Dáil to hold emergency session to discuss denied refunds of illegal nursing home fees

Dáil to hold emergency session to discuss denied refunds of illegal nursing home fees

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Verona Murphy TD said the issue was 'incredibly serious' and 'we need answers urgently'. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Dáil and its spending watchdog are to hold “emergency” sessions in the coming days to debate allegations the State deliberately denied payment of refunds to people illegally charged nursing home fees.

The Government has asked the Attorney General to examine the matter at the heart of allegations that the State deployed a strategy to deny refunds to people illegally charged nursing home fees because it would cost the taxpayer €12bn.

At a meeting of the Dáil business committee, it was agreed to hold the session next week to allow the Department of Health “collate information”.

TDs reluctantly agreed to allow the officials time to gather the information after rural Independent TDs, led by Verona Murphy, had sought the urgent session in the Dáil to discuss.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ms Murphy said: “This is incredibly serious. What we have here is a deliberate strategy to deny people — many of whom would not have the means to sue the State — from what they were owed. 

“We need answers, and urgently by way, at emergency sittings in the Dáil and at the Public Accounts Committee.”

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 payout.

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”.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar said that he was never a party to a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges.

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, he said.

Other sources have said that memo, as reported in the media, was not presented to the Economic Management Council in 2011 — which comprised of then Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and finance ministers Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan.

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”.

Mr Varadkar said the real picture is “a lot more complex” than what was presented in the article on Sunday.

The Taoiseach added that he was “never party to a strategy devising or agreeing a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges”.

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