White denies shafting Gilmore as he bids for leadership
Published 31/05/2014 | 02:30
JUNIOR health minister Alex White has denied being involved in the "shafting" of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, despite admitting he was planning to tell the Labour Party leader to stand down before his resignation.
The minister has also tried to distance himself from the medical card fiasco, despite having direct responsibility for the issue as part of his portfolio.
Launching his bid to challenge Joan Burton for Labour Party leadership, Mr White also repeatedly declined to apologise to medical card holders for the trauma they were put through.
Mr White rejected suggestions he presided over the removal of medical cards from sick people as he blamed the Cabinet for the review.
The minister with responsibility for primary care said the move to review the status of the cards was a "cabinet decision made at the time of the Budget."
He said the impact of the decision was not "carefully enough assessed by the Government at the time".
"The Government has to take responsibility for not reacting as quickly as it ought to have done," he also said.
Mr White has also admitted he was backing the motion of no confidence and had intended to tell the Tanaiste of his support for the move. Yet he denies he was threatening to resign.
Mr White confirmed he had intended to go to Mr Gilmore and tell him of his intention to "support the motion of no confidence".
Although such a move would have made his position untenable if the Tanaiste had decided to stay on and fight moves to remove him, Mr White claimed he didn't threaten to resign.
"The question of my continuation in [ministerial] office would have been a matter for him," he said. "I've discussed the events of last weekend with Eamon. There is no difficulty between us and the matter is closed."
Mr White paid tribute to "the stellar contribution" made by Mr Gilmore as party leader over the last seven years.
"I think probably at times we needed and will need certainly in the future a bit more of the leader of the Labour Party in terms of our public presentation in terms of what we're doing and saying in Government," he added.
The junior minister reflected that Labour suffered "very serious losses" in last week's local and European elections.
"While we have strained the loyalty of our supporters on many occasions since we entered government in 2011, the scale of our defeat in recent elections demonstrates a clear disconnect with our traditional support base," he said.