July 2, 2022

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John Callinan incoming secretary general at Department of Taoiseach facing calls to appear before Oireachtas committee

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Incoming Department of the Taoiseach secretary general John Callinan is facing calls to appear before an Oireachtas committee over his appointment without an open competition.

r Callinan will succeed Martin Fraser as the most powerful civil servant in the country, on an annual salary of up to €215,998, following agreement at Cabinet on the recommendation of the Taoiseach yesterday.

The appointment was made without any open competition. Instead, civil servants were last month invited to express their interest in the position along with a short CV and a brief statement on their suitability in an email to Mr Fraser.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said on Wednesday that it would be “helpful” if Mr Callinan appeared before Oireachtas Finance Committee, which oversees the Taoiseach’s department, “so that the public can get an understanding of how this important public position was filled”.

The Dublin Bay South TD told Independent.ie: “He may be the most suitable candidate, but top civil and public service jobs should be advertised rather than arranged by senior officials.”

The appointment has caused disquiet among Government backbenchers and the Opposition with Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who chairs the Oireachtas Finance Committee, saying it was “more evidence of insiders being in control”.

Sinn Féin has said it will ask the Dáil’s powerful Public Accounts Committee to probe the matter.

Micheál Martin’s spokesperson last night defended the appointment, saying it was the Taoiseach’s “prerogative” but they had no details on how many people had applied for the role or whether applicants were interviewed.

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Mr Callinan has since 2016 served as the second secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach for international, EU and Northern Ireland divisions.

He played a central role in Brexit negotiations as the Taoiseach’s sherpa, or senior EU adviser, on the UK’s protracted withdrawal from the EU.

Having worked closely with five successive taoisigh, the Trinity graduate and former Revenue and EU official will, from May 3, hold the most senior civil service role in the country and report directly to the Taoiseach.

Mr Fraser is departing after 11 years as secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach to take up the position of Irish ambassador to the UK in December.

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