The Taoiseach has expressed confidence in Health Minister James Reilly and said it was time for the new ministerial team in the Department of Health to get on with implementing the Programme for Government.

Enda Kenny said that he had not heard Roisin Shortall's interview on RTÉ Radio where she was critical of Mr Reilly and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

But Mr Kenny said he had thanked her for her work as Minister of State.

Mr Kenny declined to comment when asked if he had considered moving Mr Reilly from the department.

Asked about the addition of two towns in Minister Reilly's constituency to the list of primary care centres, Mr Kenny said the minister had outlined the situation in the Dáil.

Mr Reilly rejected a claim by Ms Shortall that he was not adhering to the Programme for Government.

She also said she had serious concerns about his ability to manage the health service.

In a statement issued from Dr Reilly's spokesman this afternoon, he said that it was Ms Shortall who questions the Programme for Government.

He said: "In her final words in her recent Dáil statement, Ms Shortall asked whether we should have a social insurance model or a commercial insurance model in establishing Universal Health Insurance.

"On page 34 of the Programme for Government, agreed by Labour and Fine Gael, is the following commitment - "Everyone will have a choice between competing insurers".

"It has already been agreed by both parties that Universal Health Insurance with competing insurance companies provides the best method for developing a single tier health service with a dynamic for reducing costs and increasing efficiency. This (is) in the best interests of patients."

Ms Shortall resigned her junior ministry three days ago following months of conflict with Mr Reilly.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Shortall also said that she felt let down by her colleagues in the Labour Party and that party leader Eamon Gilmore had backed Mr Reilly and not her.

She also said that Mr Reilly blocked many of the reforms that she had tried to implement.

Ms Shortall also told Marian Finucane that Cathal Magee was "driven out of his job" as HSE Chief Executive.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald defended Mr Reilly following Ms Shortall's criticism.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Fitzgerald said she believed that there was nobody more committed to reforming the health service than Mr Reilly.

She said that the Government will deliver on its commitments in the area of primary care.

Ms Fitzgerald said reforms were being pursued but could not be delivered overnight.

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher said Ms Shortall's comments provided "an insight into the malaise" in the Department of Health.

No going back on bank debt decision - Taoiseach

In his speech to the Fine Gael Presidential dinner, the Taoiseach said the relationship between him and the Tánaiste was "absolutely focused" on implementing the Programme for Government.

Enda Kenny said this was the time for courage, for decisiveness, for strength and firmness of purpose, saying the Government would work unceasingly at home and abroad in the people's interest.

Referring to June's agreement on bank debt, he said there was no going back from a formal decision made by the heads of government.

Mr Kenny said he expected December's Budget to be the most challenging of the Government's term of office.

He said children need to be protected and have their rights respected, and that was what the children's referendum was about. It was an important statement of "who we are as a people, and of our values".

Mr Kenny said he would shortly establish a Strategy Committee to prepare for the local and European elections in 2014.