THE leading candidate to take over as chief executive of the Health Service Executive has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job.

Professor Tom Keane, who had been in charge of reform of cancer services in Ireland, had been the recommended candidate for the job and was supported by health minister Mary Harney. It is understood that Keane had been seeking commitments on funding for health services and also a loosening of the public sector recruitment freeze. The board of the HSE is now thought likely to offer the post to one of the two other candidates, one of whom is from Australia.