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HSE defends €300,000 autism spend in Reilly's political area

Róisín Shortall has called for an end to ‘potential cronyism and secret decision-making around public spending’.

Image: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

THE HSE HAS denied that there was any political interference in the decision to allocate the first €300,000 of new funding for autism services to north Dublin.

A report in the Irish Times yesterday had referred to the area as Minister James Reilly’s “political heartland” because the beneficiary – Beechpark Services – is located next to his constituency.

Chief Operations Officer with the HSE told Morning Ireland that the funding was allocated on the basis of an agency report into autism services and needs.

“A review was carried out in 2011 in relation to the services provided by Beech Park because there were significant numbers of children waiting to access the service,” she said.

There are plans to allocate a further €300,000 of the €3 million to Kildare and Wicklow later this year, and following a review of disability services across the country, another €700,000 will be provided.

McGuinness reiterated concerns about the HSE’s current financial challenges, adding that it is necessary to commission reports to see how best scarce resources can be used across the country.

While former Minister of State at the Department of Health and Labour TD Róisín Shortall accepts that there was no political interference in this case, she has called for an end to “potential cronyism or secret decision-making around the spending of public money”.

“All of those decisions should be taken in an open and transparent manner,” she said this morning. “Nobody is denying there was a need for services in north Dublin. There were long waiting lists and it is only right and proper that necessary staff should be provided. But there are long waiting lists in other areas and you have to ask why it is that the money announced has not been spent.”

Minister Reilly announced the €3 million in extra funding for autism services in January 2012. So far, just 10 per cent of that money has been spent. According to Freedom of Information documents requested and obtained by the Irish Times, none of the €1 million allocated for 2012 was used last year.

According to Shortall, the announcement of the new monies raised people’s hopes “unfairly”.

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