MENTAL Health Minister Jim Daly has insisted he has not been sidelined by his minister, Simon Harris, but has admitted that he has been asked not to do media interviews regarding his portfolio during the pandemic.
The Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, said while he is continuing his duties as normal, they agreed that the senior Minister would take responsibility for all media.
‘That’s been a whole-of-government approach throughout this. All media and announcements have been confined to a few ministers to make sure everyone gets this right. It’s so important, and we can’t afford to slip-up,’ he said.
However, Alone, the organisation which supports older people, is calling for a stronger presence from the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, as Ireland enters the next phase of the pandemic.
Its chief, Seán Moynihan, said: ‘With this new phase, we need to ensure that the Minister for Mental Health and Older People has a strong voice in designing and influencing policy. Older people have struggled the most with the outbreak of Covid-19 and it should follow that they are supported to deal with it in its aftermath.’
Alone believe that any government formation document must include commitments to the right to home care, Sláintecare and the National Positive Ageing Strategy.
Minister Daly, who has been volunteering as a kitchen porter at Clonakilty Community Hospital during the crisis, replied: ‘I led very significant change in moving away from the nursing home model of care towards supported independent living for older people and unfortunately Covid-19 has proven me to be correct in prioritising this approach. I share Alone’s wish to see these areas prioritised under the next government.’
Minister Daly said that under normal circumstances he would not have expected to still be in office, after announcing his resignation last September.
‘It’s been 12 months since the thought first formulated in my head to leave politics. Your guess is as good as mine, but I expect I will be finishing in a few weeks’ time,’ he said.