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Attacks on me hurt my mum, says ex-minister McGimpsey

By Lisa Smyth

Published 09/11/2015

Former health minister Michael McGimpsey
Former health minister Michael McGimpsey

The former health minister has revealed his late mother was deeply upset by "vicious" criticism levelled at him as he fought for more money for the health service.

Michael McGimpsey said he was the target of "nasty, uncharitable, unchristian" attacks by the DUP, Sinn Fein and Alliance as he battled to keep his budget in the black during his final year in office.

The UUP MLA said criticism by the likes of Martin McGuinness, who accused him of being sectarian when he announced he could not proceed with plans to open a radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin due to a lack of funds, was unfair.

"It didn't bother me because I knew I had a job to do but it bothered my mother significantly," he said.

Just weeks before stepping down from the post, Mr McGimpsey announced the long-awaited cancer treatment facility at Altnagelvin could not proceed because he did not have the £12m he needed to train the staff. It prompted a barrage of criticism from his Assembly colleagues.

However, Mr McGimpsey said the situation resulted from the other parties "playing politics with the health service" and singled out the DUP for deliberately withholding the £12m.

Just weeks after Mr McGimpsey left the post, the DUP-controlled Department of Finance and Personnel approved the business case for the £12m funding and the new health minister, DUP MLA Edwin Poots, announced the radiotherapy centre would proceed.

"They clearly didn't want me to deliver for fear of me getting a political advantage," said Mr McGimpsey.

"I kept saying it wasn't about politics but in the end they withheld money for the cancer centre and then I was heavily criticised when I made the announcement that it couldn't go ahead without more funding.

"Martin McGuinness called me sectarian, although I think that says more about him than it does about me because he clearly believes Altnagelvin is a Catholic hospital for Catholic people."

He added: "I felt like even after everything I had achieved over those four years, the other parties were still playing stupid games which was hard to accept."

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