Irish health boss Tony O’Brien steps down over cancer deaths

Irish health boss Tony O Brien steps down cancer deaths
Tony O’Brien to resign or he should be sacked over his role in the cervical cancer scandal. Photo: Mark Stedman/

The CervicalCheck cancer controversy saw Tony O’Brien step down from his position as Director General of Ireland’s Health Service Executive. His resignation comes after weeks of controversy over cervical smears and the high-profile cases of Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mathuna.

In a a statement issued via the HSE, Mr O’Brien said that he had made his decision “in order to avoid any further impact to the delivery of health and social care services, and in particular the cancer screening services that have become the focus of intense political debate in recent days”.

Mr O’Brien said he would co-operate fully with the preliminary inquiry headed by Dr Gabriel Scally, and expects that the Government review “will demonstrate the quality and value of the CervicalCheck programme once it is complete”.

He acknowledged, though, that there were communication failures surrounding the CervicalCheck audits. In a video massage, Mr O’Brien thanked HSE staff for their hard work and said that he had planned to make some visits to staff before his departure.

“What I do know, is that the work that you do, your work, your commitment, your care is a vital part of what makes Ireland, Ireland,” he said. “It’s a vital part of our community infrastructure, and I want you to be really proud of everything that you do.

“What’s important now is despite the setback that the health service has experienced is that we all, you all in fact in this case, remain focused on the important work that you do.

“The HSE, the health services, our health service, is delivered by people, by you, for people in Ireland, our own families often, and it is really important that you continue to do the great work that you have been doing in recent years and for which I am so proud of you.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “I would like to express my thanks to Tony O’Brien for his many years of dedicated public service.

“I know that he is standing down from his role today because he believes it is in the best interest of rebuilding public confidence in the wake of the issues which have arisen in CervicalCheck (Ireland’s national screening programme).”

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