"It is what it is" - Stephen Donnelly explains the "thumbs up" emoji text to Dr Tony Holohan
"It was shorthand for thank you... it wasn't a winky face."
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan are "perplexed" at the public reaction to the details of text communication between the pair.
On Sunday, it was revealed by the Sunday Independent 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's been 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.
Speaking on The Tonight Show on Virgin Media on Tuesday night, Donnelly said both he and the CMO were "bemused" by the reaction to it.
"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.
"Like Tony and I, our offices are about eight metres apart. We work together, we spend a lot of time together. I think he and I probably had three separate meetings today, we deal with heavy stuff.
"The workload is very very serious, we communicate back and forth a lot, mainly face to face but by text, we share information by text.
"We both looked at the online response and I think we were both bemused by it," he said.
NEW: Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has defended his use of a 'thumbs up' emoji in a text communication with the Chief Medical Officer. Minister Donnelly said it was just shorthand for 'thank you' #TonightVMTV pic.twitter.com/Nmn9W7EgJd
— TonightVMTV (@TonightVMTV) February 2, 2021