Dr Tony Holohan’s secondment to an academic post at Trinity College should be paused and reassessed, according to the Taoiseach.
Speaking on a visit to Helsinki this morning, Micheál Martin said he had asked for a report on the appointment from the Health Minister by Monday.
He said there is merit in “creating additional capacity to create a research platform around pandemic preparedness” and noted that, “clearly the CMO was in a very pivotal position in that regard”.
He warned however, that there must be transparency around the appointment and called for it to be paused while a "reassessment as to how the objectives behind this can be realised in a better and more transparent way" is carried out.
Speaking in Dublin, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the decision to pause the appointment was appropriate.
“When I heard about it, I kind of assumed the job came up, he applied for it and got it, and that’s how it happened,” he said.
“It appears now that it’s actually a little bit more complicated than that. We think it’s appropriate - because it does involve taxpayers’ money - we think it’s appropriate that the appointment should be paused for a short period, while we can find out exactly how it came about and reassure ourselves that procedures were correctly followed.
“I am sure they were, but we want to be sure of that.”
Controversy erupted around the appointment after it emerged the Department of health would continue to pay Dr Holohan’s full €187,000 salary while he is working at the college.
The move has been described as a ‘secondment’; however, Dr Holohan yesterday told a private meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee that he had no intention of ever returning to his role.
He said his role as Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership at Trinity would allow him to develop Ireland’s capacity to respond to future pandemics.
Yesterday the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told Newstalk Breakfast that he viewed Dr Holohan’s move as a “really positive thing for the country”.
He said he learned about the move two weeks ago; however, it has since emerged that he was only informed on Tuesday that the move was a secondment.
The Department of Health later confirmed that its Secretary General Robert Watt signed off on the move.
There is considerable anger at Cabinet around how the move was handled – with the Finance Minister and Public Expenditure Minister both calling for clarity.
On The Hard Shoulder the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said there were “questions to be answered” about the nature of the contract.
The Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said there were “characteristics of this that are unusual” and noted that it could have been handled better