The head of the Health Service Executive’s Child and Family services has strongly criticised the culture of his organisation, describing it as ‘appalling’.

Gordon Jeyes also likened the accountability structures of the HSE to those of the Catholic Church.

The remarks were made during a lecture in UCD last month, a recording of which has been acquired by RTÉ's This Week programme.

Mr Jeyes was appointed to his role by the HSE last December.

The comments were made on 14 June, four weeks before the Government and the HSE jointly launched Children First - the national guidance for the protection and welfare for children.

Mr Jeyes said that the HSE's culture was appalling and said if it was possible to get it wrong, they got it wrong.

He described the moratorium on recruitment as daft.

Mr Jeyes expressed concern that there were members of Cabinet who believed in a system of mandatory reporting of child abuse allegations based solely on legislation, which he said would not be fit for purpose.

He also claimed the Government had no detailed plan for the new Department of Children.

However, in an interview broadcast on This Week, Mr Jeyes said ‘the general direction’ of a plan is in existence and the Cabinet was entirely committed to child protection.

On the same programme, Minister for Health James Reilly said he agreed with Mr Jeyes that a cultural change was needed in the HSE, but he said this should be 'underpinned with legislation'.

He added that he was not aware of anyone in the Cabinet that believed that legislation alone is sufficient for protecting children.

Dr Reilly said concerns by health care professionals such as social workers and GPs should be openly expressed and referred, where necessary.

Responding to Mr Jeyes’ criticism that the moratorium in the health service was an obstacle in this process, Mr Reilly said that social workers are exempt from the moratorium but acknowledged that more flexibility is required.

A spokesman for the HSE said they would need to talk to Mr Jeyes before commenting on the matter.