The State has a legal strategy to defend cases taken by those seeking compensation for some nursing home charges dating back several decades.

A Government spokesperson last night confirmed the strategy was in place.

However, the spokesperson said it pre-dated July 2011 and was pursued by successive governments.

Claims by a whistleblower on the issue were published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

It was claimed that the State had pursued a strategy to curb financial compensation to the families of people who were forced to pay nursing home charges over three decades.

Many medical card holders had to pay for this care over a 30-year period, but in 2005 it was found that they had been entitled to it free of charge.

This resulted in more than 1,000 patients filing complaints with the Office of the Ombudsman.

"It has been misrepresented," said the Government spokesperson.

"The strategy was to defend the cases relating to private nursing homes on several grounds, in particular that medical card holders did not have an unqualified entitlement to free private nursing home care."

The spokesperson added that a limited number of individual cases were settled where there were complicating factors.

"No case ever proceeded to a hearing. In the case of public nursing homes, a scheme was put in place and €480m was paid to former residents or their families," they said.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has sought advice from the Attorney General and a detailed briefing from his department on the issue.

Earlier yesterday, the Taoiseach said he was never involved in devising or agreeing a legal strategy in 2011 to limit payments to those wrongly charged for nursing home care.

The Taoiseach said the four people mentioned in the Mail on Sunday article are not in the current Government.

Both Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have requested that any new documents on the subject are forwarded to an Oireachtas committee immediately.

Speaking on the The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, the Taoiseach said the Government is trying to get the facts on the matter from the Department of Health.

"As far as I know I haven't seen it and didn't at the time but we're trying to check out all the facts. But what is fair to say is that the true picture is going to be a lot more complex and different from how it was presented in the article," Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach added that the State has never accepted the argument that people who paid for private nursing home charges were entitled to their money back.

He added: "The State has never conceded that but there have been some cases that have been settled and it will be the case from time to time that Government departments will settle cases but they are not all settled.

"There was never a test case that went to trial. It needs to be looked into properly but the way it was presented on Sunday, the real picture is a lot more complex than that."