Dr James Reilly
The Sinn Féin Cavan-Monaghan TD insists that Health Minister James Reilly's Dáil explanation to the Dail on Wednesday night has not dispelled the conflict of interest concerns.
Minister Reilly was named as a debt defaulter in Stubbs Gazette earlier this week, prompting a personal statement to the Dail, in which he defended his dealings with a nursing home investment. In a 10 minute speech Dr Reilly gave a detailed breakdown of the litigation which had resulted in him and a number of investors missing last April's deadline, and the subsequent registering of a €1.9 million debt against the consortium.
Minister Reilly said he regretted that it was not possible to reach agreement in advance of being named in Stubbs Gazette and disputed there was a conflict of interest caused by his share in a property that houses a private nursing home. He outlined three reasons: "One/ I am not the operator of the Greenhill Nursing Home. I never have been. That business is run independently.
"Two/ I have been attempting to divest myself of my interest in the property for 16 months.
"And Three/ my single interest here is the well being of our older persons.
I have repeatedly stated that I believe too many of our older people are being placed in Long Term Care and should instead be in their own homes."
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said: "Minister Reilly has not dispelled the concerns of those who believe there is a conflict of interest in a Minister for Health presiding over bed reductions in public nursing homes while being an acknowledged stake-holder in a private residential care home.
"The Minister has left questions unanswered. He chose to make a 'personal explanation' under Dáil standing orders rather than to make his statement and then give Deputies the opportunity to question him.
"The fact is the Minister, by his own admission, still retains his interest in a private for-profit concern in the health sector. The Minister offered a complex explanation of why he says he has not been able to divest himself of that interest. Yet the Minister clearly gave the impression after the General Election that he had divested himself of that interest. I acknowledge that he sought the guidance of the Standards in Public Office Commission but apparently only in October 2011, a full six months after taking on his Ministerial duties. However, details of his difficulties have only come to light in the wake of his appearance in Stubbs Gazette.
"The Minister claimed that it is not the case that there is a conflict of interest because he is not the operator of the nursing home. Of course having a stake that may give rise to a conflict of interest does not require the Minister to be the operator, merely to benefit or potentially benefit from the concern in question.
"The Minister also claimed that there is no conflict of interest because his single interest is the well-being of older people. I would contend that the policy he is pursuing, including the closure of public nursing home beds, is detrimental to the well-being of older people and, at best, is a very misguided policy."