Brian McEnery disclosed the encounter when he appeared before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee to defend himself against accusations he was involved in a conflict of interest given his role as chairman of the Hiqa and his private role as a professional who advises nursing homes on financial matters.
He was asked to appear before the PAC after a story was published in a Sunday newspaper about a meeting he spoke at in October 2015.
He had been invited to the meeting by the chief executive of Nursing Home Ireland, Tadhg Daly.
Mr McEnery, who was appointed the chairman of the board of Hiqa in 2013, told the PAC he advised nursing homes, hospitals, and primary care centres but only on financial matters.
He said the board did not get involved in executive decision-making.
The way Hiqa was legally constituted meant that he, as board chairman, could not, did not, and would not intervene or even have information relating to Hiqa inspections.
“I have on one occasion, been asked to personally intervene by a nursing home operator who sought that a Hiqa report would not be published on the Hiqa website. I refused to intervene,” he said. “In the follow-up correspondence, I was informed that the disappointed party intended to inform Oireachtas members of my professional role. I say this as I wish to provide members with all of the relevant information regarding my role.”
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said that Mr McEnery’s recollection of the event two years ago was “at variance” with the minutes provided to the PAC, but Mr McEnery said he believed the minutes contained inaccuracies and he was taking legal advice on it.
Later, Ms McDonald said that for Mr McEnery to give advice or insights at a meeting the subject of which was the boycott of the Fair Deal scheme was, to her mind, “absolutely untenable and quite frankly outrageous”.
Hiqa’s director of regulation, Mary Dunnion, told the PAC she was “unequivocal” that at no time had the chair or any member of the board sought to question or influence any decisions and so she had no experience of any conflict of interest.
Nursing Homes Ireland was invited to the meeting, but Mr Daly in a letter to the PAC said his board had directed him not to attend.