Shortall resigns as minister
on 26/09/2012 19:34:50
Disputes between the pair came to a head in the last week over the siting of primary care centres - a responsibility of the junior minister.
She informed the Government of her decision this evening.
In a statement, Ms Shortall said: "It is with regret that I have today tendered my resignation as Minister of State at the Department of Health to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
"I have also informed the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, that I am resigning the Parliamentary Labour Party whip.
"It is no longer possible for me to fulfil my role as Minister of State for Primary Care because of lack of support for the reforms in the Programme for Government and the values which underpin it.
"The public have a right to expect that decisions on health infrastructure and staffing will be made in the public interest based on health need and not driven by other concerns.
"This decision comes after repeated and lengthy efforts to reach agreement on the implementation of the Programme for Government both within the Department of Health and across Government."
One of Ms Shortall's key reform agendas had been to push for the banning of alcohol advertising in sport.
There was opposition across the backbenches to such a move.
Ms Shortall's relations with Dr Reilly soured increasingly over recent months, first with the Health Service Executive's budget cuts being announced with little consultation with his Labour juniors, followed by the row over primary care.
It deepened after Dr Reilly added two towns in his north Dublin constituency to a priority list for the location of new centres.
The original list, based largely on need in poorer areas, had been drawn up by Ms Shortall. She held two meetings with Dr Reilly over the move.
Shortall is the second Labour junior minister and the fourth member of the Parliamentary Party to go, since the Government took office 18 months ago.
Willie Penrose resigned as Housing Minister in a row over the closure of an army barracks, while Tommy Broughan lost the whip after voting against the Government on the bank guarantee, and Patrick Nulty resigned over cutbacks.
Emmet Stagg, Labour's chief whip, confirmed Ms Shortall would no longer be part of the parliamentary party.
She joins TDs Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty on the sidelines.
"Róisín has been a colleague of mine for many years, and it is a matter of regret that she is stepping down," Mr Stagg said.
"It is very unfortunate that the issues that recently arose within the Department of Health could not be resolved. "
Mr Nulty was the first Labour representative to leap to his colleague's defence.
He said Ms Shortall was dedicated to the creation of equality in the health service and was prepared to stand up to vested interests.
"I have no doubt that Róisín has the support of the Labour Party grass roots," he said.
"The fact that she felt that primary care reform, a hallmark of Labour policy and the programme for government, could not be delivered is a damning indictment on the Minister for Health."
Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail health spokesman, said it was outrageous the coalition allowed Ms Shortall to resign.
"I would have my differences with Róisín Shortall and the Labour Party but she was trying to do her job in good faith," he said.
"In contrast, Minister Reilly's tenure at the Department of Health has been one of disorder, disappointment and dysfunction."
Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain said: "It's Minister Reilly and his cuts regime who should be going, rather than a junior minister.
"Clearly, this is a minister who would not heed the concerns of his own junior ministerial colleague.
"Still less does he heed the growing concerns of patients and healthcare workers across our health system who warn of the damage being done by the relentless cuts."