Donnelly will not appear at committee discussing abandoned Holohan job

Oireachtas committee examining planned secondment that became subject of controversy

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will not appear before an Oireachtas committee this week to discuss the now abandoned secondment of Dr Tony Holohan to Trinity College Dublin.

The Oireachtas Committee on Finance received a note last week stating that “neither the Minister or his officials are in a position to attend the meeting” this Wednesday.

The message was contained in an email to the committee sent by Mr Donnelly’s private secretary.

“Last week the Minister announced that he was initiating an external review in relation to the process of the proposed secondment of the chief medical officer and research proposal, to examine learnings and recommendations that could inform future such initiatives,” it added.


“On 20 April the Minister announced that a review will be carried out by Maura Quinn, the outgoing chief executive of the Institute of Directors. Ms Quinn is due to report in June.”

A Department of Health source said on Sunday that Robert Watt, secretary general of the Department of Health, has appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Health before and would be willing to do so again, in person or otherwise.

The planned secondment became the subject of controversy after it emerged Dr Holohan would still be paid his €187,000 salary by the Department of Health.

The proposed appointment of Dr Holohan as professor of public health strategy at Trinity College was to come with an annual ring-fenced allocation of €2 million for the duration of the secondment to support the research to be carried out.

Dr Holohan said in a recent statement that he would not proceed with the secondment and would retire in July instead.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was asked about the matter in Cork on Sunday evening.

“First of all my understanding is that the Minister for Health has communicated with John McGuinness is respect of this,” Mr Martin said.

“He has not refused to go before any committee but rather has said that there is an external review which has been ordered. There is a natural sequence to this.”

“The external review should conclude and then the Minister is more than happy to go before committees.”

“There are a number of committees and that needs to be resolved as well - which committees are the most appropriate. That is not for me. That is a matter for the Oireachtas.”

“The Minister said to me he has no difficulty going before the health committee.”

Mr Martin continued: “But the sensible thing is that the external review, would which will be within a quite reasonably short timeframe.”

“That then will give the basis for an informed presentation to the committee.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times