Wednesday 21 February 2018

Debt defaulter Reilly to face Dail in 10pm showdown

Dr James Reilly pictured in Cyprus.

Fionnan Sheahan and Donal O'Donovan

EMBATTLED Health Minister Dr James Reilly will make a statement to the Dail at 10pm tonight on his listing as a debt defaulter.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny continued to stand by Dr Reilly today, saying the High Court ruling he and four business partners must pay €1.9m was a "perfectly valid decision".

The Minister is returning from an EU health ministers meeting in Cyprus tonight.

Dr Reilly ducked for cover in the Mediterranean island yesterday as he came under intense political pressure following the embarrassment of being named on a debt defaulters' list for failing to pay €1.9m, as revealed in the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin said today that Dr Reilly had serious questions to answer as to why he did not honour a High Court order.

“Last February Judge Kelly made an order giving until the end of April to pay that. It is a serious issue when a government minister would not be in compliance with a High Court order,” he said on RTE Radio 1.

Fine Gael's coalition partners in the Labour Party last night backed Dr Reilly, even though Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore did not speak to the minister or discuss the affair with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Kenny also stood by the Fine Gael deputy leader, claiming his business interests are "entirely in order", even though Dr Reilly has yet to comply with a High Court order to pay the debt.

Dr Reilly will make a statement in the Dail tonight on the affair, after he returns from an EU health ministers' meeting in Nicosia.

The minister declined to comment to the Irish Independent at the meeting yesterday. When approached, his private secretary said he was very busy, didn't have any time and referred queries to his press adviser back in Dublin.

Tonight's personal statement comes just four weeks after Mr Wallace had to go down the same route over his financial affairs, when he was listed as a tax defaulter.

The Taoiseach and the Tanaiste -- through their spokespersons -- expressed confidence in the minister.

Mr Kenny spoke with Dr Reilly yesterday morning. Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly has assured him the debt will be paid and his "business affairs are entirely in order".

The Taoiseach also said Dr Reilly will have "no problem" making a statement on the affair.

"The Minister for Health has assured me that his affairs, in so far as his business interests are concerned, are entirely in order and in compliance with the code of conduct for officeholders," he said.

Mr Kenny said Dr Reilly's listing in Stubbs Gazette does not mean the debt will not be paid.

"It will be paid and he has assured me of that," he said.

But the opposition piled on the pressure on the embattled minister.

Fianna Fail said the listing was an "extremely serious matter" and it was "a very embarrassing affair" for the Government.

The party's health spokesman Billy Kelleher said it was very disturbing to see a Government minister's name appear in Stubbs Gazette.


"My concern would be that it distracts him from implementing his duties in terms of his role for Minister for Health," he said.

Sinn Fein also attacked the minister over his listing in Stubbs Gazette, questioning if he was fit for his role.

The party's president Gerry Adams said there could be a conflict of interest as the minister was closing down nursing home beds but also had an investment.

Meanwhile, the five investors with a €1.9m judgment registered against them in the Carrick-on-Suir nursing home deal are planning to remortgage the property to repay the money.

A source close to the investors told the Irish Independent that complications over leasing the property had led to a delay in payment.

The group "had always" intended to remortgage the property once the original 10-year lease, signed in 2001, was up.

However, "certain issues" arose when it came to re-leasing the property and the banks would not lend money to the group until a new lease was signed.

It understood that those issues have now been ironed out and that a new 10-year lease to run the nursing home was signed two weeks ago.

Dr Dilip Jondhale, of Pococke Upper, Johnswell Road, Co Kilkenny, will continue to run the highly successful home.

The five investors will now approach the banks to refinance the property.

Once the funds are made available the other eight investors who were due to be bought out last year will be paid in full, the source said.

Under the 2000 deal, those eight investors were supposed to receive their money in April 2011. They included solicitors Michele Mellotte from Tullamore, Co Offaly and Orla Higgins, Ashfield Road, Ranelagh, Dublin, as well as three doctors -- John Caulfield from Belgrove Road, Clontarf, Dublin, John McGreevy of Mount Prospect Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin and John Whately, Ardee Road, Dundalk, Co Louth -- Garry Smyth, a civil engineer from Ailesbury Grove, Dundrum, Dublin; Tom Murphy, an IT consultant, Wynestown, Oldtown, Co Dublin and Michael Morris, Chelmsford, Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Solicitor Ms Mellotte told the Irish Independent that she expected the eight would be paid back.

"We'd have borrowings on the strength of it and I hope it will be paid. There's no rancour or anything like that," she said.

Additional reporting by Luke Byrne and Stefanos Kouratzis in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Irish Independent

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