McDermott quit HAC over clash on Naughten support

John McDermott quit as the chairperson of the Hospital Action Committee (HAC) because he disagreed with their stance on the General Election, Cllr. Valerie Byrne, a prominent member, has said.

Meanwhile Mr. McDermott has confirmed that he intends leaving the group completely. His resignation followed a number of developments last week.

Firstly, on Monday (15th of February), the HAC held a meeting with all of the General Election candidates in the Roscommon-Galway constituency to ascertain their health policies.

After the meeting, the HAC decided that it would remain independent in the election, but McDermott wanted to support Independent TD Denis Naughten.

That was the catalyst for his departure, Cllr. Byrne said. “He wanted to support Denis Naughten because he thought Denis was the person that came up the best at our interviews,” she said. “That’s up to John; that’s fine. But we’re the Hospital Action Committee and, for John to do that (publicly support a candidate), he had to step down as chair.”

Asked about Cllr. Byrne’s version of events, Mr. McDermott said that it was accurate. “That’s it exactly,” he said. He said that, after the meeting with the candidates, he called a meeting with the HAC for the following night to discuss the responses and whether or not they would back a candidate.

He told them that he was in favour of supporting Deputy Naughten. “Some people were in favour of it. Some people were against it,” he said. “The major issue was that John McDermott would be seen as the Hospital Action Committee, and (that his stance) was different from every other member. “At the end of it, they decided to leave it up to myself.”

Mr. McDermott then publicly backed Deputy Naughten in last week’s Roscommon People, before subsequently resigning. “I was going to resign anyway. I told the committee I was going to resign after the election and, rather than have any hassle, I just said I would resign there and then, and that would get rid of any issue that was there,” he said. “I wanted to support Denis and I didn’t want to do any damage to the Hospital Action Committee.”

Mr. McDermott said that his resignation was not acrimonious, but confirmed that he intends leaving the group altogether. Asked if he would remain a member, he said: “I probably won’t because the new people will want to do it their way and I was there for 20 years.”

Meanwhile Cllr. Byrne, who has ruled out running for the position of HAC chairperson, insisted that the HAC would remain an active organisation.

The departure of Mr. McDermott, the long-serving chairperson, would not be the deathknell for the HAC, she insisted. “Definitely not, not at all. We are 41 years in existence. Just because somebody has stepped down as chair…” she said. “The Hospital Action Committee are fine. It’s just something that happens in every walk of life.”