Quinn's Dáil reply on Balbriggan site given 'in good faith'


MINISTER FOR Education Ruairí Quinn delivered what turned out to be incorrect information “in good faith” when he told the Dáil yesterday morning the site for the primary healthcare centre in Balbriggan was selected by former minister for health Mary Harney, Mr Quinn’s spokeswoman said.

She said the information had come from the Department of Health. “The information was given to us in good faith this morning from the Department of Health and the Minister used it in good faith. Unfortunately, it transpired, following investigations by our colleagues in Health, that was not the case,“ she said.

Mr Quinn was standing in for Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Leaders’ Questions. He was replying to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, who referred to a report that a supporter of the Minister for Health owned the site.

Mr Quinn said: “Deputy Kelleher has attempted to use the protection of this House to suggest that there was some financial impropriety in conferring financial advantage on a political supporter.

“Can I tell you, Deputy Kelleher, that the site in question was selected by deputy Mary Harney when she was minister for health.’’

Earlier, two Labour Party MEPs said Minister for Health James Reilly should consider stepping down from his post.

Nessa Childers, who represents Ireland East, described Dr Reilly’s position as “untenable” in a statement released from her Brussels office yesterday afternoon.

Phil Prendergast, MEP for Ireland South, used her Twitter account to call on Dr Reilly to “consider his position”.

Ms Childers said Labour had to “take a stand” and insist that healthcare policy was operated in an “open and transparent” manner.

“It now appears that Fine Gael is continuing the previous government’s practice of allocating public health on the basis of patronage, and not according to need,” she said.

“Access to healthcare cannot only be the gift for the chosen few, or if you have a Minister for Health in your constituency. Care centres must be allocated according to need.”

She said she had “grave concern” over the “suitability” of Dr Reilly in delivering “positive and progressive” healthcare.

“As Deputy Róisín Shortall stated, the latest revelations suggest that other priorities are dictating where primary care centres are located.”

Ms Prendergast used Twitter to criticise the Minister in strong terms. “I think Minister Reilly should consider his position. This is the sort of politics that has brought us to ruin,” she wrote.

In a subsequent statement, Ms Prendergast also said Dr Reilly’s position was “untenable”.

She said the Minister should disclose “justifiable, objective criteria” used for adding two locations in his constituency to the list of primary care centres, or offer his resignation to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“As a nurse and midwife for 20 years, and as a Labour Party public representative, I have no confidence in Reilly and I think he should consider his position,” Ms Prendergast said.

“His actions in not releasing details of the criteria applied in the addition of extra primary care centres to the list created by the HSE, and his subsequent treatment of his junior ministerial colleague in the department, are undermining confidence in the Government’s promise to reform healthcare.”

Ms Prendergast claimed Dr Reilly’s action “smells of the old ‘you scratch my back’ politics which brought this country to the brink of ruin”.

Yesterday morning, a Labour councillor from Fingal, near Dr Reilly’s north Dublin constituency, became the first to break ranks with his party and called for the Minister to resign.

Cian O’Callaghan also urged Labour leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to pressure Dr Reilly into stepping down.

Mr Kenny expressed support for the Minister for Health in the wake of the disclosure of Dr Reilly’s connections with Séamus Murphy.

“I might say that in respect of your question, the answer is Yes,” said Mr Kenny when asked in Brussels whether Dr Reilly retained his confidence.

“The Government have given absolute backing to Minister Reilly,” the Taoiseach added.

“He now has a changed and formidable team in the health area with having to implement a massive structural series of changes to deliver: universal health insurance and an effective and an efficient health system for all our people, as I’ve said on so many occasions, based on their medical requirements as distinct from what they’ve got in their pocket."