Sinn Féin has strongly challenged the leadership of the Labour Party this week after the 26-County Minister for Health James Reilly was publicly named in Stubbs Gazette over a 1.9 million euro bad debt.
Dr Reilly was forced to fly in from Cyprus to explain several aspects of his involvement in a property in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where a nursing home is located. His dealings resulted in him not only being named in the Stubbs’ list of debt defaulters, but also accused over an apparent conflict of interest.
The Minister’s involvement in the Green Hills nursing home, along with several others, including former Fine Gael Councillor Anne Devitt, took advantage of a lucrative tax break.
Earlier this year the High Court ordered Dr Reilly and four others to buy the nursing home for 1.9 million euro, but the debt was never paid.
In his statement to the Dublin parliament, Dr O’Reilly said he was now attempting to sell off his embarrassing investment. But Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien dismissed the Minister’s statement as “ten minutes of legal bluster”.
Although Dr Reilly’s name had appeared in Stubbs Gazette because he had breached a High Court order, he had given no indication as to when he would comply with it, Mr O’Brien said.
The Minister’s declaration of interests was untrue, he added.
“[The Minister] is presiding over hundreds of bed closures in the public nursing sector while being an acknowledged stakeholder in a private residential care home,” said O’Brien.
While there was an occasional mutter from their coalition partners in Fine Gael, the Labour backbenchers, usually at the ready to heckle Sinn Féin, remained silent.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the inclusion of Dr Reilly’s name in Stubbs Gazette was “unprecedented” for a government Minister.
He pointed out that between January and May of this year, 296 public residential care beds had been closed.
“It is a fact that the Minister for Health is taking decisions which benefit private health care.
“If the Minister has a personal investment in private health care provision the question must be asked is he a suitable person to be Health Minister?”