Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has initiated an independent review of the now abandoned secondment of the Chief Medical Officer to Trinity College.

The minister said the proposed arrangement should have been communicated earlier and there are lessons to be learnt.

He said the review by an external consultant could inform future initiatives.

The minister announced the review following the publication of a briefing note on the proposed secondment by Robert Watt, the Secretary General at the Department of Health.

Mr Watt wrote that the health minister had been informed of the proposal for Dr Tony Holohan to take up a professorship at Trinity College.

But he said the minister was not involved in the specific terms of the arrangement and this was appropriate given the division of responsibilities.

He said it was never envisaged that the Trinity College role would be paid directly by the Department of Health's annual expenditure vote, but as part of a wider "competitive" fund.

This would, he said, have been administered by the Health Research Board.

Mr Watt said he assumed the key decision makers in Government were aware of the proposed secondment.

He said Secretary to the Government Martin Fraser knew of the move but "not of course the precise details".

Mr Watt said that in early March Mr Fraser had asked him if he was working on the details and he confirmed he was.

"I inferred from this that this had political support in Government Buildings," Mr Watt said.

The Health Secretary General said the CMO had indicated to him last August that he wished to consider his future options including academic and international roles.

But these discussions were paused until last February due to the outbreak of Covid-19 variants.