Deputy Micheál Martin: Yesterday I received another large bundle of freedom of information documents on the selection of primary care centres and the addition of centres at Swords and Balbriggan. One might be suspicious on the eve of budget day to get such a large selection of documents because it is a classic way to bury material that the Government might not want people to see but, on a quick read through the documents, they clearly reveal a story of the selection of those sites which is much different to the one that was revealed by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, over repeated questions in this House, not to mention the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly.
The freedom of information documents show the list of 33 locations was signed off by the Taoiseach and Deputy Gilmore on Friday, 13 July and, significantly, that list does not include Balbriggin and Swords. However, on Monday, 16 July, there was a flurry of e-mails between the office of the Minister, Deputy Reilly, and the Department of Health and others. At 6.02 p.m. on the night before the Cabinet meeting, Swords and Balbriggin were still not on the list. By 6.22 p.m., 20 minutes later, they are on the list. Then written on a significant e-mail, at approximately half past seven that Monday evening, by officials is the following:
Monday evening ... discussed with Maureen Windle [who is the Minister's adviser]. Bairbre advised M Windle in relation to Swords - article in ... [the Irish Independent]. I advised M Windle in relation [to] Balbriggin - recent response to rep signed by Minister for Town Clerk in Balbriggin re leased PCC site location decided - latest is that price is agreed.Ten minutes later, the adviser, Ms Windle, consults the Minister and gets the response from the Minister that "both Swords & Balbriggin will stay".
The key point here is that these are commercial decisions. A public private partnership, PPP, is a different model to a lease model. A lease model had been agreed. Is it right that a Minister should interfere in such a manner in the commercial arrangement which confers benefit on private sector stakeholders because the PPP model is a much more bankable proposition than the lease model? That is the key. Unfortunately, this is much more than mere political strokes.
The key question here is this. Does the Taoiseach accept that it is wrong for a Minister to get so involved in the detailed selection of public private partnerships and in the modality of the commercial relationship between the State and private sector consortia?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Martin has returned to this on a number of occasions. I am looking at the page here. I see somebody's writing that states "Taois", and then "Taoiseach" and "Tánaiste" stroked out, "signed off on Friday".
Let me be very clear with Deputy Martin. My only interest in this was in agreeing with the Minister, Deputy Reilly, that there should be more than 20 put on the list to bring about competition, to bring about buy-in from general practitioners and to ensure that under the PPP system at least 20 would get across the line. That was my involvement in it. The Minister, Deputy Reilly, had no function whatsoever in the selection of sites for primary care centres-----
Deputy Micheál Martin: That is not the point.
The Taoiseach: -----as distinct from locations that he would have determined by the expanded criteria that he set out.
Deputy Martin has been going on about this for a long time. He may take it with him and read it again if he wishes. When he states, "Taoiseach and Tánaiste signed off", that is what I signed off on.
Deputy Micheál Martin: No. Read that one, that is the key one.
The Taoiseach: I have got it here.
Deputy Micheál Martin: Not that one.
The Taoiseach: Stroked out, "Taoiseach" and "Tánaiste". Deputy Martin is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I am not.
The Taoiseach: What I am interested in, and what you should be interested in-----
Deputy Micheál Martin: No. You keep giving a different answer.
An Ceann Comhairle: Through the Chair.
The Taoiseach: -----is seeing that the foundations for these primary care centres are cut, contracts are put in place, workers are employed to build them and the patients and citizens of the country can have first-class facilities in primary care centres around the country.
We need a great deal more than the 20 mentioned, and that will get through from the expanded list of 35, as Deputy Martin will be aware. He himself was involved as Minister for Health at a time of unlimited funding and he failed miserably to reform the structure or to bring about a system that would provide decent health care for the people. He is coming back in here time and again trying to make a case that there was unwarranted political interference for some kind of commercial gain. Deputy Martin is wrong and he should be big enough to recognise that and get on with helping to ensure that these primary care centres are built in the interests of the people all over the country.
Deputy Dinny McGinley: Deputy Martin's party invented political interference.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Taoiseach keeps on answering questions he was never asked. That is his favourite tactic in this House. I refer to what is in black and white. I am not making this up.
The Government made this decision in July and it is now December when I get this information. That is because the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste nor the Minister would not tell the truth about it in this House.
An Ceann Comhairle: We would want to be careful here.
Deputy Micheál Martin: We had to wait until December to get a freedom of information document which tells the truth.
Deputy Paudie Coffey: Fianna Fáil were pulling stokes 40 years ago.
Deputy Michael McCarthy: Who was it got us the bank guarantee?
Deputy Micheál Martin: I will read it again. It states: "site location decided - latest is that the price is agreed". Therefore, the Minister did interfere.