Taoiseach Leo Varadkar considered cutting compensation for victims of the hepatitis C scandal to save money, a leaked government memo reveals.
The Mail on Sunday reports that, when he was Minister for Health, Mr Varadkar secretly proposed removing redress entitlements of family members affected by contaminated blood transfusions.
More than 1,600 people got hepatitis C from the transfusions provided by the state's health service and to date more than 300 have died as a result.
In May 2015, Mr Varadkar said that the state could save up to €1 billion by cutting some parts of the compensation, such as excluding dependent relatives of those infected from the scheme in the future.
It was stressed that the proposal should remain secret to avoid publicity and an influx of claims from dependents.
The memorandum reads: "The Minister for Health considers it important that the drafting of the legislation remains secret to protect the financial interests of the State."
"It is proposed that the legislation includes a provision whereby it would take effect from the date of publication of the Bill, the document continues."
"In light of the above, the Minister for Health is seeking that the drafting of this legislation be prioritised."
In 2014, Mr Varadkar said he would not move to introduce legislation to restrict the powers of the hepatitis C compensation tribunal.
Despite this, the proposal to restrict victims' entitlements was planned over months, although it was never put into action and compensation for victims has remained unchanged.
There have been around 5,000 claims from victims and their relatives so far.
According to the memorandum, the tribunal cost €1.086 billion by the end of 2013 and would likely cost another €1.23 billion thereafter.
It estimated that two-thirds of the state's payouts as part of the scheme would go towards "never-infected relatives" of infected people.
Nursing home payments
The state also came under fire recently over allegations that it deliberately prevented people illegally charged nursing home fees from getting refunds.
The Taoiseach has insisted he had no input into any legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges.
On The Pat Kenny show this week, Mr Varadkar said he has asked the Attorney General to look into the report – but insisted the issue was “a lot more complex” than has been reported.
The Mail on Sunday published allegations that the Department of Health had been told to limit the amount of compensation awarded to individuals who had been overcharged for care.
Mr Varadkar said he had not seen such a memo while he was Health Minister.
"Certainly what I can say; I was never party to devising or agreeing a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges", he said.
Main image shows Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews