Sunday 21 January 2018

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore denies Roisin Shortall sacrificed to save coalition

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

EAMON Gilmore has denied his Labour junior health minister was sacrificed to save the coalition.

The party leader said he regretted Roisin Shortall's resignation amid revelations that embattled Health Minister James Reilly added two sites in his constituency to a list of primary health centres.

Mr Gilmore said he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny believe disagreements between Labour and Fine Gael should be dealt with in private.

"Everybody knows what the problems are, it's not a case of keeping the problems behind closed doors," said Mr Gilmore.

"But I believe, and I know the Taoiseach agrees with this, that when we have difficulties in Government over differences or disagreements, the place to resolve those differences and disagreements is within the room, around the table, or if necessary in direct discussion between the Taoiseach and I.

"We have a working relationship which is very strong."

The Tanaiste was prompted to make the denial after party chairman Colm Keaveney wrote to TDs telling them there was "another context" to the resignation.

Mr Gilmore and Mr Kenny have stood by Dr Reilly, who came out fighting despite renewed calls for his resignation after it emerged a Fine Gael party supporter owns one of the sites controversially chosen for a health centre in Balbriggan.

The Tanaiste admitted issues inevitably arise on policy matters or interpretations of the Programme for Government between the parties from time to time, but stressed the country needed a stable coalition that will see out its term.

"Roisin Shortall was not sacrificed at all," he said.

"I regret very much that she resigned. I would have much preferred that she had continued in office in doing the excellent job that she had been doing.

"I have the highest of regard for Roisin Shortall."

Fianna Fail's Billy Kelleher described the contents of the leaked letter as extraordinary and demanded a full explanation.

But Mr Gilmore maintained the "other context" was the state of the country and the coalition's mission to restore the economy and get people back to work.

"When we entered Government over 18 months ago we committed ourselves to a project of turning the country around and getting it out of the economic mess we found it in and bringing about recovery," he said.

"It's hugely important the country has a stable Government in order to do that."

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