Stephen Donnelly explains the logic behind the Dr Tony Holohan decision
“I think we’re very lucky.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has defended the decision by the Department of Health to pay the salary of outgoing Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan when he takes up a role in Trinity College.
Dr Holohan announced last month that he is stepping down from his position as CMO to take on a new role as Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership at TCD.
The Department of Health has said that the role of Chief Medical Officer will be filled in the usual way for posts at this level, and there will be an open competition over the coming weeks to select a successor.
The move raised eyebrows this week when it was revealed the Department of Health would fund the move under the same pay and conditions as his existing contract, however Donnelly said it was important to note that the salary would be coming from "public money", whether it is paid by the Department of Health or by Trinity College.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Wednesday Morning, Donnelly said it was not a case of the Department of Health paying for two CMOs, but rather there would be one CMO – yet to be appointed – and Dr Holohan would be performing research into future pandemic responses.
“I think this is important and we need absolute clarity on this,” Donnelly said.
“There is one Chief Medical Officer and there will be one Chief Medical Officer. What we have is the current CMO and I think most of us would agree he has done an outstanding job, and he is stepping down as CMO and the department will be funding some of the most important health research that I think will be done in the coming years.
“If we break it down, let’s say if the department was to pay or Trinity were to pay or they were to pay some each, it’s all public money, it’s a taxpayer-funded post.
“I think one of the details that’s really important here is that he’s not being paid any more money."
Donnelly added: “All that’s happening is he’s staying on the same terms and conditions but instead of that we are moving to a really positive position where we’ll a new Chief Medical Officer come in and we’ll have a guy uniquely qualified to lead research into future pandemic responses."