Reilly to face FG critics over care centres

Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly will attempt to face down his critics within Fine Gael tomorrow as unease continues over the decision to prioritise two towns in his constituency as locations for primary care centres.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted Dr Reilly had the “full support and confidence” of the Government, following the row that culminated in the resignation of Róisín Shortall as Minister of State for Primary Care.

Other Fine Gael figures, including Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, have called for further clarification of Dr Reilly’s rationale. The party’s TDs and Senators will get an opportunity to put their concerns directly to Dr Reilly when he appears before a special meeting of Fine Gael’s internal health committee tomorrow focusing on primary care.

Labour TD Arthur Spring called on Dr Reilly to account for “some anomalies” between what he had said and details contained in documents obtained by The Irish Times under freedom of information legislation.

“I think the best way for Dr Reilly to account for that is to come in front of the Oireachtas health committee . . . let’s have this out in a grown-up and transparent manner,” Mr Spring said.

Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly had outlined in the Dáil last week the reasons for including Swords and Balbriggan in the list of locations. Dr Reilly said both towns were identified as high priority areas by the Health Service Executive five years ago but “lost out” after Ms Shortall increased the weighting attached to deprivation in selecting priority locations in which centres would be built.

The Taoiseach thanked Ms Shortall for her work and said her replacement Alex White’s appointment would be confirmed at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, when he spoke to reporters ahead of the Fine Gael presidential dinner in Dublin on Saturday.

“There is now a changed scene in the Department of Health . . . I expect Minister Reilly and his two Ministers of State to move on now with great diligence to see that the programme is implemented in the interests of everybody,” Mr Kenny said, in a reference to Mr White and Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton yesterday said Dr Reilly needed to clarify to Mr White the criteria he used, although she voiced no objection to the inclusion of the two towns. “People will want to know that the criteria he has adopted are reasonable and that the selection of the areas he’s chosen are reasonable as well,” she said.

Ms Burton also called for reflection on why structures in place to deal with difficulties between Dr Reilly and Ms Shortall had not worked, when she appeared on RTÉ radio yesterday. Mr White said he had no reason to assume Dr Reilly had acted improperly.

Ms Shortall said she agreed with the description of Dr Reilly’s behaviour as “stroke politics”. Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused Dr Reilly of having “misled” the Dáil. “He needs to come clean on how he selected the extra 15 locations and he needs to do it quickly,” Mr Kelleher said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claimed the Government was “up to its neck in the same stroke politics that people rejected at the last general election”.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly rejected the suggestion the Minister had sought to mislead the Dáil. The HSE official in charge of drawing up the original list has said Dr Reilly’s account to the Dáil last Thursday did not contradict what had happened within the HSE.

Former HSE director of estates Brian Gilroy said the two towns had been among “close to 200” locations he had recommended to the HSE board around 2008.

While the locations had not been listed in order of priority, the two towns were in one of the early batches sent to the board.