The Minister for Health Brian Cowen has reiterated the government's position that that there will be no more money for the nurses pay award. Speaking in Belfast, where he was attending a cross border cancer conference at Stormont, Mr Cowen said the government was committed to paying the labour court recommendation for nurses in full, but nothing more than that.

One of the leaders of the Nursing Alliance has accused the Minister for Health, Brian Cowen, of engaging in emotional blackmail and trying to scare the public in advance of the first ever, nation-wide, nurses strike. The National Nursing Officer with SIPTU, Oliver McDonagh, was responding to comments made by the Minister in his address to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association last night. The Chairman of the Nursing Alliance, Liam Doran, said it was nonsense to claim that conceding the nurses claim could lead to closures.

The Minister warned that to concede the nurses pay claim could lead to bed and hospital closures, and that the partnership underpinning Ireland's economic success was under attack. Brian Cowen said the Government would stand firm on the Labour Court recommendations despite the impending nation-wide strike by the country's nurses. He told the annual general meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association that to do otherwise would irrevocably damage the interests of the wider community.

The Irish Hospitals Consultants Association passed an emergency motion at its annual general meeting in Tullamore yesterday expressing extreme concern at the prospect of major industrial unrest. Over 3,000 non-emergency admissions will have to be cancelled every week along with up to 7,000 out-patient appointments. There is no doubt, they say, that patients will suffer as a result. The IHCA President, Dr. Joan Daly, appealled to both the Nursing Alliance and the Health Service Employers Agency to try and find a resolution before the strike begins.