Tuesday 20 March 2018

It is 'presumptuous' to say Varadkar will return to Health - Kenny

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has praised his Health Minister Leo Varadkar but said it was "presumptuous" to say he will continue in that portfolio after the General Election.

Mr Kenny's comments came after he was asked if he would reappoint Mr Varadkar to Health if Fine Gael was returned to Government.

"It would be very presumptuous of me to presume anything - and I never do. What I would like to do is appoint the best Cabinet I have," Mr Kenny said.

"Leo Varadkar is doing an excellent job in a very difficult position, he is one of [the] first class ministers in Cabinet, they are all doing their job very well indeed. It would be presumptuous of me to say anything else," he added.

Mr Kenny has been previously forced to express confidence in Mr Varadkar after the opposition raised concerns about crises in the health service.

Mr Varadkar yesterday said he would like Mr Kenny to take a greater interest in the health service if the party was voted back into power.

Asked whether the Taoiseach was focused on a world class health system, he said: "I'm sure he is but that's really a question for him.

"The priority in the past four-and-a-half years for the Government has been the economy, fixing the economy, getting the recovery going and keeping the economy strong," he added.

"I would hope that in a second term, if we have a second term, that the Government as a whole, including the Taoiseach, will take a greater interest in healthcare now that we have a strong economy."

Mr Varadkar also conceded that Fine Gael "over promised" ahead of the last general election, especially in areas around healthcare.

Responding to Mr Varadkar's comments, Mr Kenny said the Government was focused on improving the economy so it can bring about changes in the health service and elsewhere.

"What the Government will pay attention to is continuing to drive the recovery to have the engine. You need an economic engine to be able to provide for these many services in health, education, justice, defence and infrastructure," the Taoiseach said.

"The country cannot continue to develop unless you manage that central issue and manage it competently.

"Of course, that is a given and you need to look at the longer-term vision of government here for the health services - to have universal healthcare, to end the two-tier system, to have the evolution of hospital groups into hospital trusts and to get the very best out of taxpayers' money for the patient, and for those who serve those patients, nurses, doctors, frontline staff," he added.

One of the key concerns for Fine Gael about holding the election next year was the potential for a crisis in the health service to lead to a drop in public support.

Irish Independent

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