Monday 27 May 2019

Boss of US firm linked to HSE chief held event for Varadkar campaign

Tom Lynch
Tom Lynch
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The chairman of a US firm which recently added embattled HSE chief Tony O'Brien to its board hosted a secret fundraising supper as part of Leo Varadkar's campaign to become Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar yesterday defended Health Minister Simon Harris giving permission to Tony O'Brien to take a board seat on the US pharmaceutical firm, Evofem Biosciences.

It emerged yesterday that the chair of Evofem is high-flying businessman Thomas Lynch, who is also chairperson of the Dublin East Hospital Group and Mater Hospital board.

The Irish Independent revealed last year that at the height of the Fine Gael leadership contest he hosted an exclusive fundraiser for Mr Varadkar in Dublin.

The Belfast native invited a select group of business people to meet and greet Mr Varadkar at the plush St Stephen's Green Hibernian Club.

The decision of Mr Harris to allow Mr O'Brien to take up a lucrative role at a US contraceptive manufacturer was criticised in the Dáil yesterday.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the appointment had "inevitable potential conflict of interests".

In response, Mr Varadkar said the HSE chief's contract of employment allows him to serve on other boards with ministerial consent. He said there was no reason to question the validity of Mr Harris's decision in this case.

"The work he is doing for that company, I am told, is five hours per month and this will be done in his own time and any board meetings he will be on annual leave," he said. However, Social Democrats TD Roisín Shortall pointed to Mr Varadkar's links to the chairman of the US firm.

"What is the Taoiseach's relationship with Mr Thomas Lynch? Is it the case that he hosted a fundraising event for the Taoiseach last year?" she asked.

In reply, Mr Varadkar said: "It is. I know Thomas Lynch. He would be well known to many people in business circles.

"He is a successful businessperson who is the chair of a number of bodies, including that board.

"To my knowledge, he has no involvement whatsoever in CervicalCheck."

Irish Independent

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