A senior presidential adviser whose sudden resignation caused controversy has insisted her parting with Michael D Higgins was “amicable”.
Breaking her silence for the first time since walking out midway through her three-year contract, Mary Van Lieshout tried to play down the row. However, the former senior adviser to the head of state failed to directly address claims she quit the €103,000-a-year post in frustration at having to go through a more junior member of staff to gain access to the President.
Ms Van Lieshout, who took up a position with Goal last month, despite having 18 months of her contract with the president to run, insisted she left the Áras on friendly terms.
“In recent days there has been much speculation and comment relating to my departure from Áras an Uachtaráin. I have sought to protect my privacy by not commenting. However, I wish to clarify matters at this time. I was honoured to accept the appointment of adviser when invited to do so by President Higgins and was privileged to have the experience of working in Áras an Uachtaráin.
“In order to pursue other interests, I decided to end the assignment and have now taken up a role in overseas development, an area to which I have a deep, personal and longstanding commitment.
“I departed Áras an Uachtaráin on very amicable terms with everyone and wish the President, Sabina and all my former colleagues well for the future,” Ms Lieshout said.
Ms Lieshout’s abrupt departure from her Áras post sparked reports she had been unhappy with the role of the president’s executive assistant, Kevin McCarthy.
Mr McCarthy was the only member of the president’s campaign staff to be given a job in the Áras after his election in Oct 2011. Mr McCarthy, from West Cork, served as Mr Higgins’ chauffeur during the campaign when he drove the former minister some 20,000km.
Mr Higgins diverted monies from non-salary areas of the Áras funding to enable his staff to be increased to include Mr McCarthy, at a cost to the State of €49,000 a year.
Áras sources went on the defensive after speculation mounted that Mr McCarthy’s role had caused tensions within the presidential team.
American-born Ms Lieshout had been allowed to break the supposed public sector pay ceiling of €80,051 when she took up her role in Feb 2012.
Ms Lieshout did not receive a severance package as a result of her departure from the Áras.
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