Reilly defends selection of Balbriggan care site in Dáil

 

Minister for Health James Reilly today defended the selection of a site in his Dublin North constituency for a primary health care centre.

Responding to a series of special notice questions in the Dáil, Dr Reilly said Nama would gain if the Balbriggan site was sold. The site is owned by a Fine Gael supporter, developer Seamus Murphy.

Dr Reilly said the site was under the control of Nama. "Therefore, Mr Murphy does not gain, Nama gains, if there is indeed any gain," he said. “And Nama represents the people in terms of trying to get back the moneys that were lost."

He said he had no business connection with Mr Murphy and that he had no discussions with him about the primary care centre. "And I had absolutely no role in the selection of the site," he added.

Two Labour Party MEPs said Dr Reilly should consider stepping down from his post. Nessa Childers, who represents Ireland East, described Dr Reilly’s position as “untenable”, while Phil Prendergast, MEP for Ireland South, used her Twitter account to call on Dr Reilly to “consider his position”.

Responding to Dr Reilly’s statement in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher called on the Minister to clarify when the Balbriggan site was chosen.

"In the opening remarks of a performance that was at times evasive and at times bizarre, Minister Reilly appeared to suggest that contrary to everyone’s understanding, the site in Balbriggan was not chosen by the former minister for health, but by him."

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who was standing in at Opposition leaders’ questions for the Taoiseach, told the Dáil this morning the Balbriggan site was chosen by former minister for health Mary Harney, when Dr Reilly was in opposition.

The comment was later clarified by Mr Quinn's office, who said the incorrect information had come from the Department of Health. The site was selected by the HSE after Dr Reilly was appointed minister.

Dr Reilly had earlier 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.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, speaking in Brussels, offered his support for Dr Reilly.

“I might say that in respect of your question, the answer is yes,” said Mr Kenny when asked  whether Dr Reilly retained his confidence. “The Government have given absolute backing to Minister Reilly.

“He now has a changed and formidable team in the health area . . . 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.”

Dr Reilly was accused by former minister of state Róisín Shortall of “stroke politics” last week when two locations in his constituency, including the Balbriggan site, were placed on the list of 35 towns where centres will be developed by public private partnership method.

A statement issued by the Minister's office in responses to the revelations in an Irish Independent article said it was important to note that the report made "no suggestion of impropriety" on his part and that there was no question of "any impropriety" in the connection between Dr Reilly and Mr Murphy.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also said Dr Reilly has serious questions to answer. “He has failed to clarify the basis for his selection of locations for primary care centres - this is now compounded by confirmation of the Fine Gael affiliations and the personal relationship of the landowner of the Balbriggan site with Minister Reilly,” he said.

“Public confidence in the Minister and in the Government’s primary care strategy is at rock bottom.”

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