Dáil told Beacon chief caught ‘red handed’ in vaccines debacle

Hospital chief executive has apologised for unauthorised St Gerard’s School incident

Beacon Hospital chief executive Michael Cullen has been "caught red-handed and he must go", People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has told the Dáil.

Mr Murphy added “[Mr Cullen] used his position of power to steal at least 20 public vaccines and use them as if they were his personal property”.

Mr Murphy said in the Dáil that if “a cleaner went in and robbed 20 vaccines, he would be arrested for theft. It shouldn’t be any different because this is the CEO [chief executive] of billionaire Denis O’Brien’s private hospital, the same hospital, let us remember, that in January was refusing to sign up to allow their facilities to be used for surge capacity”.

Mr Cullen has apologised for the incident in which the injections were administered to teachers at St Gerard’s School, near Bray, Co Wicklow which his children attend.


He said the decision “was made under time pressure and with a view to ensuring that the vaccine did not go to waste”.

Raising the issue in the Dáil the Mr Murphy demanded a Garda investigation “to establish if a crime was committed” and said there should also be a rapid public audit involving the IMO [Irish Medical Organisation] and patient representatives to see “if there was other misallocation or misappropriation of public resources”.

He claimed that “again and again, private hospitals have put their profits and greed before public need.

“This underlines the need to end the two-tier health service and bring the private hospitals into a quality, single-tier national health service.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he had been very clear on the issue. “It was absolutely wrong but it’s not for me to determine. I do not set myself up as judge, jury and executioner, and I never have, in respect of criminality in that regard.”

Mr Martin added that “no one should get any special treatment with regard to anything in terms of a transgression”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald referred to the “shenanigans” in the Beacon where “an individual arbitrarily chose who might be vaccinated”.

She said it highlights the “elitism and insiderism” and “the lack of oversight and surveillance in play”. Ms McDonald add they had heard about what happened “because of good journalism and someone stepping froward” from the inside and “not because we have adequate oversight”.

‘Private school club’

Labour leader Alan Kelly said the Beacon Hospital incident was a case of "the old private school club of access to whatever you want, whenever you want it, was at play again.

He recalled that “there were issues about it vaccinating its own staff above some who should have been prioritised in January. Then there was the fact that it wouldn’t t sign up to the national ICU [intensive care unit] plan” followed by the latest controversy.

He asked “why did we offer the Beacon as a hospital for vaccinations? Who decided that?”

The Taoiseach said “I have condemned what happened at the Beacon. It was wrong in terms of personal ethics and behaviour and represented a gross breach of trust with the Irish people” in the administration of vaccines.

“It was wrong and against the prioritisation that had been laid down, that the most vulnerable should get the vaccines first.”

The Beacon has ordered a review to be undertaken by former head of Arthur Cox solicitors Eugene McCague.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times