herald

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Cabinet tensions soar in bitter Reilly, Burton feud

COALITION: Kenny under pressure to act over sniping

THE COALITION has been rocked by sniping ministers who are lining up to bad mouth each other.

Fresh tensions between Fine Gael and Labour have emerged, with Health Minister James Reilly and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton in the firing line.

Sources say there has been "significant" clashes at the Cabinet table, with Dr Reilly said to have "alienated" himself from several Labour colleagues.

The row stems back to the 'kite-flying' performed by Dr Reilly in advance of the Budget.

The Herald first revealed last month how other ministers were "astonished" and "annoyed" after he suggested a series of unlikely Budget initiatives, including an annual charge for medical cards.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny may now be forced to intervene in the turf wars, with a full-blown Cabinet row looming unless tensions are eased. The ministers in control of the Government's two largest departments -- Joan Burton and James Reilly -- are at loggerheads over where the austerity axe fell.

It has emerged that the pair have been involved in heated exchanges at the Cabinet table, with fears growing that the row will cause a spilt in the Coalition. Ms Burton is the second Labour minister to be alienated by Dr Reilly, after it emerged he is barely on speaking terms with his junior health minister, Roisin Shortall. Ms Burton and Ms Shortall have been longtime friends in Leinster House.

"They have always been friends but they have become closer since being made ministers. Roisin (Shortall) will always back Joan (Burton) up and vice versa," a Coalition source told the Herald.







Struggle

It has emerged that Ms Burton is also struggling to hold down good relationships among her colleagues, with one minister claiming she has managed to "burn sympathy".

Reports at the weekend claimed that she has also developed a fraught relationship with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton over the issue of employee sick pay.

Pressure was today mounting on Enda Kenny to deal with the row before a full-blown Cabinet war erupts. The fresh feuds follow previous revelations by the Herald that Dr Reilly sparked pre-Budget rows with Ms Shortall and Finance Minister Michael Noonan over his alleged "scaremongering" and leaking of "fantasy" Budget measures into the public domain.

Dr Reilly's antics are continuing to unnerve his Cabinet colleagues with question marks being raised over his ability to control such a difficult portfolio. One minister claimed that his pre-Budget performance has "cost him credibility".

Another suggested that Dr Reilly's political inexperience was causing problems. Just last week, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney admitted that tensions existed at the Cabinet table.

"There has been friction. There are some very strong personalities in both parties," he said. Transport Minister Leo Varadkar also pointed to "personality clashes".

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