The government faces a credibility problem


Some may argue that officials run a country, not the government, but that is a perception no Taoiseach or minister should condone.

o the level of unease and confusion in Merrion Square over the €2 million pledge by the Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watts to Trinity College one can only imagine.

The strict confidentiality that Mr. Watt insisted on surrounding his obligation to receive the money for each year from Dr Tony Holohan‘s delegation to the university will not have helped. Neither does the fact that the letter was written a week before the move was announced.

When deals are so good, one would think that those charged with running our country would know about it.

The amounts involved and the opacity surrounding them pose a serious credibility problem for the government. If neither Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly nor Taoiseach Michael Martin knew about the letter or the €2m pledge to pave the way for the transfer, they certainly should have.

Mr Watt has vehemently defended his handling of the matter but even before the news of the €2m promise, Mr Martin vented his displeasure as government money was involved and the appointment should have been discussed at a higher level.

The 2 million euros would have been used for the best purposes in the field of medical research. However, the mysterious nature of both the appointment and the payout of potentially millions of taxpayers’ dollars raises deeply serious questions about the integrity of the process and the manner in which such lucrative packages are signed.

The handling of the matter was already deeply troubling. The uproar was so great that Dr. Holohan decided to resign from this post.

The stuffy and clandestine way this entire episode seems to be poorly managed falls far short of best practice.

This would be unacceptable in a private company and is even more reprehensible given how it reflects the integrity of public office and the use of taxpayers’ money.

It has often been said that when a civil servant takes the initiative and things go well, given the nature of his employment, he cannot expect much credit. However, when things go sideways, they can expect all sorts of trouble.

A general secretary should hardly be treated any differently.

There may have been a time in this country when official answers were out of the question. Hopefully we’ve made progress.

Shouldn’t transparency and accountability be the hallmarks of governance? Dealing with the botched appointment of Dr. Holohan raises doubts.

Someone has to take responsibility for what appears to be low standards and bad judgment to avoid damage to public trust.

These are not just bureaucratic offenses. Information black holes related to public coffers must never be tolerated. The government faces a credibility problem

Fry Electronics Team

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