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Does Roisin Shortall have confidence in James Reilly?

The junior health minister is asked – FOUR times – whether she has confidence in her superior, and doesn’t say Yes…

Relations between Roisin Shortall and James Reilly are thought to have become strained since their appointment 16 months ago.
Relations between Roisin Shortall and James Reilly are thought to have become strained since their appointment 16 months ago.
Image: Photocall Ireland

FIANNA FÁIL HAS called for clarification on the “policy differences” that exist between the Minister for Health, James Reilly, and a junior minister at his Department.

The call follows Roisin Shortall’s refusal to state her confidence in Reilly in a radio interview this morning – instead repeatedly saying that she and Reilly “need to work through the policy”.

The interview, on Newstalk’s Breakfast show, saw host Chris Donoghue ask Shortall on four occasions whether she had full confidence in James Reilly, following revelations about health overspending and the departure of HSE chief executive Cathal Magee.

“We have a working relationship within the Department,” she said the first time, saying Reilly had “his areas of responsibility, I have my areas of responsibility, as does [the other junior minister] Kathleen Lynch… we work on that”.

Pressed a second time, Shortall said:

We need to work through some of the policy issues, there’s no doubt about that… I think we need to communicate better on that. [...]

There is no room for personality differences.

Asked again, the Labour minister merely affirmed that the two “need to work through the policy in relation to the future of the health service.” When questioned a fourth time, she said: “We need to work through the policy.”

The Dublin North-West TD had earlier said it was “very wrong to think that [any disputes between herself and Reilly] is a personality issue”, saying the two dealt with each other “on a professional level”.

This is not about personality. That’s a kind of lazy way of addressing the issue. This is about the kind of health service that we have.

Tensions between the pair had been underlined last week when Shortall issued an individual press release following news of Magee’s departure, saying she regretted learning “from media reports” that Magee was to step down.

This evening Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher insisted there was a “growing gulf” between the pair, which was worrying given the “chaos” in the sector at present.

“Minister Shortall has now admitted that his is not about a personality difference between herself and Minister Reilly, but that significant ‘policy issues’ need to be worked through,” Kelleher said.

“Patients will be alarmed that there are such fundamental differences between the Ministers running, and supposedly reforming, their health services.”

Kelleher called for the two to meet and discuss their disagreements as a matter of urgency.

Read: “We’re drinking too much as a country” – Shortall confirms alcohol restrictions

Poll: Will the coalition government last until 2016?

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Gavan Reilly

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