concerning' | 

Leo Varakar and Micheál Martin ‘unaware’ of secret plan to deny ‘illegal’ nursing home refunds

Varadkar said he was aware of four people who received a memo on the issue but said he was not one of them

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar


The Tánaiste has joined the Taoiseach in denying knowledge of a State strategy to deny redress to people who were illegally charged for nursing home care.

The Government has now asked the Attorney General to look at the issue, with both former health minsters, Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, saying they were unaware of any cynical approach to limit the State’s legal liability.

At issue is whether the State had the power to levy charges on individuals and their families over elderly care in institutions.

Some internal memos suggested that the legislative framework was lacking, and therefore there was now power to extract contributions, even if this was a fraction of the care costs involved.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today the State has never conceded the point that private nursing home charges were covered by medical cards.

It would have taken a court judgment to establish that position, but scores of cases were settled before any case was listed for formal determination.

Mr Varadkar said in an interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk that he was aware of four people who received a memo on the issue — but he was not one of them.

The Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, said through a spokesman that he “would not have been aware of any legal strategy or memo on nursing home charges”.

The issue arose 20 years ago, and has since been supplanted by the Fair Deal scheme. One calculation, according to leaked papers, is that if the Government had had to recompense everyone for all charges, then the national cost could be €12 billion.

But Mr Varadkar said on radio today: “The way it was presented on Sunday, the real picture is more complex than that.”

He added: “I was never party to devising a legal strategy relating to nursing home charges.”

Mr Varadkar became minister for health long after Mary Harney had effectively solved any issue with the introduction of the Fair Deal scheme, which was solidly underpinned with primary legislation.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has joined Sinn Féin in calling for all papers and documents on the issue to now be disclosed to a committee of the House of the Oireachtas.

Labour Health spokesperson Duncan Smith said: “The idea that a long line of health ministers signed off on a secret plan to delay or deny refunds of illegal nursing home charges is deeply concerning.

“We need complete and total transparency here. All documents relating to these allegations should be made available without delay for proper scrutiny at the Public Accounts Committee.”

Sinn Féin spokesman on Health David Cullinane has already written to the Oireachtas Health Committee requesting that it seek copies of all paperwork.

The issue will be raised in the Dáil tomorrow as the Opposition seeks to embarrass the Government on the affair.

Mr Cullinane called on the Government to release all related documents to provide full transparency after one of the memos leaked to a Sunday newspaper said “confidentiality has been a central element of the legal strategy.”

Another memo, reflecting the costly ‘army deafness’ surge of claims, commented: “The fear is that if details of the cases, the legal strategy and settlements were to gain a high public profile, it would spark a large number of claims.

“It is therefore important that this litigation is handled with extreme care.”

Mr Cullinane said they were very serious allegations that successive Governments had continued to pursue. “A secret plan to block refunds of illegal nursing home charges is truly shocking.”

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