The public must be able to trust the State selection process

As chief medical officer (CMO) during the pandemic, Dr. Tony Holohan held the most important position in the high office. The failed handling of his ascription to the serenity of Trinity College must now feel like a transition from frying pan to fire.

r Holohan deserved better than this. His advice was invaluable during some of the darkest days this State has known.

Finding yourself in a blast furnace of spam around pay must leave you feeling abused. Far from adapting to the new job, his first task has had to be defending his right to it.

The mishandling from start to finish, not by Dr. Holohan but by those responsible for his transition, demands a clear explanation. The unwillingness of anyone to take responsibility for this chaotic spectacle that now presents the whole thing reflects poorly on everyone.

Transparency, trust and faith in the process must be central to all high-level appointments. When it comes to taxpayers’ money, anything less than this is absolutely unacceptable.

The utmost care and consideration must be taken so that it is not possible to claim a back door entry. But because neither the health minister nor any of the top officials answered questions about who signed this appointment, doubts have arisen that have affected confidence in the entire process.

Integrity in the selection of key publicly funded positions must be paramount. However, despite repeated efforts by this and other media, no answers have been provided to questions that were of great public interest.

Against this wall of silence a totally unnecessary controversy has broken out. Dr. Holohan’s alleged loan of €187,000 represents a spectacular own goal for the Department of Health.

On the one hand, secondment means the temporary transfer of an official or worker to another position or job. However, as Dr. Holohan himself explained, he will not return to his previous CMO role. Thus, the taxpayer will be funding his teaching position indefinitely and presumably paying to replace him in his previous role.

Dr. Holohan’s wealth of knowledge and experience would enrich any campus. As he pointed out: “The tertiary sector would play a vital role in meeting the challenge of future pandemics.” The current mess is so unfortunate because it was completely avoidable.

It is indefensible that we have not yet been told who authorized the change, or the decision to continue paying Dr. Holohan’s salary, or why neither the Minister of Health nor Taoiseach Micheál Martin were informed of the matter.

Any agreement in which the public interprets, however wrongly, that privileges and rights have become entangled in a state selection process is hugely damaging.

It has never been nor can it be in the gift of the Government or of the high officials of the department responsible to it to offer preference to any person paid with the money of their constituents.

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