The full details of a new university role created for Dr Tony Holohan should have been made public earlier, the Tanaiste has said.
Taking questions in the Dail on Thursday, Leo Varadkar indicated that greater transparency over the appointment would have been “preferable”.
Questions, including why the Department of Health is funding the secondment for Dr Holohan at Trinity College Dublin and who approved it, have dogged the Government in recent days.
“The chief medical officer’s new role is an open-ended secondment,” Mr Varadkar said.
“It would have been far preferable if the full details around the secondment had been put in the public domain at the outset and I think that should have been done.
“I know Minister McGrath, the minister for public expenditure, is not satisfied with how this has been done and he is engaging with the Department of Health on that at the moment.”
The Tanaiste said that he was not casting aspersions on Dr Holohan or on Trinity College Dublin
He called Dr Holohan an “excellent public servant”.
Earlier, the top health official said he does not intend to return to the role of chief medical officer.
In an opening statement sent to the Oireachtas Health Committee, he said he wanted to address some of the controversy over his appointment as professor of public health strategy and leadership at the university.
It is not my intention to return to this role at any point in the future. It is important that my successor feels fully empowered and enabled to undertake the role as they see fitDr Tony Holohan
In the statement, seen by the PA news agency, Dr Holohan said he wished to “clarify” matters.
He wrote: “The Department of Health is committed to the development of public health capacity for the future.
“While Ireland has fared well in many aspects of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is room for development of our capacity in this regard.
“The third-level sector will play a key role in providing thought leadership, critical analysis, research as well as the development of knowledge and skills to better support public health leadership, policy making and public health practice.
“It is to further this potential that I am taking up the professorship of public health strategy & leadership in Trinity College Dublin.
“Specifically, the department intends me to lead the development and activities of inter-institutional collaboration between universities and the health sector and to develop stronger links with the WHO (World Health Organisation) and agencies of the EU.”
Dr Holohan said he has agreed to “relinquish” his role as chief medical officer.
“It is not my intention to return to this role at any point in the future,” he said.
“It is important that my successor feels fully empowered and enabled to undertake the role as they see fit.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he had “no hand, act or part” in the appointment of Dr Holohan to the new teaching role.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has also faced questions about his exact role in the approval of the secondment.