MINISTER for Justice Dermot Ahern insists that despite intense criticism locally, he did all he could for the Louth County Hospital throughout his career.
The Blackrock man has been regularly lashed by local opposition politicians and members of the public in recent years as services were curtailed at the hospital. However, as he prepares to bow out of politics this year, he insists his conscience is clear in relation to the Louth County.
"I worked hard for the hospital but unfortunately the powers that be in the whole medical area decided what was best. There is a drive across the western world to centralise services. In my first election the hospital was an issue in 1987 and in 2007 it was still an issue.
"Everyone wants to see a hospital on their doorstep, like I do, because I've used the hospital and my family have used the hospital but I do remember people like Joe Farrell saying that it's not the convenience of the people but the safety of the services. They need to go where the best services are and it needs to be accepted that you can't have every service in 58 hospitals in the country.
"It's a fact of life that there is a perception about me in relation to the hospital that I could have done more but what I will say is that I did my level best with limited power.
"As far as I'm concerned there's nothing more I could have done," he said.
Of the criticism he received in recent years, he said: "I've broad shoulders in relation to it but the constant barrage does have an effect on you but it's not so much when it's against me, I'm prepared to take those things, but when it gets in on your family that's where I draw the line."