Committee seeks powers to compel Robert Watt to appear over Holohan row

The process to receive the powers includes a vote in the Dáil and the Seanad.
Committee seeks powers to compel Robert Watt to appear over Holohan row

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The Oireachtas Finance Committee will seek powers to compel the Secretary General of the Department of Health to appear before it.

Politicians at the committee are hoping to quiz Robert Watt over the botched appointment of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan to a professor position in Trinity College Dublin.

The controversy has dogged the Department of Health and the Government for several weeks.

Members of the committee agreed on Wednesday to seek the powers compelling Mr Watt to appear, ahead of hearing from Secretary General in the Department of the Taoiseach, Martin Fraser.

It came following a proposal from Sinn Féin TDs Pearse Doherty and Mairead Farrell.

Mr Fraser took questions on the controversy on Wednesday afternoon.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, at that meeting, said: “We have had, for the first time, to seek compellability as another Secretary General is refusing to attend this committee at this point in time.”

An Oireachtas spokesperson said: “The Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach has agreed to apply for compellability powers in regard to this matter.”

The process to compel witnesses is not granted to every Oireachtas committee and the request will start a complex process of parliamentary procedure that will include a vote in the Dáil and the Seanad and a specific application to the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight.

Mr Watt has been accused of snubbing the Oireachtas committee over the appointment, while Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that he will attend the committee once an external review of the appointment has been completed.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on Tuesday expressed concern about what he called a “witch hunt” against Mr Watt.

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