Tag Archives: Tony O’Brien

Yesterday’s Sunday Business Post


The Sunday Business Post published a lengthy interview with former chief of the HSE Tony O’Brien, his first interview since he left the organisation in May, following the cervical check scandal.

In the interview, Mr O’Brien said the Minister for Health Simon Harris acted like a “frightened little boy” during the CervicalCheck controversy and said he’s a weak minister obsessed with media coverage and “runs scared of headlines”.

He said the Public Accounts Committee acted like “a kangaroo court”, and he specifically accused Sinn Féin of being “destructive”.

He said Sinn Féin had “effectively swapped the balaclava for parliamentary privilege”, adding that “the bile and vitriol with which they attack public servants continuously is staggering”.

He also said he hoped a “sense of decorum and fairness would return to Irish political life and to the mainstream Irish media”.

Further to this…

Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan has tweeted her thoughts on the interview.

In April Ms Phelan sued a US laboratory for misreading her cervical smear test and received a settlement of €2.5million in the High Court.

After Ms Phelan went public on the matter, it emerged that 221 women with cervical cancer, whose previous smear tests were reviewed after they received a diagnosis of cancer, were not told that their smear tests had actually been recategorised on review and that they could have been advised to have an earlier follow-up or warned of an increased risk of developing cancer.

Meanwhile, Cork dad-of-two Stephen Teap, whose late wife Irene was one of the 221 women, also responded to the article…

And Lorraine Walsh, from Galway, who is also one of the 221 women and who cannot have children as a result of her cervical cancer, also responded…

Ex-HSE chief: Harris is a weak minister, the PAC is a ‘kangaroo court’ (Susan Mitchell, Sunday Business Post)

Vicky Phelan, her husband Jim and her solicitor Cian O’Caroll, in background

This afternoon.

Cian O’Carroll, solicitor for Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathúna, spoke to Áine Lawlor, on RTÉ’s Radio One.

Mum-of-two Ms Phelan and mum-of-five Ms Mhic Mhathúna are both terminally ill with cervical cancer. They both only recently became aware that previous smear tests – before their cancer diagnosis – wrongly gave an all-clear result.

Mr O’Carroll’s interview followed a report by RTE this morning, by the station’s Washington Correspondent  Brian O’Donovan, based on a statement from the US laboratory which settled a High Court action taken by Ms Phelan over an incorrect smear test result.

Mr O’Donovan reported that Clinical Pathology Laboratories said what happened Ms Phelan and her family was tragic and that it deeply regrets the outcome.

Mr O’Carroll described the apology as “insincere”.

From their interview…

Áine Lawlor: “Your two very brave clients who have been certainly touching the nation over the past couple of weeks with their honesty and their courage, Cian O’Carroll.”

Cian O’Carroll: “Yes, Áine.”

Lawlor: “Interesting though today, you were quite critical of the apology to Vicky Phelan from the US lab CPL. Tell us why.”

O’Carroll: “Well, it’s an apology which I understand RTÉ received through the laboratory in the US today – three weeks after that trial began, five weeks after they attempted to gag her with a confidentiality clause as a pre-condition to any discussions regarding the resolution of her case, through mediation outside court.

“It also doesn’t deal with the conduct, their conduct of the defence the case which has, quite rightly, come in for so much criticism since then. So I think it is an unacceptably late and insincere apology.”


Lawlor: “What do you want to hear from Minister Harris this afternoon?”

O’Carroll: “Quite apart from the practical steps which he has alluded to already, we need to see a new team put in place. Obviously it’s going to be a new Chief Executive for the HSE but, beneath that, there needs to be a management team that is not tainted by the decision of the last six years.

“Because it’s over that six-year period that the senior management team, in the National Screening Service and in CervicalCheck, all agreed among themselves that not only should women not be informed of the vital information regarding their reviews and rechecks of their smears, but that no steps were taken to inquire into what was happening in the laboratories that was leading to such a significant level of misreporting of smears.

“Not a false negative situation which the department repeatedly refers to. A false negative is a smear that, when rechecked, is still negative. These are smears that, when rechecked, were found to contain significant underreporting of pre-cancer which then led to a significant delay in the commencement of treatment for those women.

“That’s an entirely different issue. And it is contrary to what the National Cancer Control Programme told the minister last month in a memo, it is a patient safety incident and one which they refuse to acknowledge and investigate.”

Lawlor: “We’ve been told consistently that there was no divergence between the, that there was  a consistency between the results from the US labs and the Irish labs. Do you believe that?”

