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The Dail: Ireland's national parliament

Irish election looms as gulf widens between Coalition parties on health service cutbacks

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The Dail: Ireland's national parliament

Ireland is on the brink of a snap general election as tensions mount between the Coalition parties over savage health cuts.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party are at war over plans to implement massive budget cutbacks in the health service.

And opposition party Fianna Fail have added fuel to the fire by signalling their intent to hold a vote of no confidence in health minister James Reilly.

The Cabinet returns to work on Tuesday after the summer break with deputies from both sides admitting that tensions are running high.

Labour Party sources have even speculated that the government will not survive between now and the December budget over the health plans.

Labour’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin met with Fine Gael Minister Reilly over the weekend to try and ease the conflict between the Coalition partners on the issue, according to a report in the Irish Times.

Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney had suggested that it was time to prepare for an early election.

In response, Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan called for calm.

He told the Irish Times: “Fine Gael and Labour have signed off on the programme for government in full knowledge of the fiscal position and with their eyes wide open.

“Now is not the time for Colm Keaveney to contemplate the panic button and manufacture instability even before the most challenging budgetary choices in the State’s history have begun to be debated by government.

“While there would certainly be difficulties in agreeing a budget, it was premature and unwise to speculate about the demise of the Government.”

In the interview, Flanagan also defended Reilly, saying it was unfair to single out an individual Minister.

Keaveney however has reiterated his opposition to the proposed health cuts.

He said: “It is the responsibility of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and the Tánaiste (Deputy PM) to address the issue at Cabinet tomorrow and remove the perception that the cuts are unjust and unfair.

“What alarms me is the lack of communication among senior Ministers of the Government. This kind of approach chips away incrementally at the stability of the Government."

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