Reilly rejects allegation of personal gain as 'baseless'

Thu, Oct 4, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has said it is “baseless” to suggest that he has received any personal gain from the location of primary health centres in his Dublin North constituency.

“Becoming involved in politics and going into an election with a prospect of becoming Minister for Health has clearly cost me money,” he added.

Dr Reilly said that to suggest there was any impropriety in developer Séamus Murphy’s ownership of the site for the Balbriggan centre was incorrect and without foundation.

He said Mr Murphy had been a member of Fine Gael for 40 years and, as deputy leader of the party, he knew him.

Dr Reilly said he had no business connection with Mr Murphy.

“I had no discussions with him about the primary care centre and I have absolutely no role in the selection of a site,” he added. “As I stated on the radio today, the only site over which I have control, and which I did not want included because I was becoming Minister for Health, is the site I own in Swords.”

Replying to a series of special notice questions, Dr Reilly said that the Balbriggan site was under Nama control and, consequently, Mr Murphy did not stand to gain.

“Nama gains if there is any gain. Nama represents the people in trying to get back the moneys that were lost,” he added. “The people of Balbriggan, whom I support, also gain. Balbriggan is a town that has seen its population double in 10 years and has the second-highest unemployment density in the greater Dublin area.”

Dr Reilly said the town was chosen by the Health Service Executive in 2007 and 2008 and proposals relating to it and Swords were brought to the board of the HSE in 2008 and approved.

“Therefore, the need is long established, as is the priority,” he added. “I consider it an insult to the people of Swords and Balbriggan to say to them that the only way they can get what they deserve and need, according to proven, independent individuals, is through political stroke-pulling.”

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF) asked Dr Reilly if he had established why Mr Murphy had sought to distance himself from him by saying he had only seen the Minister on television.

“A photograph, of course, speaks a thousand words and that is what we saw this morning,” added the Sinn Féin TD.

Dr Reilly said many people had said to him that the only time they saw him was on television because his job was of such importance to the future well-being of the people. He was sure that was what Mr Murphy was alluding to.

Earlier, during opposition leaders’ questions, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said that the Balbriggan site was selected when Mary Harney was minister for health. Dr Reilly later said this referred to another site some distance from that owned by Mr Murphy.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Mr Murphy’s site was selected during the Minister’s tenure and not before, which was previously stated.

“I am not saying that there was anything . . . corrupt in terms of transactions, but some communities have materially benefited over others because the Minister was able to decide to locate the centres in his constituency,” he said.

Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) said it was reasonable to conclude that there was “a return to old practices, political stroke-pulling and cronyism in north Dublin, an area in which certain individuals and a particular party excelled in those practices which have now been revived by the Government”.