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Wait: Did Varadkar tell the whole truth about NPHET advice?

An interesting emerging story, this.

Here’s the Tánaiste, in his now legendary/infamous (pick your adjective) appearance on Claire Byrne on Monday night:

“But what happened on Sunday night came out of the blue. Last Thursday, when we received our advice from NPHET, there was no suggestion at all that they were going to level five”

Did it, in fact, come out of the blue? Or were the Government actually well-warned in advance?

Here’s Colette Browne, noting an inconsistency in the story:

And here’s Irish Independent Editor Fionnán Sheahan, noting another:

So, according to the Minister for Health, he was warned that NPHET were meeting and were considering changing their advice on Saturday. NPHET’s concerns were made clear to him before the meeting.

On Sunday morning, the Green Party leader is aware.

But on Monday night, the Tánaiste tells the country that the NPHET recommendation came “out of the blue”?

Varadkar, of course, is the Tánaiste, not the Taoiseach, or the Minister for Health. There’s no particular reason he should have been in the loop.

But the cabinet is collectively responsible, and the line from Government – repeatedly leaked to all media outlets on Sunday night, and on Monday, was that the Government was taken wholly unawares by the letter that came to them from NPHET asking for level 5 restrictions.

But that does not appear to be true, at all.

How much importance you place on this is probably directly proportional to your attitudes to NPHET, Varadkar, and the lockdown. The “it doesn’t matter” defence will come from those who argue that 24 or 36 hours is not much notice, and they may have a point.

But on the other hand, the case being made against NPHET in the media over the past few days is that they in some way attempted to usurp the Government’s authority and decision making role, and to bounce them into action.

That, in fairness to Tony Holohan, does not appear to be true at all. And when Varadkar said, on Monday night, that the recommendation came “out of the blue”, he appears to have either been in possession of less than the full truth, or in possession of it, but highly economical in revealing it to the public.

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