Thursday, 1 April 2021
Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements
Catherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
The best way for us to show our respect and gratitude to the whistleblower, Shane Corr, is to stand with him and ensure that he does not suffer. We must also change the procedures after we find out what was done. While the Minister of State is praising a review, I do not accept it whatsoever because it is not independent. We must bear in mind that the latest revelation this morning was a memorandum praising someone who followed up, hunted down, chased up and followed up again on information that was going to be used to do down a family. I have the greatest of respect for the Minister of State but this is not about her or me. She has talked about her alarm and outrage, and praised the whistleblower. However, she went on to tell us there was no malice intended when she could not possibly know that. She also told us that it may have been lawful and there is a narrative that it was probably lawful in the contributions of many of the speakers. In my experience as a psychologist and barrister, limited as it is, I do not think there is any legal basis for the manner in which the Department has acted like a private investigator. There are rules and regulations in place even for private investigators. The exchange of medical reports and information in any legal case is determined by rules that are open and transparent. None of this makes sense and to say it may be legal is unnecessary at this point.
I would have liked senior Cabinet Ministers to have attended today. The Minister of State has been left absolutely in the lurch. The issue becomes about her or me, which is absurd because it is about a serious story where information has been gathered surreptitiously in a clandestine manner to be used to do down people and families with autism and special needs under the guise of saving the State money. Where is the senior counsel's report? Will it be published? Did the Department, or somebody on its behalf, threaten RTÉ under the Official Secrets Act? Did that happen? About how many files are we talking? What explorations has the Department done to find out? How many other areas does it affect? Does it, for example, affect the women with cervical cancer who came forward and took cases? How many other sectors has it affected? Let us have, at the very least, a full and frank discussion in the Dáil with senior Cabinet Ministers being held to account for a Department that is clearly out of control, and I say that reluctantly, because it has come forward and stated it has done nothing wrong. The Department is now going to investigate and confirm that it has done nothing wrong. The Government is asking us to think that is not nonsense.