“I went too far” – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologizes to Dr. Tony Holohan for “angry” comments during the pandemic

Dr. Holohan said his wife was particularly upset by comments made by the then Tánaiste Mr Varadkar

Dr. Holohan said his wife was particularly upset by then Tánaiste Mr Varadkar’s comments on Claire Byrne Live when he said members of Nphet (the national public health emergency team) would never have to go on furlough like workers affected by lockdowns were affected – and at the same time suggested that some members had usurped the role of the government.

Writing in his memoirs We need to talk, which will be released this week, said Dr. Holohan said his wife Emer interpreted the comments as personally directed against her husband and was very upset. She was terminally ill at the time and has since died.

“I admit, and I believe I have done so before, that I went too far with what I said in this particular interview almost three years ago,” the Taoiseach said.

“The garden became a really important place” – Dr. Tony Holohan on his late wife’s love of nature

“I was very angry at the time about how Nphet’s advice had changed so dramatically overnight. The government was not consulted on this. The media was informed before the government was informed, leaving many of us stranded [in Government] “I’m very frustrated,” Mr Varadkar said in New York.

“But it wasn’t right for me to level personal criticism at members and question their motivations and understanding of how decisions impact people.

“It wasn’t fair, and I’m definitely sorry and I regret it.”

The Sunday independent brought exclusive excerpts from Dr. Holohan’s book. In the highly anticipated release, he tells how his late wife was left “devastated”, heartbroken and with a feeling of “betrayal” after watching Mr Varadkar Nphet- members criticized.

In the interview, Varadkar was critical of Nphet’s decision to recommend a nationwide lockdown in response to the rising number of cases at the time. He argued that as civil servants they were not affected by the consequences of such decisions.

Dr. Tony Holohan and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney

“That was neither fair nor true,” Holohan writes. “We lived in the real world. We were affected. Our families were affected financially and emotionally. Emer died slowly and was separated from all her friends and family in the last months of her life.”

He says Mr Varadkar did not apologize for the comments but later inquired about his wife’s welfare – before changing his position following Nphet’s recommendation to introduce a lockdown.

Speaking in New York today, the Taoiseach also acknowledged serious government errors during the pandemic and said it was a mistake to lift the lockdown for Christmas 2020.

“In terms of the first Christmas lockdown (of 2020), on reflection I think both Nphet and the Government made the wrong decision,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Nphet proposed a form of reopening that would have meant lots of social interaction and we in government proposed a different reopening plan that included some hospitality and some private homes.

“In retrospect, there should have been no opening at all due to the Alpha variant (which emerged aggressively in the UK at the end of November). And that changed things fundamentally.

“But let’s not forget that Nphet originally advised at the time that the Alpha variant was not a cause for concern.”

To Dr. Holohan’s criticism of lifting lockdown for what politicians are calling a “meaningful” Christmas, Mr Varadkar said: “I think everyone who has been involved during this period should realize that we have done most things right and good job for that the country has achieved.”

“We will have a Covid investigation. I will ensure that the rules of procedure are presented to the government in the next few weeks. And I think that this investigation will be able to examine many of the different issues.

Leo Varadkar addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Forum today. Photo: AP

“It will not be about putting anyone in the dock. There will be no witch hunt. But it will be about finding out what we did right and what we did wrong.

“I remember Paul Reid from the HSE saying right at the start of the pandemic that we would probably get about 70 per cent of things right and maybe 30 per cent of things wrong. And that was inevitable because no one had ever dealt with a pandemic of this nature before. And I think we did that [get that ratio of right to wrong].

“Remember that in Ireland we had one of the lowest excess mortality rates in the world, much lower than many of our neighbors. And our economy also recovered much more quickly and got back on its feet.

“I think in the end, all of us who were involved in these decisions, whether HSE, Nphet or the Department of Health and the Government, made the right decisions most of the time.”

“But no one was always right. And we’ve been slow to roll out masks, and some aspects of the lockdown probably weren’t necessary. In my opinion, schools have been closed for too long, especially special schools.

“I’m not sure it was necessary to suspend construction and housing for so long. And a lot of that was driven by public health advice. You know, I would like everyone to think about their role during this time.”

The Taoiseach said he hoped the inquiry would be launched by the end of the year and a list of names for the chair would be drawn up shortly.

“It is remarkable how much work has already been done. So far, 20 or 30 different reviews have been carried out by different government agencies or ministries,” he said.

“They were very discreet [standalone]. But much of the background work has already been done. But I think fundamentally it’s about understanding what happened during this difficult two or three year period – what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we are learning for future major public health emergencies can that will happen, but in my opinion will happen Be different.”

He said the inquiry should also take into account various impacts of Covid, such as extended school closures and problems with other forms of healthcare.

“I think we’re seeing some of the longer-term effects of the lockdowns and closures, whether it’s the delayed healthcare or all the problems that are now arising, the loss of a significant period of housing, the absence of children. “They’ve had to go to school for so long go and what impact that had on their mental health,” he said.

“I always believed then that we need to consider not only the short-term impact of restrictive measures such as lockdowns, but also the long-term impact they could have on society.”

https://www.sundayworld.com/news/irish-news/i-went-too-far-taoiseach-apologises-to-dr-tony-holohan-for-angry-comments-during-pandemic/a1776596634.html “I went too far” – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologizes to Dr. Tony Holohan for “angry” comments during the pandemic


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