City businessman and election candidate slams HSE West €7m spend on legal fees

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin is confronted by an angry Tommy Hourihan during his visit to Galway on Wednesday. 	Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin is confronted by an angry Tommy Hourihan during his visit to Galway on Wednesday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

A general election candidate and a founding member of Hope4Disability, a local disability action group, has slammed what he terms the “obscene” amount of more than €7 million spent by the HSE West on legal fees for barristers and solicitors last year.

Eamon Walsh, a city businessman and father of two from Headford, says according to a Sunday newspaper report €35 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on legal fees nationally between January and November 2010.

“In 2010 the HSE massively overspent its budget and sought to recover the deficit by cutting frontline services. It is unacceptable to cut services in this manner while incurring what appears to be unfettered legal costs,” he says. “The HSE have in the past forced people with disabilities and their families to go to the courts to secure basic services. The State and HSE fought these legal actions while spending this shocking amount of money on legal fees.”

He is calling for a full review of how and why such legal services are contracted out by the HSE.

“If we needed any further examples of mismanagement and waste in the HSE one need look no further.”

The 43-year-old NUI Galway graduate who owns a computer and telephone system business called CommandIT, based at Briarhill Business Park, says his priorities include improving disability services, public sector reform and being a strong voice for small businesses.

A long time campaigner for people with disabilities he believes the provision of disability service needs to be reformed to bring more transparency and accountability to its delivery.

“For far too long people with disabilities and other vulnerable people have ended up being the easy target for budget cuts, inefficient practices and underinvestment. There is a fundamental problem when money is at the centre of decision making and not the person. There are many dedicated and hard-working people in the HSE, however our health services are in need of reform and rejuvenation and I believe that real efficiencies and service improvements can be achieved.”

He claims politics always lacked a “strong voice for small business” yet in the services sector 98 per cent of enterprises are small businesses.

“Small businesses are struggling; many of them are on their knees. They are crippled with taxes and high costs, especially rents, and are over-regulated which is particularly galling considering the ineffective regulation at the top. Many have closed and many more will go. They are stagnated and not contributing effectively to the economy. There is a shortage of working capital available to small business and many will fold without it, profitable or not.”

Mr Walsh believes that small business managers, like him, are best placed to find solutions to these problems. He wants to see Irish small businesses moved toward the centre of the strategy for economic recovery.

“People have become disillusioned with a political system that is more self-serving than public-serving. We need to separate the affairs of state from those of commercial interests and banks. This will mean some fundamental changes to the way politics works in the country. From the ground up, we must shake ourselves of the old political favours mentality, using political influence to get a contract or secure planning permission.”


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