Reilly admits site in his constituency added as safety net
HEALTH Minister James Reilly is admitting he included a location in his constituency on the list of primary care centres as a safety net to ensure it was built.
It is the first time he has explicitly outlined his reason for including the Balbriggan site on the list.
The minister is facing another motion of no confidence after it emerged he added Balbriggan and others to the list of 35 locations at the last minute.
Dr Reilly says there is no justification for the Dail motion, but both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are calling on him to resign.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is backing up his embattled minister, saying: "Yes I do have confidence in Dr Reilly."
Balbriggan and Swords in Dr Reilly's Dublin North constituency were among those locations he added to the priority list.
Swords and Balbriggan were added to the list the night before the government announcement, while other locations like Ballaghadereen and Kilkenny were added that morning.
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed there were serious doubts hanging over the private development of the Balbriggan centre in the months before Dr Reilly put it on the priority list.
The Balbriggan centre is being developed privately and will then be leased back to the HSE, while Dr Reilly's list was of locations to be developed via a public-private partnership.
When asked if he included Balbriggan because there was a doubt over whether it would proceed, Dr Reilly told the Irish Independent: "Yeah, at the time there was a serious doubt about the lease arrangement going ahead. It looked like it was going to fall through."
Documents show the developer of the primary care centre told the HSE he was making a final offer for the site, owned by a supporter of Dr Reilly, as a "last throw of the dice".
Developer AJ Noonan had been dealing with site owner Seamus Murphy and NAMA for months but was becoming exasperated.
The deal had almost collapsed once, with Mr Noonan telling Mr Murphy the project was in "jeopardy". Dr Reilly was aware of negotiations on the site, but has maintained that he had no "hand, act or part" in the selection of the site. Sources close to Dr Reilly say the Balbriggan site was selected by local doctors, who were keen to move to a primary care centre.
However, putting Balbriggan on the list copperfastened the prospects of the town getting a care centre. A deal on the site was only finalised days after the primary care list was announced.
"Balbriggan has been identified as an area of real need for quite some time, going way back," Dr Reilly added.
He also said a letter from Brian Gilroy, former head of estates in the HSE, confirmed Swords and Balbriggan as priorities in 2011.
Mr Kenny yesterday defended Dr Reilly, saying: "He's doing his job, he's taken on an enormous brief here.
"In regard to primary care centres, the minister has already dealt with this on many occasions."
Dr Reilly also said there was no justification for another no-confidence motion in him.
A similar motion against him was defeated in September, and Dail rules will not allow another one until March.
"I've made it very clear that I stand over what I did and if I had it all to do again, I would do it again," he said.