Saturday 24 February 2018

HSE legal advisor was high earner at tribunal

Eunice O'Raw. Photo: Tom Burke
Eunice O'Raw. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The HSE lawyer who raised the issue of elderly farmers blocking hospital beds was one of the highest paid barristers to work at the Mahon Tribunal.

Eunice O'Raw earned €4.2m at the planning inquiry before going on to become a member of the RTÉ Authority and the HSE's senior legal advisor.

An economics post graduate who has written extensively on competition law, she joined the bar in 1996 and became the first junior counsel attached to the tribunal to earn over €1m in fees.

Much of her work for the tribunal related to questioning witnesses about Century Radio.

She made headlines in 2014 when it emerged she unsuccessfully argued to retain a €15,000 state board fee from her role with RTÉ.

The fee was disallowed by the Department of Public Expenditure, which said it could not make any exceptions to the one person, one salary rule that does not allow public sector workers to be paid extra for serving on state boards.

She had argued that her position on the RTÉ Authority was not in any way connected with her duties at the HSE.

In a memo sent to HSE director general Tony O'Brien last May, she warned many farming families were keeping elderly relatives in hospital beds rather than sending them to a nursing home to avoid financial penalties.

Another memo written by Ms O'Raw in relation to so-called bed-blockers caused controversy when it emerged last November. That memo suggested nurses could use minimum force to remove such patients.

But the memo was withdrawn and Mr O'Brien said it did not reflect general HSE policy.

Irish Independent

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