Fergal Lynch is on secondment to NUIG while full salary is being paid by the Exchequer
Concerns have been expressed about how NUI Galway (NUIG) would respond to press queries over the secondment of a former secretary general to the university, amid controversy over the proposed move by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
Documents released by NUIG under Freedom of Information (FOI) also show confusion over which organisation should pay the salary of Fergal Lynch – the former secretary general of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, who is on secondment to the university following government sign-off.
Professor James Livesey on April 11 suggested they should have “a chat” in case questions were received from the press
He sent the email to Mr Lynch who is on secondment to NUIG until his retirement in 2024 on his full salary of €216,000 – which is being paid by the Exchequer.
In the April email, Prof Livesey wrote to Mr Lynch suggesting they speak to “make sure we represent you in the way you would hope to be represented”.
“It does look as if, between them, Trinity and the Department of Health managed to make a simple and beneficial relationship more complicated than needed to be and so very difficult to understand,” Prof Livesey said.
At that time, controversy was growing over a proposal by Dr Holohan to take up an academic role in TCD while remaining on his full €187,000 salary and a employee of the Department of Health. He later decided not to take the job.
Mr Lynch is in a public-policy development post in NUIG, which includes a role in supporting wider public-service reform initiatives.
The correspondence, extending from late last year, reveals discussions on what role Mr Lynch should take on. He himself submitted a detailed proposal.
In January, deputy president Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh said Mr Lynch’s secondment was an exciting prospect.
He said he could meet the job spec for senior lecturer on the Lecturer A track “since I presume he does not have research publications, if we waived the three-year employment with us rule. He would need research to go higher than that on any track.”
He added that “he could be nominated for Honorary Professorship, given his eminence in the field, or an Adjunct Professorship.”
In January, Mr Lynch said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had formally agreed to his secondment and proposed role. A document setting this out said terms were “intended to be a fairly flexible piece, in terms of the exact things I will be doing.”
The NUIG correspondence shows high levels of confusion over which organisation was responsible for paying his salary – the government department or NUIG.
In an email to the Department of Public Expenditure, he described the proposed process as convoluted whereby he was seconded and paid by NUIG while his pension contributions were paid by his department.
“Who then is my employer?” he wrote.
He had earlier been told by the Department of Public Expenditure he would be paid by NUIG and the money would be secured through the Department of Further and Higher Education vote.
Human resources officers in NUIG said it was unusual to put someone seconded to them on their payroll, but they would do so in his case.
Mr Lynch wrote to college authorities asking for clarification on his title.
He also said he did not want anything “fancy” or “exhalted” – but it should be enough to give him credibility to describe himself to others.
A spokesperson for his former department said he completed his term as secretary general in January 18.
He said the Department of Public Expenditure has made available additional funding for the post to NUIG.