As Dr Reilly defended his decision to add two locations in his constituency to a priority list for primary care centres, Ms Shortall publicly called on him to explain his rationale. Three times when questioned by reporters yesterday, she declined to express confidence in the Minister.
There were no contacts between the two politicians yesterday.
The controversy has heightened tensions within Labour, with senior party figures saying they supported his decision to add further locations to the original list prepared by Ms Shortall. Last night, however, Labour chairman Colm Keaveney said the party grassroots strongly supported Ms Shortall in her differences with Dr Reilly. Mr Keaveney said he had been inundated with calls from members praising the Minister of State for her Dáil speech. “They’re telling me she delivered her message with dignity, honesty and self-criticism and that she was faithful to her values.”
They’re calling him Reilly: Ace of Lies.
This week’s motion of no confidence in the Minister for Health is the only credible response to the reality of what is happening under James Reilly. Before the election he personally led a deeply cynical campaign on health. He promised that he and Fine Gael would make sure that no one lost any services and a whole new set of free services would be provided.
After running a briefing campaign to protect his budget he announced that he had enough money to fully deliver his service commitments.
We never believed this and have been relentless during this year in questioning him about services and budgets. He repeatedly assured us and the Dáil that everything was fine under his personal management. He repeated like a mantra that frontline services were being protected.
This was untrue and health services are now being subject to a round of mean-spirited emergency cuts which Minister Reilly was denying while already implementing them.
Before the full force of his management has had its impact, waiting lists are rising, services are being closed and there is a deep sense of despair in the sector.
There is no precedent for a situation where the Taoiseach praises a minister for being brave in reversing cuts while the Minister is still claiming that the cuts never existed.
The Fianna Fáil motion was brought before the Dáil by the party’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher who criticised Reilly for what he said was an unsustainable and “dishonest” health budget proposed last year.
The heated debate was notable for the considerable criticism levelled at Fianna Fáil by Reilly himself, Fine Gael TDs, and Labour minister Rabbitte for the opposition party’s handling of the health service while in government between 1997 and 2011.
“Because of your incompetence and inability to deliver a budget and manage a budget you had people outside government buildings protesting because their personal assistance was being withdrawn,” Kelleher said referring to the disability protests in Dublin a fortnight ago.
During the debate the issue of Reilly’s relationship with the junior ministers in his department arose with Kelleher claiming that the minister does not have “confidence among your cabinet colleagues”.
The government majority means that the motions are unlikely to pass; however the move puts pressure on Labour backbenchers who are believed to be unhappy with Reilly’s swingeing cuts to the health service.
Micheál Martin said at the Fianna Fáil think-in yesterday that the no confidence motion was “the only credible response” to Reilly’s tenure as Minister for Health.
Martin criticised Reilly’s lack of action of cutting waiting lists and introducing free GP care. The Fianna Fáil leader also hit out at Reilly’s attempts to bring in “mean-spirited” cuts to the health service.
“There is no precedent for a situation where the Taoiseach praises a minister for being brave in reversing cuts while the Minister is still claiming that the cuts never existed,” said Martin.
He [Reilly] will no doubt turn up during the debate to announce that his failures are everyone else’s fault. His colleagues will engage in their usual game of attacking the opposition. But they’ll fool no one and the cold, hard facts of their promises set against the reality will be even clearer than before.
It is likely that the government will table its own motion expressing confidence in the Minister this week.