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'Every home has come to know him': Tributes paid to Dr Tony Holohan as he steps aside to spend time with family

Micheál Martin and Simon Harris are among those to thank Dr Holohan.

Dr Tony Holohan pictured at a press briefing last month.
Dr Tony Holohan pictured at a press briefing last month.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/

Updated Jul 3rd 2020, 8:59 AM

TRIBUTES ARE BEING paid to Dr Tony Holohan who yesterday announced he is stepping down as Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health to spend more time with his family.

Holohan’s wife Emer, who was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in 2012, was admitted for palliative care last Saturday.

“From today, I will be taking time out from all of my work commitments to be with my family.

“My wife, Emer, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in 2012. She has had a number of difficult years with her disease and was admitted for palliative care last Saturday,” Dr Holohan said at the end of last night’s Covid-19 briefing.

“I now want to give my energy, attention and all of my time to Emer and to our two teenage children, Clodagh and Ronan.

“I have spoken with the Taoiseach, Minister for Health and other colleagues about this, and they have all kindly offered their support and best wishes to both of us.”

Dr Ronan Glynn, the deputy CMO, has been appointed Acting Chief Medical Officer and will chair the Department of Health’s press conferences.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin thanked Dr Holohan “on behalf of myself and the people of Ireland for helping to guide this country through the Covid-19 emergency”.

His work, experience and briefings helped people to understand the gravity of the situation facing us, while his calmness reassured us that if we followed the guidelines and advice we would overcome these great challenges together.

“Every home in Ireland has come to know Dr Tony Holohan. His leadership during the pandemic has given us all confidence that the decisions being made are based on solid public health advice. As a country we owe him and his family a great debt of gratitude,” Martin said in a statement.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also thanked Dr Holohan for his service. “For months everyone in Ireland has felt safe because you were looking after our families. As you step back, know that all of us stand behind you and your wonderful family,” Varadkar said last night.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Varadkar said Dr Holohan had “a tough job” to do in recent months.

“We didn’t know very much about the virus, the scientific evidence was changing over time, but the one thing he was always was extremely calm, extremely efficient, would take calls at any time.

“This was happening at a time when his wife’s condition was deteriorating, which you know I was aware of. She has been sick for a few years but he almost never let that show.”

Varadkar added that Dr Holohan’s calm and reassuring approach at press conferences “made a huge difference in uniting the country against the virus”.

Former Health Minister Simon Harris described Dr Holohan as “a patriot, an incredible public servant & a doctor who has saved thousands of lives through his leadership”.

Harris’s successor Stephen Donnelly thanked Dr Holohan for “the leadership and extraordinary commitment and professionalism he has shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic”.

‘Grace under pressure’

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “I’m reminded of what Ernest Hemingway once wrote when he said that courage is grace under pressure. And if ever we needed an example of that ideal, it is the service that Dr Holohan had provided for all of us in recent weeks and months.

“There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of your listeners this morning who are now alive due to his service, and he will always have the nation’s esteem and gratitude for that. And I, like so many others, want to wish him and his family every grace and every comfort in the journey ahead.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald thanked him for “his invaluable work” in recent months, saying it “helped guide the State’s response to this dreadful virus”.

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“I want to extend every best wish to Dr Holohan and his family at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with them,” she added.

Catherine Martin, deputy leader of the Green Party, said: “Thank you for watching over us and doing everything in your power to keep all of us safe. We will keep you and your family in our thoughts. Míle buíochas.”

Many tributes have also been paid my members of the public and the hashtag #ThankYouTony is trending on Twitter.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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