HEALTH MINISTER JAMES Reilly has mounted a robust defence of his conduct in the decision to select two sites in his constituency for primary care centres.
Reilly insisted this morning that that “any contention that there’s anything remotely inappropriate about this is utterly wrong” referring to a story in today’s Irish Independent regarding to the owner of the site for one of the centres in Balbriggan who is a Fine Gael supporter.
The Minister told RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny that while developer Seamus Murphy is a member of Fine Gael and has been for four decades “anyone in Balbriggan would know him” and he said that this site was identified for a primary care centre as far back as 2010.
“The selection of this site is absolutely nothing to do with me,” Reilly insisted pointing to a parliamentary question from February 2010 in which the site had been identified by the previous administration.
He insisted that the town of Balbriggan needed a primary care centre pointing to the doubling of its population in the last 10 years and the high unemployment rate, repeating his claim that it was an insult to people living there to say they were benefiting from ‘stoke politics’:
It’s a town that needs very much a proper primary care centre.
Reilly rejected the notion that he had interfered anyway in the drawing up of a list of sites for primary care centres saying that the list was drawn up by the HSE.
“I really reject any sense that I have interfered in anyway or have tried to get benefit by this,” he told RTÉ saying that in fact he had been hit financially by his decision to enter politics.
The Minister rejected the characterisation of him as a ‘bull in a china shop’ or a ‘bull in a bullring’ who was at the mercy of the bullfighter or toreador, stretching the metaphor, he said:
I know who the toreador is, and the toreador are my electorate and the people who put Fine Gael into government, and they are the ones I’ll answer to.
On criticism of him from the former Primary Care Minister Róisín Shortall, who resigned last week following tensions with her senior minister at the Department of Health, Reilly said that Shortall would have known these changes to the list of primary care centres would be happening.
But he said that he was the one who was in charge and tasked with taking the final decisions, he rejected her claim that he was trying to Americanise the Irish health insurance system and said the reality was the government was improving the provision of health.
He also rejected claims that he was a bully: “There is no way that I have a bullying manner, and I reject that completely,” adding that he had an “excellent working relationship” with his other junior health minister, Labour’s Kathleen Lynch.
The Health Minister is due to make further comments on the matters related to primary care centre site selection in a statement to the Dáil at 3.45pm today.
In photos: James Reilly is good with his hands