Tuesday 20 March 2018

Taoiseach 'jumped gun' as coalition leaders clash

Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and the new Cabinet
Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and the new Cabinet

Niall O'Connor and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny "jumped the gun" by announcing the provision of free GP cards for over-70s without first securing agreement of Tanaiste Joan Burton.

The issue led to the first major squabble between Mr Kenny and Ms Burton and is being blamed for the surprise delay in the announcement of the Government's new set of priorities and cabinet reshuffle.

Labour sources confirmed that the issue created tensions between the negotiation teams last week, with one party figure describing the announcement by Mr Kenny as "putting the cart before the horse".

"It caused delays because we hadn't given it the green light. He (the Taoiseach) jumped the gun. It's as simple as that," the source said.

Ms Burton alluded to the tensions Mr Kenny's intervention caused during an interview on RTE's 'The Week in Politics'.

Asked whether Mr Kenny was supposed to announce the provision of the cards for over-70s, Ms Burton said she believed Mr Kenny "was anticipating agreement on the document".

The Labour leader also confirmed that Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin were drafted in to diffuse tensions over a taxation package set to be announced on Budget Day.

"The tax issues are very important and it is important we discuss them in detail," Ms Burton said.

"It was always envisaged by myself and the Taoiseach that two economic ministers would be called in to have a look themselves at the conversations on taxations before the final agreement was made," she added.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has learnt that consultants have been hired to review the operation of the crisis-ridden HSE medical cards office in the wake of the discretionary cards fiasco and a debacle around files going missing.

The review, started last week, will cost up to €75,000.

The consultants will look at how applications are managed and the interaction with local offices. The review is being carried out jointly by the consultancy firms Prospectus and Deloitte.

It will focus on the Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Finglas.

The report comes in the wake of a Government rowback on the review of medical cards and the return of discretionary cards who had them removed.

It is expected to recommend a renewed level of input from local officials.

The centralisation of decisions on discretionary medical card applications removed the input of staff in local offices.

Consultants will be expected to review how applications are handled and managed from start to finish, particularly complex cases.

The process will cost between €50,000 and €75,000 and the report will come back in the first two weeks of August.

The HSE confirmed to the Irish Independent that the review was going ahead.

Irish Independent

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