A Fianna Fail TD has accused the Taoiseach of “misleading the Dail” when he described the pursuit of Robert Watt as a witch-hunt.
John McGuinness said there is “no appetite of Government” to get the truth around the botched appointment of chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to a professor position at Trinity College Dublin.
Mr McGuinness, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Finance Public Expenditure and Reform, was highly critical of Micheal Martin, senior government ministers and civil servants over its handling of the appointment.
The committee is seeking powers to compel Mr Watt, secretary general of the Department of Health, to appear before the panel.
Mr Watt has been accused of snubbing the Oireachtas committee over the appointment.
In a letter to the panel, he said he has addressed questions on the matter at the health committee and would not be answering further questions.
Mr McGuinness said: “It’s regrettable that the Taoiseach used the words ‘witch-hunt’ because this committee, and I’m sure it’s the same for every other committee in the House, is about its business.
“It’s about accountability, transparency, bringing before the committees the various witnesses, depending on the subject matter, and pursuing it in a constructive parquets fashion of getting to the truth of the matter.”
He said the position taken by senior politicians and senior civil servants was “shocking”.
“The public is furious over what’s going on. Not so much of Dr Holohan but with the carry-on of ministers, their comments, of senior civil servants and their comments, and particularly the misleading commentary put to the Dail by the Taoiseach when he says ‘witch-hunt’ when he refers to what should or should not happen.
“It would seem that there was no appetite of Government to get the truth of this matter.”
Mr Martin has referred to the completion of an external review before pursuing the matter further.
“That stands in stark contrast to the treatment of a minister who asked for due process but was sacked. And if that’s not double standards, I don’t know what it is,” Mr McGuinness added.
“So therefore, the committee has a remit. It has to answer the questions for the public in the context of the belief that is out there, that there are senior politicians and civil servants that are ignoring due processes, ignoring the Oireachtas committees and just doing as they please.
“The letter of last night from Mr Watt to the committee, as usual it gives a lot of packing. There’s a lot of stuff in there, some irrelevant.
“He says that he answers questions on these matters at the health committee and ‘I do not believe it is reasonable for me to be asked to attend a different sector committee to answer questions on the same issues’.
“He’s not being asked to answer questions on the same issues. He’s being asked to address the issues that are of public interest and concern to people of Ireland.
“He’s being asked by a parliamentary committee taking its task responsibly, and he’s been asked to appear to clarify matters.
“This is not personal. I just have to do my job as chairman, and it has been made seriously difficult by the attitude of Government ministers, the Taoiseach and senior civil servants.
“I find that it is a shocking state of affairs that this committee has to sit like this and work its way through nonsense and through all of the misinformation and spin in order to try to get to the truth.
“I hope the Taoiseach and his officials will ponder on what’s being said in this committee.”
The Taoiseach’s office has been contacted for comment.