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Harris not aware of any joint PPE order with Stormont

Ireland’s health minister was asked in the Dail about claims by NI finance minister Conor Murphy on a cross border order with a Chinese supplier

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Minister for health Simon Harris (PA)

Minister for health Simon Harris (PA)

Minister for health Simon Harris (PA)

Ireland’s health minister has reiterated that a joint order for Chinese PPE was never made with the Stormont executive.

Simon Harris’s comments come amid calls north of the border for Stormont’s Department of Finance to release emails that might shed further light on the episode at the end of March.

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy has faced criticism for claiming a joint order for personal protective equipment had been made with Irish Government.

Mr Murphy later explained that it had fallen through when supply lines were bought over by others.

He said the order was not completed because bigger international players, such as the US and India, had muscled in on the prospective deal with a Chinese supplier.

On April 3, the Department of Health in Dublin said it had not proved possible to place a joint order with Northern Ireland.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly asked Mr Harris for further details about the episode in the Dail on Thursday.

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Alan Kelly asked for clarity on the claims in the Dail (Niall Carson/PA)

Alan Kelly asked for clarity on the claims in the Dail (Niall Carson/PA)

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Alan Kelly asked for clarity on the claims in the Dail (Niall Carson/PA)

“I am certainly not aware of any joint order,” the minister replied.

Mr Harris said he endorsed the position of the HSE that no joint order had been made.

“There is no joint order between the Republic of Ireland Government and the Government of Northern Ireland,” he added, before praising the working relationship between the health authorities on both sides of the border.

“There is an memorandum of understanding MOU (between the governments) but there has not been a joint order, to the best of my knowledge. I am happy to clarify that for the Deputy (Mr Kelly).”

Earlier, this week a DUP MLA asked the Department of Finance to release “undisclosed” emails related to the episode.

DUP MLA Paul Frew, a member of Stormont’s Finance Committee, said while some information had been handed over to the committee there are no emails for either March 30 or 31.

Responding to Mr Harris’s comments in the Dail, Mr Frew tweeted on Thursday evening: “This is now beyond a joke. It’s a dangerous farce.”

He said the minister and his department were “losing credibility by the hour”.

Mr Frew said there was a need for “full transparency and disclosure”.

“This is now a massive confidence issue,” he added.

The Department of Finance has said it will continue to work with the Finance committee over its requests.

PA