Monday 16 December 2019

Revealed: James Reilly found out he was sacked from FG role from his wife

Taoiseach did not return former ally's call after he stripped him of his role

New role: Senator James Reilly and his wife Dorothy
New role: Senator James Reilly and his wife Dorothy
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Former Health Minister James Reilly has revealed he suffered the ultimate humiliation of learning he had been officially sacked as Fine Gael deputy leader from his wife.

Mr Reilly's wife Dorothy told her husband he had been stripped of the role after she heard a radio report of a press conference given by Taoiseach Enda Kenny where he announced that his longtime political ally was no longer his deputy leader.

The Sunday Independent understands Mr Reilly subsequently called the Taoiseach to express disappointment over how he had learned of his fate but Mr Kenny did not answer or return the call.

The manner in which the Taoiseach dumped his deputy leader has left many in the party believing the move was in retaliation for Mr Reilly calling for an abortion referendum before the General Election.

At a media briefing on Friday, Mr Kenny revealed publicly for the first time that Mr Reilly was no longer his deputy - much to the shock of his parliamentary party, who were not aware of his decision. Mr Reilly, who was appointed by Mr Kenny as a senator last week, told the Sunday Independent he would have expected a phone call from the Fine Gael leader he had supported for 15 years before he publicly sacked him.

"To be quite honest I was very surprised at a personal level to hear about it from my wife, who heard it on the radio," he said.

"I think it is perfectly reasonable for the Taoiseach to appoint another deputy leader but, accepting that he is very busy, I would have expected a heads-up," he added.

Mr Reilly contacted the Fine Gael press office two weeks ago after it was reported in the Irish Independent that he was still Mr Kenny's deputy leader.

The press office confirmed to him that he was still the Taoiseach's number two as no decision had been taken by Mr Kenny on the matter.

The senator subsequently attended two official EU engagements - one where he received an award for taking on tobacco firms - under the impression he was still Fine Gael deputy leader.

But last Wednesday, on the first official sitting day of the Seanad, Mr Reilly received a call from the Taoiseach who informed him that Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer was to be appointed leader of the Seanad. At the end of the conversation, Mr Reilly raised the deputy leader issue with Mr Kenny, who told the senator the position fell with the last government.

An FG source said that "during the heat of the conversation" Mr Reilly did not have time to query if this was set out in the party's constitution.

The Fine Gael constitution does not state the position falls with the Dail but rather it is a decision for the leader.

A source said: "The Government had been formed for a month, the election was three months before so why was this only addressed when Reilly brought it up."

Sunday Independent

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