EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has said he has full confidence in Dr James Reilly - but refused to "confirm or deny" that he told Labour backbenchers that the health minister was "not up to the job".
Mr Quinn said Dr Reilly had his sympathy for the difficult job he had.
It had been reported that Mr Quinn made the comments about Dr Reilly at a private meeting of the Labour parliamentary party last week - which has added to the tensions in the Coalition over the Budget negotiations.
But Mr Quinn said the proceedings of the parliamentary party meetings were confidential when asked if he made the comment.
"We cannot do our business unless they remain confidential.
"I'm not going to confirm or deny or in any way change my comment that I've made repeatedly about Dr Jim Reilly. He has both my confidence and my sympathy. He has an extremely difficult job to do,'" he said.
Mr Quinn was attending the launch of a new report at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin to promote film education among young people