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Taoiseach "dismissed" Shortall's concerns over Reilly's health service reforms

New Health Minister Leo Varadkar was recently told Reilly’s HSE reforms were “unworkable”.

Roisin Shortall
Roisin Shortall
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 7.50pm

THE TAOISEACH ‘EFFECTIVELY dismissed’ the concerns that Deputy Roisín Shortall had over former Health Minister James Reilly’s health reforms, Shortall said today.

The former Labour Junior Minister, who resigned from her post in 2012, spoke to This Week on RTÉ today, saying that she had major concerns about Reilly’s proposed reforms, and that she had brought them to the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2012.

Her comments came after it emerged that a report prepared by Department of Health officials called Reilly’s planned abolition of the Health Service Executive (HSE) “unworkable”.

The report was part of briefing material prepared for Leo Varadkar as he stepped into Reilly’s former role.

Shortall said today that she “wasn’t really surprised” by the contents of the report given to Minister Varadkar.

This is because she “would have had the view for some time that there was very little coherence to the proposals that Minister Reilly had for the Health Service”.

And I found it very difficult to understand exactly his direction of travel in this. It just didn’t hang together and in my view was a recipe for a disjointed health service

Cabinet’s role

She said that in this case, Reilly’s proposals “were in effect approved every step of the way by Cabinet” and there were various different versions of the proposals that were “supported and approved by Cabinet”.

Shortall maintained “there were ample opportunities for Cabinet to satisfy themselves that what James Reilly was proposing was workable and coherent”.

She said that the content of the briefing given to Varadkar “raises huge questions about the level of scrutiny that goes on at Cabinet levels”.

Shortall said she asked James Reilly to show a “roadmap” of how the health service was to get to the reforms. She did an outline herself of how she saw things “shaping up”, which she gave to Reilly.

It took 10 months to get a response from Reilly and his advisor on this, she said.

Bringing concerns to the Taoiseach

Shortall documented her concerns in a paper which she brought to her then party leader, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who suggested they sit down with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Reilly.

They all met in July 2012, but Shortall said she “didn’t get much of a hearing” and “those serious concerns [that she had] were essentially dismissed by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste”.

Shortall said that Kenny “didn’t engage really on any of the issues”.

“We didn’t have a satisfactory policy discussion,” she said. She left the document with Kenny and Gilmore, but didn’t hear anything further.

Health service

Shortall said that doesn’t “hold any candle to the HSE” but that “you can’t break up an organisation like that without it causing huge difficulty”.

She said that Varadkar has had a good start in the Health Department, but he has inherited a lot of serious problems there.

The Taoiseach’s office has been contacted for a comment.

First published 5.05pm

Read: Pressure on Reilly after officials call his HSE reforms ‘unworkable’>

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