Photo credit: Department of Health

Why are taxpayers still paying Tony even after he steps down?

Whatever you personally think of Tony Holohan, one thing is undeniable: he can be a polarising figure.

But, as he steps down as Chief Medical Officer, you’d think that the controversy might finally start to peter out. With the pandemic and associated hysteria seemingly behind us, you’d like to think that Holohan’s successor will have a soothing influence on the role, and return the job to the more mundane, in-the-background type of position it was always supposed to be.

And it almost seemed like a perfect, quiet ending to the whole chapter – but they just couldn’t leave well enough alone. It seems the Department of Health wanted to throw one more controversial hand grenade for old times’ sake.

As reported in the Irish Examiner: “Tony Holohan’s €187k salary to be paid by Department of Health”

The article reads:

“The outgoing Chief Medical Officer will remain a civil servant and his €187,000 a year salary will be paid by the Department of Health.

Dr Tony Holohan announced last month that he will leave the role which he has held for 14 years to take up a role at Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Holohan has been appointed Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership at the university. He will take up the role on July 1.”

Note that this €187,000 per year salary is the same as what Holohan is on currently as Chief Medical Officer.

So think about what’s actually going on here.

For 14 years, the public have paid Holohan’s salary through taxes. Which is, of course, fine – he was a public servant, fulfilling a role that needed to be filled. Even if you aren’t happy with the job he did, or think he was paid too much, you can at least see in theory how the public are supposed to have benefitted from that. On paper, it stands to reason that the public should pay for the benefit of expert advice.

But then he steps down, and goes to work for a private university, Trinity College. And apparently, according to the Department of Health, we have to keep paying him the same rate as always – despite the fact that he’s objectively no longer providing any benefit to the public.

Even if you think Holohan was the greatest CMO in the history of humanity, you have to concede that this is absolutely bizarre.

This would be like hiring a builder to make an extension on your gaff, and you think he did such a good job, that you keep paying him the same sum for years to come even after he’s moved on to other jobs and isn’t even providing you with a service anymore. It’s utterly daft.

Note that, on top of his €187,000 Trinity College salary, we will have to pay a further €187,000 to the actual CMO that takes his place.

There is absolutely no reason, at all, why the public should be expected to fund this. Whether you love Tony Holohan or hate him, there is zero reasonable rationale or sense behind continuing to pay a man who has left his job to seek employment in the private sector.

The Department of Health should be required to explain how it came to such a ludicrous decision, and it should insist that Trinity College pay their own lecturers from their hundreds of millions of euros per year budget. Anything else is pure madness.



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