Former health ministers may face grilling on Console financial crisis

Former health ministers James Reilly and Leo Varadkar may face a public grilling before the end of this month over how much was known about the Console financial crisis while they were in office.

Former health ministers may face grilling on Console financial crisis

The Irish Examiner understands the possibility of the two politicians being hauled before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee will be raised at the committee’s first meeting since the election today.

The request, which will come at the same time as an emergency meeting of Console staff called last night during which they will be told they are hundreds of thousands of euro out of pocket and services may have to be wound up, is expected to be raised by new PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming.

While to date the only Console meeting planned with the powerful committee is with the HSE next Friday, Mr Fleming is expected to raise the matter when discussing a similar request from fellow PAC member and Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell for Console members to attend separate public questioning.

Technically, the plan for former ministers could also include Mary Harney, but there is disagreement among PAC members over whether such a request would involve further complications due to the fact Ms Harney is no longer a TD or senator.

As such, it is likely to be limited to Mr Reilly, now a senator, and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, who served as health ministers between 2011-2014, and 2014-2016 respectively.

The move came as it emerged last night that Console’s interim chief executive David Hall has called an emergency meeting with staff today to tell them services may be wound up immediately due to alleged Government failure solve the charity’s financial crisis.

The meeting in Dublin, which will be attended by representatives from across the country, was called after it emerged staff are owed hundreds of thousands of euro in salaries due to the scandal engulfing the organisation.

David Hall
David Hall

While Health Minister Simon Harris and HSE officials have insisted they are doing all they can to address the crisis, Mr Hall last night told them in tense phone calls that unless they provide a solution to the scandal now, he will be left with no option but to wind up services under his control.

The PAC meeting is also expected to hear further concerns raised in the still unpublished HSE internal audit report into the crisis-hit charity and the actions of disgraced former chief executive Paul Kelly.

The 200-plus page document is understood to have included repeated criticism by the auditors that they were “hampered” from accessing key files by Mr Kelly and other officials, and that files were regularly in poor condition and difficult to follow.

Amid fresh concern about the health of the charity sector, Fine Gael TD Jim Daly has written to Mr Harris asking him to allow an “amnesty” for other charities with irregularities in their accounts to come forward.

Charities regulator John Farrelly yesterday admitted much of the sector remains “unregulated”, and that new powers announced this week to come into force on September 5 are needed.

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