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Former health chief to earn €137,000 as Reilly's adviser

HEALTH Minister James Reilly's new special adviser stands to earn up to €137,000 a year from the taxpayer in a combined pension and salary package.

The issue of advisers' salaries has been a thorny one for the Government, with ministers admitting it came up frequently while canvassing during the EU fiscal treaty referendum.

The minister is bringing a former health board chief executive in as his politically appointed adviser, just seven years after she left the public sector on a golden handshake of €417,000 and an annual pension of €68,000.

Maureen Windle was one of the former health board chief executives who left in 2005 when the Health Service Executive was set up.

The minister's current policy adviser, Sean Faughnan, was due to go part-time but is now understood to be leaving his position completely in the coming period.

In a long-running saga, Dr Reilly had repeatedly attempted to increase Mr Faughnan's salary. Rather than job-share with Mr Faughnan, Ms Windle will take up the job full-time.

She left the public sector in 2005 when she was on a salary of €136,660 as a health board CEO.

Figures from the HSE show her severance package of €416,879 was made up of:

• A lump sum of €205,092.

• A pension of €68,330.

• A severance payment of €81,579.

• An ex-gratia payment of €61,858.

Her annual pension started out at €68,300, calculated on the basis of 50pc of her final salary. But this pension would have been reduced in recent years in line with Government cuts to pensions over €60,000.

The standard salary for an adviser ranges from €80,051 up to €92,682.

Between her pension and her adviser's salary, Ms Windle will not be paid more than the €136,660, which was her final salary as CEO of the Northern Area Health Board.

Department of Finance rules do not allow someone who returns to the public sector after retirement to be paid more than they were earning in their old position. Known as 'public service pension abatement rules', the regulations put a cap on payments from the taxpayer.

Dr Reilly's spokesman said the minister was keen to resolve the issue. "It is hoped that agreement will be reached in the near future to resolve any issues surrounding the appointment of Dr Reilly's policy adviser," the spokesman said.

The minister worked with Ms Windle when she was a CEO of the health board covering the north Dublin area, where he practised as a family doctor and served as a GP's representative in the organisation.

Since 2005, she has worked as a management consultant in the health sector.

At the time of the establishment of the HSE, a severance arrangement was put in place which was agreed and approved by the Department of Health and Children for former CEOs of the health boards.

Dr Reilly repeatedly tried to get a pay rise for Mr Faughnan to take him over the pay grade of €92,000.

Mr Faughnan worked for Fine Gael in opposition and drafted the party's health policy document to bring in universal health insurance, which is now government policy.

Irish Independent