Rosemary Barton, Ulster Unionist candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, has highlighted the hypocrisy of Richard Pengelly attempting to silence health workers from expressing political opinions less than a year after he was pictured at an election count standing in a group of DUP politicians and openly applauding the success of his wife Emma Pengelly and former South Belfast DUP MLA, Christopher Stalford.
Rosemary Barton said:
“Richard Pengelly, instead of monitoring the private twitter accounts of our health workers, would be better off trying to resolve the unprecedented crisis engulfing our health service for which his Department is responsible. The South West Acute hospital in Enniskillen for instance is facing immense pressures in terms of the length of time increasing number of patients are being forced to wait.
“No matter the real motives behind Richard Pengelly trying to silence health workers from expressing their personal political opinions, the reality is he is probably the least suited senior civil servant in the country to have made such a call.
“Only last May Richard Pengelly, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, stood in front of the gathered media amongst a number of senior DUP Cllrs, MLAs, MPs and their MEP, and applauded and cheered following the election of two DUP MLAs in South Belfast.
“Mr Pengelly’s attempt to silence our doctors, nurses, social workers and thousands of other staff in the health service, by claiming as public sector employees they should not be making public statements, is therefore totally hypocritical given his own recent actions.”
Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson, said:
“Since this story broke on Monday I have spoken with dozens of health workers about this issue, and setting aside the fact they are perplexed that the supposedly busiest Permanent Secretary in the country has time to monitor social media accounts, they are exasperated that of all the issues in the health service he should be focusing on at the moment, he decided this was one the most important.
“Richard Pengelly’s intervention, only days before Northern Ireland goes to the polls, raises serious questions. Today I will be writing to the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Sir Malcom McKibbin asking him whether Mr Pengelly’s actions were appropriate, especially in light of his relationship as the husband of a DUP candidate running in the current election and his presence at a counting centre last year, and if not what action will be taken against him.”