The Taoiseach has offered a strong defence of embattled Health Minister Dr James Reilly amid scandal involving site selections for primary care centres.
Enda Kenny said Dr Reilly was right to add locations to a priority list for the centres - two of which were in his constituency - just hours before the plan was announced.
"Minister Reilly was absolutely correct," Mr Kenny said. "Instead of having just a list of 20, in order to get competition and buy-in from the general practitioners, it was very necessary to have more than 20."
The Taoiseach insisted Dr Reilly had clearly outlined the criteria he used in his decision to add a string of extra locations to the priority list, which was originally drawn up by former junior health minister Roisin Shortall and approved by the Health Service Executive.
He said the minister had also been cleared in a report issued to the secretary general of the Department of Health in October, which found there was no connection between him and the sites in his north Dublin constituency - Balbriggan and Swords - that had been added.
Dr Reilly first came under fire in September when it emerged he amended the priority list without Ms Shortall's knowledge. She was minister of state with responsibility for primary care at the time. The former Labour TD went on to quit her post following a series of rows with her department boss, and later accused him of stroke politics. Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also came under fire from Government backbenchers for defending Dr Reilly amid the controversy - over his then Labour colleague.
Ms Shortall was replaced in the health job by Alex White.
The Taoiseach has continued to defend Dr Reilly, insisting he had every confidence in him. "Minister Reilly has already confirmed on a number of occasions in this House the criteria that were used and were set out for the selection," he said of the primary care centres.
Elsewhere, Dr Reilly rejected calls from Opposition parties Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein for his resignation. The former is to table its second motion of no confidence in the minister - after the required time following its initial motion has lapsed. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams demanded Dr Reilly be sacked if he refuses to stand down.
But the minister said there was no justification for the calls and insisted, given the opportunity, he would make all the same decisions again in relation to the primary care centre furore.