Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My health matters are my business

I hope you all had a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year. Despite the rain and cold I spent a relaxing and very pleasant few wet days in Donegal generally unwinding from what had been a busy and full 2012.

At the beginning of 2013 news of hospital treatment I received in New York last July broke following the filing of my itinerary for 2012 by Friends of Sinn Féin with the Justice Department in the USA.

This process is part of our obligations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. So I always knew that news of my treatment would become public. However my health matters are my business. They are personal and private. Just as they are for all citizens.

Sinn Féin responded to media inquiries and confirmed that in July I had travelled to New York to meet with the new Board of Friends of Sinn Féin. They are a dedicated group of Irish American activists who oversee the work of Friends of Sinn Féin in the USA. In the course of a normal year they organise and facilitate the running of fundraising events.

FOSF was established almost 20 years ago in 1995. Their help and support has been invaluable in facilitating Sinn Féin’s efforts to effectively lobby successive US Presidents and administrations and Congress in support of the Irish peace process and a United Ireland.

As part of a revamping of the organisation a new Board was appointed last year and July was an opportunity to meet them and discuss the ongoing work of the peace process as well as Sinn Féin’s plans to launch a campaign for a border poll in early 2013. I also met others on my visit, including business people.

FOSF were responsible for the cost of my flights and this information was filed as part of the annual accounts provided to the US Justice Department.

I have also been suffering for some years with a painful condition related to my prostate. It is not cancer. While in New York I had a medical consultation. I was told that treatment was necessary and overdue. My doctor in Ireland also advised that I should proceed with the treatment I required.

This involved me staying in hospital overnight. Friends of Sinn Féin did not pay any costs toward this treatment nor was there any cost to the Irish taxpayer.

And that was that. Until some in the SDLP, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Independent Newspaper Group decided to try and use this to attack me and Sinn Féin.

This is the same Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil who have been about the demolition of public health services to the detriment of citizens and the privatisation of these services for the benefit of their cronies.

The SDLP even had the brass neck to try and claim the mantel of socialist arguing that none of them would use private medical treatment and that no true socialist would!

Sad people they are. I know many citizens of all ages and sexes who have sought medical treatment overseas for illnesses. The best treatment is not always available here. Some have had to run public campaigns to raise the money.

I am for a public health service in Ireland that meets the health needs of citizens. That is for a cradle to the grave universal public health service which delivers top class treatment to everyone.

If anyone wishes to use private health care to address a medical issue that is a matter for them, provided the taxpayer does not pick up the tab. What Sinn Féin is opposed to is the private health care business being subsidised from the public purse and the ongoing privatisation of hospital and other public services.

Finally, can I thank all of those who have wished me well since the news of this broke in the media. I am always uplifted by the kindness and generosity and humanity of people.

Finally, finally, Sinn Féin will be holding a major conference in Dublin in two weeks, on January 19th, to launch our campaign for a border poll. More on that important issue next week.

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