€442,000 fees from HSE for legal firm built by Shatter
THE legal firm that Justice Minister Alan Shatter helped to build received fees totalling €422,130 from the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year.
The payments to Gallagher Shatter Solicitors form part of €28.7m the HSE paid out in legal fees last year.
Mr Shatter joined the Dublin firm in 1976 and, until his appointment as Justice Minister in March 2011, he was the firm's consultant on family law.
The figures released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the HSE show that the company generated all of the HSE-related fees last year, which are inclusive of VAT, in the childcare area.
The company generated €392,646 in fees through acting as guardian ad litems, who are appointed to children by the courts to speak for the child.
However, Gallagher Shatter Solicitors was not the highest earning firm in childcare last year, with Rosemary Gantly paid €808,066 in fees and Pol O'Murchu & Co Solicitors receiving €526,035.
But the big winner last year in terms of HSE fees was Arthur Cox Solicitors, which received €19.46m in relation to the contract it has with the HSE.
The figures show that the firm to receive the largest amount in third-party fees in the childcare area was Frank Buttimer & Co Solicitors, which was paid €222,927 in fees.
The HSE spend on legal fees last year represents a steep decline on the €46.7m paid out in legal fees in 2012.
In 2011, the spend was €35.96m.
In the detailed breakdown of the figures, they show that three barristers in the childcare area last year received fees of in excess of €250,000: Barry O'Donnell, €296,686; Timothy O'Leary, €329,588; and Felix McEnroy, €367,347.
"With a view to securing greater accountability and value for money from HSE legal advisers, the HSE in March 2010 set up an in-house Office of Legal Services staffed by a head of legal services and three qualified solicitors," a spokeswoman for the HSE said yesterday.
"The role of the Office of Legal Services includes overseeing the standard and quantum of legal services provided to the HSE and, where appropriate, querying and verifying charges for provision of these services."
A tender had been issued for the legal services, with a panel put in place afterwards. All HSE legal advisers charge a uniform rate for provision of legal services.