A whistleblower who exposed how disability payments were denied to as many as 12,000 people has said a public inquiry into the matter is now essential.
Shane Corr, who had previously worked at the Department of Health, said he did not regret exposing the payment issue but that his treatment since may prove a disincentive for others to act similarly in different situations.
This week, RTÉ's Prime Time reported on how the disability payments were withheld and that the then government had been advised in 2011 that any legal action against the State would likely prove successful. A government memo from 2009 put the potential cost at €700 million.
“A proper examination will include some sort of public inquiry. It must include that,” Mr Corr told Prime Time in a follow-up interview on Thursday night.
“What we need now is an advocate for these people that will come in and say to the Government: well, whether or not you have to pay this money back, you need to consider it very strongly. These are the most vulnerable people in the State.”
Mr Corr said he felt that a civil servant must consider the people they serve, sometimes above the wishes of the government.
“There would have been people who were in the care of the State who were owed very significant sums of money who mightn’t even know that they were owed the money and mightn’t have the capacity to challenge the State,” he said. “And somebody had to get the word out because this was a very secretive strategy.”
On Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said “whatever is legally required and morally just” would be done in responding to the revelations.
For his part, Mr Corr said he would feel vindicated once the Government makes amends and repays those who had been denied the payments.
He said that although he had written to the Taoiseach in 2019, “nothing much had been done”, and had there been an appropriate response he would not have gone public.
Mr Corr, who has worked in the Civil Service since 2001, said he was suspended a year ago for making protected disclosures to a newspaper. He believes the fact he is on paid suspension will be a disincentive to other potential whistleblowers.
Asked if he regretted his actions, he said: “No. And I’ll do it again. Very soon.”
A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Mr Corr’s 2019 correspondence had been acknowledged and forwarded to the Department of Public Expenditure in accordance with standard practice, and it had not been brought to the attention of the Taoiseach.
This week Mr Varadkar said the State “does not have a leg to stand on” over the decision not to pay the Disabled Persons’ Maintenance Allowance (DPMA) to vulnerable people in residential care, according to legal advice.