Robert Watt to become new secretary general of Department of Health

Current head of the Department of Public Expenditure is one of country’s best-known civil servants

Robert Watt, the head of the Department of Public Expenditure and one of the country’s best-known civil servants, is to become the new secretary general of the Department of Health, The Irish Times understands.

Mr Watt, who has been secretary general of his current department since its creation in 2011, will take up the reins at the Department of Health with immediate effect.

The Cabinet is expected to approve the move at its meeting tomorrow.

The top job in the Department of Health has been vacant since the summer and has been filled on a temporary basis by deputy secretary general Colm O’Reardon, who is expected to move to a senior position in the Department of Finance.


Mr Watt brings a formidable reputation as a reformer to the troubled Department of Health, having steered many tough public sector reforms on work practices and pay through during the period of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition 2011-16.

He previously worked as an assistant secretary in the Department of Finance when the late Brian Lenihan was Minister for Finance during the financial crisis.

Unlike many senior civil servants, Mr Watt has experience in the private sector, having worked for Indecon Economic Consultants for a period after beginning his career in the Department of Finance.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times