Friday 22 September 2017

My departure was amicable, insists Higgins adviser

President Michael D Higgins. Inset: Mary van Lieshout
President Michael D Higgins. Inset: Mary van Lieshout

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins' former adviser has gone back to the United States as controversy continues to rage over her shock resignation, the Irish Independent has learned.

Breaking her silence on her departure from Aras an Uachtarain last night, Mary van Lieshout says she left on "very amicable terms".

In a statement Ms van Lieshout also wished President Higgins, his wife, Sabina, and "all my former colleagues" well for the future.

She issued the statement in a bid to calm the furore over reports her surprise resignation, just 18 months into her contract, was prompted by tensions in the Aras.

Ms van Lieshout said she was "privileged" to have the experience of working in the Aras and left to "pursue other interests".

"I departed Aras an Uachtarain on very amicable terms with everyone and wish the President, Sabina and all my former colleagues well for the future," she said.

American-born Ms van Lieshout is understood to have departed for the US this week to tend to a sick relative.

She left on Monday morning -- the day after the controversy over her departure began -- but is believed to have been scheduled to leave on that date regardless.

SURPRISE

The Aras played down the surprise resignation of President Higgins's chief adviser half way through her three year contract.

President Higgins got the salary cap lifted last year in order to pay the highly regarded aide a salary of €103,000.

But Ms Lieshout's departure resulted in reports of tensions among the President's most trusted aides.

The growing influence of the President's executive assistant Kevin McCarthy, a more junior staff member who it has been suggested has better access to Mr Higgins, was reported in the media last weekend to be central to tensions in the Aras.

But this was disputed by sources close to the Aras who said that none of the staff had expressed any difficulties with regard to access to the President.

The controversy over the former third world humanitarian aid worker's departure has become public just a week after it was announced President Higgins is to make a historic state visit to Britain next April.

Ms van Leishout issued the statement on her resignation last evening through a Dublin-based public relations firm she has worked with in previous roles.

It ended by saying that she would be making no further comment on the matter.

Irish Independent

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