Thursday 15 November 2018

Chairman of US pharmaceutical firm that put 'embattled' HSE boss on its board hosted fundraiser for Varadkar

Thomas Lynch, head of Evofem Biosciences. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Thomas Lynch, head of Evofem Biosciences. Picture: Steve Humphreys

John Downing and Cormac McQuinn

The chairman of a US firm - which has added the embattled HSE boss, Tony O’Brien, to its board - has hosted a fundraising function for the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar defended the Health Minister Simon Harris giving permission to Tony O’Brien to take a board seat on the US pharmaceutical firm, Evofem Biosciences, while Mr O’Brien continues to head the HSE.

And replying to Dáil questions from Roisín Shortall of the Social Democrats, the Taoiseach said it was a matter of public record that the chairman of that US firm, Thomas Lynch, had last year hosted a fundraising event for Mr Varadkar.

Mr Lynch is also chairman of the Ireland East Hospital Group and the Mater Hospital in Dublin as well as chairing the US pharmaceutical firm based in San Diego.

“I know Thomas Lynch. He is well known to lots of people in business circles. He is a successful business person who is the chair of a number of bodies including that board,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

“To my knowledge he has no involvement whatsoever in CervicalCheck,” Mr Varadkar added.

The Taoiseach had earlier come under pressure for the permission given the HSE boss to take the US board post.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the appointment carried potential conflicts of interest and the job of heading the HSE was enough for anyone.

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, denounced “a HSE cover-up” in the cervical test scandal.  She called for the immediate sacking of Mr O’Brien who she said already had a lucrative salary and would soon receive a large pension.

But the Taoiseach said the HSE boss would be leaving his post in 12 weeks time. He said the US board seat did not carry any conflicts as that US firm did not operate in Ireland and Mr O’Brien would carry out his role in his own time until his HSE term expired in August.

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