O’Carroll: “That may be the case when it comes to true false negatives because there are other statistics here that come out of the laboratories and I presume they are analysing the results and obviously they’re comparing them with different laboratories. But I suspect, however, is there hasn’t been an open and honest analysis of the missed and incorrect reading of these smears.

“And I would be very, very surprised if it turns out that 209 significant under or delayed commencement of treatment for women is within an accepted norm internationally.


From top: HSE chief Tony O’Brien and Independent TD Catherine Connolly at PAC yesterday

Independent TD Catherine Connolly, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and was at the PAC meeting yesterday which was attended by outgoing HSE chief Tony O’Brien, also spoke to Ms Lawlor.

Her interview followed Mr O’Brien tweeting this morning:

“When I appear in public – say at a Committee I conduct myself against a simple standard. Would I be happy for my children or my mother to see how I behave? I sometimes look across the room and hope their children will never see and hear how they behave.”

In relation to yesterday’s meeting – and the three memos which emerged at the meeting – Ms Connolly said:

“It was like pulling teeth. I don’t believe that I ever strayed from my brief, I simply asked questions and he confirmed that he was aware, he actually confirmed that he didn’t think there was anything to worry about, of concern, in one memo that he got.

“It turned out there were three memos and when we read those quickly, when we got them at 3pm, why it took until 3pm I don’t know, why he didn’t have them with him, is extraordinary, and the three memos are simply shocking.

“The first one, from March 2016, has simply ‘March’ on it, no specific date, it’s not signed. And it clearly is preoccupied with containing the message when eventually, eventually, down the road, the clinicians would see there way to telling the women and clearly containing that message.

“Now, and obviously, it’s been repeated a few times, pause all letters, don’t send them out, await legal advice and so on. And, as I read that, and thinking about it since, it’s clear to me, that they got advice, in relation, from a communications company which is a question I’ll be following up 

“Because that’s exactly what jumps off the page.”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: “I Find It Hard To Comprehend [Varadkar] Didn’t See Memo”

Yesterday: The March Memo


Then Director General HSE Tony O Brien (left) and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD at the publication of 2016 HSE National Service Plan in St Dr Steevens Hospital in Dublin.

This morning.

The resignation last night of HSE Director General Tony O’Brien after three HSE memos warning of the CervicalCheck scandal emerged has put the spotlight on Leo Varadkar

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland earlier, speculated that Mr Varadkar, while Minister of Health in 2016, must have been privy the briefing notes, including one from March of that year outlining a ‘communication strategy’ for the media.

The Department of Health said no health ministers had seen those memos.

Audrey Carville: “Do you believe that the Minister for health at the time, March 2016. Leo Varadkar did not see this memo?

Micheál Martin: “My understanding is, he’s saying he didn’t see it. The Minister for Health is saying he didn’t…”

Carville: “Is that credible?”

Martin: “find it very difficult to comprehend because in the department’s statement last night it is saying it [the memo] was shared with the acute hospitals’ division of the department and it was shared with the Chief Medical Officer.

Now the department’s senior management team hold regular management meetings with the minister in attendance and the next question is: ‘was it ever discussed at central management meetings within the department with the Secretary General and the minister?'”

Listen back here




Last night: The March Memo


This afternoon.

A briefing note read by HSE chief Tony O’Brien in March 2016, four months before a final draft was sent to consultants.

Mr O’Brien has previously stated the first he heard about the cases was when he saw Vicky Phelan on RTÉ News last month.

More to follow.

Earlier: Alarm Bells


From top: Alan Kelly and Tony O’Brien this afternoon

This morning/afternoon.

Public Accounts Committee

Labour TD Alan Kelly, vice-chair of the Public Accounts Committee, raised a memo sent to HSE chief Tony O’Brien in 2016

Mr O’Brien said that while he learned about the Vicky Phelan case on RTÉ News, he said he was told in the briefing note that a communications process was about to begin to notify patients with cancer about an audit of their smear tests.

“I was aware that an audit was carried out which was good practice. I was aware of a detailed plan to communicate the results of that audit,” he said.

….Mr O’Brien told the committee that he will strive to get a copy of the memo to the PAC today before the meeting concludes

More as we get it.

Wat live here

Memo over cervical audit did not ring alarm bells, says O’Brien (RTÉ)

Earlier: Unspeakable

This morning.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health.

Tony O’Brien, director general of the HSE, and Minister for Health Simon Harris are answering questions from TDs about the CervicalCheck scandal.

