UNDER intense questioning from Deputy Joe Higgins (SP) on his connections with a local businessman and owner of a site earmarked for a primary care centre in Balbriggan, Minister for James Reilly was forced to explain his relationship with Seamus Murphy.
Deputy Higgins quipped: ' I do not know if the Minister is a fan of the late actor Humphrey Bogart but when it comes to the selection of primary health care centres in Balbriggan, Rick's joint in Casablanca definitely comes to my mind. 'Of all the streets, of all the areas in all of Balbriggan, the primary care centre would land in the lap of a Fine Gael businessman, a contributor to Fine Gael and a supporter of the Minister. 'Not only that but according to the Irish Independent, ACC Bank and Treasury Holdings have judgments on two tranches of that site. 'Therefore, a lease with the Health Service Executive would increase the value of this site enormously, thus alleviating the financial difficulties of the Fine Gael supporter in question. The gentleman who was given the lease is also a contributor to Fine Gael.' Accused by Deputy Higgins of 'political stroke pulling and cronyism in north Dublin', Dr. Reilly said: 'Deputy Joe Higgins should note that the site is under the control of NAMA and that, as a consequence, Mr. Murphy does not gain. NAMA gains if there is any gain. 'NAMA represents the people in trying to get back the moneys that were lost. The people of Balbriggan, whom I support, also gain. 'Balbriggan is a town that has seen its population double in ten years and has the second highest unemployment density in the greater Dublin area. ' The town was chosen by the HSE in 2007 and 2008, and proposals on both it and Swords were brought to the board of the HSE in 2008 and were approved. ' Therefore, the need is long established, as is the priority. I consider it an insult to the people of Swords and Balbriggan to say to them that the only way they can get what they deserve and need, according to proven, independent individuals, is through political stroke pulling.' On his relationship with Mr. Murphy, he said: 'I want to answer the Deputy's other questions directly. I have no business connection with Mr. Murphy. I had no discussions with him about the primary care centre and I have absolutely no role in the selection of a site. 'As I stated on the radio today, the only site over which I have control and which I did not want included because I was becoming Minister for Health is the site I own in Swords. I hope that clarifies the matter.' Later in the debate, asked if he knew Mr. Murphy, the minister said: 'For the record, Mr. Murphy has been a member of Fine Gael for 40 years and I am deputy leader of the party: of course I know him. He added: ' All sides would know that this man and his family have been held in very high regard in Balbriggan for decades and have done a lot of good work. To suggest there is any impropriety is incorrect, wrong, baseless and without foundation. ' To further suggest in any way that I would get any personal gain from either this decision or the one pertaining to Swords is equally baseless. Becoming involved in politics and going into an election with a prospect of becoming Minister for Health has clearly cost me money.'