A decision by the under-pressure chief of the Republic’s health service to leave his post a month early has not dampened calls for his immediate resignation.
The Irish Government has confirmed that Health Service Executive (HSE) director Tony O’Brien is to retire at the start of July, four weeks earlier than scheduled, as a result of taking unused holiday entitlement.
The move appears to have done little to ease the pressure on Mr O’Brien over a controversy about wrongly interpreted cervical cancer smear tests.
Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness has indicated his party will support an anticipated motion of no confidence in Mr O’Brien in the Dail next week. Sinn Fein is tabling a motion calling for the director general to quit, with party president Mary Lou McDonald insisting the “writing is on the wall” for the HSE chief.
The Government has resisted calls to sack Mr O’Brien, saying it was better he stay in post to help find out what went wrong.
Last week it was revealed that an audit by CervicalCheck — the national screening programme — of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in 208 cases, as tests showed no abnormality when they should have been given a cancer warning.
The majority of the 208 women — 162 — were not initially told of the outcome of the audit. Of the 208, 17 have since died. It then emerged that a further 1,518 women with cancer in the same period have not been audited.