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Varadkar: I don't know if I'll be able to turn the poison chalice into sweet wine

The new Minister for Health says he will need a full financial year to turn the Department around – everything going to plan.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

NEWLY APPOINTED HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar has said he will aiming to turn around the Department of Health’s budget deficit next year, noting that there is not enough time left to do so in 2014.

“In a full financial year, that would be my intention,” he told reporters this evening.

Also speaking to reporters the evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that Irish Water will be brought under the remit of the Department of Finance in the coming months.

He added that he expects former minister Phil Hogan to not to accept government pensions when he takes up his role as  EU Commissioner.

Commenting on the publication of the government’s Statement of Priorities, Kenny said that there are “very serious challenges ahead”, but that Ireland is in a ‘better position to deal with these challenges than three years ago’.

He said the government will have a “renewed vigor and renewed motivation to have these isolated challenges up ahead dealt with decisively”,

Varadkar said that Ireland needs to strive towards a European standard of health care, something we “do not have” right now.

The Minister was appointed to the ministry in today’s reshuffle and said that he always saw himself ending up with the health portfolio at some point in his career, as he holds a degree in medicine.

“I understand the politics of it,” he said, but added that he was “too busy” doing his job to keep as close a watch on it as he might have liked in recent years.

He gave no indication of what future policy he may be pursuing as it was “too early to go into any kind of detail”.

I’m not sure if I’m able to turn the poison chalice into sweet wine, but I’ll do all that I can to improve our health services”

The HSE will need another cash injection before the end of the year.

James Reilly said that the executive was €158 million over budget by the end of May and will need a supplementary budget later in the year.

Reporting by Hugh O’Connell

Read: ‘It’s like an army general giving orders: You do what you’re told’ – Varadkar >

More: Here are 9 things you need to know about the Cabinet reshuffle >

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Nicky Ryan

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