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Sunday 18 February 2018

FG young guns voice anger at Reilly's 'stroke politics'

Lucinda Creighton (left), Fionnuala Kenny and Senator Catherine Noone (right) at the annual Fine Gael President's Dinner at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, during the weekend.
Lucinda Creighton (left), Fionnuala Kenny and Senator Catherine Noone (right) at the annual Fine Gael President's Dinner at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, during the weekend.

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE Gael's young-gun ministers are believed to be putting down a marker on their unhappiness with Health Minister James Reilly's medical centre list 'stroke'.

The fallout from the resignation of junior health minister Roisin Shortall continues as the Labour Party TD accused Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore of backing Dr Reilly over her.

She also attacked Dr Reilly for blocking reform and failing to manage the health budget.

The Labour hierarchy wants new junior minister Alex White to get to the bottom of the criteria used by Dr Reilly to pick the locations for primary care centres, which saw two towns in the Health Minister's constituency added to the list.

Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton said she regretted Ms Shortall's resignation and was sorry she didn't have a chance to convince her to stay.

Within Fine Gael, European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton followed Transport Minister Leo Varadkar in expressing reservations about Dr Reilly's decision.

Ms Creighton wants more clarity from Dr Reilly on the process of selecting the list of primary care centres.

Mr Varadkar admitted last week Dr Reilly's addition of two towns in his constituency to the list looked like stroke politics. In government circles, the Transport Minister's candid comments were viewed as a warning shot at Dr Reilly.

Ms Creighton's decision to join in is being interpreted within Fine Gael as a clear sign the younger ministers are not as tolerant of the stroke politics.

Putting a marker down, Mr Varadkar and Ms Creighton were differentiating themselves from their older colleagues, party sources said.

Ms Shortall claimed her reforms of the health service were blocked by Dr Reilly.

Mr Gilmore is still on the defensive following Ms Shortall's departure.

Abandoned

Mr Gilmore's spokesperson said he was saddened by Ms Shortall's resignation -- and rejected the claims that he abandoned her. "She had his full support," the spokesperson said.

Labour figures, though, are puzzled by Ms Shortall's claim that she kept everyone aware of her difficulties with Dr Reilly.

Party backbenchers said if she had sought help at parliamentary party level, she would have got assistance to put pressure on the leadership to act.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny once again expressed confidence in Dr Reilly as he played down the controversy, saying he hadn't even heard Ms Shortall's comments.

Notably, Mr Kenny twice declined to answer when asked if he had considered moving Dr Reilly from his portfolio to another ministry. "Dr Reilly has the full support and confidence of the Government," he said.

Mr Kenny said it was now time for the new ministerial team in the Department of Health to get on with implementing the Programme for Government.

And he said Dr Reilly had explained how the list was compiled in the Dail last week.

Once he's officially appointed tomorrow, new junior minister Alex White will be tasked with examining the criteria used for the primary care selection.

Mr White said he wanted to see the maximum amount of information provided.

Dr Reilly's spokesman also defended the minister from Ms Shortall's claims, saying it was she who was questioning the Programme for Government.

john downing

Irish Independent

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