doesn’t want to take the top job anytime soon.

“I’m very supportive of our current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who is obviously a young Taoiseach [and] doing a brilliant job,” Harris told POLITICO.

His comments about his own professional future, he explained, just mean “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility” of becoming PM.

The next Irish PM? (Carmen Paun POLITICO, August 11, 2019)

‘The next Irish PM?’ – Simon Harris stokes ambitions to be Taoiseach (Hugh O’Connell, Irish Independent, August 14, 2019)


Minister for Health Simon Harris

This morning.

It has emerged that 52 of the 800 women impacted by the reported IT problems in the Quest Diagnostics laboratory have contracted the HPV virus.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to “provide immediate answers” to the following:

1. Have all 52 women who tested positive for HPV on the Quest retest been notified of their results?

2. Have they all been referred for appropriate follow-up?

3. Have the other 750 women and their GPs been notified of their retest results?

4. What is the level of clinical risk for the 52 women who tested positive?

5. What action was taken by the HSE in February when they became aware of these problems with Quest?

6. Why were the Patient Advocates not informed of these issues at the Steering Group meeting on 26th June?

7. What action does the Minister intend to take to restore public confidence in CervicalCheck?

8. Does the Minister intend to review the Quest contract in light of these quality control failures?”


52 more positive for HPV in test scandal (Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: When Did he Know?