Kenny again defends Reilly's actions
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has again defended the selection of primary care centres in heated Dáil exchanges this morning with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
Mr Kenny said his only interest in the matter was in agreeing with Minister for Health James Reilly that there should be more than 20 locations put on the list to bring about competition and buy-in from GPs and to ensure that under the public-private partnership system, that number would get across the line.
"Minister Reilly had no function whatsoever in the selection of sites for primary care centres, as distinct from locations that he would have determined on the basis of the expanded criteria he had set out," he added.
Referring to Freedom of Information documents he had received, Mr Martin asked the Taoiseach whether he thought it was right that a Minister should interfere in a commercial arrangement which conferred benefit on private sector stakeholders.
Mr Martin said that on a quick read through the documents, they clearly revealed a story relating to the selection of sites which was very different to that revealed by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore over repeated questions in the House.
The FOI documents noted the list of 33 locations was signed off by Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore on Friday, July 13th. Significantly, that list did not include Balbriggan and Swords.
However, on Monday, July 16th, there was “a flurry of emails’’ between the Minister’s office and the Department of Health and others. On Monday evening, it was stated that the price was agreed for the Balbriggan site. Later, an adviser consulted the Minister and was told Swords and Balbriggan, in the Minister for Health’s Dublin North constituency, would stay on the list.
The exchanges followed a report in this morning's Irish Times that Mr Reilly’s constituency office contacted his department eight times before the announcement of a Government stimulus package last July seeking updates on plans to develop a primary care centre in Balbriggan.
Dr Reilly has come under fire over the addition of locations in Balbriggan and Swords in his constituency to a list for primary care centres drawn up by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and his then minister of state Róisín Shortall.
Documents released by the department yesterday include a handwritten note by a civil servant maintaining that a ministerial adviser was told about advanced plans to develop the Balbriggan centre by leasing rather than through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement under the stimulus package. The note says the adviser consulted Dr Reilly, and that Swords and Balbriggan were to remain on the PPP list.
The first indication in the files to show Swords and Balbriggan had been added is a separate handwritten note by an official just after 6pm on the evening before the Government announced the stimulus plan.
The files show the HSE had been planning to develop a primary care centre in Balbriggan under a leasing arrangement.
According to the handwritten notes, the official told the adviser the location in Balbriggan for a leased care centre had been decided and the price agreed. It says the adviser consulted the Minister and “both Swords and Balbriggan will stay”.
Dr Reilly’s constituency staff first contacted the department on March 16th after Balbriggan Town Council passed a motion calling on him to update it on plans for a primary care centre.
His office made further contact on April 2nd and 12th, May 21st, June 5th, 12th and 20th, and July 2nd. In April, they were told a site “with potential” had been identified. In June, they were told the developer behind the project had agreed a purchase price with the HSE.
The file shows Dr Reilly approved 30 locations for primary care centres on July 12th. This was later revised, with the addition of Swords, Balbriggan, Ballaghaderreen and Kilkenny.