The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been taken into private session this morning after Nursing Home Ireland snubbed an invite to appear which led to a stand-off among members,.
When PAC chairman Sean Fleming sought to bring the meeting into private session shortly before 10am, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald repeatedly said: “No you won’t, I strongly object”.
The PAC had sought answers from Nursing Home Ireland over recent revelations in the media relating to the charges being levied on residents under the State-run Fair Deal scheme.
However, Mr Fleming read a letter from Tadhg Daly, head of Nursing Home Ireland, in which he said his board directed him not to attend.
“The Board have directed me to tell you I am not in a position to attend at this time,” he said.
Mr Daly said a document which has been partially reported upon in the media remains “strictly confidential and legally privileged memo”.
“We have not waved legal privilege and we continue to rely on confidential nature of documents,” Mr Fleming read from his letter.
Mr Daly said that in order to ensure no further infringement of its legal rights, he would not be appearing before the PAC.
He also complained that the PAC had not told him of the type of questions it intended to ask him, thereby denying him an opportunity to prepare properly.
He said that if the PAC wishes to hear from him or his officers in the future that they set out within a reasonable timeframe what topics they wish to raise.
Upon completing the letter, Mr Fleming as chairman said the PAC has a duty to protect the rights of citizens including their legal right to privilege.
The floor was opened to Ms McDonald who began to cite details from the document which Nursing Home Ireland claimed privilege over.
“Our job is to protect the taxpayer which pays through the Fair Deal scheme,” she said.
Mr Fleming attempted to shut her down and then declared he was bringing the meeting into private session.
However, he was immediately challenged by Ms McDonald who demanded the meeting be kept in public session.
The meeting continues.