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Howlin backs Reilly while defending Croke Park deal

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said he has "absolute confidence" in Health Minister James Reilly following a week of controversy over proposed health cuts.

The senior Labour Party figure also hit out at Fine Gael TD John Deasy yesterday, following comments made by Mr Deasy earlier in the week in which he accused Labour of "hypocrisy" and said it was protecting public pay governed by the Croke Park Agreement, ahead of services.

"That shows he doesn't understand the Croke Park Agreement," Mr Howlin said.

"Croke Park has huge flexibilities ... enormous savings have been made in the public service pay bill.

"We've cut the public pay bill by €3.1bn, from peak, through all the things that Croke Park facilitates."

Asked to respond to Mr Deasy's comments that the Labour Party had "chosen to protect the unions" rather than public services, Mr Howlin said: "I think there are those of us who will actually get on with the job and those who will be commentators on it."

Speaking after attending the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, the minister said there were "real challenges facing every line minister" as the Government had to live "within the umbrella" of money provided by the troika.

He backed the Health Minister after Dr Reilly denied on Thursday night he had made a "U-turn" in relation to cuts.

"I have absolute confidence in Minister Reilly and the Department of Health and all my cabinet ministers to do what is necessary and there will be more challenges ahead.

"Occasionally we will make mistakes and it is important that we are constantly open to hear the dialogue, to hear the views and when necessary to change tack."

Comment: Pages 28&29

Irish Independent