HEALTH MINISTER James Reilly will not be forced to offer extra information on the criteria he used to compile a final list of towns being considered for new primary care centres.
The Dáil chairman, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, says Reilly has fulfilled his requirements under Dáil rules to answer parliamentary questions put to him by Sinn Féin’s health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
Dáil rules require ministers to address “each and every request for information” made by any TD in the course of a parliamentary question, but not to specifically answer each question.
Barrett had upheld a complaint from Ó Caoláin, who complained that his own parliamentary questions – which asked Reilly “detail the exact criteria which were used to identify the 35 priority primary care centres” – had not been fully answered.
In a statement this evening, the Oireachtas said Barrett had upheld the complaint because Reilly had not responded to one part of the question.
“The Ceann Comhairle examined the Minister’s reply and found that it had failed to address the request for information in relation to the final list of 35 centres only,” the statement said.
This was communicated to both Reilly and Ó Caoláin on Wednesday, leading Reilly to issue a further response naming the 35 towns on the final shortlist.
An examination of Ó Caoláin’s questions, however, shows Ó Caoláin did not explicitly ask for the list of 35 towns – and openly referenced the fact that the final list of 35 centres had been announced in mid-July.
Though Ó Caoláin also asked for the full list of 200 centres, from which the final 35 had been selected, Barrett said Reilly’s response – that “it was not proposed to publish the list at this time” – was a sufficient response as far as Dáil rules were concerned.
Barrett said he believed this correspondence fulfilled Reilly’s requirements, and that therefore no further complaint could be made against him.
“The Ceann Comhairle is satisfied that the Minister has discharged his obligations under Standing Order 40A,” he said.
The Oireachtas statement said Barrett had wanted to put some facts on the record “in the interest of ensuring that the Office of Ceann Comhairle does not become involved in controversy of a party political nature”.