Former minister’s praise of James Reilly taken as slight to Leo Varadkar

Alan Shatter’s veiled criticisms of Minister for Health’s record made at FG party meeting

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter made thinly veiled criticisms of Minister for Health Leo Varadkar at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night.

Praising Mr Varadkar's predecessor in health, Dr James Reilly, Mr Shatter said he had managed the health service at a time when budgets were being significantly reduced. He also commended Dr Reilly for keeping his budget negotiations secret.

His choice of words was taken as a slight against Mr Varadkar, who helped to raise pressure on Mr Shatter during the whistleblowers’ controversy that led to his resignation as minister for justice.

At the time, Mr Varadkar had called the Garda Síochána whistleblowers "distinguished", though the then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan had called their actions "disgusting"


Saying that all Ministers must stay on-message in the coming weeks and stick to the party line, Mr Shatter said a majority would have no problem doing so. He then asked that Ministers not be seduced by potential media headlines by making statements on topics outside their areas.

The Leinster House meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators is expected to be the last before Taoiseach Enda Kenny calls the general election.

Mr Shatter, who faces a tough battle in the Dublin Rathdown constituency, praised his colleagues, including those in Labour. He did not know, he said, if he would be re-elected.

Speaking to the parliamentary party, Mr Kenny said he wants the current Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition returned to office and does not want to deal with Independents afterwards.

Tipperary TD Noel Coonan strongly criticised Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, the Labour TD in Tipperary, for not acting in a collegiate way in the constituency.