Thursday 21 September 2017

Reilly backer owns controversial primary-care site

James Reilly pictured at a function with developer Seamus Murphy.
James Reilly pictured at a function with developer Seamus Murphy.

A SUPPORTER of Health Minister James Reilly owns the site in the minister's constituency where a controversial health centre will be built.

Dr Reilly also used a property on the site as a general election campaign base, the Irish Independent has learned.

The revelation will heap further pressure on Dr Reilly to explain fully why he changed strict criteria on proposed primary care centres.

His changes -- which moved Balbriggan, in his Dublin North constituency, higher up the priority list -- caused uproar and led to the resignation of former junior minister Roisin Shortall last week.

Troubled developer Seamus Murphy -- a self-confessed Fine Gael supporter in Balbriggan -- owns the lands on which the primary care centre is set to be built.

It is currently in the process of being sold by Mr Murphy to a development company which will build the health centre.

"I put up posters for Fine Gael in Balbriggan," Mr Murphy told the Irish Independent.

"I am a Fine Gael supporter."

When asked if he knew Dr Reilly, Mr Murphy said he would see him on the television, but pictures show the pair socialising together at events in Balbriggan.

Balbriggan was included in the list of 35 primary care centres in the Government's stimulus plan after Dr Reilly bumped it up the list.

The HSE has confirmed that a lease has been signed for a new primary care centre at numbers 66, 68 and 70 along Dublin Street, Balbriggan, and surveyors were busy at work there yesterday.

The minister's spokesman confirmed number 70 was used as a base during the 2007 General Election, but could not say if it was used after that.

But other local sources said it was covered in Dr Reilly and Fine Gael posters during last year's general election.

"They were only there for a couple of weeks, then disappeared again," one business owner near the site told the Irish Independent. "I don't know if he (Dr Reilly) even went into the place."

Mr Murphy has confirmed he owns the sites, but said he is engaging with NAMA and was bound by confidentiality agreements. But he added: "Yeah, I own them at this point in time."

Records in the registry of deeds also show judgments have been obtained against Mr Murphy on two of the sites -- one for ACC Bank and another for a company controlled by Treasury Holdings.

The documents show judgments have also been obtained against Mr Murphy on other sites in the town, as well as a raft of suites at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

The Balbriggan sites are in the process of being sold to Rhonnelan Developments which is building the health centre, but ownership does not usually transfer in such deals until planning permission and funding is secure.

Donated

The chairman of Rhonnelan, AJ Noonan, donated €1,000 to Fine Gael in 2007, but says he is not party political and donates to many parties. He declined to comment last night.

Mr Murphy said Dr Reilly used number 70 for a period during an election campaign.

"He was in there for a period of a couple of weeks, it was his literature store," Mr Murphy said of Dr Reilly's presence at number 70.

However, he later backtracked and said he also stored posters for other parties. Labour TD Brendan Ryan said Mr Murphy may have stored his posters after the election.

But Fianna Fail senator Darragh O'Brien, who ran in Dublin North, said. "I have absolutely zero connection with that man." Another Fianna Fail candidate last year, former TD Michael Kennedy, said: "I never had any dealings with that man."

It had been thought locally that the primary care centre was to be built in the nearby Castlelands area of the town, but the HSE chose Dublin Street in the town centre.

However, this decision was flagged as far back as February 2010 in a parliamentary question to Dr Reilly, who was then Fine Gael's opposition health spokesman, and a lease was signed in November 2011.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher last night said it was the "first evidence of significant personal and political connection between James Reilly and the list of primary care centres".

Mr Kelleher added: "Over recent weeks, a series of revelations and fiascos have convinced many within his own party, within the Labour Party, within the Cabinet and throughout the country that James Reilly is not the right person to lead positive change within our nation's health service.

"I would encourage the Taoiseach to think very carefully over the coming days before committing further political credibility to support a minister whose tenure must surely be coming to an end."

Irish Independent

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