James Reilly: Government may have ‘cooked the books’ preparing a budget

Minister for children James Reilly has said the Government may have “cooked the books” preparing a budget, and said policies to cut the health spend were doomed to fail.

The Fine Gael deputy leader questioned the savings that were lined up under his former portfolio in health and also revealed that he was close to walking out of government in protest.

He said he and health in general “became the lightning rod for problems” in government in the middle of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition term in power.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke, the former Dublin North TD described the difficulties that arose when the coalition decided to reduce people’s access to discretionary medical cards.

He said: “A decision was made to get out of the bailout and health was the one that paid the price for it.

“I could have walked in 2013/14 and I very nearly did over the budget because I knew it was nonsense what we were being asked to do with the medical cards scheme.”

The decision by Enda Kenny’s government was taken on the back of a desktop report identifying €100m in savings, he said, but the document was not supposed to be used for planning. Another €80m in savings was earmarked through pay savings under changes to the Haddington Road agreement with trade unions, he said.

However, he asked: “But all the pay savings were enumerated so where were the other ones to come from?”

Mr Reilly said he protested against the proposed cuts, adding: “Messages were delivered and there were meetings [with government].”

However, he was also asked if he was suggesting that the “books were being cooked” with the proposed savings that would not materialise.

He replied: “You could argue that or you could argue that you could really achieve it through the mechanisms that they were outlining. I vehemently believed that they couldn’t.”

He stood over some of his actions, including his proposal to abolish the HSE, to introduce universal health insurance, and his attempts to reduce hospital waiting lists.

“There were a lot of mistakes I made, there were a lot of things I got right,” he said.

Asked if he might be chosen as a Seanad nominee after he lost his seat in the general election, Mr Reilly did not rule out accepting such an option.

The Department of Public Expenditure declined to comment on the suggestion that the “books were cooked” when it came to making savings for a budget.


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