President Michael D Higgins former chief advisor Mary van Lieshout has moved to dismiss speculation on why she stepped down from her role.

There had been media reports that the resignation was due to a lack of access to Mr Higgins.

In a statement, she said: "In recent days there has been much speculation and comment relating to my departure from Áras an Uachtaráin. I have sought to protect my privacy by not commenting. However, I wish to clarify matters at this time.

"I was honoured to accept the appointment of Adviser when invited to do so by President Higgins and was privileged to have the experience of working in Áras an Uachtaráin.

"In order to pursue other interests, I decided to end the assignment and have now taken up a role in overseas development, an area to which I have a deep, personal and longstanding commitment.

"I departed Áras an Uachtaráin on very amicable terms with everyone and wish the President, Sabina and all my former colleagues well for the future.

"I will be making no further comment on this matter”.