It’s a question of what he knew and when

It’s now a question of what James Reilly knew and when about the plans for a primary care centre in Balbriggan in his own constituency.

The answers could yet derail his ministerial career.

Before getting to what he did and didn’t know, some background is required.

In 2010, under the previous government, the HSE confirmed a long-awaited primary care centre was in the works for Balbriggan. The preferred bidder would fund the project and the HSE would lease it.

It never happened. The developer failed to get GPs on board to participate in the project, and so the HSE walked away in Nov 2010.

The HSE then returned to other interested parties and selected AJ Noonan of Rhonnelan Developments. In September of last year, by which time Dr Reilly had been minister for several months, the HSE signed an agreement for lease with Mr Noonan to develop the primary care centre.

But Mr Noonan did not own the site. It was owned by another developer, Seamus Murphy, a Fine Gael member whom Dr Reilly personally knew.

Developing the primary care centre hinged on Mr Noonan’s acquisition of the site from Mr Murphy, a process complicated by the fact that the latter was engaged with Nama.

At the very least, Dr Reilly knew negotiations were ongoing for the purchase of the site. We know this because he told a local paper, the Fingal Independent, as much in June of this year.

“I’m very pleased to say the one in Balbriggan is running ahead and we hope to have some news on that in the not-too-distant future,” he told the paper.

“There are negotiations going on and it’s down to price now and who knows the price of anything these days.”

The question is whether Dr Reilly knew that Mr Murphy owned the site.

It’s hard to imagine he did not know this detail, given he had promised Balbriggan a primary care centre and he and his parliamentary assistant, Cllr Tom O’Leary, had been tracking every development on that front.

If the minister did know, it would call into serious question the political wisdom of his decision to add Balbriggan to Roisín Shortall’s original shortlist of proposed primary care centres to be built under public-private partnership.

Dr Reilly said the reason for the addition of Balbriggan to the list was in case the latest leasing agreement fell through like the first one.

But if he knew of Mr Murphy’s involvement, that would have meant adding a site which he knew was owned by a party member.

Fianna Fáil alleged yesterday that Dr Reilly may have “conferred potential financial and commercial gain on individuals and entities”.

The minister rejected that, insisting he had “no hand, act or part” in the HSE’s decision to go ahead with the centre on the Murphy site.

He also argued that, if there were any financial gain, it would be to Nama and not to Mr Murphy.

But for Dr Reilly, the questions continue to mount. He has spent day after day trying to defend himself, only for further questions to emerge

As one senior Fine Gael politician admitted yesterday, there’s only so long that can be allowed continue.

*Read more:

Reilly in office months before site deal

Reilly knew talks to buy site were ongoing

Talk of transparency is set aside for spin and secrecy

It’s a question of what he knew and when

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