O’Brien to quit HSE position 4 weeks early

HSE director general Tony O’Brien is set to quit his post four weeks earlier than planned amid calls from victims of the cervical cancer tests scandal, Opposition politicians, and at least one Government TD, for him to resign or be fired immediately.

The HSE yesterday confirmed that Mr O’Brien will leave in just seven weeks’ time on July 1, but refused to say what the beleaguered health boss’s pension and settlement terms will be.

In a move seen as a bid to contain the anger surrounding the cervical cancer tests scandal and which Government sources last night insisted they did not encourage, Mr O’Brien will leave four weeks early by taking his remaining holiday days.

However, despite his fast-tracked departure, calls for him to step down or be sacked immediately are growing due to the scale of the crisis.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics, Fine Gael TD and junior minister for mental health Jim Daly said that Mr O’Brien is quitting his position early to “take some period of leave” and described calls for him to resign as “knee-jerk” and “opportunistic”.

On the same programme, Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly — whose party has put down a no- confidence motion in Mr O’Brien that will be heard in the Dáil tomorrow evening — said the HSE boss must go now.

Labelling Mr O’Brien’s decision to take his four weeks’ holiday entitlements as “absolutely outrageous”, she claimed the situation is further proof of the need to remove him immediately and not wait until July.

Independent Alliance junior minister for skills John Halligan told the Irish Examiner last night he did not see the point in “looking for a head or a sacrificial lamb” by seeking Mr O’Brien’s resignation, but the quit call was echoed by Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, who said: “It’s too grave for him not to step down.”

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness yesterday told RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme: “Tony O’Brien should resign with immediate effect.”

Mr McGuinness said the Fianna Fáil frontbench will discuss its position on the Sinn Féin motion tomorrow morning, but he personally “asked the party last week to back the call”.

He added that the Dáil finance committee will meet with the State Claims Agency on Wednesday about why it is using taxpayers’ money “to beat up our citizens”.

The HSE last night refused to say what pension and pay-off entitlements Mr O’Brien will receive .

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson said: “We cannot provide you with the pension figure as it would require an actuarial assessment and there are many years until he draws down his pension.”

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