Sunday 24 July 2016

Fionnan Sheahan: Without political savvy, Reilly will never be far from a crisis

Published 05/10/2012 | 05:00

Dr James Reilly's condition is no longer critical but he remains under close observation. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is rock solid behind him and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is placated.

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Briefly out from under the glare of the spotlight, the Health Minister seems to be continually one controversy away from losing ministerial office.

Except this notion is proven incorrect every time he escapes from trouble.

His habit of riding his luck is dangerous as it will eventually be his comeuppance.

Fighting fires on several fronts, Dr Reilly is being given the all clear by his coalition colleagues over the latest quandary, this time the links to the owners of a site where a medical centre is being built.

The revelations in the Irish Independent of a supporter owning the site put the minister on the backfoot for a whole two days. Yet again, he wasn't helped by his personal communications inadequacies, described by a Fine Gael colleague last night as "terrible".

The minister's lack of political savvy sees him walk into trouble for no apparent reason.

"He has no political person to warn him of his political naivety," a source said.

On this occasion, the Labour Party was said to be "very sore" about Dr Reilly giving wrong information to Ruairi Quinn, which resulted in him effectively misleading the Dail.

The gaffe resulted in Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore demanding a meeting with Dr Reilly and the heads of the Department of Health and HSE to clarify matters.

The Tanaiste emerged from the session "reassured".

Mr Gilmore gave his backing to the Health Minister by saying he agreed with the selection of 35 sites for primary care centres and he was satisfied Dr Reilly had no role in picking the site.

After a bruising two weeks, where the junior coalition party has lost a junior minister and faced accusations of not standing up to the Health Minister, Labour just wants this issue to go away.

But everyone knows Dr Reilly is not that far from the next controversy, particularly as he has yet to resolve his listing as a debt defaulter in 'Stubbs Gazette'.

Any further embarrassing developments about his personal finances and he will be teetering on the brink. As a senior government source put it: "The political side is safe. It's the personal side."

Irish Independent

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