More high-cost HSE redundancies may follow €389,000 package for former executive, says Donnelly

Dean Sullivan’s redundancy payment in line with Government policy, according to Paschal Donohoe

There may be a need for additional voluntary redundancy arrangements for some staff in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the future as part of structural reforms, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

Both Mr Donnelly and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe on Thursday backed an agreement reached between the HSE and one of its most senior executives which saw him leave the health service with an overall exit package of close to €400,000.

The Irish Times reported on Thursday that HSE chief strategy officer and former deputy director general Dean Sullivan was to receive €388,983.

Mr Sullivan had been employed by the HSE since July 2017 as deputy director general – chief strategy and planning officer, initially for a five-year period. In July 2022 he became HSE chief strategy officer.


The HSE said he had left its employment “by agreement and redundancy”. It said the deal had been approved by both the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the amount involved included both “a legal settlement payment to address legal and financial risks; and a redundancy/severance”. It said the request for approval of the proposed settlement included “business case material” and “confirmation from the relevant accounting officer the proposed settlement represented value for money for the State”.

Mr Donohoe maintained the exit deal for Mr Sullivan was in line with Government policy.

“The severance element of it is completely in line with our policy regarding redundancy programmes,” he said.

He also said part of the deal had come about as a result of a legal process and a mediation which had been chaired by a senior counsel.

Government sources said apart from the legal settlement, the redundancy terms had come within a circular issued by the Department of Public Expenditure in 2018.

Under the terms of the circular, public-service employers are permitted to make discretionary payments as part of redundancy arrangements of no more than three weeks’ salary per year of service.

Based on that maximum and his service of 6½ years and including his statutory entitlements, the redundancy element of Mr Sullivan’s payment should not have exceeded about €85,000.

Mr Donnelly said he had been aware of the exit package for Mr Sullivan and had received “full assurance” that the correct process had been followed.

He said while he was unaware of any other upcoming redundancy packages for staff in the HSE there “may well be” some.

“Certainly we are reorganising the HSE. I believe, and the chief executive believes, we need a slimmer centre.

“What we don’t want to do is simply hire more and more managers across the country and in some cases that does mean making roles redundant.

“Is it possible that there will be more during a big reorganisation like this? Yes, It is possible,” he said.

Talks with unions on that reorganisation process started last Friday with further meetings scheduled for the coming weeks. It had been understood the Government wanted to achieve the reorganisation on a “cost neutral” basis.

Mr Donnelly said the chief of strategy role which had been occupied by Mr Sullivan was being eliminated.

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane welcomed the decision by Mr Sullivan to waive confidentiality over the details of the total payment he is to receive.

However, he said the Department of Health and the HSE “need to inform us as to how this came about”.

“What were the circumstances behind this? How did they arrive at the figure? Because for the vast, vast majority of people, these are huge amounts of money. It is taxpayers’ money. And there has to be absolute full accountability and transparency.”

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Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times