Taoiseach says Tony Holohan’s €187,000 TCD salary was to be publicly funded, as report is due Monday

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the €187,000 secondment salary of chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan at Trinity College Dublin was to be funded by the taxpayer.

This follows reports that the salary was to be funded not just by the Department of Health, but by other bodies, such as Science Foundation Ireland.

“It’s clear to me that this was to be funded by the Exchequer from what I know now,” he said.

“It’s very clear that what was being considered was multi-year funding from the Department of Health, which would be administered by the Health Research Council.”

He said he met Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last Thursday, where he was briefed on “details” suggesting the post would be paid for by the taxpayer.

The Taoiseach said he decided to suspend the secondment on Friday after that meeting and defended his own handling of the controversy, while suggesting Dr Holohan was not owed an apology.

“I don’t think anyone can argue with the fundamental principles of transparency in any process,” the Taoiseach said.

“I am very clear from my own point of view on all the actions I have taken in response to what I have learned via the media in relation to the posting.”

Mr Martin said he was ‘intrigued’ by an article in a Sunday newspaper that said Dr Holohan would instead be paid by a combination of funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Further and Higher Education and of the Ministry of Health.

‘This is all funded by the Treasury,’ the Taoiseach said.

A report on the controversy is to be submitted tomorrow by the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Robert Watt, to the Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Martin said it was ‘very unfortunate’ that Dr Holohan had decided to step down from his role in TCD.

“I think fundamentally there are lessons to be learned here. Transparency from the start would have been appropriate,” he said.

“I think it’s very unfortunate.”

Responding to Fianna Fáil’s Minister of State, Niall Collins, in a report published in the Irish Mail on Sunday, Mr Watt “has shown breathtaking arrogance and contempt”, Mr Martin said he thought the conversation should be “devoid of any personal attack on anyone and on officials in particular”.

He said he had not spoken to Mr. Watt or Dr. Holohan and that he trusted Mr. Watt.

On Saturday, Dr Holohan said he would not accept the newly created professorship and would leave the civil service.

The announcement came after days of controversy after it emerged Dr Holohan would take on the new role as an indefinite secondment which would see the Department of Health continue to pay his £187,000-a-year salary to from July 1.

It later emerged that Dr Holohan would not resign as Chief Medical Officer, but would move to Trinity on secondment while retaining the same salary and terms of public service.

In a statement released by the Department of Health, Dr Holohan said: “I have decided not to proceed with my secondment as Professor of Public Health Leadership and Strategy at Trinity College Dublin.

“I intend to retire as CMO effective July 1 to allow sufficient time for the Department of Health to move forward with the process of appointing my successor.

“I do not wish the controversy of the past few days to continue. In particular, I wish to avoid any further unnecessary distraction this has caused to our senior politicians and officials.

“I strongly believe this was an important opportunity to work with the academic sector to build much-needed public health capacity and leadership for the future. In this regard, I would like to thank Trinity College and the Provost for their foresight and support in establishing this role.

“After my departure, I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise outside the public service.”