Thursday 20 September 2018

President Higgins loses two key advisers at áras

President Higgins and wife Sabina meet staff at the opening of the Sea Lion Cove at Dublin Zoo yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
President Higgins and wife Sabina meet staff at the opening of the Sea Lion Cove at Dublin Zoo yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Two key advisers of President Michael D Higgins have resigned from their posts at áras an Uachtaráin.

The announcement of the double departure is the latest in a series of high-profile resignations from members of the President's inner team since 2013.

The President's key communications adviser, Sarah Martin, is stepping down to "pursue some exciting opportunities".

The other resignation comes from Wally Young, the well-known former army commandant best known as a crisis manager for various religious orders during the fallout of various abuse scandals.

Last night, sources close to Mr Young and Ms Martin insisted their departures were "purely personal decisions".

In a statement issued to the Irish Independent, áras an Uachtaráin confirmed the double departure of two key members of President Higgins's team. Given the intention of the two key advisers to leave their role, President Higgins is currently recruiting a new "head of communications and information" as part of a "general restructuring of the Office of the President", the áras said in a statement.

"Sarah Martin and Wally Young will continue with the existing arrangements until the autumn to facilitate a smooth transition to the new structure," the statement added.

Commenting on his decision to depart, Mr Young said: "As part of a plan to reduce my overall work commitments, I will complete an 11-year term as media adviser to the President next November."

He added: "It has been a great honour and privilege to work for both President Higgins and President McAleese and to have so thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working as part of the team at Áras an Uachtaráin."

Ms Martin said she was leaving because "some exciting opportunities have emerged for me recently".

She said: "Working for President Higgins and Sabina at Áras an Uachtaráin has been an absolute privilege. However, some exciting opportunities have emerged for me recently that I look forward to pursuing."

In late 2013, Áras an Uachtaráin played down the shock resignation of President Higgins's chief adviser just 18 months into the job.

Mr Higgins got the wage cap lifted last year in order to pay the highly regarded aide a salary of €103,000.

But just halfway through her contract, Mary van Lieshout left amid reports of tensions among Mr Higgins's most trusted aides.

The growing influence of Mr Higgins's executive assistant Kevin McCarthy, a more junior staff member who it had been suggested had better access to the President, was said to have contributed to tensions in the Áras.

Then in April 2014, Adrian O'Neill, the secretary general to the President, announced he was leaving the staff after four years in the position.

He was appointed in February 2010, during former President Mary McAleese's term in office.

Irish Independent

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