Alliance Health Spokesman Kieran McCarthy MLA has expressed his shock at the sheer scale of hypocrisy exhibited in the Assembly during today’s debate on a Health and Personal Social Services Bill.
Mr McCarthy, who chairs the cross party committee on ageing and older people, had tabled a series of amendment to the Bill, which would have committed the Executive to providing free personal care for the elderly in the future.
Mr McCarthy said every Assembly member who had backed a joint motion (co-signed by Mr McCarthy and Nigel Dodds) in February 2001 calling for free personal care for the elderly, had reneged on their word.
The Strangford MLA said: “This has to be a new record for political cowardice in the Assembly – gross hypocrisy on a grand scale. Today, only Alliance voted for free personal care for the elderly. In February 2001, there was unanimous backing for it.”
“I am disappointed that other parties only appear interested in appearing good, but when push comes to shove, their word means absolutely nothing. What we are seeing is a growing credibility problem for MLAs.”
“This was a lost opportunity for MLAs to prove that they could put aside their usual petty sectarian bickering and unite for a cause that would benefit those who have given their all to society. Here was a chance to do something good and right; yet another chance squandered.”
“I heard today how it was ‘not the right time’ for free personal care for older people. But my amendments provided for this, allowing for implementation to be delayed until funds were identified. But it seems the other parties are not even prepared to vote for this in principle.”
“The only conclusion I can come to is that these parties which claim to care so much for pensioners either don’t care at all or were electioneering during the last debate. Every pensioner in Northern Ireland deserves an explanation from their Assembly member.”
Quoting from Hansard, Mr McCarthy noted: “The SDLP chairman of the Health Committee said then: ‘My Committee hopes that the Minister – together with the support of the Executive Committee – will fully implement the findings of the Royal Commission on long term care for the Elderly. If we cannot look after our own folk then we should not be here.”
“A Sinn Fein member talked piously about care from the cradle to the grave being a ‘very worthy socialist principle’ and ‘the hallmark of a caring society’. Where are his principles now?”
“A senior Ulster Unionist noted then that there were ‘financial issues, but it is imperative that we consider seriously the principle of caring for the elderly’. Well that is exactly what my amendments did – there was no timetable.”
“However, I must save the last word for the DUP member who co-signed the motion in February last year. He told the Assembly: ‘The long-term care of the elderly is one of the issues that should be at the top of the agenda for the Assembly and the Executive’. He also stated: ‘Some Members may trot out excuses and arguments about why we should not go down this line; that would be to let our elderly population down’.”
“Assembly members have eaten their words – as they have their principles – today.”
Quotes from the original debate on care for the elderly can be found at: