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Reilly under pressure over €164k pay for new 'expert'

ANOTHER 'expert', another lucrative six-figure paycheck. Health Minister James Reilly was under intense pressure today to justify the hiring of yet another €164,000-a-year consultant.

The Dublin TD was today accused of flouting the Government's own imposed rules after handing the job to former nurse Lis Nixon.

Despite grappling with unprecedented waiting lists as well as overseeing swingeing health cuts, the minister has dismissed claims that Ms Nixon is a new advisor as "wholly false".

But even Fine Gael's own backbenchers have warned that she needs to deliver results that justify the massive salary.

Dublin Mid West TD Derek Keating told the Herald that it is "essential" that Ms Nixon proves her worth.

"If this new staff member, who is on a fixed short-term contract of four years, can resolve the waiting crisis in our hospitals then the appointment is acceptable. However, the public demand value for money so it is essential she delivers," he said.

Dr Reilly has insisted that the staggering €164,000 salary awarded to the former British NHS worker is completely appropriate as her role is purely an "executive function".

According to his spokesperson Mark Costigan, who himself earns a salary of over €92,000, Ms Nixon will not be offering any "advice".

"Ms Nixon is a highly skilled expert in the area of unscheduled care. It's important to emphasise that this is an executive position in the Special Delivery Unit, it is not an advisory position at all," he told the Herald.

However, the opposition today reacted with fury at the appointment, rejecting the claim that it is not a breach of the Government pay cap.

Fianna Fail Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher dubbed the appointment "obscene".

"They can call it what they like but they're just splitting hairs. The fact is these appointments are breaching the Government's own stated policy on advisors," he added.

Mr Costigan however described Mr Kelleher's claims as "wrong" and "misleading".