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Sunday 24 September 2023 Dublin: 17°C
Leah Farrell/ Dr Tony Holohan (file photo)
# Maura Quinn
Maura Quinn to head up review of Tony Holohan's abandoned secondment to Trinity
Quinn is the the outgoing Chief Executive of the Institute of Directors.

MAURA QUINN, THE outgoing Chief Executive of the Institute of Directors, will oversee a review into the abandoned secondment of Dr Tony Holohan to an appointment at Trinity College.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made the announcement today, a week after he ordered the review in a bid “to examine learnings and recommendations that could inform future such initiatives”.

In a statement, Donnelly said Quinn “has offered to carry out this review Pro Bono and will report back to me in June”.

“It is my intention to publish the report following its consideration,” he added.

The terms of reference for the external review are as follows:

  • Determine learnings from the process related to the proposed secondment of the Chief Medical Officer and associated research proposal
  • Make recommendations that could inform future such initiatives

Following controversy over the secondment, Holohan announced earlier this month that he would not be taking up the position as Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership.

Holohan is still set to stand down as Chief Medical Officer in July.

The controversy was caused over the “open-ended” secondment, which was to be funded by the Department of Health, while Holohan was not expected to return to the role of CMO.

In a previous statement, Donnelly acknowledged there had been criticism that the Department of Health did not outline the full details of what was proposed when Holohan’s appointment was announced.

“The Department has accepted that the proposed arrangements should have been communicated earlier. The Department also acknowledges that there are lessons to be learnt,” he said last week.

Donnelly added that it is “fully appropriate” for there to be scrutiny of significant appointments and announcements.

“Such scrutiny should be devoid of personalised commentary directed at civil servants who are working in good faith with good intentions. We have a strong civil service in Ireland as evidenced throughout the pandemic and we should not lose sight of that,” he said.

Watt report 

A report into Holohan’s secondment – which was written by Secretary General at the Department of Health Robert Watt – was provided to Donnelly, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan on 11 April, before being published.

Watt’s report stated that the Department considered the funding of Holohan’s post as “something that needed to be worked out, but that the Department of Health in progressing this important initiative would fund the role as part of a commitment to support research in this area”.

The report continued: “It was not explicitly stated but it was envisaged that this would involve competitive funding organised appropriately.

“The letter of intent therefore provided for Dr Holohan’s salary to be paid as part of a wider fund which it was envisaged could be administered by the Health Research Board, with details to be agreed between all three parties. It was never envisaged that this salary would be paid directly on the Vote of the Department of Health.”

The report also stated that Holohan advocated for the secondment arrangement, and that there was “nothing unusual or exceptional” about the potential arrangements.

The Health Minister was not informed about the “precise details” of the secondment because there was nothing unusual about it, and because there was no proposed change in Holohan’s conditions of employment, it added.

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