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Reilly talks with rebel Shortall fail to clear the air

Health Minister James Reilly will have to have a second face-to-face meeting with his rebellious junior minister Roisin Shortall this week to try to resolve their row about the location of healthcare centres.

They had a brisk 30-minute discussion in Leinster House last night. That was their first meeting since their already poor working relationship plunged to a new low last week.

But there were signs last night that further talks will be needed to resolve the row between them.

Ms Shortall had complained that she had been given no notice about Dr Reilly's decision to add 15 more primary care centres -- including two in his constituency -- to an existing list of 20.

And she had also criticised the failure to deliver 300 primary care staff, which had been promised in the last Budget.

Ms Shortall had also made a highly critical speech about the slow pace of health reform under Dr Reilly's reign and notably failed to declare confidence in him.

Another meeting between the ministers is scheduled for later this week.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said that he and Ms Shortall had discussed issues relating to primary care and the government programme to develop primary care nationally.

He said both ministers were expected to meet again in the coming days -- and meet on a "regular basis".

Ms Shortall could not be contacted for comment.

Last night, Dr Reilly also came under fire for spending almost €2m on 47 different consultancy reports in the 18 months he has been in charge.

Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming said that he was "genuinely shocked" because Dr Reilly had been one of the most vocal critics of the use of external management consultants when he was in opposition.

Ironic

Dr Reilly's spokesman said it was ironic for Mr Fleming to make such a comment because Micheal Martin had spent "many multiples" of that figure on consultancy reports when he was Health Minister.

In the Dail yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny once again strongly defended Dr Reilly's performance in the Department of Health.

"Of all the ministers in this or any government, Deputy Reilly has taken on the unenviable task of sorting out the wreckage left by his predecessors," he said.

Mr Kenny said the decision to add the extra primary care centres to the building list was based on additional factors such as competition, GP co-operation and GP-to-population ratio.

Irish Independent