NI Assembly Election 2016: Sinn Fein Election candidates address Ard Fheis

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin and Raymond McCartney.
Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin and Raymond McCartney.

The North’s health system is overly complex, too bureaucratic and lacks accountability.

This is the view of Sinn Fein’s Maeve McLaughlin who told the party’s Ard Fheis in Dublin at the weekend that reform and delivery of health provision must not become ‘Care on the Cheap’.

Ms. McLaughlin, a candididate in the Foyle constituency in next month’s Assembly election, also warned against the ‘Transforming your Care’ review becoming a “privatisation charter”.

She added: “Workforce planning should be prioritised - not something that is done in silos three plus years into a strategy. We cannot say spending is going in the right direction and has the right outcome when we cannot pay frontline staff a living wage and senior consultants award themselves bonuses of £55m over the last five years.”

She said spending £12million this year in the Western Health Trust on locums and agency staff was unsustainable.

“We are calling on the Health Minister to deliver on the proposal for a medical school at Derry’s Magee campus to help address this waste,” she added.

All-Ireland health, such as the new radiotherapy unit in Derry and children’s heart services, made sense, she said.

“Now we need an island wide addiction strategy, air ambulance service, organ donation register and suicide prevention strategy.”

She revealed that, in Derry, her party was backing moves to develop a crisis intervention service to provide safe space for people in crisis.

“We need to take the politics out of health and move our health system to a genuine public health model that respects staff while putting patients first,” she added.

Meanwhile, one of her Foyle constituency colleagues, Raymond McCartney, told the Ard Fheis that the British government cannot be allowed to have veto over disclosure of Troubles-related legacy material.

Mr. McCartney, who is also contesting next month’s election, insisted legacy issues arising out of the conflict needed to be addressed if we were to move forward.

“In every negotiation, we, as a party, have attempted to find a way in which that all these related issues can be addressed,” he said. “Our position is clear.

“However, we are not prepared to enter a process which gives a power to the British government to determine what information it can disclose and what information it cannot disclose.”

Mr. McCartney said that, in the Stormont House Agreement, the British government agreed that the Historical Investigation Unit would have full access to information.

“However, the draft legislation proposed that the British Secretary of State would have a veto on disclosure,” he said. “This is unacceptable as it does not address the need for truth.

“It is also unacceptable to many families seeking truth and most of the campaigning groups.”

The pretext of “British National Security” as a means to block disclosure, he said, was unacceptable.

He added: “Our position remains that legacy, the need for truth, is a necessary part of national reconciliation and we will continue in our efforts to ensure a credible process is in place.

“However, we will not permit the British government to abdicate addressing its responsibilities . This issue can be resolved.”