The rights of Inishowen cancer sufferers and Derry children with heart problems to access vital cross-border health care services, must be resolutely defended amid the fall-out of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
That was the clear message during a debate in Dáil Éireann on the implications of Brexit for citizens accessing healthcare in other “EU countries.”
Patients presently enjoy the right to be treated in “other countries” and to be reimbursed by their “home country” under the EU Directive on cross-border healthcare.
Independent T.D. Michael Collins warned the operation of the EU directive must not be interfered with, as this could have a direct implication for cancer patients from Donegal who accessed treatment at the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, as well as for young children from the North who currently avail of cardiac services in Dublin.
“During the negotiations, we must ensure that our cross-border directive is protected with Northern Ireland and Britain,” said Deputy Collins.
“This also includes agreement for cancer patients travelling from Donegal to Derry and children travelling from Northern Ireland to Dublin for operations. There are many agreements that must be protected for the future,” he insisted.
The Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, meanwhile, speaking during the same session, said that any move to resurrect a border between Derry and Donegal would be unthinkable.
“We are not going to go along with borders between counties Monaghan and Tyrone, counties Cavan and Fermanagh or counties Donegal and Derry,” he said.
Deputy Ryan warned that the Irish Government needed to guard against any manoeuvre by London that might result in the EU moving to enforce a border in Ireland.
“We are going to have to be careful in negotiations. Maybe some people in the UK might decide to be really clever by forcing the EU to impose such a border, or force an Irish Government to impose it.
“We should hold to the Good Friday Agreement and say we have signed a globally recognised treaty and that we are not introducing a border come what may in this process, and that we may have to have border controls at some of our other ports but will not introduce a border along the Northern counties,” he said.