Wednesday 18 September 2019

Outgoing HSE chief Tony O'Brien launches personal attack on TDs

Tony O’Brien has quit his post (Niall Carson/PA)
Tony O’Brien has quit his post (Niall Carson/PA)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Tony O’Brien has launched a personal attack on TDs after he was forced to resign as HSE chief executive.

In a message posted on his Twitter account, Mr O’Brien said he hoped the children of TDs questioning him at Oireachtas committee meetings over handling of the health service do not watch their public performances.

“When I appear in public - say at a Committee I conduct myself against a simple standard.  Would I be happy for my children or my mother to see how I behave?” Mr O’Brien

“I sometimes  look across the room and hope their children will never see and hear how they behave,”he said.

Mr O’Brien was forced to step down over his oversight of the Cervical Check scandal.

Two terminally ill mothers - Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathuna - who were given incorrect cervical check results had called for Mr O’Brien to resign.

The emergence of damning internal HSE memo also put pressure on Mr O’Brien to resign.

Mr O'Brien clashed with Fianna Fáil TD Marc McSharry at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

Mr MacSharry had challenged Mr O'Brien to explain how his positon is tenable in the wake of the screening scandal.

There were heated exchanges between the pair.

Mr O'Brien had defended the cervical cancer screening programme which he said has detected 50,000 abnormalities which led to early treatment which probably avoided "hundreds of cancers and ultimately deaths".

Mr MacSharry said that failures have left "an entire nation of women terrified".

Mr O'Brien accused Mr MacSharry of "causing hysteria".

Mr MacSharry asked where the accountability is while "we’re in here kicking a football around about let’s have an investigation to see what happened."

This morning Mr MacSharry said the forum of the PAC is about accountability and there a "robust style".

He also said that the issue "is about the women of Ireland, not Tony O'Brien."

Also speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Phelan thanked Mr MacSharry for his questions to Mr O'Brien and said she believes his contribution was "beyond reproach".

TD Marc McSharry has defended his questioning style at the Public Accounts Committee, saying his questioning of outgoing HSE boss Tony O'Brien yesterday is consistent with his style at previous committee hearings.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr McSharry said; "Looking back, there is nothing I would change."

"I can understand he's not happy, he's lashing out somewhat," he said of Tony O'Brien.

"But this is not about Tony O'Brien, this is about the women of Ireland, life and death and the accountability people are entitled to.

"I don't think, I can understand him tweeting, but I think before the end of today someone in the HSE needs to take him aside and say this is not about you.

"I have no difficulty in anybody criticising me. I get the fact that as a public representative I am open to scrutiny and accountability, I don't think Mr O'Brien gets it."

He continued; "I heard Morning Ireland yesterday and I heard that harrowing story [Emma Mhic Mhathúna's story].

"That personal frustration and anger may have come across in my questioning.

"Looking back, there is nothing I would change.

"The biggest issue, who this is about, is the women of Ireland and not Tony O'Brien."

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