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In full: The Department of Health email about answering Parliamentary Questions

Assistant Secretary General in the department, Bairbre Nic Aongusa, spoke of her insistence on making sure that Parliamentary Questions were answered.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly (file photo)
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly (file photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

A DOCUMENT RECEIVED by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty under the Freedom of Information Act gives an insight into tensions within the Department of Health during the primary care centre controversy.

The email (in full, below) shows correspondence between the Assistant Secretary General in the department, Bairbre Nic Aongusa, and media advisor, Mark Costigan.

Dated 25 October, the correspondence came less than a month after the resignation of the then Minister of State for Primary Care, Róisín Shortall, and at a time during which the Minister for Health, James Reilly, was facing question after question in relation to the choice of location for primary care centres, one of which was in Balbriggan in Co Dublin.

In the email, Nic Aongusa tells Costigan of her concerns over the recent finding by the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, that the Department of Health had twice failed to answer Parliamentary Questions which related to primary care centres in a sufficient manner.

In hoping to address this issue, she said that she was “particularly insistent” that a most recent reply would answer the questions which had been asked and, according to Nic Aongusa, did not contain any NAMA-related information which could have prevented it from being answered.

Responding to whether any attempt had been made by him during this time to prevent the answering of questions on the topic of primary care centres, Costigan said:

The question asked, was about a NAMA meeting and any reference to a specific address in Balbriggan. It is the responsibility of the Department to answer PQs.
While the accurate answer to the question was actually in the negative I suggested to the Department that a broader account of the meeting would be helpful to the questioner. A fuller account of the meeting would have shown that the its central issue was to seek a new home for Holles Street hospital.
The reference at the meeting to Primary Care was an encouragement to avoid any unnecessary delays. However the Department is constrained under legislation from providing certain information related to NAMA.

To see a larger image, please click here.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Independent TD Róisín Shortall spoke of the latest Department of Health controversy regarding the fast-tracking of emergency departments in Wexford and Kilkenny:

It’s part of a piece really, it very much goes to the heart of the reasons why I resigned as the Minister of State. Because of the fact that decisions were taken for political reasons rather than on the basis of any kind of objective assessment.

Read: Kenny slams Sinn Féin ‘witch hunt’ against Minister for Health >

On the primary care centres: Reilly spokesman rejects SF claims of NAMA talks on Balbriggan site >

More: Swords and Balbriggan added to primary care list night before announcement >

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Paul Hyland

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