Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that as health minister in 2015, he and the government considered curbing compensation schemes for HIV and Hepatitis C sufferers.
But the Fine Gael leader said the proposal was deemed too harsh and never acted upon.
He also said it had to be seen in the light of very tight budgets in a time of Troika supervision and enforced cutbacks.
News of the proposal came yesterday in a leaked memo amid ongoing controversy about historic nursing home charges for people with medical cards, and the denial of disability payments to people in institutional care.
The 2015 memo revealed draft proposals for removing redress entitlements from family members affected by contaminated blood transfusions.
Around 1,600 people got hepatitis C from the transfusions provided by the state health services and, up to now, over 300 have died as a result.
The memo revealed that in May 2015, Mr Varadkar said that the State could save up to €1bn by cutting some parts of the compensation. This was mainly around excluding dependent relatives of those infected from future payments.
It was stressed that the proposal should remain secret to avoid publicity and an influx of belated claims. “The Minister for Health considers it important that the drafting of the legislation remains secret to protect the financial interests of the State,” the government memo said.
“It is proposed that the legislation includes a provision whereby it would take effect from the date of publication of the Bill,” it continues.
“In light of the above, the Minister for Health is seeking that the drafting of this legislation be prioritised.”
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said yesterday that the 2015 decision turned around a choice between providing new, expensive, life-saving medicines for people suffering Hepatitis C, and compensating people not actually suffering from the disease. He added that in the end new money was found to fund both issues and the harsh choice was avoided.
In 2014, Mr Varadkar had said he would not introduce legislation restricting the Hepatitis C compensation tribunal. There have been around 5,000 claims from victims and their relatives so far.
According to the memorandum, the tribunal had cost almost €1.1bn by the end of 2013 and was likely to cost another €1.2bn. Relatives’ compensation was expected to take up two-thirds of the payments.