Sunday 23 October 2016

Reilly forced to defend handling of whistleblower's Console claims

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly
Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly has again been forced to defend his handling of allegations in relation to the now defunct charity Console.

Dr Reilly insisted he took all appropriate measures after allegations about the charity's disgraced former chief executive, Paul Kelly, were brought to his attention by a whistleblower.

Tommy Morris, a former Fine Gael parliamentary assistant, approached Dr Reilly in 2011 when he was Health Minister.

Mr Morris claimed that Mr Kelly had masqueraded as a doctor to order to obtain a job.

It emerged Mr Kelly got a job in a hospital ward in the eighties under false pretences.

He was later caught by gardai and served with the Probation Act.

Mr Morris claims that he raised concerns with Dr Reilly, who told him to contact a department official.

The issue was investigated by a principal officer, who interviewed Mr Kelly.

Despite being advised to do so, Mr Morris did not put the isssue in writing.

However, Mr Morris - who worked for ex-Fine Gael TD Derek Keating - has claimed the alleged abuse of funds at Console could have been "halted" if there been proper intervention.

"I regret that he ( James Reilly) is not prepared to confirm that I brought enough information to him to intervene and stop the exploitation by Kelly of charity money for his own ends in 2011," Mr Morris said in a statement.


"Clearly the former minister accepts I gave him a comprehensive briefing on Kelly then, as he confirms I was given a contact in the Department of Health.

"I have always stated this whole saga of Console could have been halted in 2011.

"What saddens me is that people are still staying silent about the issues I raised then and now."

But speaking to the Herald last night, Dr Reilly said he acted appropriately by advising Mr Morris to contact the department with his concerns.

"I have to be mindful that there are a series of investigations ongoing, and I don't want to say anything that could jeopardise a successful outcome," Dr Reilly said.

"But by his (Mr Morris) own admission, and by what the department has said, this issue was taken seriously.

"What more could I have reasonably done," he added.

However, the pressure on Dr Reilly heightened after Opposition TDs said questions over his handling of the issue remained.

"If concerns were brought to his attention, he should have taken it more seriously," Sinn Fein TD and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member David Cullinane told the Herald.

The response to concerns raised about Console will dominate a meeting of the PAC and the HSE today.

It emerged that the full operations and staff of the scandal-hit charity will immediately be transferred to Pieta House.

The HSE has agreed to pay Pieta in the region of €1.5m to take over the services of Console for a 12-month period, according to sources.

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