| 15.4°C Dublin

Kenny to lay down law to bickering TDs

ENDA Kenny was today "laying down the gauntlet" and demanding an end to ministers' in-fighting at the first cabinet meeting since the summer break.

The Taoiseach was due to deliver a firm rebuke to bickering ministers and stand by James Reilly following the storm surrounding health cuts.

Tensions are rife between Fine Gael and Labour over what senior coalition sources have described as a "disastrous performance" by the Health Minister.

Dr Reilly, who has gone to ground in recent days, was set to receive an icy reaction from his cabinet colleagues.

The tensions stem from last week's announcement that €130m worth of additional health cuts are on the table.

The news sent Labour deputies into a complete panic, with party sources claiming that the cuts have plunged coalition relations to a new low.

However the Herald understands that the Taoiseach was this morning due to deliver a firm rebuke to bickering ministers and issue his support to his deputy leader, Dr Reilly.

"The Taoiseach is just keen to calm everybody down now. It's not the return he would have wanted. Traditionally the summer recess is supposed to be a break from the controversy but this has all blown up at the last minute," a source said.

"For the minute, Kenny will stick by James Reilly. He will tell ministers that there is no need to press the panic button and they need to stick together."

Mr Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are expected to convey a "united front" and urge ministers to focus on surviving a full term.

Mr Gilmore is keen to avoid a backlash from Labour backbenchers, particularly as preparations for one of the harshest budgets in Ireland's history step up a gear.

A significant section of the Cabinet meeting will be devoted to a progress report on the Children's Referendum from minister Frances Fitzgerald. This is one issue on which the Taoiseach believes that the cabinet can be united.

Meanwhile, Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton has criticised backbenchers over their "whingeing" surrounding the €130m cuts.

"Whingeing and pretending that you were surprised by budget figures that were agreed last December is not really credible," Ms Creighton said.

"We all went into the Dail chamber and voted for it. So let's have the courage to stand over what we voted for last December."