Friday 13 December 2019

Reilly won't be taking crucial health policies to his new job

James Reilly
James Reilly

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

CHILDREN'S Minister James Reilly will only have a minor role working with the Department of Health on policies aimed at tackling obesity and cigarettes, the Irish Independent has learned.

Dr Reilly won't have direct responsibility for public health and none of those functions will be moving with him to his new department.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar is understood to have been opposed to having elements of his department moved – and he won the battle.

When Dr Reilly was moved from the Department of Health to the Department of Children, a range of areas of public health policy were supposed to move with him.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is believed to have been in favour of the move as it put a sweetener on his demotion from the Department of Health.

Dr Reilly himself spoke last week about officials meeting to discuss "the most appropriate parts to bring to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs".

However, the Irish Independent has learned Dr Reilly overstepped the mark and will not be getting complete control of the area or taking it with him.

Instead, he will just be involved in policy development and publicity around childhood obesity and anti-tobacco policy.

These two areas will remain a part of the public health unit in the Department of Health, which also covers fitness, vaccinations and immunisation.

"The functions are to stay in the Department of Health. Contrary to what he told the Oireachtas committee last week, all legislative functions will stay in the department," a department source said.

Dr Reilly was heavily involved in campaigns around childhood obesity and reducing smoking, including the introduction of plain cigarette packaging.

At the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee last week, Dr Reilly responded to suggestions that the move would downgrade the Department of Children. "On the contrary, I would perceive such a move as strengthening the children portfolio," he said.


Dr Reilly said the Department of Children had established itself has "a phenomenal job to do".

"It reaches into every other department, and many elements of public health specifically affect children. It is known that every euro one spends on children is where one will get the best return, be it in health or other aspects of their care such as education," he said.

"The two secretaries general will meet and discuss what the most appropriate parts to bring to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs are because, whatever happens, it has to be done with one key objective in mind, which is achieving better outcomes for children," he added.

Following that meeting, it emerged that the public health policy will remain in the Department of Health but Dr Reilly will have a role in the development of policy in this area.

Irish Independent

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