A HUMAN rights and penal reform expert has been appointed as an adviser to President Michael D Higgins.
Liam Herrick, who is the chief executive of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, will take up the €75,000-a-year position next month.
Mr Herrick will replace Mary van Lieshout who quit her post in November after just 18 months. Ms van Lieshout resigned amid reports of tensions in Aras an Uachtarain over the growing influence of the President's executive assistant, Kevin McCarthy.
Mr McCarthy worked as Mr Higgins's driver during the presidential campaign. However, he was appointed to a specially created position as executive assistant when Mr Higgins took office in November 2011.
Sources based in the Aras have said that the tensions centred around the level of access Mr McCarthy has to the President.
Despite being on a salary of €103,000, Ms van Lieshout quit her job halfway through her contract. She insisted she left on "very amicable terms" and has now taken up a post with the charity GOAL.
A spokesman for the President confirmed that Mr Herrick had been appointed to fill the role vacated by Ms van Lieshout. He is due to remain in the role for three years and will start on a salary of €75,647, which is in line with the principal officer grade in the civil service.
Mr Herrick (38) worked at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish Human Rights Commission, before taking up the role at the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT).
The board of the IRPT last night paid tribute to Mr Herrick for his contribution to the area of penal reform.
"Since becoming executive director in 2007, Liam has made an immense contribution to the development of IPRT into the organisation it is today, Ireland's leading advocate of progressive penal reform, known for advancing evidence-based policy solutions, and with a demonstrated positive impact on Irish penal policy," it said.
"Liam's dedication and commitment to penal reform and the rights of people in the penal system will have an enduring legacy, with wider social justice benefits."