Business Irish

Friday 19 April 2019

Harney joins board of new health firm

Roisin Burke

Former Tanaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney has joined the board of a new healthcare company, Cara.

The former Health and Enterprise Minister is gearing up to capitalise on the expertise she gained in politics through potentially lucrative board memberships and advisory roles.

In her first interview since leaving office, Ms Harney said she joined the board of two Irish 'high-potential' start-ups, Cara Health and Ward Biotech.

Cara is a new health technology firm developing services for chronic disease suffers. It was started by boffins from Trinity's computer science school and "international thought leaders within primary healthcare", its website says.

Ward Biotech is an animal health research spinout from University College Dublin.

She is also enjoying the speaking engagement circuit. She said: "I spoke at a recent surgeons' conference in New York on my experience as a health minister and in Berlin on the Irish pharma sector."

Board opportunities also beckon. "People like a mix on a board and women are viewed as bringing particular benefits."

In April, Ms Harney joined the board of car fleet insurer Euro Insurances, an Irish subsidiary of Dutch insurance giant Leaseplan, where her husband Brian Geoghegan is believed to be involved. Finance adviser IFG's boss Gary Owens is fellow director.

While in office, Ms Harney led the setting up of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board that cuts insurance companies' costs by helping keep claims out of court.

Earlier this year, Indian pharma tycoon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who has connections with Ireland, appointed Ms Harney to the board of Biocon, a Bangalore-based company employing 7,000 and expanding in Malaysia.

Ms Mazumdar Shaw is one of India's richest women and was a Harney appointee to Science Foundation Ireland 10 years ago.

As per the civil service code restriction, Ms Harney did "nothing commercial, only pro-bono work" until February of this year. Now she is free of that ethical constraint.

"I'm involved in a number of advisory things here and overseas. I advised a US software management company that is planning entry to the European market and a company that is looking at locating in Ireland," she said.

She says she holds no company shares apart from share options as part of remuneration deals.

"Insurance, health, consumer and food and innovation" are key areas of interest. "I like a mix of things, as in politics, where you got a good mix of opportunities."

She "very much enjoyed the challenge" of being Health Minister and gave the current incumbent a thumbs-up. "I think things are going in the right direction and that James Reilly is doing a good job," she said.

On Thursday, Eirigi councillor Louise Minihan was jailed for failing to pay a fine for a charge following an attack on Ms Harney when she was in office.

Minihan flung red paint at Ms Harney in the grounds of a hospital in 2010 and was found guilty of criminal damage and assault.

Ms Harney resigned as a minister in January 2011 and retired from politics after the last election. However, it looks like we'll be seeing more of her in the business arena.

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