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Reilly and Shortall are 'barely talking'

TWO Government ministers are barely on talking terms, it has emerged.

A "significant rift" has developed in the Department of Health between Fine Gael's James Reilly and Labour's Roisin Shortall.

The Herald previously revealed how Ms Shortall was deeply unhappy with her counterpart's handling of the Budget cuts.

And now it has emerged that Dr Reilly has on occasion ignored phone calls from his junior minister.

The pair have been reduced to communicating via email in recent weeks, according to sources.

Ms Shortall has written to Dr Reilly complaining about his failure to return her calls several times on an issue that related to her area of responsibility for primary care.

The spat first emerged last month when Ms Shortall broke ranks to publicly criticise Dr Reilly for "kite-flying" ahead of the Budget.

Dr Reilly had warned that a €50 medical card tax, a hike in prescription charges and the widespread closure of hospitals could be part of the Budget.

Ms Shortall responded by saying:"I think it has caused a lot of alarm and concern among older people in particular, people who very much depend on medical cards and I think it is unfortunate that has happened."

The Department of Health did face the biggest raft of cutbacks in the Budget -- but none of the above measures were included.

Prior to the Budget controversy, the pair also clashed over fees for GPs administering the winter flu vaccine.

Dr Reilly slashed the fee for family doctors involved in the vaccination campaign by a third from €42 to €28.

But Ms Shortall was left out of the loop, even though GP care is part of her job.

She went as far as writing to Dr Reilly to "express my entire dissatisfaction" with the way the issue was handled and how it was "completely unacceptable" for her to be excluded.