Responding to a Dáil question on payments to her senior advisers since she took over the health portfolio in 2004, Ms Harney revealed that €300,000 has been paid to two individuals since October 2007.
The minister’s special adviser Patricia Ryan has an annual salary of €150,711, while her personal press secretary receives €122,384 — meaning the two advisers received a massive €273,095 since October 2007.
The previous year, the advisers received €142,450 and €116,487 respectively.
During this period, Oliver O’Connor, a long-term aide and programme manager of Ms Harney, who has been assigned to the former PD leader since her time as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, made €143,450.
While Mr O’Connor officially works for the Office of the Taoiseach, he has been designated to Ms Harney for a number of years and is considered a close political confidant as well as an adviser.
John O’Brien, who was previously economic adviser to the minister during her tenure as tánaiste, received €177,886 during that time — bringing the 2007 cost of these four senior advisers to almost €600,000.
Ms Harney also informed the Dáil that Health Service Executive official Tom Kelly acted as another special adviser to her between April 2005 and September 2006.
However, as Mr Kelly was still officially working for the HSE and was only available “on loan,” she did not clarify the amount he was paid during this period, as it was a matter for the HSE.
Reacting to the figures, Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan claimed the significant payments only further highlighted how the health service was no longer entirely focused on patients.
“Those sums are excessive when you consider that they can’t find €9-10 million for the HPV vaccine. Minister Harney already has hundreds of civil servants and a lot of senior managers to call on, so to me this means that the priorities in the system are all wrong,” she said.