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Heat on Health Minister over nursing home fiasco
[Posted: Thu 12/07/2012 www.irishhealth.com]
Health Minister, Dr James Reilly has retained the support of both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore in the controversy surrounding his being named in Stubbs Gazette arising from a failed business venture involving a private nursing home. The High Court has issued an Order for repayment of 1.9 million euros to other investors involved in the Tipperary project.
In a statement to the Dail last night, Dr Reilly insisted: "I have at all times acted with complete propriety and that the problem stems from complicated litigation surrounding an investment made 12 years ago". He was one of 13 co-owners who bought land in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary for the purpose of building a nursing home and then leasing the home to a nursing home operator. Dr Reilly held a 9% share in the Co-Ownership.
A legal dispute broke out within the co-owners, which ended up in the High Court. Dr Reilly claimed that in January 2011, just prior to the General Election after which he was appointed Health Minister, "I sought to dispose of my interest in accordance with the terms of the Co-Ownership Agreement by offering my interest to the other Co-Owners. However a buyer could not be found at that stage.
"Subsequently, following my appointment to the Government in March 2011, I granted a Power of Attorney to my Solicitor for the purposes of doing all acts necessary to dispose of my interest in the Co-Ownership. On the 4th of April 2011, a second Transfer Notice was served by my solicitor as my Attorney seeking again to dispose of my interest at a reduced price. Once again this was not taken up by any of the Co-Owners."
Dr Reilly in October 2011 notified the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) under Section 10(12) of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. He strongly denied suggestions that there was a conflict of interest in he, as Health Minister, having a financial interest in a private nursing home. "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. Health journalists and others know this already - but I will shortly be announcing a major new initiative aimed at empowering older persons to stay in their own homes rather than go into Long Term Care at all."
Dr Reilly pointed out that since being appointed as Health Minister, he had taken special leave of absence from his own GP practice and "I have no hand act or part in the day to day running of the practice...May I finally say to my colleagues in this House - I entered politics late in life. I did so in pursuit of no business interest whatsoever."
Sinn Fein's justice spokesman, Jonathan O'Brien, accused Dr Reilly of having made an untrue declaration to Sipo, which he said was a very serious matter. Mr O'Brien further alleged a serious conflict of interest in Dr Reilly "attempting to sell his share in a private for profit nursing home at the same time when the decisions he's making are resulting in the closure of public nursing home beds which will have an impact of that share".
The appearance of the Health Minister's name in Stubbs Gazette is politically and personally embarrassing, both to him and the government, but current indications are that his Cabinet colleagues are supportive of Dr Reilly and that his explanation to the Dail last night was considered satisfactory.
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