The Taoiseach has defended the use of private investigators by the Department of Health to examine the work of a number of hospital consultants. 

Leo Varadkar was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin in the Dáil after he raised the issue during Leaders' Questions in light of an article in the Sunday Business Post. 

Mr Martin said it set a "sinister and dangerous precedence" and he said it was "an abuse of power".

The Taoiseach said RTÉ Prime Time highlighted a number of consultants were working in private hospitals when they should have been dedicating their time to public patients.

He said it was not unprecedented for the State to use investigators in cases such as this.

Mr Varadkar cited a number of examples such as welfare and tax inspectors checking up on people to ensure they are compliant.

Responding to specific questions from the Fianna Fáil leader, Mr Varadkar said the HSE's firm of solicitors Philip Lee engaged private investigators to look at the practice of three consultants.

He confirmed the Departments of Health, Finance and Public Expenditure were aware of the approach and had "no particular issue with it as it was being done to gather evidence to support the HSE's counter claim in relation to non-compliant consultants who were not compliant with their contract".

The Taoiseach said the departments in question said the approach was appropriate.