Belfast Telegraph

Why I quit as president's adviser

The former top adviser to President Michael D Higgins has insisted she left her role on amicable terms.

Mary van Lieshout, who resigned as special adviser at Aras an Uachtarain halfway through her three-year contract, said she left the 103,000 euros-a-year job to pursue other interests.

In a statement responding to speculation about her departure, Ms van Lieshout said she had remained silent until now to protect her privacy but wished to clarify matters.

"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 Aras an Uachtarain," she said.

"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 Aras an Uachtarain on very amicable terms with everyone and wish the President, Sabina and all my former colleagues well for the future."

Ms van Lieshout, who added that she would make no further comment, did not comment directly on reports that she left because a more junior member of the presidential staff had better access to Mr Higgins.

"I will be making no further comment on this matter," she said.

A spokesman for the President said there would no statement issued in response to Ms van Lieshout's remarks.

The ex-adviser left her role in Phoenix Park in the middle of October, according to the Aras an Uachtarain.

Some media reports had suggested she moved to another job amid difficulties getting access to Mr Higgins.

It was suggested that she had to go through Kevin McCarthy, an executive assistant - a lower ranking role in the presidential team.

Sources within the Aras have dismissed the claims and insisted no member of staff had problems with access.

Ms van Lieshout has since taken up a role with humanitarian aid agency Goal.

Mr McCarthy was taken on in November 2011, with a salary of 49,000 euro, in one of two new roles created by the President.

He was formerly a driver for Mr Higgins during his presidential election campaign and was a parliamentary assistant to his cousin, south west Cork Labour Party TD Michael McCarthy.

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