There needs to be an all-island, integrated, health service, and its creation should not be dependent upon the agreement or timing of a united Ireland, argues Professor Jim Dornan – one of the architects of existing cross-border co-operation in health services. Jim was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast.
“In many ways Ireland is a Goldilocks sized country for health provision,” he explains. “We can cherry pick the best of health provision throughout the world and let's introduce it to Ireland. The health service is a wonderful concept.” But to protect NHS-type health service provision, it is important for individuals and society collectively to accept more responsibility for their own good health, argues Jim.
“The two health services are increasingly working together and they're full of men and women with vision. Unfortunately they also have some dry wood amongst them. But we're moving forward and young, well educated managers are coming through who really do understand how medicine has to evolve with the population. So I'm positive about health going forward, but I would like to see everybody having equal access to the same health standards.”
Jim is particularly concerned that regions away from Belfast and Dublin, particularly in the west, have less access to health services. He stresses: “I think health is a perfect example of something that we can get on with now, rather than rather than wait for a potential possible change in the dispensation.”
Like many other people interviewed in the Forward Together podcasts, Jim is persuaded that the Eames-Bradley report offers the best way to deal with the past. “I would encourage the powers that be to brush down Eames-Bradley,” he says. “I think Eames-Bradley was a wonderful document and sadly for whatever reasons some parts of the media, who were quite powerful, focused on the compensation part and that became the whole news item.... I think if it was properly done, Eames-Bradley has got a lot of life left in it and should be dusted down.”
Jim refers to his preference for “a new Union of Ireland”, but is strongly opposed to an immediate border poll. “For a start, everybody must learn how to stop grabbing a microphone,” he says. “I mean starting to call for it now honestly is just not very savvy. It's not very politically savvy and it's only annoying people. I'd say it's a fact that there's going to be a border referendum. I want to be voting on facts. So we need to have a conversation to see what are the best ways forward. And there is so much happening at the moment.”
He adds: “I'm not supportive of calling for a border referendum poll at this stage although I totally accept and in fact relish one in the future, but one thing it has shown is that nobody is prepared.”
Discussion on the future must, suggests Jim, be based on “proper facts rather than something written on the side of a bus.” He continues: “Then when we're ready, then let's have a quiet sensible adult vote on the subject. I have to say that to me I don't mind sticking my neck out saying that I would love to see the border disappear, because it just is divisive. But whether the border or any new dispensation would just be around our shoreline or might include other areas, I think that is really up for grabs. I wouldn't have said it five years ago, but I'm saying it now.”
Holywell Trust receives support for the Forward Together Podcast through the Media Grant Scheme and Core Funding Programme of Community Relations Council and Good Relations Core Funding Programme of Derry City and Strabane District Council.