Primary Care Centres Provision (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins] Have any representatives of the Minister had discussions with this person? Was the Minister kept informed of circumstances as they developed? What role did he play in the selection of the site in question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Chair has ruled on many occasions that allegations of a serious nature against any Member of this House can be made only by way of a substantive motion. To suggest that people are acting corruptly or improperly is not in order. I remind Deputies that this has been the tradition in this House for as long as the records show.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Deputy Joe Higgins should note that the site is under the control of NAMA and that, as a consequence, Mr. Murphy does not gain. NAMA gains if there is any gain. NAMA represents the people in trying to get back the moneys that were lost. The people of Balbriggan, whom I support, also gain. Balbriggan is a town that has seen its population double in ten years and has the second highest unemployment density in the greater Dublin area. The town was chosen by the HSE in 2007 and 2008, and proposals on both it and Swords were brought to the board of the HSE in 2008 and were approved. Therefore, the need is long established, as is the priority. I consider it an insult to the people of Swords and Balbriggan to say to them that the only way they can get what they deserve and need, according to proven, independent individuals, is through political stroke pulling.

I want to answer the Deputy's other questions directly. I have no business connection with Mr. Murphy. I had no discussions with him about the primary care centre and I have absolutely no role in the selection of a site. As I stated on the radio today, the only site over which I have control and which I did not want included because I was becoming Minister for Health is the site I own in Swords. I hope that clarifies the matter.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Has the Minister established why Mr. Murphy sought at first to distance himself from him and said he had only seen the Minister on television? A photograph, of course, speaks a thousand words, and that is what we saw this morning.

Can the Minister confirm that he added the 15 locations, including Balbriggan and Swords, to the list of 20 drawn up by former Minister of State, Deputy Róisín Shortall, for the development of primary care centres? Can he confirm that it was he who added those locations to the list, and not his predecessor, Ms Mary Harney, as was claimed this morning by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn?

The Minister was on the Pat Kenny radio show this morning. What a performance. He tried to excuse his lack of communication with the former Minister of State responsible for primary care by saying to Mr. Pat Kenny that he "spoke to senior Labour Ministers" about his proposed primary care centre locations. That is a matter of considerable interest. To which senior Labour Ministers did the Minister speak about this matter, and when did he do so? Why did he not deem it appropriate to speak to the responsible, designated Minister of State at his Department, a party colleague of the Labour Ministers? I am sure the Ministers from the Labour Party, and all Members in this House, including the Independents, are very interested in hearing the reply of the Minister for Health because the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, denied only last Thursday in this House, when questioned by my party colleague, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, that there was any consultation on the part of the Minister for Health with her or any senior Labour Party Minister.

Let me refer to the criteria used. In his written replies to me and other Deputies last week, the Minister referred repeatedly to the criteria for selection as relating to public private partnerships. What are the criteria for selection by the other methods, including lease and Exchequer funding? Do separate criteria exist for these and will the Minister tell us what they are?

It appears the Balbriggan site is to be developed by lease arrangement, yet it was put on the list of those sites on which progress may be made by public private partnership. On what basis are locations switched between the lists? What is the position on the eight locations chosen for development with Exchequer funding? Is eight the correct number? We are not talking about a total of 35 at all. There are at least another eight, perhaps. Has the Minister signed off on this number and the locations? Is he aware that the former Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, denies that she switched locations on the lists, as the Minister's spokesperson claimed to The Irish Times. There is a clear and absolute denial of the practice on the part of the former Minister of State. Why, therefore, were some of the locations redacted from documents obtained under the freedom of information legislation? Why was this practice employed in this instance?

The Minister spoke this morning about a swamp. It is one entirely of his own creation.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I also mentioned alligators; I will not go beyond that. It was reported this morning that Mr. Murphy said he sees me on television. I made the point this morning on the radio programme, which the Deputy clearly listened to or had someone listen to and transcribe-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I listened to it.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Good. Then the Deputy knows my answer very clearly. I am sure he finds the same response himself-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Interestingly, we do not know the Minister's answer.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I did not interrupt Deputy Ó Caoláin and would like him to show me the same courtesy. Many people say to me that, because they do not see that much of me in my constituency since my job is of such considerable importance to the future well-being of the people, the only time they see me is on television. I am sure this is what Mr. Murphy was alluding to. However, I do not know how Mr. Murphy's mind works and will leave him to explain the matter himself if he chooses to do so. If Deputy Ó Caoláin had listened to the radio programme this morning, as he says he did, he will know I was in contact with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform because the stimulus package had to go to him for final sign-off and Government approval.

There are three separate methods: public private partnership, direct Exchequer funding and leasing. This is where it gets considerably arbitrary because while one can define when a lease is signed, which is straightforward, one must determine the point at which one decides on the term "might be done by lease". When does "might be done by lease" become "might not be done by lease"? Therefore, one can see that, no matter how much of a desktop exercise one does on the selection process, there are always practical or pragmatic considerations on the ground that preclude things being done in the way that might look sensible in an office setting. I mentioned this morning on the radio that if one accounted for all the parameters I put in place, etc. but left out the other facilities in the area, one would end up building a primary care centre in the shadow of a large hospital and yet have nothing in an area of considerable population density ten or 15 miles away.

I would like to cover one last issue raised by the Deputy, namely, the inference in The Irish Times that somehow things had been moved around by me at an earlier date. I have confirmed with the HSE that it was it that moved those things around the list, not I. If Deputy Ó Caoláin wishes to ask the HSE directly, it will confirm that.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin What about the redacted locations identified through a freedom of information request?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The Minister seems to be confused because we are not casting aspersions on his integrity in respect of whether there was a cosy deal done with Mr. Murphy. The point of the exercise is to get to the bottom of why names of towns, including Ballaghaderreen and Kilkenny and two locations in the Minister's constituency, appeared on a list although they were not on that list before that.

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