ONE senior Labour minister described Roisin Shortall’s resignation as “an iconic moment” for the party.
Another senior figure also warned that the party hasn’t grasped “the full implications” and how the crisis was allowed to drift to “the state where a minister who gets the fulsome support of her Tanaiste on a Saturday resigns from government the next Wednesday”.
However, they said the political reality of it is that “the acts and omissions of a Fine Gael minister made it impossible to achieve a Labour core issue and there was no political management of that problem. Roisin, in resigning, was saying that there is a problem with political management at the heart of the Government”.
A second source close to the Cabinet also confirmed that concern was escalating within the party over Mr Gilmore’s management of the Government. They said that, from a Labour perspective, “there appears to be a vacuum of political direction”.
Amid concerns over how “Enda appears to be winning all the battles with Eamon”, another top-level Labour figure noted that “there’s two partners in this Government and there has to be give and take but we have lost two ministries and they have lost none”.
This position was echoed by Labour Senator John Whelan who warned Fine Gael that “the loss of two senior Labour ministers should not be casually dismissed by our partners in Government”.
The leader of the opposition, Micheal Martin, also warned that the resignation of Ms Shortall will have serious consequences for the stability of a Coalition which is increasingly dominated by the senior Fine Gael partner.
“In previous coalitions it was often claimed the Labour tail is wagging the Fine Gael dog but in this case it looks as though the Fine Gael dog has docked the Labour tail,” he said.
“Ms Shortall’s case, he added, “looked like a case where Labour’s values in health, values which Fianna Fail absolutely share, were over-ridden by stroke Fine Gael policies.”
“The most astonishing feature of the Shortall affair was how the Labour ministers abandoned her. We in Fianna Fail were struck by the way they were seen to be falling over themselves to support James Reilly to such an extent Roisin was raising her eyes up to the heavens.
“They appeared to be universally on Fine Gael’s side rather than Labour’s side.”
Ms Shortall resigned her junior ministry three days ago following months of conflict with Mr Reilly.
Her resignation came after a row over his decision to add a number of locations, including two in his own constituency, to a list of proposed primary healthcare centres.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Shortall described the decision by Mr Reilly to include the two centres as stroke politics.
She also said that she felt let down by her colleagues in the Labour Party and that party leader Eamon Gilmore had backed Mr Reilly and not her.
Ms Shortall also said that Minister Reilly blocked many of the reforms that she had tried to implement.
Ms Shortall said she believes Mr Reilly does not subscribe to the Programme for Government and there were fundamental differences between them on how the health service should develop.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore were present at a meeting between Ms Shortall and Mr Reilly, but it failed to resolve the issues.
Ms Shortall also said that Cathal Magee was “driven out of his job” as HSE Chief Executive.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has defended Minister Reilly following Ms Shortall’s criticism.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Fitzgerald said she believed that there was nobody more committed to reforming the health service than Mr Reilly.
She said that the Government will deliver on its commitments in the area of primary care.
Ms Fitzgerald said reforms were being pursued but could not be delivered overnight.
Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said Ms Shortall’s comments provided “an insight into the malaise” in the Department of Health.
Last night Dr Reilly said both Swords, and Balbriggan were recognized as high-priority areas by the HSE five years ago. However, both “lost out” after Minister of State Shortall increased the weighting and they were swept from high priority to low priority. Under the original priority system, Reilly stated they both would have been in the top 35. Conversely, under the new system with an altered weighting system, they ended down the list.”
However, we now know this is a blatant lie as Balbriggan was ranked in forty fourth position and Swords in one hundred and twenty seventh place before Ms. Shortall ordered officials to change the weighting related to deprivation.
MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly and Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall will meet this week after she strongly restated her position in the row over the siting of primary care centres.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday indicated he was satisfied Dr Reilly’s decision to add two towns in his constituency to a priority list of locations based largely on deprivation originally drawn up by Ms Shortall was taken on a “balanced basis”.
Ms Shortall said all decisions must be made in a transparent way after the country had been “profiled” in terms of population and age as well as urban and rural deprivation.
“The guiding concern from my point of view is that resources go where they’re most needed, where there is established health need,” she said.
“We need to identify where are those areas of greatest need and we have very, very good information on that . . . It would be very foolish not to take heed of all of that important data that is available to us.”
She confirmed she had spoken to Dr Reilly yesterday and said they had arranged to meet later in the week.
Mr Gilmore said reports of feuding between the two Ministers were overdone.
“I think some of this can be exaggerated. I think that what we have to be clear about is what we’re trying to do here,” he told reporters in Brussels.