TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has said that there was no ministerial involvement of any kind in identifying sites on which the government hopes to open primary care centres.
Gilmore made the statement to the Dáil after meeting with both the secretary-general at the Department of Health and the incoming chief executive of the HSE this morning.
The Tánaiste affirmed: “There was no ministerial involvement in any kind in the selection of any indivudal site for a primary care centre.”
He added that while he was personally consulted and had agreed to the proposal to expand from 20 to 35 the list of towns being considered for a centre, his only involvement was in the decision to fund those sites through the government’s €2.25bn stimulus programme announced in July.
“It maximised the amount of input there would be to the economy, to the creation of jobs, and I agreed with the increase from 20 to 35,” Gilmore said.
The insistence came after two days of reports where it was revealed that the owner of the intended primary care site in Balbriggan was a Fine Gael supporter and an associate of the Minister for Health, James Reilly.
Gilmore’s response came after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked the government to publish all the documentation on how the final list of 35 sites for primary centre centres was compiled.
“Transparency demands that all the documentation be published now, not to wait three months for the storms to abate,” he said – describing Gilmore’s response, that any documents would be made available under the Freedom of Information Act, as “extraordinary”.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald also expressed frustration at she called the “incoherent bluster coming from Minister Reilly” at his explanation of the criteria involved in naming the 35 sites.
Reilly yesterday described the criteria used as a “logistical, logarithmic progression” but declined to give any further details.
Shane Ross from the Technical Group meanwhile urged the government to take a direct stand and order AIB not to raise mortgage interest rates for its struggling customers.
“What you should be doing … is ringing up the bank and say, ‘It is not government policy, we do not want a half-per-cent increase in mortgages, and we forbid you to do it’,” Ross said.
Gilmore said he did not propose to take advice on bank management from someone who had once suggested Seán FitzPatrick should be the governor of the Central Bank.