Joe Lennon, head of communications at the Health Service Executive (HSE) when concerns emerged over the work of Finnish pathologist Antoine Geagea at Cork University Hospital last year, takes up his post in April.
The switch is seen as a strategic move to bolster Mr Cowen’s backroom team as speculation continues over the timing of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s departure from office.
Mr Lennon was government press secretary from 1997 to the 2002 general election when he was made special adviser to Mr Ahern. In 2006 he joined the HSE and it was there he sent an email to Government press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain discussing the plan to withhold information about the inquiries into Dr Geagea.
The email, revealed by the Irish Examiner, read “In consultation with the Dept of Health and Children, it was decided not to go into detail in relation to the numbers of patients involved... Doing so would only serve to cause widespread alarm in the public and unnecessary confusion in the media.”
In the wake of the reports published last week into the separate misdiagnosis crisis at Portlaoise Hospital, HSE chief executive Brendan Drumm said the news blackout policy would be adopted in similar incidents in future.