Controversy over private nursing home charges stretches back decades

Inside Politics: Complicated issue has potential to drag in several ministers from the past

The controversy over private nursing home charges currently sweeping through Leinster House is an issue that stretches back decades.

It is a complicated issue that could drag in several senior ministers from the past.

At its core, as Political Editor Pat Leahy outlines in his analysis, is striking the balance between providing for citizens and guarding the public finances when billions of euro are at stake.

The debate over the legal strategy by successive governments will rage in the coming days and weeks.


A Dáil debate is planned for next week and senior Department of Health officials being invited to a committee meeting on the matter.

Jennifer Bray, Pat Leahy and Sarah Burns set out yesterday’s developments in our lead story.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the use of a legal strategy aimed at containing the State’s potential liability on the nursing home charges.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar described the legal plan as a “legitimate legal strategy by the Government”.

But he said that he does not recall being briefed or authorising the strategy.

The Government is coming under pressure to explain why it adopted such a strategy and to clarify which Ministers were privy to the plans, with Opposition TDs demanding to know which ministers sanctioned the approach.

But no former or current ministers were willing to say they knew of or authorised the strategy.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said through a spokesman that he was not aware of a number of memos from 2011 onwards which reaffirmed the strategy, while former minister for public expenditure Brendan Howlin, who was reportedly copied on an early memo, also said he could not recall ever being briefed.

Simon Carswell offers a useful Q&A on the decades-long nursing charges issue here.

Miriam Lord casts her eyes over yesterday’s proceedings on the matter here.

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Dáil action kicks off with an opportunity for TDs to ask Topical Questions at 9.12am.

Independent TDs then have a Private Members’ Motion on the ringfencing of council development levies that is to be debated from 10am.

There will be a “Pause for Peace - minute’s silence” at noon followed by Leaders’ Questions.

Government business includes the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 with contributions on the topic of bodycams for gardaí expected from 2.51pm.

Other legislation on the schedule as the afternoon progresses includes the Central Bank (Individual Accountability Framework) Bill 2022 and the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill 2022.

The weekly votes take place from 8.30pm with the Dáil due to adjourn at 9pm.

In the Seanad, Commencement Matters is at 10.30am and there will be statements on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services from 12.45pm.

In the committee rooms, the Committee on Health will hear from the Irish Cancer Society and representatives of the HSE on waiting lists for cancer treatment from 9.30am.

The Committee on Transport is examining delays for driving tests and at NCT test centres. It will hear from the Road Safety Authority at 1.30pm.

Representatives of Ulster Bank and KBC – which are departing the Irish market – will be before the Committee on Finance, also at 1.30pm.

The Committee on Agriculture will be hearing from a canine behaviour expert on the topic of dangerous dog breeds, from 5.30pm.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedules.