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Dr Tony Holohan will not take up controversial role at Trinity College and will retire as Chief Medical Officer

Dr Holohan said he will leave the public service after stepping down as CMO later this year.

File image of Dr Tony Holohan.
File image of Dr Tony Holohan.
Image: Sam Boal

DR TONY HOLOHAN has said he will not proceed with a new role in Trinity College Dublin later this year after days of controversy around the details of the position.

Dr Holohan will still step down from his position as Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer as planned in July, but in a statement today he said he will not be proceeding with the TCD role as a Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership. 

It was reported during the week that the new post is an “open-ended secondment” funded by the Department of Health under the same terms as Dr Holohan’s existing contract. 

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

Dr Holohan said today that he has “decided not to proceed” with this new role but that he will still step down as CMO from 1 July. 

“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,” he said. 

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,” he said. 

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

Following this afternoon’s announcement, the Provost of Trinity Dr Linda Doyle said: ”This is a huge loss for Ireland’s education sector, and for all the students who would have learned so much from Dr Holohan’s experience.” 

The role in TCD was a newly created position of Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership.

The university said that it had “Dr Holohan in mind” when the post was created.

The move 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.

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The description of the role led to some queries from commentators who pointed out that secondments more commonly involve a temporary transfer of an employee to another organisation. 

In a statement to the Oireachtas Health Committee this week Dr Holohan said he has agreed to “relinquish” his role as CMO and would not be returning to it “at any point in the future”. 

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath was among those who said the “open-ended nature” of Holohan’s secondment was “unusual”.   

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that the secondment should be paused to allow for greater transparency. 

The position of CMO is essentially the most-senior medical role in the Department of Health and Dr Holohan became a household name in that capacity during the Covid-19 emergency.

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