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Reilly fights for survival in row over Shortall exit

HEALTH Minister James Reilly faces a tough battle to convince his own party that he should hold on to his portfolio.

The embattled minister will get a chance to face down his critics in Fine Gael tomorrow as the fallout continues over Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall's resignation.

But sources say that he will not be given an easy ride. While Taoiseach Enda Kenny now wants the controversy to fade away, Fine Gael TDs are now rounding on Reilly.

And the Labour hierarchy wants new Junior Health Minister Alex White to get to the bottom of the criteria used by Dr Reilly to pick the locations for primary care centres, which saw two towns in the health minister's constituency added to the list.


"The pressure won't lift off James Reilly for a while," explained a source. "He might have thought that Roisin Shortall's resignation would have allowed him get back to normal but there are still questions."

Mr Kenny has insisted Dr Reilly has the "full support and confidence" of the Government.

But within Fine Gael, European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton followed Transport Minister Leo Varadkar in expressing reservations about Dr Reilly's decision.

Ms Creighton wants more clarity from Dr Reilly on the process of selecting the list of primary care centres.

Mr Varadkar admitted last week that Dr Reilly's addition of two towns in his constituency looked like stroke politics.

Fine Gael TDs and Senators will put their concerns directly to Dr Reilly tomorrow when he appears before a special meeting of the party's internal health committee on primary care.

Ms Shortall claimed her reforms of the health service were blocked by Dr Reilly in an interview on RTE Radio.

She said there had been a "drift" in commitments made for the health service and that Dr Reilly was going "in a whole different direction" towards the American, business-based style of healthcare.

She also said her attempts at reform were "running into the sand."

"There are choices here," she said. "You can tackle the unacceptable drugs bill - we're paying far too much for drugs - or you can cut home help services. "You can tackle consultants' pay and put a cap on pay, or you can impose charges on people with medical cards. There are all kinds of choices."

Her replacement, incoming Junior Health Minister Alex White said he has no reason to believe Dr Reilly acted improperly over the allocation of primary care centres.

The Dublin South TD said transparency was essential when making reforms.

Dr Reilly's spokesman has defended the Minister from Ms Shortall's claims, saying it was she who was questioning the Programme for Government.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused Dr Reilly of having "misled" the Dail.

"He needs to come clean on how he selected the extra 15 locations," he added.