St John of God chief John Pepper steps down after 30 years

Pepper did not return to duty since taking sick leave from health group in late 2016

John Pepper has left his role as group chief executive of the St John of God group. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

John Pepper has left his role as group chief executive of the St John of God group. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill


St John of God chief executive John Pepper has stepped down from his role after 30 years of service.

It is understood that Mr Pepper had not returned to duty since taking sick leave from the Catholic health group in late 2016, and left the organisation in November.

Mr Pepper’s pay at the order had been the subject of a Health Service Executive (HSE) audit last year, which found the structure lacked clarity and transparency.

He joined the charity as personnel manager in 1986 and was appointed to a senior post in SJOG Hospitaller Ministries in 2012. His salary was €256,665, of which €42,778 was non-pensionable.

In 2013, when the order decided to make compensation payments to senior executives in order to avoid future liabilities, Mr Pepper received the largest amount of €649,371.

Some €566,724 of this was compensation for the reduction of his salary by €107,000 to retirement, and €82,647 was compensation for the loss of travel allowances.

The HSE audit said Mr Pepper was paid a salary “very significantly in excess of the approved rate”.


He was compensated for the loss of additional, unapproved pay and future travel allowances to retirement, “contrary to public pay policy”, it found.

At that point, the payment of his reduced salary transferred from the exchequer-funded payroll to the order’s private payroll, although Mr Pepper remained on a public pension.

St John of God has been part of the landscape of Irish health since the 1880s, and provides services in areas such as adult mental health, child mental health, special schools and helping people with learning disabilities.

The order is an international Catholic organisation with its headquarters in Rome and more than 300 hospitals and centres in 53 countries. Ireland was originally part of the order’s West European Province, which also includes Britain and Malawi.

A spokesman for the order confirmed Mr Pepper had left his role late last year but declined to comment on any severance arrangement. It is believed Mr Pepper would have had up to two years remaining in his role.

“John, whose career in the health sector spans more than 40 years, has served the Order with a strong personal commitment, work ethic and dedication,” a statement to SJOG staff said.

“We thank John for the substantial contribution he has made and we wish him and his family every health, happiness and success in the years ahead.”