Head of HSE to leave post on July 1st, Government Minister confirms

Tony O’Brien had been due to go at end of July but is taking ‘accumulated leave’

Mr O’Brien’s contract as director general of the HSE had been due to expire at the end of July.

Mr O’Brien’s contract as director general of the HSE had been due to expire at the end of July.

 

The head of the HSE Tony O’Brien is to leave his post at the beginning of July, a Government Minister has said.

Mr O’Brien has faced strong criticism in the wake of the cervical screening controversy with Sinn Féin set to table a motion of no confidence in him in the Dáil this week.

Mr O’Brien’s contract as director general of the HSE had been due to expire at the end of July.

However, Minister of State at the Department of Health Jim Daly said on Sunday that Mr O’Brien would be leaving a number of weeks earlier than anticipated.

Mr Daly confirmed to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that Mr O’Brien will now leave his post at the start of July, a month earlier than had been expected.

“That is correct, yeah,” Mr Daly said. “He is taking some leave that has accumulated in his favour so he’ll be leaving a bit earlier.”

Mr Daly also said a new HSE board should be in place by next January.

Vicky Phelan, the terminally-ill woman whose legal action revealed the smear test scandal, has repeatedly called for Mr O’Brien to resign.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said bringing forward Mr O’Brien’s departure by a number of weeks was not satisfactory.

She said Mr O’Brien availing of his holiday entitlements was hardly an adequate or appropriate response to the current debacle over cervical cancer screening.

Ms McDonald told the This Week programme on RTÉ Radio that Sinn Féin would be pressing ahead with its motion of no confidence in Mr O’Brien in the Dáil this week.

She said if the Government was not prepared to hold the director general of the HSE to account when something had gone catastrophically wrong, then all its promises of change and reform in the health service was just talk.

Fianna Fáil TD and chairman of the Oireachtas finance committee John McGuinness said Mr O’Brien should go immediately. “I believe that Tony O’Brien should resign with immediate effect,” Mr McGuinness told RTÉ.

“I do not think he should have the opportunity to dictate the time of his departure”, he added.

In recent days Ministers have avoided expressing confidence in the HSE chief, while Opposition figures have called for him to resign or be sacked.

At the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday, Mr O’Brien rejected calls from several TDs to step down.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney declined to express full support for Mr O’Brien on Thursday.

“Tony O’Brien’s focus on providing as much information as possible and putting systems in place that can co-operate fully with that independent investigation is probably the best way that he can assist in this process, rather than stepping aside from it,” Mr Coveney said.