Fianna Fáil to decide on no confidence motion in HSE chief

Tony O’Brien to step down at beginning of July due to accumulated leave

 HSE director general Tony O’Brien:   the Government has so far resisted calls for him  to resign

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: the Government has so far resisted calls for him to resign


The Fianna Fáil front bench will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to support a planned Dáil motion of no confidence in HSE director general Tony O’Brien.

Sinn Féin is seeking to table a motion this week calling on the Dáil to state it has lost confidence in Mr O’Brien in the wake of the controversy over cervical cancer screening.

The Government has so far resisted calls for Mr O’Brien to resign, and instead has argued that it would be better if he remained in his post for the last few weeks of his term in office to try to deal with the controversy over the State’s cervical screening programme.

However, if Fianna Fáil backs the Sinn Féin move the likelihood is that the motion of no confidence in Mr O’Brien would be passed by the Dáil. Some informed sources have suggested that if such a scenario appeared imminent, the Government’s existing position that Mr O’Brien should stay on as HSE director general for the moment could change.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said if Sinn Féin in its motion continued to link the deaths of 17 women to the non-disclosure to women across the country “that is not something I think anyone should support”.

Earlier departure

On Sunday it was confirmed that Mr O’Brien is to leave the HSE at the start of July, a number of weeks earlier than previously anticipated. It had been expected that he would leave at the end of July.

Minister of State for Health Jim Daly said Mr O’Brien’s earlier departure from the post was due to him taking accumulated annual leave.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said bringing forward Mr O’Brien’s departure was not satisfactory.

“I think Mr O’Brien availing of his holiday leave is hardly an adequate or appropriate response to the debacle and the scandal and the disaster that has now visited women and their families across this land. This is about a calling to account.

“If we are not willing, if the Government is not willing to hold the director general to account when something goes catastrophically wrong in the HSE, well, all of the talk about reform and change is only that, only talk – it won’t amount to anything.”

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said Mr O’Brien should resign from the HSE with immediate effect. “I do not believe he should have the opportunity to dictate the time of his departure,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s This Week.

‘The buck stops’

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said his personal position as a backbencher was that “the buck stops” with Mr O’Brien, and that he should resign.

The HSE said on Sunday that 198 of the 209 women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer and who would have benefited from earlier treatment have been contacted.

More than 10,700people have so far contacted the helpline established by the HSE in the wake of the controversy.