Carlow Kilkenny: Health campaigner to run for Dail

Conor Mac Liam is standing in the upcoming General Election for the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance in the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency. He is known as a defender of public health services and a campaigner for the building of a hospice for Carlow/Kilkenny. He came to prominence with the death three years ago of his wife Susie Long, a public patient, whose diagnosis of bowel cancer was delayed for seven months whilst private patients were getting life-saving diagnoses within days.

Susie, Conor and their children experienced the consequences of the application of right-wing ideologies to healthcare in the most brutal way, and were convinced that many more lives would be lost unless the two-tier system was ended. Government policy means the public system is subsidising private for-profit medicine and at the same is itself being starved of funds.

Even those who are terminally ill in the South-East are discriminated against. Susie had to go to Dublin to die with dignity as there isn’t a single hospice in either Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford or Wexford. Conor has since been campaigning as part of the Susie Long Hospice Fund for the building of such a hospice for Carlow/Kilkenny. Another urgent issue for him is the building of a day unit which could handle the need for colonoscopies in a timely fashion. Despite the promises made after Susie’s death, there are still public patients waiting over a year for diagnostic tests.

The cutbacks in public health funding in the last three Budgets have been mirrored by savage attacks on ordinary people in almost every aspect of their lives – the loss of jobs, wage cuts, higher taxes, cuts to welfare benefits, increased student fees and education cuts. Kilkenny and Carlow have been hit with a spate of retail outlet closures – Byrne’s World of Wonder at the Fairgreen, Carlow, Tony & Guy’s hairdressers in Kilkenny – and jobs threatened at Celtic Bookmakers. In Carlow, the Sacred Heart home for the elderly is under threat as is the Fr. McGrath Community Centre in Kilkenny, both providing essential social services to their communities.

The widescale and intensity of attacks led Conor to realise that the fight had to brought to a new level. Having secured the nomination from the Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance, the local branch held a meeting of supporters just before Christmas to plan a campaign. On 20 January, that campaign is to take off with public meetings in both Carlow and Kilkenny. On the bill with Conor will be Joe Higgins MEP, a representative of the People Before Profit Alliance (in Carlow), and Cllr Seamus Healy of the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group (in Kilkenny). With excellent publicity work being done, it is hoped that the campaign will swell its ranks and go on to provide a real challenge and alternative to the existing rightwing TDs.