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03rd Nov 2021

EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Donnelly compared to Ron Burgundy and David Brent by senior officials in explosive new book

Dave Hanratty

Stephen Donnelly Ron Burgundy TV appearance

“His ability to focus on things of little relevance in the middle of a crisis is astonishing.”

Stephen Donnelly has been likened to both Ron Burgundy of Anchorman fame and David Brent of The Office by senior figures in the Health Service Executive of Ireland (HSE).

The Minister for Health appeared on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday night (2 November), where he noted that he hasn’t read, nor will he be reading, an explosive new book that details the timeline of Ireland’s Covid-19 battle.

A State of Emergency: The Story of Ireland’s Covid Crisis by Virgin Media News correspondent Richard Chambers presents a forensic account of the country’s last 18 months, with several key figures playing standout roles.

One such individual is Donnelly, who as the exclusive extract from the book below illustrates, comes under significant criticism from senior Government and healthcare officials.


One senior member of the health service says it’s ‘easy to pass judgement’ on Donnelly, ‘but a lot of people don’t like him’.

“He gets hooked on ideas that are so far off the point. His ability to focus on things of little relevance in the middle of a crisis is astonishing. I saw him once on the Claire Byrne Show, and all I was reminded of was Ron Burgundy in Anchorman.”

Why? The official recalls the scene in the Will Ferrell comedy where it’s discovered that news anchor Burgundy will read anything on the teleprompter.

Image via Sasko Lazarov /

“Then the next night they write ‘go fuck yourself San Diego’ and Burgundy [reads it out, and then] says ‘that’s a wrap, good show, thank you everybody’.

“That reminds me of Donnelly, that it could be an absolute car crash and he’d be ‘well done everybody, that’s a wrap’. When he’s answering questions on national television saying ‘I’ll get back to you on that’ or ‘Just before the show I looked this up’, he just doesn’t see how bad that is.”

Another official, continuing the pop culture references, says he reminds them more of Ricky Gervais’ character from The Office.

“He comes into meetings and says things like ‘You know, I couldn’t sleep last night guys because I was going on Claire Byrne this morning, so I got up at 3.30am to do a jog, about 10km, and these thoughts came to me’ and he goes on. It’s [got] something of The Office, of David Brent about it.”

Hammered, both privately and publicly, in the press and in the party, Donnelly’s reputation would sink or swim on the rollout of Ireland’s vaccines.


Extracts from A State of Emergency: The Story of Ireland’s Covid Crisis have been published with permission.

The book is available to purchase via HarperCollins Ireland

Featured Image of Stephen Donnelly via Leah Farrell /

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