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Professor Philip Nolan: Failing up.

A big announcement this morning from Simon Harris – a new job is in the offing for the country’s top Covid statistician, Professor Philip Nolan:

Consider, in the midst of the present surge in Covid cases and hospitalisations, these comforting words from that same Professor Philip Nolan of NPHET, delivered just 15 days ago:

IRELAND SEEMS TO be coming close to suppressing Covid-19, Professor Philip Nolan has said.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, the chair of NPHET’s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said “we’re in a good place” in relation to the lifting of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions by 22 October.

“There’s nothing in the numbers at the moment that would change the advice that NPHET would have given the government towards the end of August,” Nolan said.

He said the suppression of the virus is down to the precautions the population is making and the high levels of vaccination.

Professor Nolan is the man responsible for NPHET’s modelling. He has produced all of the models on which the Irish Government rely for making Covid 19 policy.

He has also been consistently, and disastrously wrong.

In this instance, he said just two weeks ago that Ireland was “coming close to suppressing Covid 19”. Two weeks later, even a blind person can see that this was absolute nonsense. It is not an unfair observation to note that if the person responsible for modelling the course of the pandemic cannot accurately foresee trends two weeks out, then it is highly unlikely that they will be able to predict what happens in six month’s time.

Bear in mind, by the way, that Professor Nolan was also the author of the famous summer Covid model which projected that Ireland would have tens of thousands of cases by today’s date. In actual fact, we have not come close to the level of cases he predicted even in his most optimistic forecast. And yet, we are continuing some restrictions anyway.

One of the big problems in Ireland is that incompetence is always acceptable, and indeed rewarded, in the establishment, but mistakes are never tolerated in critics.

When, for example, many people advocated for a re-opening of society in December of last year, and that re-opening was followed by a Covid surge, those who advocated for re-opening were never forgiven. Their projections were wrong, and the media has consistently held them to account for it.

By contrast, Professor Nolan has also been consistently wrong, and yet that is politely ignored. He is “one of us”, and not “one of them”.

In a proper democracy, Professor Nolan would be sacked. Governments rely on expert advice all the time. The reason they seek advice from experts is that they want to make good policy, based on the best possible information. Professor Nolan has consistently provided bad information, and, as such, Government policy has consistently been based on bad information.

When policy is based on bad information, you usually get bad results. That has happened consistently in Ireland, with NPHET. It is long past time to disband that body.

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