The politicians shrug their shoulders again and say, “Sure, that’s none of our business.”
The week-long controversy surrounding Dr Tony HolohanThe appointment to a research professorship at Trinity College has entered the “Taoiseach Seeks a Report” phase.
Meanwhile, senior politicians are doing their best to let people know they have little to no power over public service.
Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted that when he was first introduced to Dr. heard Holohan’s transfer, assumed he had applied for a position in the senior ranks of Trinity.
But as it turned out later, this was not the case, and the role was created specifically for the chief physician.
Mr Varadkar, along with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, were completely in the dark about the decision to hire Dr. Holohan to keep his €187,000 salary when he becomes Professor Holohan.
The salary is a good 30,000 euros above the top grade for Trinity professors.
The Tánaiste was also quick to defend the Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly and said: “To be fair to Minister Stephen Donnelly, he didn’t know either.”
Mr Varadkar dismissed suggestions from reporters that Mr Donnelly was not in charge of his department and insisted staffing issues were not something for politicians to deal with.
“I’ve served in many government departments, I would never have been involved in promotions, demotions or transfers, that’s clearly the role of security general,” he said.
Secretary General in this situation is none other than Robert Watt.
Mr Watt has just refused to discuss his own salary of nearly €300,000 with Oireachtas committees, which oversee the conduct of the civil service and ask questions on behalf of the public. When questioned by the Oireachtas Health Committee this week, he was also not very forthcoming with answers about the Trinity appointment.
The Taoiseach is clearly uncomfortable with the affair and has requested a report on the decision-making process that led to Dr. Holohan went to Trinity while keeping his salary as Chief Medical Officer.
Mr Donnelly has asked Mr Watt to establish all the facts and timelines behind the appointment and report back to him on Monday. The Taoiseach will read this and decide what to do next.
The Tánaiste was not too surprised that Mr Donnelly knew very little about the appointment. Other government ministers have privately said the same thing, complaining that they have very little control over civil service appointments.
Well, maybe the last thing the country needs is politicians with the power to promote or demote officials. But given the importance of the CMO role, it’s not unreasonable to think that the health secretary will be consulted on the vacant position of official responsible for guiding the country through the pandemic. Not to mention that we’re regularly told that the pandemic is far from over.
This isn’t the first time politicians have admitted they have no control over the public service. It was Mr Varadkar who, during the controversy surrounding the Foreign Ministry champagne party, again conceded that ministers had no power to discipline those involved.
Safe in the sane surroundings of the embassy in Paris when the controversy began, Secretary-General Niall Burgess had to hand over just €2,000 for breaking Covid-19 rules. He also keeps his €215,000 salary as secretary-general while serving as ambassador.
The Secretary-General of the Department of Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, also keeps his as he becomes Irish Ambassador to Britain. The general public was not even allowed to apply for Mr Fraser’s old job, which was given to his Department of Taoiseach colleague, John Callinan.
These are the real decision-makers in government, and as one minister put it, “the civil service puts rings around the politicians.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/its-not-unreasonable-to-think-health-minister-would-be-consulted-given-the-importance-of-the-cmo-role-41535999.html Given the importance of the CMO role, it is not unreasonable to think that the Secretary of Health would be consulted