Deputy First Minister blasts ‘ludicrous’ outburst

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured speaking to the Press before the ILEX Regeneration event at the City Hotel in Derry on Friday morning. 2202FP01

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured speaking to the Press before the ILEX Regeneration event at the City Hotel in Derry on Friday morning. 2202FP01

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has blasted Health Minister Michael McGimpsey for making a “ludicrous” statement on Derry’s planned cancer centre.

Speaking in Derry on Friday, Mr McGuinness launched a scathing attack on the Health Minister, whose department has come under sustained fire following a series of revelations in recent weeks.

Several weeks ago, Mr McGimpsey said that funds would not be available to run the proposed satellite radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin when it is built, prompting fears that the project could be shelved.

Mr McGuinness said: “He made a ludicrous statement some time ago when he said he would build the radiotherapy centre but that he wouldn’t be able to fund it. It was an irresponsible thing to say, in my opinion.”

Mr McGuinness said the Health Minister’s ability to do the job had been called into question.

“There are huge challenges for Michael McGimpsey in terms of what is happening within his domain in health and I think many people are asking very serious questions about his ability to handle that department.

He also accused the minister of “politicking” rather than doing what is best for Northern Ireland. He described him as a semi-detached minister and claimed the SDLP and Ulster Unionists were a minority in the Executive refusing to back the draft budget for electoral advantage. “Some of these ministers are fighting their own corner and what is it all about? Well it is about the elections,” he added.

He accused the Health Minister of “sitting on a number of very important reports”. “They centre around the whole issue of huge sums of money can be saved within health service in the area of inefficiencies. There is one such report, which he has had for some considerable time, conducted by a group looking at how huge sums of money can be saved if we work on a North South basis - he has never published that report.

McGuinness referred to the “forest fires” in hospitals including Altnagelvin, where crises in radiology and neurology have been revealed in recent weeks.

“He’d be much better employed focusing on things he should know about -all we hear from Michael is ‘I didn’t know anything about it’ - well it’s his job to know about it.”

He said he would not call for the resignation of the minister, adding: “that is a matter for the Ulster Unionist Party and Michael McGimpsey”.