Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has launched a stinging attack on Health Minister James Reilly, saying he has no respect for the law of the land.
She said his attitude to decisions from her office suggests he thinks the law can be disregarded if it is inconvenient.
“The decision of the minister for health to reject my recommendations amounts to an unequivocal statement that the law is optional,” she said.
Her comments came in the midst of an ongoing row over the way the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant is administered. Ms O’Reilly has released two reports which say the policies governing these two measures are discriminatory and break the terms of the Equal Status Act.
She said Dr Reilly had rejected her reports and this was of greater significance than the conclusions she made on them.
“Important as these schemes are for the people who should benefit from them, of far greater importance is the challenge thrown down by a minister and his department who, it would seem, refuse to respect the law of the land.”
She said Dr Reilly’s refusal to respect the act sent a message to publicans who are subject to the law when ensuring fair treatment of customers from the Travelling community.
She was at the Oireachtas committee on public service oversight and petitions to discuss her follow up to last year’s report on the mobility allowance.
She said the Department of Health had a poor record when it came to ensuring its policies were compatible with law.
“I feel I should inform the committee that the Department of Health has a long history of, to put it mildly, carelessness about the law.
“And this has been the case irrespective of which political party or coalition has been in government.”
She said this was rooted in a “culture of prevarication, disregard for the law, and an inability to take hard decisions”.
The department said it would be appearing before the committee and would respond to Ms O’Reilly’s comments at that stage.
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