TD MacSharry insists the committee has no legal right to drop its Holohan and Watt corruption claims

Former Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry has insisted the Oireachtas Health Committee does not have the legal right to dismiss its corruption allegations over the botched appointment of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan off the record for a role at Trinity College.

In a letter to the committee, Mr MacSharry said Sinn Féin Chairman and TD Sean Crowe was not authorized to remove his comments from the Minutes.

“It is mine and all members of Oireachtas to speak as we wish and within the limits of parliamentary privilege,” he said.

“My utterances and those of every member at today’s meeting, or any meeting, must be accurately and accurately recorded and publicly recorded forever in the records of the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee. It cannot be changed and saying otherwise is wrong,” he added.

The Sligo-Leitrim TD said any member or individual could object to their opinion but the Chair had no power to remove it from the Minutes.

“Although we can sometimes be forgiven for thinking we are becoming a totalitarian regime, I am glad and indeed relieved to say that we still have freedom of speech and parliamentary privileges to support it within the Oireachtas.” , he said.

“My comments today reflect the contempt with which ordinary people are treated when it comes to certain high-level actions and activities within our civil service and government. I believe it is not appropriate for a true democracy and needs to be addressed,” he added.

Mr MacSharry asked that the transcript of his commentary be preserved “as expressed, unaltered for all eternity, in accordance with the founding traditions of our democracy”.

He previously accused Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan and Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt blamed “corruption” for the way €2 million a year was used to fund Dr. Holohan’s proposed research position at Trinity College.

Mr MacSharry made the allegation after Mr Watt said he had made the commitment in a letter to Trinity College without first telling Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly or Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

In an exchange before the Oireachtas Health Committee, Mr MacSharry said: “What strikes me is corruption in any objective analysis that otherwise doesn’t suit you both in your expertise and professionalism.”

He accused Mr Watt of “retro-engineering” a position for “someone and trying to get the government to do it until there was chaos about it in the Dáil”.

He told them that “you people” had to accept that there was an elected parliament.

Mr Watt said he had trouble with the term ‘you people’.

Some members of the committee said they did not want to be associated with the “corruption” allegation.

Chairman Sean Crowe said he would take it off the record.

Earlier Mr Watt was accused of “breathtaking arrogance” by Sinn Féin TD, David Cullinane.

He said Mr Watt believes he has the power to spend €20m of taxpayers’ money without facing a sanction.

Mr Watt said details have yet to be worked out and the plan is to allocate the money to the Health Research Board, although he has not approached the panel.

Mr Watt and Dr. Holohan stood before the committee to answer questions on how €2 million a year – a total of €20 million over ten years – has been allocated to Trinity College as part of Dr. Holohan’s assumption of a professorship that includes teaching and research.

Only in the past few weeks has it emerged that Dr. Holohan would remain an employee of the Department of Health and retain his title of Chief Medical Officer, full salary, and raises while indefinitely seconded to Trinity.

A previous press release announcing his appointment in March made no mention that he would remain in the department. Mr. Donnelly thought he was going.

After controversy arose over the revelations, the Taoiseach ordered the matter to be dropped and Dr. Holohan announced that he would not be taking on the role.

Mr. Watt wrote to Trinity and gave a funding commitment of €2 million per year to Dr. Holohan’s retirement, but he claimed today it was a “letter of intent.”

Only three people in the department knew about it – himself, Dr. Holohan and the Head of Human Resources.

Questioned by Mr Cullinane, he said he wrote the letter without informing the Minister or the Taoiseach or organizing how the money – said to come from estimates by the Department of Health – would be paid.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke, a lawyer, said once Trinity’s terms were accepted it would amount to a legal agreement and he suggested seeking the Attorney General’s opinion.

Mr Watt said the Minister was aware that Dr. Holohan withdraw, but not the contents of the letter.

The minister took to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland in early April after reading in the media that Dr. Holohan would remain an employee of the department.

He defended the move. But Mr Watt said today that even at this point Mr Donnelly had not been informed of the contents of the letter which committed €2million a year to Trinity.

The minister knew the “general public but was not involved in the specifics of the proposal”.

Mr Watt said although Dr. Holohan hinted last August that he was interested in an academic role, but didn’t want it leaked out that the chief medical officer was moving on as Covid-19 was still an issue.

dr Holohan today believed support for his move “was there from the start.”

When the controversy surrounding the post arose and the Taoiseach halted the process, he said, “I felt it was important that I make a decision early on that I would not continue in the role.”

He did not want politicians and officials to be “distracted” and did not want them and the Provost of Trinity to be implicated in “any suggestion of impropriety”.

Mr Watt said there is currently a scheme in place for department secretaries who have completed their seven-year term to be seconded to universities and two are doing so to catch up on service for a pension.

The plan around Dr. Holohan is similar, he claimed. But dr Holohan told the committee when questioned today that his tenure as chief medical officer is not limited to seven years. TD MacSharry insists the committee has no legal right to drop its Holohan and Watt corruption claims

Fry Electronics Team

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