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HSE attempts to pay substantial exit package to former top executive led to Government row

Ministers and office of Taoiseach became involved in issue surrounding departure of ex-deputy director general, files show

Attempts by the HSE to pay a substantial exit package to a former top executive earlier this year led to a furious row within Government.

Official files show Ministers and the office of then taoiseach Leo Varadkar became involved in the issue surrounding the departure of former deputy director general Dean Sullivan – who ultimately received an overall deal worth nearly €389,000.

The Department of Public Expenditure maintained it only considered agreeing to the overall scale of payment “due to the levels of legal and financial risk (as set out in the legal settlement form and legal advices) that the handing of all aspects of this case has opened the State up to”.

It vetoed an initial HSE proposal – leading to a series of increasingly angry emails from its chief executive Bernard Gloster.


On January 18th, he told officials in the Departments of Public Expenditure and Health: “Despite discussions inter-ministerial, Department of An Taoiseach and inter-departmental, all aimed at my accepting the unacceptable, I now find the further roadblocks emerging despite my having done so.

“This has been an appalling process, not the fault of the HSE and I will not under any circumstances accept the second-guessing and delaying tactics.

“I have been forced into a dreadful position and I will not be now compromised further. Thus far and no further.”

On January 15th, Mr Gloster warned of “grave consequences” if the HSE proposal was not approved and he would transfer “all the associated risks” on this issue to Government departments.

The Department of Public Expenditure argued the HSE had entered into mediation with Mr Sullivan before consulting it.

It maintained the severance terms initially agreed were higher than those permitted under official rules and “would act as of precedent for future cases” both within the health service – particularly given the planned establishment of new regional structures – and across the public service.

“This could lead to significant additional costs to the State for each case.”

Mr Gloster said under the agreement he was obliged to keep its terms confidential but he was absolutely satisfied making the agreement was “the appropriate and proper course”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent