Westmeath and Longford fare worst in Lottery funds from Health

Reilly’s constituency of north Dublin had 19 successful applications

 Dr James Reilly  approved 17 projects for payment that had not been recommended by officials. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Dr James Reilly approved 17 projects for payment that had not been recommended by officials. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 01:00

Counties Westmeath and Longford fared worst in the distribution of National Lottery funding from the Department of Health when James Reilly was minister, internal figures show.

Co Westmeath had the smallest number of successful grant applications, at three, with a total value of €28,500, between 2011 and 2013.

Co Longford had four successful applications, but their total value came to just €20,000.

Co Kilkenny also had four successful applications, with a total value of €595,000, while counties Carlow, Cavan, Leitrim and Offaly notched up five grants each over the period.

Dr Reilly’s constituency of north Dublin had 19 successful applications, worth almost €500,000.

Co Mayo had 17 grants worth a total of €461,000.

Dr Reilly approved 17 projects for payment that had not been recommended by officials. The former minister for health signed off on €50,000 for North Fingal Rural Community Transport Ltd, €20,000 for Nurture Post Natal Depression Support Services, based in Rush, north Co Dublin, and €10,500 for Donabate Portrane Senior Citizens, also in north Dublin, all against the recommendation of officials.

The biggest grant allocation approved by the former health minister against the recommendation of officials was the €185,000 paid to mental health group Shine.

Dr Reilly increased the amount payed to an approved application in 26 cases.

The biggest increase in support went to Home Share Clare, which was approved by officials for €15,000 but was awarded €35,000 by the then minister.

Two of the organisations on this list are based in north Dublin: Dr Reilly increased the grant to Snowflakes Autism Support from €1,000 to €7,500, and for Littlesteps Drama Group from €5,000 to €7,500.

An analysis by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last May found Dr Reilly’s constituency, Dublin North, was twice as likely as any other to get funding in 2011 and 2012.

In the Department of Children, the analysis found the average success rate for an application almost doubled when followed by a representation by a Minister.

Procedures for the overall administration of the fund have been gradually strengthened over recent years following the implementation of recommendations made in various internal audit reports, according to the briefing note prepared for department secretary general Ambrose McLoughlin’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee in June.

The total amount awarded under the fund was €3.3 million each year between 2011 and 2013. Last year, 680 applications were received, of which 140 were successful.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said previous ministers for health had overruled advice from officials in circumstances where they regarded the recipient organisation as deserving.