Shortall affair 'hurt' Government
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore refused to be drawn further on the primary care centre row this afternoon, despite a new explanation given by Minister for Health James Reilly last night for his decision to add two sites in his constituency to the controversial list.
Speaking in New York this afternoon, Mr Gilmore said he would not say if Mr Reilly’s new version of events concerned him.
“Obviously I wasn’t in the Dáil last night… I’ve been briefed on the explanation that [Mr Reilly] has given, but, as I’ve said all through, my focus and the focus of the Government has been to get the primary care centres built.”
Mr Gilmore said people had lost sight of the fact that Ireland is in economic crisis and that it was “a very significant achievement” that the Government had been able to ring-fence funding for the new primary care centres.
Earlier, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said he was "not clear" about the procedures followed when two locations in Mr Reilly's constituency were added to the priority list for primary care centres.
In Brussels this morning, Mr Quinn said the controversy over Róisín Shortall's resignation had hurt the Government and said he regretted her departure and the manner of her resignation.
Mr Quinn said the relationship between Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny is "absolutely 100 per cent" and said this was the most important thing for the Government.
Asked if the controversy had seriously damaged the cohesion of the coalition, he said: "I don't think it has been seriously damaged, I think they have been hurt. We have lost a good colleague in Róisín Shortall."
Asked if he was clear about the decisions made as regards locations for primary care sites, he said: "I'm not clear in my mind, to be honest with you. I haven't sat down with him [Dr Reilly] to talk through in detail what has happened, no more than he would be clear about the priority I have given to different schools in different parts of the country."
Mr Quinn said he was happy, however, that more than 20 locations were chosen because it was important to have flexibility in the case of problems. This was good contingency planning, he said. "But as to whether I'm familiar with the details - no."
The Minister was also asked whether Dr Reilly was becoming a liability for the Government. "James Reilly, as I said, has a horrendous job to do," Mr Quinn said.
The Minister said former minister for health Mary Harney went into the department "gung-ho" to fix the service but didn't succeed. In fact, he said, the service was probably worse when she left than when she went into it.