Minister for Health James Reilly has said he acted with complete propriety concerning a €1.9m judgment which was registered against him as part of a consortium that failed to comply with a High Court order.
Dr Reilly said the judgment arose from an investment made in a nursing home in Co Tipperary 12 years ago.
The minister told the Dáil that he sought at all times to comply with his obligations under the code of conduct for office holders.
He said that he was a minority shareholder in the investment.
Minister Reilly said efforts were being made to resolve the issue and he rejected suggestions that his investment in a nursing home was a conflict of interest.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said it was a very serious matter that a minister of substantial means remained in contravention of a High Court order.
Dr Reilly made the statement about his investment in the Dáil shortly before 10pm.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the timing was a most curious time to have a debate.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Opposition wanted time to question the minister.
It emerged that Dr Reilly had consultations with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) in respect of his role as one of five investors in the Co Tipperary nursing home.
Before becoming a minister, Dr Reilly transferred his power of attorney to his solicitor in relation to the investment and this was then again transferred to another independent solicitor.
A spokesman for Dr Reilly confirmed this morning that this process was undertaken following contact with SIPO.
It was taken to distance Dr Reilly from involvement with the investment.
Yesterday, Mr Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore expressed their confidence in Dr Reilly.
His name was published in the Stubbs Gazette as one of the five-member consortium owing a €1.9m debt arising from the investment in the nursing home.
It is also understood that while the €1.9m is owed, the payment of this money ran into difficulties over a leasing issue and the drawing down of a new mortgage on the property.
These issues have been resolved and the monies owed will be paid.
A spokesman for the minister also said that Dr Reilly had, from the outset, instructed his solicitor to divest him of any interest in the consortium at the first opportunity.
Responding to charges of a potential conflict of interest as an investor in a private nursing home at a time when public nursing home places are being reduced, the spokesman pointed out that the minister has been pursuing a policy of trying to enable more elderly people remain at home and will shortly announce further measures to facilitate this.
Serious questions to answer - Martin
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Martin said it was a serious issue for a minister not to be in compliance with a High Court order.
Mr Martin said he believed there had been a muddying of the waters in relation to the revelation that the SIPO advised the minister.
He also said the Commission could not give guidance in terms of compliance with a High Court order.
He said: "I think it is a serious issue, in terms of the public interest, that a Government Minister would not be in compliance with a High Court order in relation to a serious debt matter.
"We had an earlier issue some time back with Mick Wallace and the debt he owed to the Revenue.
"In this case, we have a public representative who owes a significant debt to private individuals, and the High Court has made a determination on that, and that determination and that order has not been followed through."
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that it is a conflict of interest for Minister Reilly to part-own a private nursing home.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, Mr Ó Caoláin said that upon taking up his portfolio as Minister for Health, Dr Reilly had indicated that he had divested himself of any interests in the private health care area, but that this was not the case.
He said: "It is not appropriate in my view that a minister that is presiding over the closure of public nursing home beds is also somebody who is a known investor in the private nursing home sector. That is a clear conflict of interest."