Stephen Donnelly and Dr Tony Holohan exchange multiple "thumbs up" emojis in newly released text messages 1 year ago

Stephen Donnelly and Dr Tony Holohan exchange multiple "thumbs up" emojis in newly released text messages

Last year there was a massive online response after Donnelly replied to a text from Dr Holohan about increasing Covid-19 case numbers with the thumbs up emoji.

Newly released text messages between Stephen Donnelly and Tony Holohan have shown that the Chief Medical Officer and Health Minister frequently use the thumbs-up emoji during their communications.


The Sunday Independent previously reported that on 12 October last year, Dr Holohan texted Donnelly to say that the number of Covid-19 cases in Dublin was increasing, and advised him to be cautious in his public messaging about the virus.

This was after Donnelly had said on the radio that transmission was slowing in Dublin and the outlook was looking more positive.

A few days later, Dr Holohan texted him saying: “R for Dublin is up — 1.2 to 1.3."

Donnelly responded to the message with a “thumbs up” emoji.


There was a strong reaction to the messages on social media in particular, including a trend for members of the public to respond to Donnelly's posts with a simple "thumbs up" emoji.

The Sunday Independent reported on Sunday that in a batch of text messages released to the publication, the CMO also used the emoji occasionally.

On 10 December, Donnelly texted Dr Holohan to say he would get on a post-Nphet meeting call “very shortly” as he was with the directors of nursing.

Dr Holohan responded to the message with the thumbs up emoji.


Donnelly also responded with his own thumbs up emoji on 13 December when Dr Holohan provided him with a breakdown of high case numbers in Kilkenny.

On 6 January, Dr Holohan responded with a thumbs up over an hour after Mr Donnelly texted him a message which read: “Apologies, she did give me that earlier.” However. it is unclear what the minister was apologising about or referring to in the text.

Speaking on The Tonight Show on Virgin Media last year after the initial messages were released, Donnelly said both he and the CMO were "bemused" by the reaction to the emoji.

"Yeah Tony and I actually, we were talking about this yesterday," Donnelly said.

"I think we were both bemused at the reaction to it. It was a serious piece of journalism obviously and it was looking at the relationship, which is all good. The reaction to using a thumbs up emoji, like for me, and I think for most people it means 'thanks', so yeah, I think Tony and I, we were a bit bemused, perplexed by it. But, it is what it is, isn’t it?"

When asked if the response was a bit curt or dismissive of a very serious topic, Donnelly said he and the CMO are in regular contact and implied this type of communication was not uncommon.

"It was shorthand for thank you. I think that’s what it is, that's what I use it for, you know, it wasn't a winky face," Donnelly said.