Dr Holohan, who is due to take up a post as a professor in Trinity College in July, was before the Oireachtas health committee today in a private session.
He also confirmed that Secretary General Robert Watt signed off on the arrangement which will see Dr Holohan continue to be employed by the Department of Health which will pay his €187,000 salary although he will be working in Trinity College
Tony Holohan has said he has no intention of returning to his role as chief medical officer and that his secondment to Trinity College Dublin is to “develop public health capacity for the future”.
It adds another complicated twist to the controversy.
It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it would have been “far preferable” if the “full details” of outgoing chief medical officer’s new role in Trinity College were made public.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is “not satisfied” with how the role has been handled and that he is in contact with the Department of Health about it.
It comes amid days of controversy over Dr Holohan’s new role in Trinity College, after Independent.ie reported that he would be on secondment from the Department of Health on a salary of €187,000.
“I think we’ll all acknowledge that it would have been far preferable if full details around the secondment had been put in the public domain at the outset and I think that should have been done,” Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.
“I know the Minister McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure, is not satisfied with how this has been done and he is engaging with the Department of Health on it at the moment.”
He said that his comments are not to “cast dispersions” on “excellent public servant” Dr Holohan but that it is “important to follow procedures”.
“Minister McGrath is pursuing it,” he added.
In his first comments today on the controversy over his new academic role, Dr Holohan told the Oireachtas Health Committee earlier: “My secondment to Trinity College Dublin means I have agreed to relinquish my role as Chief Medical Officer; it is not my intention to return to this role at any point in the future. It is important that my successor feels fully empowered and enabled to undertake the role as they see fit.”
The Department of Health is to continue funding his existing €187,000 public service salary while he takes up a newly created role in Trinity, a move that has only emerged in recent days and has prompted questions from ministers and the Opposition.
Dr Holohan is appearing in private session before the committee to provide an update on the latest public health advice on Covid-19.
However, his statement to the committee addresses the controversy over his move to academia.
In his pre-submitted statement, the outgoing CMO said: “The Department of Health is committed to the development of public health capacity for the future. While Ireland has fared well in many aspects of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is room for development of our capacity in this regard.
“The third level sector will play a key role in providing thought leadership, critical analysis, research as well as the development of knowledge and skills to better support public health leadership, policy making and public health practice.
“It is to further this potential that I am taking up the Professorship of Public Health Strategy & Leadership in Trinity College Dublin.
“Specifically, the Department intends me to lead the development and activities of inter-institutional collaboration between universities and the health sector and to develop stronger links with the WHO and agencies of the EU.”
Meanwhile Independent TD in Clare Michael McNamara inthe Dáil drew comparisons between the botched appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to €14,000 envoy position last year and Dr Holohan’s new role.
“There’s a similar lack of transparency and openness in the use of taxpayer’s money. The only difference that I can see between the two is that Dr Holohan’s position, if it goes ahead, is going to cost the Exchequer 14 times more,” said Mr McNamara.
“The Minister for Health seems to be a passenger to what is happening in his own department,” he said.
This came following an unprecedented intervention from Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl earlier in the Dáil sitting after Independent TD Mattie McGrath questioned Dr Holohan’s capabilities for the role in TCD.
Mr McGrath accused the Government of “penalising and punishing the people” in relation to high living costs and said that the Government is using money from the ESB to fund Dr Holohan’s TCD role, which he is “probably not fit for”.
“We should not question the undoubted capacity and abilities Dr Tony Holohan
“Let’s not cast any aspersions,” said the Ceann Comhairle.
“Thanks for the advice, but I’ll question it,” fired back Mr McGrath.