Tánaiste: FF stance on health service 'hypocrisy'

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore launched a blistering attack on Fianna Fáil after the party warned it would table a motion of no confidence in Health Minister James Reilly.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore launched a blistering attack on Fianna Fáil after the party warned it would table a motion of no confidence in Health Minister James Reilly.

In a display of coalition unity, the Labour leader defended the Fine Gael TD and accused the Opposition party of hypocrisy over its criticism of the health service.

“They left this country in horrific debt and, in particular, their handling of the health service was appalling,” said the Tánaiste.

“So what Fianna Fáil have to say about the health service is just a pure act of hypocrisy.”

Mr Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are expected to reinforce the importance of a united front at the Government’s first Cabinet meeting in six weeks’ time.

Senior figures in the coalition have played down rumours of a rift between the parties when some TDs spoke out over Minister Reilly’s plans to slash €130m from health services.

Ministers are expected to discuss Dr Reilly’s proposed cuts to health services at Cabinet, along with other details involving the 2013 Budget.

Before going into the meeting, the Taoiseach said they had a packed agenda with serious work ahead.

“The silly season is over,” said Mr Kenny.

“The Government has a really packed agenda with very difficult decisions and choices to make and challenging times ahead.”

Yesterday, opposition parties Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin called on the minister to resign amid claims he is not fit to continue serving in his role.

They have accused Dr Reilly of attacking the vulnerable with his latest raft of measures, and also criticised his recent handling of the resignation of former Health Service Executive chief Cathal Magee.

They warned they would both table a motion of no confidence in Dr Reilly which, if passed, cannot force him to step down but would put pressure on his party to consider his position.

While the Taoiseach and Tánaiste insisted coalition relations are good, several backbenchers – Ray Butler and John O’Mahony of Fine Gael and Labour’s Brendan Ryan, Aodhan O Riordain and Michael McNamara – criticised cuts to frontline services.

He warned the forthcoming Budget, which will be announced in December, will be the most difficult this Government has faced.

The Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin are expected to announce savings of €3.6bn in tax hikes and spending cuts.

Within the Department of Health, Dr Reilly has proposed to scale back frontline services. Home help and home care, agency work and overtime will be among the worst hit in the string of cuts, which could see older people and the disabled hit particularly hard.

There will also be 50,000 fewer medical card holders.

Dr Reilly has also said savings could not be properly addressed without looking at Croke Park, the 2009 agreement which guaranteed public sector reform in return for core pay being protected.

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