EXCLUSIVE: "He drives us nuts" – Difficult relationship between NPHET and Stephen Donnelly laid bare 9 months ago

EXCLUSIVE: "He drives us nuts" – Difficult relationship between NPHET and Stephen Donnelly laid bare

"The relationship is minimal. It mostly focuses on trying to get the job done without the handicap that is Stephen Donnelly."

Details have emerged regarding Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly's apparently fractious relationship with senior healthcare officials.

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According to new book A State of Emergency: The Story of Ireland's Covid Crisis by Virgin Media News correspondent Richard Chambers, Donnelly – previously likened to Ron Burgundy and David Brent by his colleagues – appears to be a regular source of frustration for members of NPHET.

Contrasted directly with his successor, former Health Minister Simon Harris emerges in a notably stronger light.

However, the book illustrates a difficult picture for anyone who happens to be in charge of the Irish healthcare system under the rule of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, himself a former Minister for Health.

As the below extract reveals, all is not rosy at the top table of Government.

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Another [healthcare official] says of Donnelly, "Harris could be difficult, but basically there is no substitute for experience and Stephen Donnelly thinks he’s an awful lot cleverer than he is. He doesn’t understand how to use the support of his own department to get things done. He just doesn’t get it.

"The remarkable thing about Donnelly is, you can bring him something that’s good news with a bow wrapped around it and say, 'Why don’t you go and announce this?' And he’ll either screw up the announcement or argue with you about, “Is it the right thing to do?” or be suspicious of why you’re giving [it to] him, you know, 'Is it ticking?'"

Members of NPHET, for their part, suspect that Donnelly does not have a strong relationship with his Chief Medical Officer.

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"Tony [Holohan] does not suffer fools. I would say that the relationship between all of us and Stephen Donnelly is, we would love it to be professional but that would require him acting like an actual professional.

"He just drives us nuts. It’s the bottom line. The relationship is minimal and it mostly focuses on trying to get the job done without the handicap that is Stephen Donnelly."

Some in politics have sympathy for Stephen Donnelly.

One senior member of the party says that any Health Minister under Micheál Martin has an extraordinarily difficult job.

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"I have said for years and years that I’m sorry for anyone who would have been Spokesperson for Health, or Enterprise, or Education because Micheál would always jump in and say 'When I was Minister, I did this.' He’s so quick to remind you that he was Minister and it must be quite undermining."

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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 Images via Sasko Lazarov and Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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