From running a Dublin council to running the country’s health system

by Sylvia Pownall

They say a week is a long time in politics but for new HSE chief executive Paul Reid it’s more a case of what a difference a day makes.

On Monday, the outgoing chief executive of Fingal County Council performed his last official duties and bid adieu to his ‘penthouse’ office at its Swords HQ.

Less than 24 hours later he was in Tullamore as the new director general of the Health Service Executive, hitting the ground running and nailing his colours to the mast.

The Leeds United fan from Finglas wasted no time in setting about the arduous task of winning hearts and minds as he met with frontline hospital staff along with clinicians and management.

In a tweet, he pledged: “I will set out three early priorities; 1: safe and quality services; 2: moving to new models of care; 3: strengthening confidence and trust.”

This is no mean feat, considering his predecessor Tony O’Brien stepped down last May over the CervicalCheck scandal and Health Minister Simon Harris has been embroiled in controversy over the children’s hospital cost over-run.

But where some would see a poisoned chalice, Paul Reid sees a glass half-full; reckoning he is more than up to the job – and that his time at the helm of one of the country’s most progressive councils has honed his skills.

He told Dublin Gazette: “It is a huge challenge, there is no doubt about that.

“But the reason I went for it is because it’s a challenge. The timing was good for me with the council coming to the end of its term.

“Fingal has been fantastic for me. It’s kind of the place where I found my own values. Its councillors have played a huge role in terms of working with the executive [council officials].

“Where I’m heading to, when you’re committed to public service, there’s no greater place where you can make an impact than the HSE.

“All I can say is I am looking forward to it.”

With a rumoured annual salary of €300,000, Mr Reid will be better paid than the chief executive of the NHS.

But the Trinity College business graduate has already spent two years on the board of Slaintecare and has a proven track record.

During his time in the Department of Public Expenditure he oversaw reform and delivery in the public service and later became chief operations officer.

And, as he meets his new challenge head-on, he’s confident that Fingal is in capable hands.

He said: “Swords Cultural Quarter, Our Balbriggan … these are not pet projects. They are projects that emerged as being huge requirements for towns.

“In Swords, it’s key to have a theatre, a new library, a civic centre, renovating the castle.

“It’s not my personal project, it’s right for the town. Financial investment has been secured through the European Investment Bank, the leadership team is fully committed, the local members are fully behind it.

“It has its own momentum now and the same can be said of Our Balbriggan. These things gain great momentum.”

Mr Reid looks back with pride on his five-year term in Fingal where he identified housing, economic development and tourism as three key priorities.

And he says that despite his busy schedule he will make time for the odd visit to his old stomping ground.

He vowed: “I’ll be dropping in on the likes of Flavours of Fingal and the Swords Summer Festival.

“I will definitely be keeping in touch.”

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