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CMO and Health Minister discussed possibility of moving to Level 4 before Level 5 recommendation

Stephen Donnelly issued a statement in the Dáil this evening to clarify the timeline last weekend.

File image of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
File image of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly spoke on the phone about the possibility of moving the country to Level 4 ahead of NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation on Sunday. 

Donnelly made a statement in the Dáil this evening to clarify the sequence of events prior to NPHET’s recommendation. 

Government rejected this recommendation, instead putting the entire country under Level 3 restrictions.

The minister said the government did not believe the conditions and framework had been met for moving into Level 5. 

Donnelly clarified the timeline of events over the weekend:

  • Minister receives a text from the CMO at lunchtime on Saturday to say NPHET will meet the following day. Donnelly texts the Taoiseach to inform him of this. 
  • On Sunday morning, Donnelly texts the CMO and they speak on the phone. They discuss the current situation with the disease and the possibility of moving the country to Level 4 restrictions. 
  • Donnelly contacts the Taoiseach after this. 
  • NPHET meet on Sunday afternoon and decide to make a Level 5 recommendation. 
  • At 7pm on Sunday, Donnelly has a video call with the CMO, the deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn and the Secretary General Martin Fraser. They are informed of the Level 5 recommendation. 
  • The Taoiseach is then informed of the recommendation. 
  • A Cabinet Covid sub-committee meeting is held at noon on Monday to discuss. 

Several opposition TDs had been calling for Donnelly to issue a statement on the events surrounding the recommendation at the weekend. 

Donnelly said this evening that the decision by government was “not made lightly” and added that he is “acutely aware of the cost of these decisions”. 

This afternoon, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he has full confidence in the health minister.

Asked about the controversy of who might have leaked the information regarding the Level 5 recommendation on Sunday, Martin said it wasn’t Donnelly. 

“In terms of the situation on Sunday evening… I don’t know who leaked that, but clearly, it is large body [NPHET] and I certainly can’t say, one way or the other who leaked, but it certainly wasn’t Stephen Donnelly,” he said.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday night that NPHET’s recommendation “came out of the blue” and no one in the government knew Level 5 was being contemplated until Sunday.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Varadkar reiterated that the recommendation to go to Level 5 was a shock to the government, saying there was “no inkling” this would be the advice.

However, he said he has since spoken to Holohan and they “cleared the air”.

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