TDs claim Quinn seemed to agree that Reilly 'was not up to the job'
Minister for Health James Reilly was under growing political pressure last night after criticism of his performance by Cabinet colleagues was relayed by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to Labour TDs.
A number of Labour TDs said yesterday that Mr Quinn appeared to agree with comments that Dr Reilly was “not up to the job”, when they were made by a backbencher at a Labour party parliamentary meeting last Wednesday.
Mr Quinn told Dublin TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin that some Cabinet colleagues agreed with his sentiments, according to deputies present at the meeting.
However, one took Mr Quinn’s intervention as a reference to Labour Ministers, while another said Mr Quinn was referring to Fine Gael members of the Cabinet.
Fianna Fáil called on Mr Quinn to make a statement on the claims. Health spokesman Billy Kelleher said they showed Labour Ministers had no confidence in Dr Reilly and wanted him replaced.
A spokeswoman for Mr Quinn said the comments attributed to him were made at a private meeting of the parliamentary party. She declined to comment on the basis that the proceedings were confidential.
“Mr Quinn is on record as saying the Minister for Health has one of the toughest jobs in the Cabinet and there is nothing to indicate he had changed his mind on that,” she said.
A senior Labour source did not deny the remarks attributed to Mr Quinn but claimed they had been “blown out of all proportion”.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton refused to be drawn on Mr Quinn’s reported comment. “I don’t think the Government is about personalities,” she said. “I think the Government is about doing the people’s business.”
One backbencher said he respected Dr Reillys attention to health reform but added there was “huge disaffection” in Labour over home help cuts. He said this applied to the party’s Ministers as much as Dr Reilly. “Eamon Gilmore told us he would go to war over this issue. Well, it seems to have been a war with very few casualties,” he remarked.
Unease within Fine Gael over the continuing controversies in health is also growing. “He’s not a bad person but he definitely lacks political nuance,” said one TD. He said Minister for Justice Alan Shatter “made all the running” on the abortion issue at last week’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party and this showed that Dr Reilly’s confidence was suffering.
At the meeting, Labour chairman Colm Keaveney accused Dr Reilly of pursuing a “privatisation agenda” in the health service, particularly in relation to home help services.