Mary Lou McDonald says health trumps ‘flags’ in united Ireland debate

ireland
Mary Lou Mcdonald Says Health Trumps ‘Flags’ In United Ireland Debate Mary Lou Mcdonald Says Health Trumps ‘Flags’ In United Ireland Debate
Health is the issue that is raised the most when it comes to discussions about a united Ireland, the Sinn Féin leader said. Photo: PA
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A united Ireland needs a national health service which is free at the point of access, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has suggested.

Ms McDonald said the conversation about a united Ireland should start with the health services in both jurisdictions which are subjects of review – the Bengoa process in the North and Sláintecare in the Republic.

She said any conversation about an Irish NHS cannot be achieved without “political seriousness” and a willingness to “knuckle down” and create an integrated health service.

Health is the issue that is raised the most when it comes to discussions about a united Ireland, “beyond flags and emblems”, she told the Ireland’s Future conference in the Mansion House, Dublin.

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“The smart money would join those together and create a single-tier universal health service for people across the island,” she added.

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said the Republic’s health service scores well internationally and that it ought to be possible to combine the best from both health systems.

He said any all-Ireland health service should be free at the point of entry as a matter of principle, but there could still be room for access to private health care.

Mr Richmond said “now is the time” to talk about a united Ireland because “Brexit has changed everything ... we are going to be voting on this in a Border poll a lot sooner than we think.”

Mr Richmond added that being in favour of a united Ireland should not be an “incendiary opinion” and should never be seen as offensive to unionists.

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Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said it ought it to be recognised that Sláintecare is not “a million miles away” from the NHS.

He suggested health economists should prepare a paper to state what a health service for a united Ireland would look like.

“Politicians are not going to be able to identify that now. That is why the work will have to be done in health or the economy. A huge amount of work will have to be done,” he said.

He described the pursuit of Irish unification as a “perfectly legitimate political objective” and there is nothing “sinister or subversive about it”.

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