TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will be keeping a close watch on embattled Health Minister Dr James Reilly next year.
Mr Kenny says he will be getting more involved in the Department of Health in 2013 to make sure coalition targets for the health service are met. It comes after Dr Reilly was embroiled in controversy throughout the past year, with budget over-runs and controversies over primary care centres and his personal finances dogging him.
The troika has also consistently identified Dr Reilly's department as one where spending must be kept tightly under control. "It is a department that I intend to work with the minister more closely in 2013 to see that the objectives and the targets we set out there are actually achieved and I believe very strongly that he will lead that in a really reforming way," Mr Kenny said.
Amid opposition criticism of Dr Reilly's budgeting for last year, Mr Kenny spent months denying there would be a supplementary budget for health as 2012 ended.
However, with Department of Health overspending reaching €400m, Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin confirmed in November that extra money would be found for Dr Reilly's department.
A cabinet reshuffle is also on the cards for 2013, with Dr Reilly seen as one of those likely to move portfolios.
But Mr Kenny acknowledges it has taken new ministers, including his deputy leader in Fine Gael, a while to get a handle on their departments.
"To be upfront about it, for most new ministers it does take a period of trying to get a real handle on their responsibilities," Mr Kenny said.
"And the Department of Health, given its sort of structure with all of the health boards squashed together and the superstructure of the HSE on top of that, and given the fact that it concerns, at one stage or another, every single person in the country, I think (the) changing of that structure by Minister Reilly, obviously, is work that is serious and is ongoing here.
"But it is a department that I intend to work with the minister more closely in 2013 to see that the objectives and the targets are actually achieved and I believe very strongly he will lead that in a really reforming way," he added.
Mr Kenny was also asked about Dr Reilly's personal finances, after the minister was named as a debt defaulter earlier this year. It followed a nursing home investment deal, motivated by a lucrative tax break, which turned sour.
Dr Reilly appeared in 'Stubbs Gazette' after he and four others were ordered by the High Court to pay €1.9m to purchase a nursing home in Co Tipperary, which they first invested in 12 years ago.
Before taking up office, Dr Reilly gave power of attorney to his solicitor, thereby granting his lawyer the ability to dispose of his interest in the nursing home – but attempts to sell it have been unsuccessful.