Fine Gael TDs want 'naive' James Reilly to be axed
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is facing a revolt from his own TDs who are demanding he sack embattled Health Minister James Reilly.
With Fine Gael losing over 100 council seats in last month's election, TDs have vented their fury at Mr Kenny for "the political naivety and incompetence" shown by Dr Reilly, Environment Minister Phil Hogan and former Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
While any changes in the ministerial ranks are unlikely until after the Labour Party decides upon its new leader, some in Fine Gael have lashed out at Mr Kenny for tolerating "dead weight" at ministerial level who he appointed because of "loyalty, not merit".
The Irish Independent spoke to more than 20 FG ministers and TDs over the weekend, with near universal agreement that Dr Reilly must be moved out of the Department of Health.
At last week's meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, more than 30 TDs and senators spoke of their anger at the failure of Dr Reilly and his fellow cabinet ministers to heed warnings about the medical card review.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Waterford TD John Deasy said: “Some of the political naivety and incompetence shown by a couple of ministers has been staggering.”
Others pointed the blame directly at James Reilly.
Carlow Kilkenny TD Pat Deering said the medical cards issue was “the final straw” in terms of confidence in the minister.
“The general mood is that he should go, he hasn't acquitted himself at all well. The medical card was the last straw. I brought a motion to deal with this months ago; I was laughed at.”
Cork South West TD Jim Daly said Mr Kenny must not repeat the mistake of appointing people out of loyalty, but must promote on merit.
“There is a lot of dead weight at senior ministerial level. I am concerned at the level of dead wood. Reilly got it wrong on the medical cards and it has caused a lot of problems,” he told the Irish Independent.
Another of the so-called five-a-side gang, Galway East TD Paul Connaughton, said a reshuffle of key ministries including health was needed to restore lost focus, expressing his deep disappointment at how the medical card issue was handled.
“We went six months and were ignored on the medical cards issue; it was very disappointing.”
Kerry South TD Brendan Griffin urged Mr Kenny to rid the Cabinet of troublesome elements.
“Confidence has been lost in a couple of ministers. It would be remiss of me not to admit that. The Government needs a radical reshuffle. People have voted for new TDs but that hasn't happened at Cabinet. It can't just be a change of three or four ministers, it needs to be more sweeping than that.”
Speaking specifically about Dr Reilly, Mr Griffin said: “The Minister for Health must know what he needs to run his budget. If I was screwed over the way he was, I would have walked.”
Martin Heydon, the Kildare South TD, said: “Of course the way the medical card thing was handled cost us seats. We have scored a number of own goals. We need to get our act together.”
One minister said: “He [Reilly] has to go. If he is not taken out, then it will cost us the general election. The confidence is totally gone in him.”
Almost all of the TDs spoken to accepted that the medical cards issue in health, the water charges controversy and the justice scandals cost the party council seats, and are demanding fresh blood at the Cabinet.
Even some Fine Gael ministers, while publicly offering some comfort to Dr Reilly, spoke of their frustration on the medical card issue.
Junior Minister for Sport Michael Ring said: “I want the medical card fiasco sorted out. I feel sorry for James Reilly because as a party we let him down in the Budget last year by not protecting him.
“But we need to sort out this holy mess or it is an issue that could lose us the election.”