Paschal Donohoe confirms he signed off on €300k Nóirín O’Sullivan payoff

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has revealed he personally signed off on Nóirín O’Sullivan’s pension package, but denied it amounted to a “sweetener” to facilitate her exit, writes Daniel McConnell and Fiachra O Cionnaith.

Mr Donohoe confirmed he gave the go-ahead to include the seven-month period she served as acting commissioner toward her pension, which pushed her over a crucial three-year mark enabling her to receive a full commissioner’s pension.

Mr Donohoe, speaking to reporters in Dublin, said he signed off on the pension deal — believed to involve a €300,000 tax-free lump sum and an annual pension of between €90,000 and €100,000 — but that it was “entirely consistent” with existing policy.

He said he became aware of discussions between officials last week in relation to Ms O’Sullivan’s departure and he gave the OK to the deal last Friday.

“I was made aware at the very end of last week that official discussions had been taking place with the Department of Justice in relation to her potential retirement. I became aware that she had retired on Sunday and she had handed in her formal notification to Justice Minister [Charlie] Flanagan,” he said.

“As part of that I became aware of and agreed to the proposal in relation to her pension and I believe it is an appropriate way of dealing with her pension as she was performing the duties of the Garda commissioner as acting commissioner.”

Asked did he accept the charge that he approved what amounted to a sweetener to facilitate her departure, Mr Donohoe said he did not.

“This was a decision that was made that was entirely consistent with how the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform handles the retirement of individuals who at times have been serving and leading organisations for a long period of time as she has. It was entirely consistent and I dealt with the Department of Justice on the matter. I had to make an agreement on the matter and I did.”

Mr Flanagan is due to give an overview of Ms O’Sullivan’s departure and his subsequent discussions with the Policing Authority on how to find her replacement at the Cabinet’s meeting this morning.

However, asked if he will be raising how this appointment process will take place, how long it will take, and if it will include a potential salary hike to €300,000 to attract foreign applicants, a spokesperson for the minister refused to comment so as not to “pre-empt” further discussions with the Policing Authority.

The spokesperson also declined to say if Mr Flanagan will address reports that the Government agreed a deal to give Ms O’Sullivan her full pension in return for her leaving immediately at the weekend, saying “there was no deal”.

A spokesperson for the Independent Alliance, which has yet to meet since Ms O’Sullivan’s retirement, did not comment on the ongoing questions surrounding her departure.

It is understood that while Transport Minister Shane Ross and Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath are likely to raise the issues at Cabinet today, they are not opposed to the plans.

Mr Donohoe also said the HSE will not be receiving any additional monies to address a projected overspend of €300m, calling on it to manage the problem.

“I expect the HSE Service Action Plan to be delivered because that money was made available to meet expectations set to me about services,” he said. “I expect any deficits to be managed and dealt with. All of this takes place at a time when our health services have never had more money.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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