Martin to face Committee questioning on charges

Former Minister for Health Micheál Martin and two junior ministers in his department are to be questioned on the illegal nursing home charges when they appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee next month, it emerged today.

Former Minister for Health Micheál Martin and two junior ministers in his department are to be questioned on the illegal nursing home charges when they appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee next month, it emerged today.

Former Secretary General Michael Kelly and South Eastern Health Board chief executive Pat McLoughlin have also been invited to a meeting of the all-party body.

Senior civil servant John Travers, who published his report on the 29-year affair earlier this month, will also appear.

Mr Travers found that Minister Martin had never been substantially briefed on the financial or political implications of the illegal charges during his tenure.

Mr McLoughlin had presented legal advice to the Department in 2003 which suggested that the charges were illegal.

Minister of State Ivor Callely said he told the Taoiseach of the charges while Tim O’Malley said he read a briefing note on the issue before a 2003 meeting at which it was discussed.

Committee chairman John Moloney agreed to invite Mr Travers to appear before the Committee on April 12, followed by Mr Kelly on April 13, the ministers on April 19 and Mr McLoughlin on April 20.

Committee members had a brief discussion on the issue before a scheduled meeting with action groups opposed to the controversial Hanly Report on the centralisation of local hospital services.

Present Health Minister Mary Harney said yesterday she hopes to bring compensation scheme proposals to the Cabinet on April 6.

She estimates that over 315,000 patients could be affected and the exchequer could be exposed to a maximum bill of €2bn.

So far over 12,000 people have been in touch with the Department via a telephone helpline, email and letters.

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