Watch live here.


“At the heart of the Cervical Check crisis is a lack of oversight, governance and accountability within the HSE and throughout our entire health system, from the Minister for Health down.

“The lack of legal accountability structures has allowed a culture of concealment and legal defensiveness to prevail in our health system. That has clearly worked against the best interests of patients, including the thousands of women who are now affected by the shambolic and appalling way that Cervical Check audits were carried out.

In the absence of meaningful legal reforms, simply appointing a new chief executive to head up the HSE once Tony O’Brien steps down in the coming weeks will be an entirely futile gesture.

For this reason, I am urging the Minister for Health Simon Harris to appoint an interim chief executive and to at the same time prioritise key accountability reforms recommended in the Sláintecare health report published a year ago by a cross-party Oireachtas committee which I chaired.”

Roisin Shortall, Social Democrats co-leader

Social Democrats

This afternoon.

Government Buildings, Dublin 2

Independent.ie understands three ministers, Katherine Zappone, Michael Ring and Finian McGrath, questioned the merits of standing by Mr [Tony] O’Brien {HSE chief] at today’s Cabinet meeting

And when questioned by the media this afternoon, Mr Harris repeatedly avoided giving a direct answer.

He said there will be a new interim director of the HSE in place by the start of July.

I haven’t done any such thing in terms of expressing or not expressing [confidence],” he said.

Simon Harris refuses to express confidence in HSE boss Tony O’Brien (Independent.ie)



Simon Harris criticises ‘disgusting’ abortion posters using his image (Irish Times)




This afternoon.

Leinster House, Dublin 2

Director General of HSE Tony O Brien arrives at Leinster House to attend the Health Committee on the CervicalCheck scandal.

More to follow.

Earlier: Meanwhile, In The Dail

Tony’s Wealth Service


Director General of the Health Service Executive this afternoon

 Tony O’Brien has said that of the 17 women whose smear tests were the subject of a review and who have since passed away, two had the results of their review communicated to them before they died.

The numbers relating to the 208 women whose smear tests were the subject of review who have been informed remain at 46, while 162 have not been told, Mr O’Brien confirmed to the committee…

Two of 17 women learned of CervicalCheck review before dying (RTÉ)


Further to this…

Last May…

Kevin Doyle, in the Irish Independent, reported:

A high-flying businessman who chairs the board of the Mater Hospital hosted a secret fundraising supper for Leo Varadkar this week, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The frontrunner to be the next taoiseach has held a number of fundraising events in recent months, including one on Tuesday night at an exclusive private members’ club in Dublin city centre. The event was hosted by Thomas Lynch who is believed to have made a small fortune through his involvement in the pharma sector.

Mr Lynch is currently chairperson of the Dublin East Hospital Group whose remit includes St Vincent’s University Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital.

He is also chair of Icon plc, one of the world’s largest clinical research organisations and has a colourful CV including a period as chief financial officer at drugs firm Elan.

The Irish Independent understands the Belfast native invited a select group of business people to a ‘meet and greet’ with Mr Varadkar at the plush Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club.

Businessman hosts ‘secret supper’ fundraiser for Varadkar (Irish Independnent, May 2017)

Related: Minister allowed O’Brien to join US firm while running HSE (Irish Times)

From top: Director General, HSE Tony O’Brien and Minister for Health Simon Harris TD at the launch of the National Services Plan 2018; ‘Evofem Biosciences’ logo.

This morning.

Via Irish Times:

Minister for Health Simon Harris gave written consent to HSE director general Tony O’Brien to take up a lucrative role at a US contraceptive manufacturer months before he leaves his role running the country’s health service, the HSE has said.

Mr O’Brien became a board member of the San Diego company Evofem Biosciences on January 17th, almost two months before he publicly announced he would be leaving the HSE in August.

His boardroom roles at the publicly quoted company entitles him to an “annual cash retainer” of $50,000, additional cash fees of $15,000 and initial share-buying options worth $180,000 vesting over a three-year period with further annual options of $90,000, according to the firm’s public statements.

Mr O’Brien is paid an annual salary of €192,000 as HSE director-general, a job he said in March he will leave at the end of the summer.

Good times

Minister allowed O’Brien to join US firm while running HSE (Simon Carswell and Martin Wall, Irish Times)

Last night: Emma’s Story

Simon’s Memo

Previously: HSE Boss ‘Dismissed My Concerns’ About Cervical Screening Results