Labour not to pursue Reilly at Cabinet for centres clarification
LABOUR WILL make no request at Government level for Minister for Health James Reilly to further clarify the criteria he used when adding five locations to a list of 30 proposed primary care centres around the State.
A Labour spokeswoman said last night that no formal or informal request would be made at Cabinet level by the party’s Ministers. She said that clarification could be sought (by party TDs and Senators) at Oireachtas level (by means of all-party committees and by parliamentary questions).
Two of the party’s Ministers, Ruairí Quinn and Jan O’Sullivan, have said they were unaware of the criteria used by Dr Reilly and Ms O’Sullivan had called for him to clarify how he came to the decision.
However, the party’s decision not to pursue the matter further at the highest level is being seen as confirmation that both Coalition parties want to draw a line under the matter and do not want to revisit it.
Dr Reilly said yesterday that the suggestion that primary care centres could be provided in north Dublin only through stroke politics was “insulting” to his constituents.
Asked about the ongoing controversy over the decision to locate two centres in his own constituency – in Swords and Balbriggan – he reiterated that the locations had been prioritised in late 2007 and early 2008 and had been approved.
“And frankly I think it’s a little bit insulting to the people of Balbriggan and Swords to be told that the only they can get what they clearly deserve and need is through stroke politics.” He said his department was working well despite funding cuts.
“I think there’s no question that we’re making improvements. We don’t hear people roaring and shouting about them. There will always be problems and we always must do more.”
Asked about whether he had made mistakes in managing his relationship with his former minister of State Róisín Shortall, he said that anybody who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
He said he could not understand the motivation behind her public comments. “I’m not going to get into the absolutes of my relationship with any individual,” he said.
Alex White will be formally appointed as the new Minister of State with responsibility for primary care at today’s meeting of the Cabinet. He replaces Ms Shortall who resigned last week following a protracted dispute with Dr Reilly over this and other matters. On RTÉ at the weekend, she accused him of a privatisation agenda.
Dr Reilly will appear before a special meeting of Fine Gael’s internal health committee today. Of some Fine Gael 15 TDs contacted by The Irish Times yesterday, all but two gave unqualified backing for Dr Reilly, saying his dispute with Ms Shortall had not been an issue within the party.
“I was at the Fine Gael presidential dinner on Saturday night and that issue was not raised even once,” said Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy. “The setting for the dinner is informal and all issues come up. It never arose.”
Among those expressing strong support were Galway West TD Brian Walsh and his Galway East colleague Paul Connaughton, who both said his dispute with Ms Shortall had not created an issue.
Mr Walsh said he had “complete confidence he is the best man for the job”. Meath East TD Regina Doherty also expressed strong support for his performance.
Privately, one or two TDs expressed some degree of being uncomfortable with the row.
One Fine Gael TD, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said he found it very hard to defend. The TD said constituents were making clear their sense of unease about the situation.
“People are saying, how much hassle is one Minister worth? There’s a drip-feed of bad news, revelations and changing criteria. Any other TD who tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth.”