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Swords and Balbriggan added to primary care list night before announcement

Documents obtained by Fianna Fáil show the government preparing to announce a list of 33 venues, not 35.

Internal government notes show the Government had prepared to announce a list of 33 locations for 20 primary care centres - with Swords and Balbriggan only added the night before the announcement.
Internal government notes show the Government had prepared to announce a list of 33 locations for 20 primary care centres - with Swords and Balbriggan only added the night before the announcement.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

INTERNAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS show that Swords and Balbriggan were only added to the list of towns being considered for primary care centres on the night before the list was released to the public.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had prepared a statement listing the towns which were in the running for the new centres.

The list included 33 towns across the country which were in the running for the 20 centres – with Swords and Balbriggan not included among those towns.

An official at the Department of Public Expenditure, which was taking the lead in announcing the primary care centres – as part of a larger €2.25 billion economic stimulus plans – sent a draft version of the press release, including the list of 33 towns, to a financial policy officer at the Department of Health at 6:02pm on the night before the stimulus was to be finalised at cabinet.

This was in response to an email from the Department of Health policy officer the previous week, in which she had referred to “a list of 20 locations” being prepared at the time.

A handwritten note on a printed copy of the document, written by an unidentified individual, notes that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste had “signed off on Friday” – indicating that Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore had approved a list of 33 towns to be considered for primary care centres.

The documents, obtained by Fianna Fáil and unveiled by Micheál Martin in the Dáil this morning, reveal that not only was Róisín Shortall’s original list of 20 locations added to – but that a second intermediary list, of 33 venues, still had not included either Swords or Balbriggan.

A second document received by Fianna Fáil and supplied to this morning includes the final list of 35 centres, which would compete for 20 primary care centres under the Public-Private Partnership model.

That document’s list of 35 centres is not sorted by alphabetical order – unlike the final version released to the press – and includes Swords and Balbriggan as the final two entries, inserted at the very bottom of the list, after the earlier list of 33 towns.

This second document, which does not carry date, includes handwritten notes written by the same unidentified person, and hints that the inclusion of Swords and Balbriggan in the list was subject to late discussion.

In the notes, the author writes that they had advised Maureen Windle – a special advisor to the minister – “in relation [to] Balbriggan – recent response to rep – signed by Minister for Town Clerk Balbriggan”.

It adds: “Site location decided”, with the following lines redacted on the basis of commercial sensitivity. “Latest is that price agreed”.

Another staff member, Bairbre – most likely Bairbre Nic Aongusa, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health – had briefed Windle “in relation to Swords”.

Below these notes is another sentence:

M Windle consulted Minister. Both Swords and Balbriggan will stay.

This morning Enda Kenny told the Dáil his only interest in agreeing to expand the original list of 20 locations was “to bring about competition” and therefore to ensure that 20 venues would be delivered on a nationwide basis.

“Minister Reilly had no function whatsoever in selecting sites from Primary Care centres, as distinct from locations”.

Kenny told Micheál Martin: “You’re trying to make a mountain here, out of a molehill.”

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said that the documents were among a cache of hundreds of documents received yesterday, following on from a Freedom of Information request lodged in October.

The spokesman added that the documents did not include any details of a “logarithmic, logistical progression” used to rank the towns.

Read: Reilly discussed Balbriggan as location for primary care centre with NAMA

More: Kenny pressed to publish all documents on primary care site selection

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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