Reilly reneged on pledge to re-open 22 beds, group claims
HEALTH Minister James Reilly was accused yesterday of "cynically promising" to re-open nursing home beds and then denying he ever made any commitment.
Dr Reilly allegedly made the promise at a celebrated meeting about the closure of respite beds in Thurles, Co Tipperary, attended by Independent TD Michael Lowry.
The meeting came to light in the wake of controversy over Fine Gael ministers continuing to grant access to Mr Lowry, even after he was castigated by the Moriarty Tribunal.
A campaign group is seeking the re-opening of 22 respite care beds for the elderly at the Community Hospital of the Assumption.
After meeting with the hospital action group yesterday, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin quizzed Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Dr Reilly's pledge.
"You cynically promised them the sun, the moon and the stars," he said.
Thurles Community Hospital Action Committee chairman Sean Fogarty delivered a petition to the Government calling for all the beds to be re-opened.
"We have lost a massive amount of beds and it is grossly unfair. The minister gave us a firm commitment he would restore them by January," he said.
But at the next meeting, Dr Reilly denied making the promise, he said.
Dr Reilly originally met with the delegation lobbying for the hospital last November, along with Labour Party junior minister Alan Kelly, Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan and Mr Lowry, who also represents the constituency.
Following the meeting, Mr Coonan said Dr Reilly had given a commitment "to restore services" at the hospital.
Mr Lowry backed up the committee's views, saying Dr Reilly originally said he would restore all 22 beds.
"Months later, at a subsequent meeting, he had no recollection of making the commitment," he said.
But Dr Reilly's spokesman said his promise last year was to increase the number of beds open -- which has happened -- not to re-open all the beds.