Wednesday 21 March 2018

Labour won't call for Reilly's resignation

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

LABOUR will not demand Health Minister James Reilly's resignation because it would "start a spiral" that could break up the Coalition, senior party sources have said.

They were speaking after a day when Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was again forced to defend himself over the resignation of former junior health minister Roisin Shortall after a leaked Labour email suggested there was another "context" to the whole affair.

The email from chairman Colm Keaveney to councillors and TDs claimed there was "another context" to recent controversies which Mr Gilmore could not discuss publicly.

"This context needs to be discussed with the party's members and he is considering how to do that at some point in the future," Mr Keaveney wrote.

Mr Keaveney had earlier declined to go into further detail about his reference to the resignation of Ms Shortall, who quit after disputes with Dr Reilly. Mr Keaveney met Mr Gilmore last Tuesday and sent his email out afterwards.

Mr Gilmore said the context was the stability of the Government, which, he insisted, was the most important thing in Coalition. However, he denied he sacrificed Ms Shortall.

But sources close to Mr Gilmore last night provided further detail on the "context" and said Labour couldn't ask for Dr Reilly's head because it would destabilise the Government.

"Going in and asking for James Reilly's head would be the same as Enda Kenny coming in asking for Joan Burton's," the source said. "They're both deputy leaders.

"We feel he (Dr Reilly) should be doing a better job. Are we entirely happy with the Budget overruns and the implementation of the Programme for Government? No. There are people looking for Reilly's head on a plate. But if you do that, who next? It would start a spiral."

The source also indicated the party is conscious of previous experiences in Government, particularly that of the Fianna Fail-Labour Coalition between 1993 and 1994.

That fell apart over the appointment of attorney general Harry Whelehan as president of the High Court, with Ruairi Quinn famously telling Taoiseach Albert Reynolds: "We've come for a head, Harry's or yours -- it doesn't look like we're getting Harry's."

The source further claimed voters punished Labour for that move, even though it is widely thought it was punished for going into Government with Fianna Fail in the first place.


In a further sign of tensions, Mr Quinn admitted yesterday to being "mad as hell" at being given incorrect information about primary care centre sites by Dr Reilly's officials, which led him to mislead the Dail.

But Mr Gilmore said the Government will provide the stability needed for economic growth.

"The only context is the state of the country, is the fact that we have a job to do as a Government to restore our economy, to get our economy to recover and to get our people back to work. That is the mission of this Government.

"It is hugely important that the country has a stable Government in order to do it. I certainly am going to take my responsibility seriously to ensure that stability continues, that this Government continues, serves out its term and we do the job we were elected to do,'' he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to answer questions on the controversy, insisting: "The minister has already dealt that with that at some considerable length."

Irish Independent

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