Robert Watt waives €81k salary bump for Department of Health role

Robert Watt Waives €81K Salary Bump For Department Of Health Role
Robert Watt has taken the decision to waive the €81,000 salary increase that accompanies the role. Photo: PA Images.
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Sarah Mooney

The Cabinet has confirmed the appointment of Robert Watt as the permanent secretary general of the Department of Health.

It is understood the senior civil servant has taken the decision to waive the €81,000 salary increase that accompanies the role "for the time being".


Opposition parties had strongly criticised the proposed pay for the role in recent months, after it emerged that it would receive an increased salary of €292,000 — more than any other civil servant and amounting to a pay increase of more than €80,000 for Mr Watt.

In a statement, Mr Watt said: “The proposed salary for this role is higher than my current salary. I don’t think it is appropriate to take such an increase in pay given the current difficult economic conditions the country faces.

“It had always been my intention that, if I were to be appointed to this role, I would waive this increase until the economy begins to recover and unemployment falls.

“I am looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Department of Health on the many challenges we face.”


Cabinet view

Ministers have approved the higher salary and there will likely be an option for Mr Watt to take the higher amount in the future.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was the “strong view” of Cabinet that the role was deserving of the increased salary.

“It’s very much the strong view of Cabinet that this position is a crucial position in our public service and should carry a similar salary to that of the head of the HSE or the head of a semi-state company,” he said.

“So the salary has been agreed by Cabinet, but I understand that Mr Watt himself has decided to waive the higher salary.”


Mr Watt took on the role of interim secretary general in the Department of Health earlier this year, and will now fill the role on a permanent basis following an open TLAC competition.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, said Mr Watt brings “a wealth of experience to this role.”

“I am pleased that Robert is taking on this really important role in the Department of Health. The Department continues to work through the challenge of Covid-19, is leading on the vaccination programme and the implementation of Sláintecare,” he said.

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