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Labour elder supports Shortall, slams leadership

Labour elder supports Shortall, slams leadership

Áine Ryan

COUNTY Mayo’s senior Labour Party figure has said that Róisín Shortall represents ‘the heart and soul of the party throughout the country’.  He has also endorsed the passing of a motion of support for the former junior minister by the Westport branch of the Labour Party. 
Castlebar-based Johnny Mee was a Labour county councillor for over 20 years until his retirement in 2009 and mayor of the county town on six occasions.
He said yesterday that he ‘fully supported’ the Westport branch’s motion, adding that he was ‘very angry and disappointed at the manner in which she was treated’. He has accused her senior party colleagues of ‘casting her to the wind’.
“Róisín Shortall represents the heart and soul of Labour throughout the country. It is patently clear that James Reilly has fallen out with more than his former junior minister. The evidence is there with the resignation during the summer of Cathal Magee [the former chief executive of the HSE].”
He continued: “In my view the minister has adopted a dictatorial attitude and it is past time that Labour asserts itself at cabinet level. I think that the fall-out from this will damage the Labour Party into the future.”
Mr Mee said there was widespread ‘outrage and anger’ on the ground at Róisín Shortall’s treatment by the party hierarchy.
Meanwhile, Westport’s Labour Town Councillor Keith Martin confirmed that a motion he proposed supporting Ms Shortall was passed at a Westport branch meeting held last week.
“It was regrettable that such an able and hard-working member of the government felt the need to resign. Minister Shortall had been a driving force for reform and proper healthcare delivery and it was a sad day for the government and the Labour Party that she felt the need to resign,” Cllr Martin said.
The motion’s seconder, John Tiernan said: “It is important that lessons are learned from this regrettable resignation so that the Labour Party can concentrate on delivering in government and that Labour ministers felt they had the full support of their Labour colleagues and those in Fine Gael.”
Speaking at the meeting also, David Fallon, a candidate in the 2009 local elections, observed that: “Coalition government was not an easy alliance, but  both parties must work together to ensure that policies and personalities do not clash to the detriment of the citizen.”

FORMER Junior Minister Róisín Shortall’s shock resignation on Wednesday last was the culmination of a series of differences with Minister for Health, James Reilly. The Sunday Times recently revealed that there had been tensions for months over key policy initiatives, including the provision of 300 primary-care posts, free GP care for illness-benefit recipients and mental-health services.
Freedom of Information documents confirmed that Shortall had serious reservations about the fact that James Reilly had added 15 new locations – two of which were in his own constituency – to a list of 20 proposed primary care centres.
Despite the tensions, Ms Shortall, while listing a litany of failures in the department,  supported the government two weeks ago after Fianna Fáil tabled a motion of no confidence in Minister Reilly.
Colleagues believed this was a sign that she would stay the course, despite her difficulties.
However, last Wednesday, without any reported consultation with her Labour Party colleagues in government, she resigned.
In her first public interview on Saturday last, she told Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio One, that she believed his inclusion of the two primary centres in Dr Reilly’s constituency was ‘stroke politics’.
She accused him of not adhering to the Programme for Government, instead pursuing a business model ‘rather than a service that puts patients at its core’.

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