Tag Archives: Simon Harris

This morning.

Via The Irish Times:

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty and seen by The Irish Times show increasingly urgent attempts by Mr Harris to obtain a copy of the draft agreement between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). This was happening at the same time as Mr Varadkar had posted a copy to the home address of Dr Ó Tuathail, who was head of the now-defunct National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

Varadkar leaked GP contract while Harris urgently sought copy (Irish Times)


Uh oh.


March 26, 2020


Last night

Yesterday evening.

A motion supported by Solidarity PBP, The Social Democrats, Sinn Féin, Labour and all Independent TDs to reinstate the same rate of pay that student nurses and midwives were given at the start of the pandemic was defeated by 77 votes to 72. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party all voted against the plan.

When the payment was first announced, Mr Harris said:

“This is an offer and not an obligation. But I know so many of our student nurses want to play their role as we navigate our way through these difficult times.”

Student nurses will be paid during Covid-19 crisis (RTÉ, March 26)

Dáil vote against paying Student Nurses and Midwives (Buzz.ie)

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris

This morning.

RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris, who was the Minister for Health at the time Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential government document on GPs’ pay to a friend, spoke about the controversy.

Claire Byrne: “This was your negotiation. Did you know at the time that the Taoiseach was getting this document that you had worked so hard to agree with the IMO and sneaking it off to his friend at the National Association of GPs?”

Simon Harris: “Well I don’t agree with that characterisation and we’ll come back to that in a moment. But no, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that the then Taoiseach was going to provide this document to the president of the National Association of General Practitioners. But I do very much accept his bona fides and what he was trying to achieve here in terms of an agreement that had now been reached, an agreement that had been announced indeed by himself and myself in a very public way on a Saturday, I think it was a Saturday, the 6th of April and then indeed I had actually brought a memo to Government on the 9th of April confirming that the engagement between the parties had concluded…”


Byrne: “He was undermining you because if anyone was going to share that agreement with the NAGP, it was you?”

Harris: “No I don’t believe he was undermining me and I don’t think it’s about me either…”


Byrne: “But it’s he obvious conclusion, it’s the obvious conclusion right. You’re doing an negotiation, you’re doing it with the Department of Health, with the IMO, all of this has been worked through in terms of the framework that should be followed and yet the Taoiseach is saying I want to get all the other doctors signed up to this, so he gets your document and sends it off to another crowd you have decided, quite rightly, that you’re not in negotiating with, this organisation, because of the framework that’s in place.

“There’s no other way to look at this. You are undermined here, minister.”

Harris: “I’m sure that wasn’t intentional because the negotiations had been concluded…”

Earlier: Leaking Confidence

Derek Mooney: Best Practice


Former Minister for Health and current Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris.

Last Sunday

This afternoon

Orla writes:

He wasn’t struggling last weekend…


Earlier: Par For The Course

 Resigned [Updated]

“An Unintended But Serious Lapse Of Judgment”

Put Your Dukes Up


Former Health Minister Simon Harris

Last night






Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris arrives for a cabinet meeting sporting fashionable ‘outsized’ shades.

Warning: Sunglasses will not fully protect you from the rona as the lurgy makes a point of viciously attacking the eyes.

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

From top: a Dublin Nursing home; The Citywest emergency ICU facility; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) with HSE CEO Paul Reid (left) and Minister For Health at the Citywest opening; DrTony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and chairman of The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET); from left: Mr Reid with Dr Colm Henry (right) Chief Clinical Office, HSE arriving for a Covid 19 Committee meeting in Leinster House on June 6

There are approximately 440 private nursing homes and 120 HSE-run nursing homes in Ireland with around 30,000 residents.

More than 1,680 patients were approved for transfer from acute hospitals to private nursing homes in March (1,363) and April (324), the height of the pandemic.

This was as emergency ICU facilities and private wards secured by the government lay empty.

According to the most recent data, 943 people have died in nursing homes from Covid-19 with a further 5,371 who are Covid-19 positive.

