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Friday 24 November 2017

Eamon Gilmore insists James Reilly had no say in choice of controversial health sites

Mr Gilmore demanded the showdown talks after incorrect information had been given to Labour's Ruairi Quinn.
Mr Gilmore demanded the showdown talks after incorrect information had been given to Labour's Ruairi Quinn.
Health Minister James Reilly faces fresh calls to resign over what Fianna Fail are calling a clear conflict of interest

Fionnan Sheahan and Fiach Kelly

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has denied Health Minister James Reilly had any role in selecting sites for primary-care centres in his constituency.

Mr Gilmore met Health Minister Dr James Reilly and senior health officials this morning to discuss the controversy.

In the wake of Irish Independent revelations of links between Dr Reilly and the owner of a site for a centre in Balbriggan, Mr Gilmore said he received an assurance Dr Reilly had no role in the selection of any sites.

The Tanaiste said the secretary general of the Department of Health and the chief executive of the HSE were also present.

"They have told me directly there was no ministerial involvement in the selection of any particular site for a primary care centre," he said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin called for the publication of all documents related to the primary care centres.

Labour ministers and deputies were increasingly uneasy over the the Health Minister's position as fresh information emerged about his role in choosing an HSE site in his own constituency. Two Labour MEPs have already called for Dr Reilly's resignation in the saga.

This morning, the Irish Independent revealed significant new details about the deal centring on the primary care centre being developed on a site owned by one of Dr Reilly's own supporters.

- The site was selected and a lease signed during Dr Reilly's time in office.

- The deal was sealed in just three months, having been mired in delays for four years.

- The Government's claim it was selected by Mary Harney is wrong.

- The winning developer was selected after a competition with another bidder.

Furthermore, Dr Reilly admitted he was mistaken on when the site was picked for the centre.

The minister came under unprecedented pressure in the wake of Irish Independent revelations of his personal and political links to the owner of the land in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

Dr Reilly's defence that the decision to pick the site was taken during the tenure of his predecessor Mary Harney was dramatically blown out of the water when he admitted he was wrong.

The development added to the discomfort within the Labour Party over Dr Reilly's behaviour, amid calls from within the junior coalition party for his resignation. The Labour mayor of Dr Reilly's native Fingal, Cian O'Callaghan, called on him to go.

Two Labour MEPs -- Phil Prendergast and Nessa Childers -- also called on Dr Reilly to step down. Ms Childers said his position was untenable, while Ms Prendergast accused the minister of "the old 'you scratch my back politics'".

The Balbriggan lands where the primary care centre is set to be built are owned by Seamus Murphy, a developer who is now engaging with NAMA.

Mr Murphy has been a member of Fine Gael for 40 years, and one of the properties on the primary care site was previously used as a general election base by Dr Reilly. Last night, Mr Murphy told the Irish Independent he never discussed the sale, planning or development of the site with Dr Reilly.

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.

But despite appearing before the Dail, Dr Reilly, who took up office in March 2011, did not answer questions on when he knew Mr Murphy's site came into contention.

A HSE statement last night said it received an expression of interest in August 2011 from Rhonellen Developments, whose chairman, AJ Noonan, donated €1,000 to Fine Gael.

This came after a previous scheme for the health centre fell through, and the Rhonellen submission identified the site owned by Mr Murphy. The following month, Rhonellen was selected over another bidder, with a lease agreement signed with the HSE in November 2011.

In sharp Dail exchanges, Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Dr Reilly "conferred financial and commercial gain" on people he has links to politically.

But this was strongly denied by Dr Reilly, who rejected suggestions of impropriety and said he had "no hand, act or part" in the HSE's selection of Mr Murphy's site.

Irish Independent

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