The Government has asked the Attorney General to look into allegations the State deliberately denied payment of refunds to people illegally charged nursing home fees.
In a bid to quell an escalating political storm, the three party leaders have agreed that Attorney General Rossa Fanning would “look into this issue”.
Echoing comments from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has denied any knowledge of a strategy to deny refunds of illegally charged nursing home fees to patients by the State when he was Health Minister between 2000 and 2004.
His denial comes as at least two Dáil committees are seeking to investigate allegations contained in weekend reports that the State deliberately denied the payments in a bid to contain a potential €12bn pay out.
Rural Independent TDs are seeking speaking time in the Dáil this week on the matter and the Dáil’s spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee is set to examine the matter this week.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for Mr Martin said the Tánaiste “would not have been aware of any legal strategy or memo on nursing home charges”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he was never party to a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges.
Speaking this morning, Mr Varadkar said he did not receive the so-called ‘stealth’ memo in relation to the handling of legal claims around refunds over the State’s failure to provide nursing home care to older people.
The Government has been urged by the Opposition to release documents relating to an alleged failure to provide payouts to families of people who were illegally charged for nursing home stays from the 1970s until late 2000s.
Department of Health whistleblower Shane Corr revealed details in a protected disclosure which was reported on over the weekend.
Estimates within the files put the potential claims at €12 billion relating to patients with medical cards who were improperly charged in public nursing homes.
Mr Varadkar said the issue related to a 2011 memo which it appeared had been circulated to four members of the Oireachtas, none of whom was a member of the current government.
“I haven't seen it and didn't at the time. We're trying to check out all the facts," he said.
"What is true to say is that the true picture will be more complex and different from how it was presented. This is a memo from 12 years ago, it would appear.
Mr Varadkar said the memo in question, "talks about contingent liabilities that never arose." -
"It [the memo] said that the compensation cost for the public nursing homes would be €5billion - it actually came out at 4.50 - it was nine percent of that figure.
"Those figures are not in any way still valid.”
The Taoiseach said that it was his understanding that the issue related to nursing home charges prior to the introduction of the Fair Deal Scheme.
“This is all pre 2009, there hasn't been a case lodged since 2014.
“People in private nursing homes argued that because they had a medical card they were entitled to a full refund of the cost regardless of the cost or regardless of which nursing home they chose - the State has never conceded that," he told.
“But there have been some cases that have been settled and it will be the case from time to time that Government departments will settle, but they're not all settled, there was never a test case that went to trail, so it needs to be looked into properly, but I think it’s fair to say that the way it was presented on Sunday, the real picture is a lot more complex than that.
The Taoiseach added that he was "never party to a strategy devising or agreeing a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges."