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'Lessons have to be learned' from Dr Holohan TCD role controversy, Taoiseach says

Dr Holohan said yesterday he will not proceed with a new role in TCD after stepping down as Chief Medical Officer later this year.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking at an Easter Rising commemorative event today.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking at an Easter Rising commemorative event today.
Image: Fianna Fáil via Twitter

Updated Apr 10th 2022, 7:00 PM

IT IS “REGRETTABLE” that Dr Tony Holohan will not be taking up a planned role at Trinity College Dublin but full transparency would have been “appropriate”, the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking to reporters in Arbour Hill in Dublin today at a Fianna Fáil event to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising, Micheál Martin said that lessons must be learned from the controversy this week. 

Dr Holohan said yesterday he will not proceed with a new role in TCD and will retire from his position as Chief Medical Officer in July. 

It followed days of controversy around the details of the position after it was reported that the Department of Health would continue to pay Dr Holohan’s salary in the TCD role. 

Micheál Martin said: “I think fundamentally lessons have to be learned here, but I think transparency from the outset would have been appropriate, particularly in relation to all of the aspects of this.

“I think it’s regrettable given the fact that Tony has played a very strong role in terms of bringing us through the pandemic.

“I think there has to be full transparency in relation to all of these issues.” 

The Taoiseach added: “There will be a comprehensive summary and report tomorrow from the Secretary General of Health to the Minister for Health.

“I was very clear that anything which involves the spending of public money or any substantive programme of research is a policy issue that does require approval by government.

“It is clear to me that this was to be funded by the Exchequer from what I know now.

“I met with the minister on Thursday. He had certain details that had been presented to me at that stage. It was very clear that what was envisaged was a multi-annual funding from the Department of Health to be administered by the Health Research Board.

“I think the research programme itself and building up our capacity in terms of research as a preparation for future pandemics is a good idea, but again it is one that if perhaps early on there had been a broader deliberation on it, things may have worked out differently.”

The planned role for Dr Holohan as a Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership was set to be an “open-ended secondment” funded by the Department of Health under the same terms as Dr Holohan’s existing contract. 

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Recent reports show the CMO’s salary is around €187,000 per year.

Dr Holohan confirmed yesterday that he had “decided not to proceed” with the new position and he did “not wish to see the controversy of the last few days continuing”. 

“Following my departure, I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise outside of the public service,” he added in a statement. 

The CMO’s new role was initially announced last month, but information that the Department of Health would continue paying Dr Holohan’s salary after leaving his post at the department was not disclosed until this week.

The Taoiseach had said earlier this week that the secondment should be paused to allow for greater transparency. 

With additional reporting by the Press Association. 

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