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Embattled James Reilly faces 'no confidence' vote over cuts


HEALTH Minister James Reilly faces political exile after Opposition parties announced plans to table a motion of no confidence in him.

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein both criticised the minister's controversial proposals to slash €130m from services.

Elsewhere, Labour councillor Paul O'Shea, who resigned from Ennis Town Council over the weekend because of the cuts, warned of further resignations from the party if Cabinet approves the measures.

Several TDs with the coalition also hit out at the minister's proposals to scale back frontline services.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused the minister of targeting the most vulnerable.

He claimed there has been disappointment, disruption, dysfunction and chaos since Dr Reilly took over responsibility in the Department of Health.

"All confidence in minister Reilly and his leadership of the Department of Health has now gone," said Mr Kelleher.

"I would call on him to live up to the promise he made before the election, when he said that the day he withdrew services with nothing in their place he would walk away.

"If he refuses to go, my party will be tabling a motion of no confidence in the minister immediately upon the resumption of the Dail."

Home help and home care, agency work and overtime will be among the worst hit in the string of cuts, which could see older people and the disabled hit particularly hard.

There will also be 50,000 fewer medical card holders.

Dr Reilly has also said savings could not be properly addressed without looking at Croke Park, the 2009 agreement which guaranteed public-sector reform in return for core pay being protected.

Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Fein health spokesperson, claimed Dr Reilly was plunging the health services into deep crisis.

He said that Dr Reilly made great play of his changes to the Health Service Executive (HSE), claiming that they will mean more direct responsibility and management by the minister.

"Yet minister Reilly left it to the HSE to announce the latest harsh cuts and he had to be shamed out of hiding to answer the wave of justified criticism," Mr O Caolain said.

"This minister has since claimed, incredibly, that the health cuts in budget 2012 did not lead to loss of services, despite the fact that hospital and nursing home beds have been closed and services reduced across the hospital system.

"Now, the minister presides over cuts to home care, home help and personal assistance, targeting the old, the sick and the disabled."

Earlier, Mr O'Shea told RTE the cuts were "appalling, absurd and unacceptable", adding that they were an "attack on people's dignity".

Labour TD Michael McNamara has demanded a meeting with the minister and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.

Elsewhere, Fine Gael's Ray Buter and John O'Mahony criticised the slashing of home care packages while Labour's Brendan Ryan and Aodhan O Riordain called for the cuts to frontline services to be reversed.

However, Oireachtas Health Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer defended the Government decision and said every case would be assessed sensitively. The Fine Gael TD called for a calm and rational debate.

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