Shortall learned of HSE resignation from media


MINISTER OF State for Health with responsibility for primary care Róisín Shortall has said she learned Health Service Executive chief executive Cathal Magee was stepping down from media reports yesterday.

Her comments were interpreted by a Labour Party source as being “the last straw” in an ongoing difficult relationship between Ms Shortall and her senior Minister, Dr James Reilly, who is Fine Gael’s deputy leader.

The difficulties are said to centre on policy as well as personality differences.

Ms Shortall refused to be drawn on the matter yesterday but reiterated her regret that Mr Magee will be leaving his post.

“Cathal Magee has been an excellent public servant and I very much regret he won’t be staying to oversee the change programme coming in the years ahead,” she said.

“His area of expertise is change management and his skills would be very valuable.”

Ms Shortall had earlier issued a statement in which she “expressed regret to learn from media reports that the chief executive officer of the HSE has stepped down”.

She described Mr Magee’s departure as a “significant blow” to the health service and said he would be “badly missed” during a very challenging time of severe budgetary pressures.

She paid tribute to Mr Magee’s service to the HSE over almost two years and extended best wishes to him.

A departmental spokesman said Mr Magee had sent a letter to secretary general Ambrose McLoughlin announcing his intentions, and Mr McLoughlin had been guided by a strong sense of the need to respect the confidential nature of the information contained in the letter.

The spokesman said Mr McLoughlin would have advised the Cabinet Minister, Dr Reilly, about the issue.

The matter was not referred to during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and Taoiseach Enda Kenny learned of Mr Magee’s intentions after the meeting.

A Labour source said Dr Reilly and Ms Shortall differed about the “direction” in which the health service should be going and about certain policy decisions, while a number of Labour figures indicated they privately agreed with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s description of Dr Reilly yesterday as “volatile”.

The Cabinet this week deferred discussion on the Government’s action plan on alcohol, being driven by Ms Shortall, until September amid disagreement between Fine Gael and Labour over how strong its measures should be.

The Coalition parties have also clashed publicly on Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton’s proposal to increase PRSI contributions, with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton opposing the plan.

Meanwhile, the votes to select the six remaining Labour seats on the constitutional convention were counted yesterday.

Those selected were: TDs Robert Dowds (Dublin Mid West); Michael McCarthy (Cork South West); John Lyons (Dublin North West) and Anne Ferris (Wicklow) along with Senators Ivana Bacik and Aideen Hayden.

Mr Gilmore selected deputy Alex White (Dublin South) to lead the Labour delegation last week.