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James Reilly and Fergus O'Dowd Photocall Ireland
Catherine Murphy

"James Reilly is a reforming minister" says ministerial colleague

Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd defends James Reilly’s handling of Health – and despite reports of €1 billion of total cuts, says some areas are improving.

THE BESIEGED HEALTH Minister has been called “a reforming minister” by one of his government colleagues.

Fergus O’Dowd, Minister of State for the NewEra project, told RTÉ One’s The Week in Politics that James Reilly had been relatively successful in his ministerial post.

“Minister Reilly is a reforming minister,” said O’Dowd. He contrasted the landscape of the health system now with that of the Fianna Fáil era, saying: “Compared to when Fianna Fáil were in power, the number of people on trolleys – which is a major issue – has reduced nationally by 33 per cent. In my own hospital, the Lourdes hospital in Drogheda, the figures are down 54 per cent. That is a very significant change.”

A front page report on the Sunday Business Post today claims that huge cuts to health services – and not just reform – will be necessary to reach the reduced Health budget next year. While the stated figure of cuts is €666 million, it was reported last week that the figure could be closer to €1 billion.

Responding to this claim and to reports on pressure being put on James Reilly to make the cuts, O’Dowd said:

It’s a very difficult job we have, we’re doing it extremely well. Minister Howlin is meeting bilaterally with every minister, including Minister Reilly, in relation to the Budget.

Willie O’Dea, FF spokesperson for social affairs, said: “I’m trying to get my head around another billion being taken out of Health as it is at the moment. It’s inconceivable.”

He also highlighted the reports emanating from around Health as indicative of Reilly’s unpopularity among his own colleagues. O’Dea claimed that “the majority of the leaks seem to be coming from his Cabinet colleagues”. He added:

There seems to be a conspiracy somehow at Cabinet level to do down Mr Reilly.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy claimed that Health had been “badly administered” and that the health boards had not essentially been phased out but that they were “still there – with the HSE on top”.

She added: “You’re being asked to do more with so much less. The well has run dry.”

O’Dowd insisted that the government’s policies were working. He said:

The reason we are in this situation is because of the troika. We are balancing our budgets.

He continued: “The government’s policies are working. Three thousand people are getting jobs every month versus seven thousand losing their jobs when Willie was in power.”

Tánaiste and Howlin insist: James Reilly is doing a very good job>
“I think it’s a bit rich of Micheál Martin” – James Reilly resists calls to resign>

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