independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Fresh care-centre revelations pile new pressure on Reilly

HEALTH Minister James Reilly is facing fresh questions on the selection of locations for primary-care centres.

Newly released documents show how a deal to secure a site for a care centre in Balbriggan – in Dr Reilly's Dublin North constituency – almost fell through in the months before he bumped the town up the priority list.

The minister knew that negotiations were ongoing before he finalised the list in July.

At that time, he told a local newspaper: "There are negotiations going on. It's down to price now and who knows the price of anything these days?"

Exasperated

The details are likely to increase pressure on Dr Reilly to explain fully why he bumped Balbriggan into the list of 35 locations.

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent show that the developer of the Balbriggan primary-care centre told the HSE he was making a final offer for the site "in a last throw of the dice".

Developer AJ Noonan had been dealing for months with NAMA and Seamus Murphy – the owner of the site and a supporter of Dr Reilly – but was becoming exasperated.

The deal had already almost collapsed once, with Mr Noonan telling Mr Murphy that the project was in "jeopardy".

He later sent another email to the HSE, saying he was making an offer in a "last throw of the dice".

Three days after Mr Noonan sent this email, Dr Reilly met with NAMA to discuss primary-care centre locations, including Balbriggan. However, despite this, Dr Reilly has insisted he did not discuss the exact sites with NAMA.

This comes after it was revealed that the top civil servant in the Department of Health launched an audit to see if there were any links between Dr Reilly and primary-care centre sites.

It found that there had been "no impropriety" on the minister's part.

It also emerged that the final list of priority for 35 primary-care locations was changed less than an hour-and-a-half before it was released in July.

Former junior minister Roisin Shortall – who resigned over the affair – has said Dr Reilly's Dail explanation that his 15 additions to her original list of 20 were based on "logistical, logarithmic progression" was "absolute codswallop".

There are also fresh calls from both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein for Dr Reilly to resign as Health Minister.

The internal HSE documents also show that Mr Noonan only told the HSE he had finalised a deal for the site two days after Dr Reilly had released his controversial list of primary-care centres in July.

The previous month, Dr Reilly had told local newspaper the 'Fingal Independent': "There are negotiations going on and it is down to price now – and who knows the price of anything these days?"

In a Dail question earlier this year, Dr Reilly confirmed that he met with NAMA on April 20 and that primary-care locations, including Balbriggan, were discussed.

However, Dr Reilly has always said he had "no hand, act of part" in the selection of the Balbriggan site.

But Fianna Fail's Billy Kelleher said: "There are concerns with Minister Reilly's connections with the site in Balbriggan.

"He knew the owner of the site and he knew there were negotiations ongoing. To date, he has singularly failed to explain why he put Balbriggan on the approved list."

Irish Independent

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