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The allegation of “corruption” against Dr. Tony Holohan and Robert Watt was struck from the records after a heated committee hearing

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Fianna Fail TD Marc McSharry today 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.

r McSharry 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 McSharry said, “What strikes me is corruption in any objective analysis, which otherwise doesn’t appeal to either of you in your expertise and professionalism.”

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

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 Fein 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 about how €2 million per year – totaling €20 million over ten years – will go to Trinity College as part of Dr. Holohan, who will do teaching and research, have been promised.

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 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 went to RTE’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 program for general secretaries of departments who have completed their seven-year term to be seconded to universities, and two are doing so, so that they can 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.

https://www.independent.ie/news/accusation-of-corruption-against-dr-tony-holohan-and-robert-watt-struck-from-record-after-heated-committee-hearing-41614358.html The allegation of “corruption” against Dr. Tony Holohan and Robert Watt was struck from the records after a heated committee hearing

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