Reilly conflict of interest claim 'preposterous', says Taoiseach
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has denied Minister for Health James Reilly has a conflict of interest with his business investments in the private nursing home sector while public nursing home beds are being closed.
Mr Kenny said it was a “preposterous assertion” to suggest Dr Reilly was deliberately closing public beds to drive people into nursing homes in which he had an interest.
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, he told Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams that “before he was ever appointed as Minister for Health he declared his interest in a number of businesses, including in a nursing home of which he is a part-shareholder as an investor in Carrick-on-Suir”.
Speaking before Dr Reilly’s personal statement late last night, Mr Kenny said the Minister, the deputy leader of Fine Gael, had publicly declared his interest in this business and “as a Minister of Government he sets out policy of Government in respect of changing the nature of the structure of health”.
The timing of Dr Reilly’s statement to the Dáil at 9.55pm was criticised by Mr Adams and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. The Minister was due to respond to his appearance on a list of defaulters for a €1.9 million unpaid debt relating to an investment in the Co Tipperary nursing home. Dr Reilly and four other investors did not comply with a High Court order to repay the money to other investors.
Mr Adams (Louth), who claimed Fine Gael policy was to privatise health services, asked the Taoiseach if it was a conflict of interest that the Minister was closing community nursing home beds while having an interest in the private nursing home sector.
“The reality is the Minister has a personal investment in private healthcare and he is pursuing the Government policy of closing public nursing home beds,” the Sinn Féin leader said
He said 296 public nursing home beds were closed this year and “600 elderly citizens in public hospital beds cannot be moved out of them because of the Government’s policy which is privatisation of the health service”.
Mr Adams said it was “shameful” for the Taoiseach to accept it was “proper for a Minister to have a private investment element” and “also be closing public nursing beds”. He also claimed it was “part of a tax scam for people to avoid paying tax by being given a 10-year tax break for private nursing homes”.
Mr Kenny replied: “You seem to be deliberately implying that the Minister is deliberately closing public beds to drive people into nursing homes in which he has an interest. This is a preposterous assumption.”
He also rejected Mr Adams’s claim that investment in nursing homes was “part of a tax scam”. Mr Kenny said they were tax breaks “authorised by a previous government in respect of the development of nursing homes”.
Mr Kenny said that under the code of conduct for office holders, there was a requirement not to be involved in the direct management of business. Dr Reilly transferred his interest “through power of attorney to a second legal person to deal with it at arm’s length”.
The Minister made a public declaration about his business interests and they were “transferred to a blind trust as per advice from the Standards in Public Office Commission”.
Defending the Minister’s plans on community nursing homes, the Taoiseach said: “Government policy is to change the structure and the nature of the delivery of health services . . . in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”
He added that a number of changes were being made “to the structures of the bed situation” in public and private nursing homes.