Minister Stephen Donnelly has said an internal investigation of how many times he was mentioned on the Department of Health’s Twitter feed was “reasonable” to conduct during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Irish Times revealed yesterday that senior civil servants at the department wrote in private emails that the “Minister completed an analysis of the department’s Twitter feed” and that they needed to discuss the matter because there was “no reference to the Minister” on the page.
A further investigation by the Department of Health showed Donnelly’s constituency rival Minister Simon Harris was mentioned ten times in the Twitter feed of the Department of Further Education, compared to Donnelly’s zero mentions in his own department’s feed during the same time frame.
Donnelly however denies ordering the investigation, instead telling RTÉ that his spokesman Páraic Gallagher had noticed the Department of Health’s Twitter feed lacked mentions of the minister, whilst seeming to favour coverage of agencies like NPHET.
The Minister for Health told Virgin Media that although his mind was not preoccupied with the issue, it was “important” and “reasonable to look at those communications to make sure we are doing as much as we can all the time”.
“It is important that we look at what is coming out. We are in a global pandemic. People look to the department, they look to the HSE for the right advice so I think it is important that that would be kept under review all the time,” he said.
Labour leader Alan Kelly called the situation “embarrassing”, particularly as it happened during the height of the most recent wave of Covid-19 cases.
“Micheál Martin needs to have a word or to assess this situation. It might seem trivial and minor but it is not trivial and minor because it shows the space where this Minister is at and was at, and what he was thinking on the worst days of the pandemic and where his priorities were at,” Kelly said.