HEALTH MINISTER JAMES Reilly has confirmed that he discussed with NAMA locations for primary care centres including Balbriggan, a town in his own constituency that was later chosen on a list of 35 sites.
Reilly confirmed in an answer to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty that he met with NAMA officials in April of this year as part of a wide-ranging discussion on health services including “a number of PCC (Primary Care Centre) locations” with Balbriggan among them.
The news – first reported by the blogger namawinelake and raised at Leaders’ Questions today – comes after controversy over the selection of sites in two locations – Balbriggan and Swords – in Reilly’s constituency for proposed primary care centres.
Reilly has had to defend the selection of the Balbriggan site from a list of 200 potential sites after it emerged that the site was owned by a long-term member of Fine Gael, Seamus Murphy and that the criteria for the selection of locations was changed.
In the Dáil earlier this month, Reilly said that the site was under the control of NAMA, saying: “This site is under the control of NAMA and therefore Mr Murphy doesn’t gain, NAMA gains, if needed there is any gain.”
The minister insisted on 3 October that he had no “business connection” to Murphy and that he had “absolutely no role over the selection of the site” however details that he met with NAMA in April to discuss possible locations among “many issues of interest to the health services” will lead to questions for the opposition.
A spokesperson for Reilly said that it was his understanding that specific sites were not discussed in the meeting with NAMA and said that the discussions “referred to a number of different primary care centre locations. It’s entirely appropriate that the Minister would speak about PCC locations”.
‘No specific address’
The selection of primary care centre sites and the criteria used for this was identified by former junior minister Róisín Shortall as one of the reasons for her resignation last month.
In a parliamentary question this week, Reilly was asked by Doherty if he or his representatives “had contact with the National Asset Management Agency in respect of a property at 66, 68,70 Dublin Street, Balbriggan, County Dublin; and if so, the dates and nature of the contact.”
In response Reilly said:
My officials and I met once this year with NAMA on 20 April 2012. Within its commercial remit NAMA advises that it is at all times open to proposals which can contribute to the achievement of broader social and economic objectives.
In this context many issues of interest to the health services were discussed. A record of the meeting shows that a number of PCC locations were discussed, including Balbriggan. However, no specific address was mentioned.
The issue was raised in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions when Mary Lou McDonald asked Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was he informed of discussions between Reilly and NAMA over primary care centre locations including Balbriggan.
In response, Gilmore said: “In relation to individual ministers and who they meet and what’s in their diary and when: to be honest, I can’t track, nor do I want to track, the diaries of every minister in this Government and who they met and when they met and so on… nor indeed could I possibly do so.”