Robert Watt flies to Dubai for wellness conference amid €295,000 pay storm

Under-fire Department of Health Secretary-General Robert Watt traveled to Dubai this week to attend a health and wellness exhibition as controversy continues to rage over his rise salary of €81,000.

r Watt and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly attend a huge international showcase in the heart of the United Arab Emirates.

The six-month expo in the hugely wealthy Arab state will focus on mental and physical wellbeing for the next few days and an Irish delegation visited Dubai earlier this week.

It is understood they traveled to the event in economy class seats and are not staying in one of the more expensive hotels in Dubai.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Minister Donnelly and General Secretary Watt are attending and participating in Health Week Expo 2020. This includes supporting Irish businesses operating in the region.”

The state visit comes as the Dáil this week debated the shocking report into the treatment of children attending a mental health facility in Kerry.

Meanwhile, carers continue to call to be included in the government’s €1,000 pandemic bonus scheme.

Expo Dubai’s Health and Wellbeing Week opens with an event called ‘Celebrating the Unsung Heroes’, which highlights the ‘vital role of frontline health workers in advancing the goals national and global health care.

The initial controversy over Mr Watt’s pay rise came at a time when the opposition criticized the government for failing to pay student nurses during the pandemic.

Other events at the exhibition focus on the use of technology in health care, while there are also sessions on prevention and preparedness pandemics.

Mr. Donnelly will meet a number of medical technology companies on his trip and attend events organized by Enterprise Ireland and IDA.

However, last night Fianna Fáil TD and Oireachtas finance committee chairman John McGuinness said it ‘beyond belief’ that Mr Watt and Mr Donnelly are in Dubai in a week when the service health has been embroiled in controversy.

“I think the man who is being paid €295,000 should be at his desk in the Department of Health rather than at an exhibition in Dubai,” Mr McGuinness said.

“I think it’s bad judgment on their part to both be away from the Department at a time like this.”

Mr McGuinness said ministers were “rightly held accountable” for incidents that occurred under their watch, but the civil service should also be held to account.

‘Robert Watt cannot appear before a committee but can come to Dubai,’ he said, referring to Mr Watt’s decision whether or not to appear before a joint finance and accounts committee hearing. public about its controversial supplement.

Mr Watt faced calls this week from three senior Cabinet ministers to reveal whether he was still forgoing his €81,000 pay rise.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, Social Care Minister Heather Humphreys and Tourism Minister Catherine Martin have all said the senior civil servant should be transparent about his taxpayer-funded pay.

Mr Watt refused to answer questions about his salary until ministers asked him to reveal whether he was still waiving the top-up.

When he was first appointed general secretary at the height of the pandemic, Mr Watt said he would forego the top-up until the economy improved.