Enda Kenny defends James Reilly in the face of Dail attack over debt default
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny today defended Health Minister James Reilly from attacks in the Dail.
He was standing in for Deputy Reilly, who was today listied as a debt defaulter over a €1.9m debt.
Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly has assured him the debt will be paid and his "business affairs are entirely in order".
The Taoiseach also said Dr Reilly will have "no problem" making a statement on the affair when he comes back from an EU health minister's meeting in Cyprus.
"The Minister for Health has assured me his business affairs are entirely in order," he said.
Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly's listing in Stubbs Gazette does not mean the debt will not be paid.
"It will be paid and he has assured me of that," he said.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said there could be a conflict of interest as the minister was closing down nursing home beds but also had an investment.
Mr Adams said Dr Reilly had questions to answer over why he ran up a debt which can be linked to the private healthcare sector.
"It is a fact that the minister for health is taking decisions which benefit private health care," said Mr Adams.
"If he has a personal investment in private health care provision is he a suitable person to be Health Minister?"
Both Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail urged the minister to make a statement in the Dail.
Dr Reilly, along with several other businessmen, invested in Green Hills private nursing home more than a decade ago.
But it is understood the deal turned sour last year and the High Court ordered those involved to buy out the Co Tipperary home from other investors for €1.9 million.
In a statement last night, a spokesman for Dr Reilly said he intended to pay his share of the money back.
But he insisted the minister had nothing to do with the ownership of the business side of the property.
He said he had granted power of attorney to his solicitor in relation to his business interest in the asset after becoming minister.
Mr Adams said if Dr Reilly had a vested interest in the private nursing home, there could be a conflict of interest.
"Between January and May of this year, 296 public nursing home beds were closed," said Mr Adams.
"There is currently something like 600 elderly patients who are in public hospital beds and should be out of that part of the health service and in nursing homes and there aren't beds for them."
He said the minister was making decisions in relation to the private nursing home, while also deciding to close private beds.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said it was very disturbing to see a Government minister's name appear in the Stubbs Gazette.
He said it reflected a lack of leadership on Dr Reilly's part and called for him to clarify his position.
"My concern would be that it distracts him from implementing his duties in terms of his role for Minister for Health," said Mr Kelleher.
"Quite clearly, we see a lack of leadership and a drift in policy and in implementation of policy."
Dr Reilly is believed to be the first Cabinet minister named in Stubbs Gazette - a monthly business magazine which publishes data on debtors.
It also includes lists of bankrupt businesses and credit information for companies and consumers.
Dr Reilly came under fire last year for reportedly hiring out his stately home, the 13-bedroom Laughton House in Moneygall, Co Offaly, for weddings and christenings, while securing a tax break for its upkeep.
As well as Laughton House, which sits on a sprawling 150-acre site, Dr Reilly also owns a commercial complex in Lusk, north Dublin, which is home to a supermarket and doctors' surgery.
Originally a GP by profession, his family home is in Rush, north Dublin, and his investment portfolio includes units housing a medical centre and pharmacy in the neighbouring of town of Lusk, as well as a separate doctors' surgery in Donabate.