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top doc Dr Tony Holohan's salary is €30k higher than other professors working at Trinity College

Maximum is €157,000 but he will keep CMO pay

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New role: Dr Holohan Tony told the health committee that the creation of the Trinity role was very much his idea. Photo: Julien Behal

New role: Dr Holohan Tony told the health committee that the creation of the Trinity role was very much his idea. Photo: Julien Behal

New role: Dr Holohan Tony told the health committee that the creation of the Trinity role was very much his idea. Photo: Julien Behal

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan will earn €30,000 more than the top pay for most Trinity College professors when he takes up his new academic role.

The highest capped salary for a professor solely involved in teaching and research at the university is €157,613.

However, because Dr Holohan is paid by the Department of Health – rather than directly as an employee of Trinity College – he can hold on to his €187,000 chief medical officer salary from July.

Trinity College is bound by public service pay scales although there are exceptions, where academics on similar arrangements to Dr Holohan are paid bigger salaries due to being highly sought after and having globally in-demand academic expertise.

Others, who are both working hospital medical consultants and part-time lecturers, are on higher scales.

Trinity needs to make a strong case and seek a derogation to go outside existing pay scales, and this is difficult to secure.

It comes as Dr Holohan confirmed he will not be resigning from his post as chief medical officer but will be “relinquishing the role”. He told a private session of the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday that a new chief medical officer will be appointed and he will not be returning to the post.

After refusing to respond to questions for several days, the Department of Health yesterday confirmed it was Secretary General Robert Watt who signed off on the deal that will see Dr Holohan – who is in his mid-50s – remain as a Department of Health employee on his €187,000
salary while on a secondment of indefinite duration at
Trinity.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “It is important to note there is no change in the remuneration or financial benefit to Dr Holohan on foot of this arrangement.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure said an examination is under way into the circumstances of the move.

She noted that Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and his officials will “liaise with colleagues from the Department of Health around the secondment of the chief medical officer to Trinity College”.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that Mr McGrath is not satisfied with how the arrangement was handled.

There was no mention of Dr Holohan remaining on the department’s payroll in the original press release that announced he was stepping down as CMO last month.

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And Health Minister Stephen Donnelly appears not to have known about the secondment element of the deal until it was revealed on the front page of the Irish Independent earlier this week.

The Department of Health press office has also been slow to provide answers to basic questions.

Mr Varadkar said it would have been far preferable if the arrangements had been transparent from the start.

The salary of a chief medical officer is set at the same rate as that of a department deputy secretary.

The Department of Public Expenditure will be asked to sanction the recruitment of a new chief medical officer on €187,000, although Dr Holohan who has not resigned, is on the same salary.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, who is a member of the health committee that met Dr Holohan yesterday, said he supported the new academic role to strengthen public health but said the decision to not resign as chief medical officer but relinquish responsibilities “did not make sense”.

Secondments in the civil service are normally described as temporary moves and “in general” last for a period of six months up to a period of five years.

Dr Holohan told the committee that the creation of the role was very much his idea – signalling that an approach was made to Trinity first.

He 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 and Leadership in Trinity College Dublin.”

Dr Holohan said he will lead collaboration between universities and the health sector and develop stronger links with the World Health Organisation and agencies of the European Union.

The Department of Health said yesterday that all arrangements in relation to staffing “are the responsibility of the Secretary General” and it was “mindful of the general principles of the civil service secondment policy” when approving Dr Holohan’s move.


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