L abour candidate in Roscommon-South Leitrim Hughie Baxter has repeated his claim that Health Minister, Mary Harney, is intent on escalating the dispute with the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association. Mr. Baxter was speaking after he attended the recent one-hour work stoppage at Portiuncula Hospital attended by several hundred nurses, and cited the recent threat by the HSE to cut nurses’ pay as clear evidence that the Minister and the HSE prefer to escalate the dispute rather than negotiate. ‘I and the Labour Party have repeatedly called on the Minister to engage in serious negotiations with the nurses’ organisations. Instead the Minister seems intent on conducting industrial relations through the media as she and the HSE engage in a propaganda war, intended to discredit the nurses. The latest ploy has been to threaten to cut pay in response to the nurses’ work to rule. These tactics are a throwback to the kind of industrial relations practices which we got rid of in this country, decades ago, and are reminiscent of the methods employed by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in their attempts to break unions in the UK and US. ‘It is time for the Minister to get on with her job and engage with the nurses’ unions in a meaningful way to seek to resolve their claims. The Minister’s failure to deal with these claims to date and her continued intransigence are completely counterproductive and will only make it more difficult to eventually resolve the dispute. ‘The public are supportive of nurses because virtually every person in this country has experienced the care and dedication that nurses deliver day-in, day-out in hospitals across the country. In many cases, nurses are delivering care in difficult circumstances due to the Minister’s failure to provide much-needed beds, equipment and, most of all, the management reforms, which would improve efficiency in our health service. ‘I also welcome the suggestion from the nurses to call on their members to vote strategically in the forthcoming election. I am often baffled as to why Irish taxpayers and workers who continue to vote for right wing parties are surprised when Governments do not serve their interests. There is a definition of insanity, used by Alcoholics Anonymous, which is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’. Without wishing to trivialise, there are serious parallels with our political behaviour. ‘Ireland is the only country in Western Europe which has never had a Labour or Socialist led Government. It is small wonder that investment in health, education, public transport and other public services is so poor compared to our European neighbours. It is time for voters to make a change. We need to break our addictive and inherited voting relationship with parties like Fianna Fáil, which take our votes for granted, while they channel Ireland’s wealth to their super-rich friends,’ Mr. Baxter concluded.