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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Reilly fails to answer crucial questions

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

HEALTH Minister James Reilly's listing in 'Stubbs Gazette' as a debt defaulter owing €1.9m was already complicated, but the minister didn't make it any easier for the public to understand last night.

At the end of a legalistic statement lasting almost 11 minutes, few fundamental questions were answered.

Dr Reilly said he would outline the circumstances by which his name came to appear in 'Stubbs Gazette'.

"I believe this explanation will show fellow deputies that I have at all times acted with complete propriety and that the problem stems from complicated litigation surrounding an investment made 12 years ago," he said.

Dr Reilly and his business partners are currently in breach of a High Court order to pay the debt. Hence, he was listed in 'Stubbs Gazette' as a debt defaulter.

He offered no view on when exactly he would pay the debt, no longer be in breach of the High Court order and thereby remove himself from the defaulters' list.

Nor did Dr Reilly offer any figures into how much of the debt actually belongs to him.

Dr Reilly said his interest in the total co-ownership of the property, which is the original consortium of 13, was 9pc. He said this was equivalent to 25pc of the recourse co-owners' interest.

Although he didn't specify the figure, presumably this means he owes a quarter of the debt, or €475,000.

Dr Reilly did not say how he intends to pay his share of the debt. He offered no insight in terms of whether he has the cash at hand, intends to borrow or will need to sell other assets to meet his obligations.

Also, he seemed to directly contradict his own Register of Interests as a TD. His declaration said he transferred his nursing home interest to a "blind trust as per SIPO advice".

While he was indeed in contact with SIPO (the Standards In Public Office Commission), there is no evidence of the blind trust, aimed at setting aside his interest while he was a minister.

In fact, this needed bank consent and the bank would not agree to it because of the court cases ongoing.

Solicitor

However, he did transfer power of attorney to a solicitor to deal with his interest in the nursing home as they saw fit.

But why did he declare a blind trust in that case, rather than just saying it was power of attorney?

The only real new information was that he has tried for the past 16 months to sell off his share of the interest in the property. But he has repeatedly failed to do so.

Dr Reilly also strongly stated he didn't have a conflict of interest in his role as Minister for Health and dealt with these accusations in detail.

"I do not have a conflict of interest. I have a single interest and that is the best interests of older persons and patients under our health services," he said.

Irish Independent

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