Reilly took €10k State jet home to face debts storm
The Evening Herald Tuesday July 17 2012
EMBATTLED James Reilly used the Government's private jet home from Cyprus to react to his Stubbs Gazette listing, costing the taxpayer €10,000.
The under-fire Health Minister flew back to Dublin on Wednesday evening, when he faced the humiliating task of explaining a €1.9m High Court judgment to the Dail.
It has now emerged that he had requested use of the Government jet so that he could make it back in time for a debate on the HSE's €280m overrun.
However, the Dublin North TD instead found himself flying into a storm as controversy intensified over the massive nursing home debts.
Dr Reilly was rushed from Dublin Airport to the Dail where he delivered an 11-minute speech pledging to sort out his financial woes.
His spokesman confirmed that the jet was used for the return trip to an informal meeting of EU health ministers in Cyprus.
Dr Reilly's representative said that it would have been "impossible" for him to make it back to the Dail in time if he took a scheduled flight.
"The minister had already booked the flight, and it would have been impossible for him to arrive back on time to participate in the debate," the spokesman said.
Dr Reilly was one of two ministers to fly out on the Cyprus-bound flight, which stopped off in Brussels to allow Finance Minister Michael Noonan to attend a EU meeting.
However he is the only minister in recent weeks to return home on his own from the Mediterranean island republic, which currently holds the EU presidency.
Ministers Phil Hogan, Leo Varadkar, Joan Burton and junior minister Sean Sherlock all took commercial flights to travel to Cyprus over the past fortnight.
Dr Reilly became the first Cabinet minister in the history of the State to be named as a debt defaulter in Stubbs Gazette.
And his problems last week intensified when the Herald revealed that he personally intervened in an industrial dispute at the Greenhill's Nursing home in Tipperary, despite telling the Dail that the facility has always been run "independently".
The intervention -- made when Dr Reilly was a senior figure in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) -- came to light when a union official revealed that he tried to stop three Indian health workers being moved to a different facility.
Dr Reilly phoned Tony Fitzpatrick of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and questioned how the staff would be replaced.
Dr Reilly has since renewed his pledge to repay the debts in the coming months.
He said the money would be repaid "absolutely, without fail", but that he needs the agreement of the other partners behind the deal.
"I am given to understand that there is a new dynamic involved now since all this recent publicity and that we should get a resolution.
"The Taoiseach has made it very clear that he understands the difficulty that I am in, vis-a-vis this particular investment, which I made 12 years ago," he said.
"There is no more I can do other then encourage the people involved to try to reach a solution.
"I am very happy to settle my end of this debt, but I can't settle it on my own," he said.
- Niall O'Connor