Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has asked whether the Labour Party has confidence in Health Minister James Reilly and has called for clarity from the party leadership.
His call comes following the refusal of Deputy Leader Joan Burton to express confidence in the Minister on two separate occasions this morning, repeated claims from Minister Róisín Shortall that she was not consulted about the recent cuts to disabled care, and the total silence of Minister Kathleen Lynch even though mental health funding has been raided to pay for Minister Reilly’s budgetary bungling.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The Labour Party’s position on James Reilly is quickly descending into a farce. At the weekend, we watched as senior Labour Ministers whispered to journalists that he was the weakest link and would have to go. We heard the Party Chairman warn that a General Election could be on the cards because of Reilly’s blundering.
“This week, a u-turn on one small part of his assault of the elderly and disabled is seized on as evidence of Labour’s relevance in Government, only for that to unravel hours later as we learn that the new mental health budget is to be raided in order to plug the budget gaps caused by Minister Reilly’s mismanagement.
“Today, the Labour Party Deputy Leader and senior Minister Joan Burton is pressed to express confidence in James Reilly on RTÉ Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast and refuses on both. Meanwhile, Minister Shortall claims again she was ignored in the cuts process and Minister Lynch says nothing.
“Yet still, despite all this and despite their bluster while in Opposition about free votes in confidence motions about health issues, we can safely assume that the massed ranks of the Labour Party will meekly line up behind James Reilly and express their support for him and his decisions when Fianna Fáil’s motion of no confidence is tabled in the Dáil.
“But the Labour Party still has the chance to retain some shred of integrity in this crisis. Instead of the whispered media briefings and the clever side-stepping of straight questions about whether or not they have confidence in James Reilly, they could simply make their position clear. Minister Reilly is no longer in charge because of his blatant errors and the list of u turns that will be necessary has not finished yet.
“They either support the leadership and decision making of James Reilly, in which case they will enthusiastically defeat our motion of no confidence when it is tabled. Or, they do not believe he is the right person to lead the Health Service, they make this clear, and there will be no need for a confidence motion by the time the Dáil returns.”