Reilly defends link with developer
Any contention there was anything wrong about his link with developer Seamus Murphy was “utterly wrong”, Minister for Health James Reilly said today.
The Minister also denied claims of a link between his political position and the choosing of a Balbriggan, Co Dublin, site for a primary care centre.
He admitted to knowing Mr Murphy, who he said had been a member of Fine Gael for 40 years. Dr Reilly has been photographed in the past in Mr Murphy’s company.
However, the Minister added: “Any contention that there is anything remotely inappropriate about this is utterly wrong.”
In response to a question by Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio on whether the developer had tried to distance himself from Dr Reilly, the Minister said “only Seamus could answer that”, adding there were many people that he would not see very often because of the nature of his position.
Asked about an allegation from Fianna Fail’s health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, that the matter was evidence of a significant personal and political connection between Dr Reilly and the list of care centres, the Minister said Mr Kelleher was “absolutely wrong”.
Dr Reilly said the site in question had been identified years prior to the Coalition coming to power. “The selection of the site as has absolutely nothing to do with me”, he said, adding the proceeds of a sale of the Balbriggan site would accrue to the National Asset Management Agency and that he did not therefore see any benefit to Mr Murphy from the development.
The Minister denied he had any connection with the primary care centre site in Swords, Co Dublin, and said nothing would emerge later to contradict this.
There were no definitive, “locked-down-in-stone criteria” for selection of locations for the centres, Dr Reilly said. Broad criteria encompassed accommodation, opinions gathered in local HSE offices, and a deprivation index, the Minister said, adding he had widened these to include existing facilities in areas and ratios of GPs to population.
The Minister was determined that there would be “as many primary care centres around the country” as the Government could deliver.
The statistics regarding Balbriggan were “stark”, he said. The population had doubled in a decade, and the town was the “second highest unemployment blackspot in Dublin”. The Minister said Balbriggan needed a proper primary care centre "because of its population and the youth of its population".
Asked why former minister for state at his department Roisín Shortall would have discounted the compelling case for the Balbriggan site, he said only she could answer that. He denied he had changed the list of care centres, saying the HSE had done so.
“I really reject any sense that I have interfered in this or have in some way tried to gain benefit from this.”