| 6.3°C Dublin

Gilmore's bid to keep Labour happy over children's hospital

EAMON Gilmore has moved to pacify his backbenchers by not letting Health Minister James Reilly go it alone on the proposed children's hospital.

It has emerged that the Labour leader has been actively carrying out his own research on the best site for the development.

The Tanaiste has been in direct contact with a number of parties vying to land the lucrative contract in what is being viewed as a blatant bypassing of the Health Minister.

Roisin Shortall's departure from the Department of Health caused ructions within the Labour Party with many backbenchers seething over the way she was treated.

The move over the children's hospital is being viewed by sources close to Mr Gilmore as a strong attempt to "reassert himself" following Ms Shortall's shock resignation as junior Health Minister last month.

Senior coalition sources confirmed to the Herald that Mr Gilmore has been in contact with some bidders in advance of the Cabinet's discussion on the proposed facility next week.

The race for the facility is neck-and-neck between St James's Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, with The Coombe in third place and the original site in the Mater Hospital back in fourth.

Labour figures today admitted that Mr Gilmore's actions are the "strongest indication yet" that the Labour leader lacks trust in his ministerial colleague.

By lobbying bidders directly, Mr Gilmore is "regaining respect internally", sources say.

Mr Gilmore is set to meet Dr Reilly and Taoiseach Enda Kenny later this week prior to next week's full Cabinet meeting.

However, Fianna Fail Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher has weighed into the controversy on the children's hospital, saying there has been a "fundamental breakdown in trust" at the heart of Government.

Deputy Kelleher said: "If these reports this morning are correct, the Tanaiste has not only sought to undermine the position of James Reilly but also the independent process engaged through the Dolphin Report."

Meanwhile, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has rejected any suggestion of a rift between Labour Ministers and Dr Reilly.

The Education Minister said a decision on the children's hospital would be made in the next few weeks.