Gilmore denies holding back dispute information

Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 01:00

TÁNAISTE AND Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has rejected an Opposition claim that he is withholding “key information” about the dispute between Minister for Health James Reilly and former minister of state Róisín Shortall.

The Tánaiste had been asked about a leaked email to Labour councillors from party chairman Colm Keaveney TD who described a recent meeting with Mr Gilmore where the resignation of Ms Shortall was discussed.

Mr Keaveney wrote: “I am satisfied that there is another context to the story that he [Mr Gilmore] has not been able to publicly articulate, given the media atmosphere at this time. This context needs to be discussed with the party’s members and he is considering how to do that.”

Speaking to reporters at Iveagh House in Dublin yesterday, Mr Gilmore said: “The other context is the state of the country, the fact that we have a job to do as a Government to restore our economy and to get our economy to recover and to get people back to work.”

He added: “It is hugely important that the country has a stable Government in order to do that. And I take my responsibilities seriously to ensure that that stability of government continues.”

This was the first coalition between the two largest parties in the State, he said.

“From time to time there are issues that inevitably arise between the two parties: differences of emphasis sometimes, on policy matters or interpretations of the programme for government, and it is my approach and the Taoiseach’s approach that we deal with those issues in private.”

He added: “It’s not a case of keeping the problems behind closed doors, but I believe, and I know the Taoiseach agrees with this, that when we have difficulties in Government or when we have differences or disagreements, the place to resolve those differences and disagreements is within the room, around the table, or if necessary in direct discussion between the Taoiseach and I.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said earlier in a statement: “The chairman of the Labour Party has secretly written to party members revealing that in fact the Tánaiste has held back key information from the Dáil and the Irish people.”

He added: “Is it the case that the Tánaiste was actually aware of the ties between the owner of the Balbriggan site and the Minister for Health?

“Does he have additional information on the reasons behind Róisín Shortall’s abrupt resignation?”

Sinn Féin spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh said Mr Gilmore had come into power on a platform that “government is best served by transparency” and was now insisting that problems would be dealt with in private by the Taoiseach and himself.

“We’re calling on him to come into the Dáil next week and tell us the full context of what is behind this,” Mr Ó Snodaigh said.

Leaked email: What was said

Extracts from the leaked email to Labour councillors sent by party chairman Colm Keaveney last Wednesday evening:

“Dear Colleague, I have been contacted by many party members recently following the resignation of Róisín Shortall. They have expressed disquiet at the events surrounding that resignation and with a number of other issues . . .

“The Party Leader took the initiative to contact me over the weekend just gone by and we discussed this issue and some of the other challenges we currently face as a party. . .

“At this point the Party Leader and I are being guided by the principle that we should focus more on fixing the problems rather than on fixing the blame and seek to navigate a way forward from our current position . . .

“The Party Leader and I discussed the quality of our engagement with members and we are in agreement that there is room for improvement . . .

“He also shared with me his view on recent events and I am satisfied that there is another context to the story that he has not been able to publicly articulate, given the media atmosphere at this time.

“This context needs to be discussed with the party’s members and he is considering how to do that at some point in the future . . .

“The next few months will be the toughest of our time in this Government and I am appealing for party unity in the face of this challenge . . . There are some in the media that are hostile to Labour and to our values and would only be delighted to use any internal tensions, not for our good, but for the detriment of what we stand for. There must be a degree of confidentiality concerning internal correspondence like this.”