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'very regrettable' Taoiseach says Tony Holohan’s €187,000 TCD salary was to be funded by taxpayers

The Taoiseach said that he decided to pause the secondment on Friday following this meeting and defended his own handling of the controversy, while suggesting that Dr Holohan is not owed an apology.

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Julien Behal/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Julien Behal/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan’s secondment salary of €187,000 to Trinity College Dublin was to be funded by the taxpayer.

It follows reports that the salary was to be funded not solely through the Department of Health but through other bodies, such as Science Foundation Ireland.

“It’s clear to me that this was to be funded by the Exchequer by what I know now,” he said.

“It’s very clear that what was envisaged was a multi-annual funding from the Department of Health, to be administered by the Health Research Board.”

He said that he met with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last Thursday, where he was told of “details” which suggested that the position would be paid for by the taxpayer.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

The Taoiseach said that he decided to pause the secondment on Friday following this meeting and defended his own handling of the controversy, while suggesting that Dr Holohan is not owed an apology.

“I don’t think anyone can argue basic fundamentals around transparency of any process,” the Taoiseach said.

“I’m very clear from my own perspective as to any actions that I have taken in response to what I learned via the media in relation to the secondment.”

Mr Martin said that he was “puzzled” by a report in a Sunday newspaper which said Dr Holohan would instead be paid by a combination of funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Further and Higher Education and the Department of Health.

“All of which are funded by the Exchequer,” the Taoiseach said.

A report on the controversy is due to be submitted from Department of Heath secretary general Robert Watt to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly tomorrow.

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Mr Martin said that it is “very regrettable” that Dr Holohan has decided to give up the role in TCD.

“I think fundamentally, lessons have to be learned here. Transparency from the outset would have been appropriate,” he said.

“I think it’s very regrettable.”

In response to Fianna Fáil Minister of State Niall Collins saying in a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday that Mr Watt “displayed breathtaking arrogance and contempt”, Mr Martin said that he thinks the conversation should be “devoid of any personal attacks on anyone and on public servants in particular”.

He said that he has not spoken to Mr Watt or Dr Holohan and that he has confidence in Mr Watt.

On Saturday, Dr Holohan said he would not take up newly created professorship and is to leave the public service.

The announcement came after days of controversy after it emerged that Dr Holohan would take up the new role as an open-ended secondment that would see the Department of Health continue to pay his €187,000-a-year salary from July 1.

It subsequently emerged that Dr Holohan would not be resigning as chief medical officer, rather he would be moving to Trinity on secondment while retaining the same public service pay and conditions.

In a statement issued by the Department of Health, Dr Holohan said: "I have decided not to proceed with my secondment as Professor of Public Health Leadership and Strategy, Trinity College Dublin.

"I intend to retire as CMO with effect from 1 July to allow the Department of Health sufficient time to advance the process of appointing my successor.

"I do not wish to see the controversy of the last few days continuing. In particular, I wish to avoid any further unnecessary distraction that this has caused to our senior politicians and civil servants.

"My strong belief is that this was a significant opportunity to work with the university sector to develop much needed public health capacity and leadership for the future. In this regard, I would like to thank Trinity College and the Provost for their foresight and support in establishing this role.

"Following my departure, I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise outside of the public service."

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