Wednesday 21 March 2018

Minister James Reilly: ‘Stroke politics’ allegations are insulting to constituents

Ed Carty

ALLEGATIONS that Health Minister James Reilly engaged in "stroke politics" to have two new primary care centres in his constituency are insulting, he has said.

Amid renewed calls for an explanation of the selection criteria, the minister said he sees no reason to repeat what has already been said.

"Frankly, I think it's a little bit insulting for the people of Swords and Balbriggan to be told that the only way they can get what they clearly deserve and need is through stroke politics," he said.

Dr Reilly refused to be drawn on whether he had made mistakes in his working relationship with Labour TD Roisin Shortall.

The former junior minister quit her role to oversee the development of primary care in a row over the location of the centres.

In a weekend interview she said that she has serious doubts about Dr Reilly's abilities to reform the health service and she also accused the Fine Gael minister of having a privatisation agenda.

Dr Reilly said he did not know "what was in her head to make the claims" and when pressed on his own failings, said: "The man or woman who made no mistakes never made anything."

The minister said he stands by his decision to select the north Dublin towns of Swords and Balbriggan for new primary care centres.

He rejected calls from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to return to the Dail to face further challenges over the selection process.

"I treat that with the same level of disdain that he treats me," Dr Reilly said.

Strained relations between Ms Shortall and the minister came to a head last week over his decision to rewrite the priority list for new care centres without her knowledge.

Ms Shortall met the minister twice to discuss the issue, but she claimed he failed to give her a satisfactory explanation for his controversial decision.

She became the fourth Labour TD to resign the party whip since the coalition was formed 18 months ago. She joins former junior minister Willie Penrose, who resigned over the closure of army barracks in Mullingar, and TDs Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty on the Labour sidelines.

Labour TD Alex White was appointed as Ms Shortall's replacement.

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