Belfast Telegraph

Leaders dismiss resignation rift

Coalition government leaders have been forced to dismiss claims of a damaging rift over the resignation of a health chief.

Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore admitted he only learned of the departure of the Health Service Executive chief Cathal Magee through media reports on Tuesday morning.

Mr Gilmore revealed that he "had words" with health minister Dr James Reilly, who knew about the resignation but did not discuss it with Labour ministers.

"I heard it on the news," Mr Gilmore said. "I think it is regrettable that the information was leaked out in that way. I have spoken with Minister Reilly about it and I'm confident it's never going to arise again."

But Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that just because the political heavyweights had words did not mean they were angry ones. Labour's junior ministers at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch and Roisin Shortall were also in the dark about the big management change. And as the two coalition leaders marked the second phase of their Action Plan for Jobs claiming a 93% success rate, they dismissed claims of tensions.

Mr Gilmore said there were no difficulties between Dr Reilly and his juniors, while Mr Kenny insisted that all cabinet relationships were professional.

"In any department you're going to have good days and not so good days," Mr Kenny said. "In the case of the minister for health and his two junior ministers, there is a very professional relationship."

Mr Magee's intention to give up his chief executive post at the HSE, less than two years after taking the job, emerged on Tuesday. Dr Reilly and the Taoiseach were initially forced to reject accusations that the minister "shoved" Mr Magee from the position before suggestions that the Labour half of the coalition was not briefed on the change.

Mr Magee has said that his decision to step down was due to a restructuring of the HSE and nothing else. The Government has pledged to abolish the HSE, which will see a new director general and seven directorates for different departments in the health sector.

Later, Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain accused the Tanaiste of insulting the Dail by not revealing there first where he heard of Mr Magee's resignation. "It is quite extraordinary that both the Labour Party Tanaiste and Labour Minister for Health Roisin Shortall learned of this major development through the media," he said. "Is this the way the coalition Cabinet deals with vital issues of healthcare in this state? Not only do the coalition parties seem at odds over the management of our health services, they seem to be incapable of communicating with one another."


From Belfast Telegraph