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Council backs nurses

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KEEPING WARM Pictured having their soup and sandwiches on the picket line at Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar last Thursday were Triona Kirrane, Maureen O’Grady Laura Melvin and Naomi King. Pic: Paul Mealey

Motion calls for Varadkar to intervene immediately

Anton McNulty

STRIKING nurses yesterday received the full backing of Mayo County Council in their dispute with the Government. The Council unanimously passed an emergency motion tabled by Independent councillor Seamus Weir calling for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to intervene immediately with the nurses’ dispute.
In a lengthly debate at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, many of the 31 councillors spoke of their admiration for the nursing sector and fully supported the nurses’ demands for pay increases.
Cllr Weir’s motion was seconded by fellow Independent councillor Frank Durcan, and there were calls for the motion to be immediately forwarded to every local authority in the country, so that they could support it too.
The debate took place shortly before the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation suspended their strike action after the Labour Court announced that it would be making recommendations in the nurses’ dispute.
The INMO was due to escalate its industrial action this week with three consecutive days of strike action from today (Tuesday) to Thursday in its row over nurses’ pay and the recruitment and retention of nurses.

‘Pig in a poke’
INMO representatives were in the Council Chamber for yesterday’s motion. During the debate, councillors praised the nurses for taking the decision to strike, with many saying that nurses have been taken for granted by successive governments who thought they would never go on strike.
The INMO representatives were also cautioned not to agree to any resolution unless they were happy with the conditions on offer.
“The nurses want to be careful that they are not sold a pig in a poke on this and given some sort of fob off with concessions,” Cllr Michael Holmes said, adding that the Council’s motion will only be successful if pressure is put on Oireachtas members from party members.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said that nurses were getting little more than the national minimum wage for the hours they work, and he also echoed Cllr Holmes caution.
“You want to make sure that you are not bought off by some promise of long-term increments in five, ten or 20 years’ time or by some changes to allowances. It is very clear you have the Government on the ropes, and you need to get what you want while you have them on the ropes. Once they come off the ropes they will be turning on you,” he warned.
Following the meeting, INMO executive committee member Donna Hyland thanked Cllr Weir for proposing the motion and Cllr Durkan for seconding it.
“I welcome that 19 councillors spoke on this motion and spoke in a positive light. I do appreciate it, and it was good to hear. It is always good to have these type of motions debated in council chambers. Every single councillor that is here today has an influence in some way,” she said.

‘Pretty confident’
In seconding Cllr Weir’s motion, Cllr Durcan accused some of the councillors of being hypocrites for giving their backing to the nurses while their party was prepared to support the Government and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly took exception to attacks on Minister Harris, pointing out that the Minister’s wife is a nurse, and said that the Government was aware of nurses’ working conditions.
“Nobody wants to see nurses on strike, and the nurses themselves don’t want to be out there. Nobody is served by that. We can make speeches, but solutions will be found in the Labour Court, which is our mechanism for dispute resolution. I am pretty confident that whatever the recommendation in the Labour Court, the Government will back that,” he added.