Gilmore defends new list of care sites


TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore last night defended the Cabinet decision to change the list of locations for primary care centres, saying it was on the basis that “no vested interest in the health system could have the Government over a barrel”.

Mr Gilmore denied that he had backed Minister for Health James Reilly in the dispute with his junior Minister over the issue: “I supported Róisín Shortall through the process.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time he was repeatedly asked why the criteria for choosing locations had been changed mid-stream but did not directly address the question other than saying “there will always be difficulties” in coalitions.

When it was put to him that it looked like a political stroke and that was the perception of the public, he replied: “We can call it what we like…What we are attempting to achieve is a decent health service.”

Meanwhile, Labour TDs expressed disappointment and shock at the resignation of Ms Shortall as a Minister of State and a member of the parliamentary party.

“I had no inkling of it. I thought that she had stated her case very well in the Dáil, that there were ongoing talks with the senior Minister, and I had hoped that things would be worked out to everybody’s satisfaction,” said Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello.

Wicklow Labour TD Anne Ferris said: “I was shocked when I heard the news. It is unfortunate that she felt she could no longer work with Minister Reilly.”

Dublin Mid-West TD for Labour Robert Dowds said: “I’m seriously disappointed that she has resigned, principally because of the major things she was working on, such as primary care, the alcohol issue and the drugs question.

“ On the other hand, I am disappointed that she didn’t consult with any of us in the parliamentary party or the Labour Party generally, as far as I know, before she made her move, because she would have found a lot of support both for herself and what she was working on.”

Labour chairman Colm Keaveney said: “Róisín Shortall remained faithful to Labour values to the very end of her tenure. She was a political icon in the Labour Party and we have lost a giant in Irish politics.

“I’m very unhappy that she has removed herself from remaining with the cause. I would much prefer if she hadn’t resigned, and I would not have accepted her resignation.”

Labour Senator from Laois-Offaly John Whelan said: “The public reaction is unequivocally one of dismay that Róisín Shortall has been forced into a position where she felt she had to resign.”

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath claimed the Labour Ministers had abandoned Ms Shortall, while Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin claimed she had been “shafted” by her senior colleagues.