This policy was replicated in seven European countries and five states in America, most notably New York, where before a u-turn, 4,300 recovering Covid-19 patients were sent to nursing homes in the state.

Below is a timeline of events as they pertain to residents of nursing homes in Ireland from the  the beginning of the virus until this week. Any additions or corrections will be made (just leave a comment).

February 19, 2020: The CEO of the HSE Paul Reid meets with representatives of nursing homes to discuss Covid-19 preparedness. On April 16, Minister for Health Simon Harris informs the Dáil that this meeting occurred and said:

“I am told by local HSE staff that there was an unprecedented level of engagement by individual HSE officials with nursing homes.

That is not to say in any manner or means that enough has been done. We need to do more.

This is a pandemic in which we take actions every single day. We then take another set of actions and then another set. That is what we are doing.”

In respect of the same February 19 meeting, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid told the Oirecachtas Covid-19 committee on May 19:

“Specifically, on the meeting with Nursing Homes Ireland, I would meet and discuss with Tadhg Daly on a reasonable basis throughout this whole process – in the pandemic over the last few weeks. There have been very good relationships between Nursing Homes Ireland and the HSE throughout this period.

“On the Deputy’s question of 19 February specifically, I can remember the meeting clearly. I have met a wide range of stakeholders since I took over the HSE. That was my first meeting with Nursing Homes Ireland. It was my first meeting with Tadhg Daly and its chairperson, Maurice Pratt. It was really geared towards an informal welcome and discussion…

“We had a brief discussion about how this may impact on Ireland. There was a very brief discussion between both of us. I would be doing it an injustice and indeed the HSE an injustice to say it was an in-depth discussion because we were just learning at the start of this – 19 February was very early stages.”

February 28: Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan confirms the first case of Covid-19 has been detected on the island of Ireland, involving a woman who travelled through Dublin Airport on her way home to Northern Ireland from northern Italy. She subsequently tested positive for the illness on returning home to Belfast.

February 29: The Health Protection Surveillance Centre confirms the first case of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. The patient is a male in the east of the country.

It’s also reported that the first death of a Covid-19 patient had taken place in the US.

March 1: Scoil Chaitriona secondary school in Glasnevin, Dublin 9, closes for two weeks. Health officials do not publicly name the school but its identified on social media. It follows confirmation that a male student had Covid-19. He had been at an at-risk area in northern Italy.

March 2: Paul Cullen reports in The Irish Times that Covid-19 is especially worrying for elderly people with underlying health conditions.

He writes::

 “In the US, a serious outbreak near Seattle has occurred in a nursing home. Obviously, the risk of something similar happening in Ireland is a huge worry.”

He later added:

 “Nursing Homes Ireland, representing the owners of private nursing homes, has sought to reassure the public that its members have the experience to know what to do if the virus arrives, given their experience in dealing with seasonal flu and the vomiting bug. Some restrictions on visiting may be needed if the threat from the virus rises.”

March 6: It’s reported that visiting restrictions are being introduced in more than 400 private and voluntary nursing homes across Ireland. Nursing Homes Ireland says no non-essential visits by children or groups would be allowed.

March 9: The Government cancels all St Patrick’s Day parades.

March 10: The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said blanket restrictions on visitors at nursing homes and some hospitals should be lifted as they were premature.

He said visitor restrictions at private nursing homes had a major impact on residents, for whom social interaction was a key part of wellbeing.

While restrictions might be necessary in a particular nursing home depending on circumstances, he said there was no case for across-the-board restrictions, saying: “We want to avoid introducing measures before they are really necessary.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NEPHT) announced in a statement that “socially restrictive actions” around hospitals and nursing homes were “not necessary at this moment in time”.

It’s reported that the annual St Patrick’s Day reception in Washington DC has been cancelled but that a meeting between the US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will still take place.

On the same day, Nursing Homes Ireland writes to the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the letter is also sent to the chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid, and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

In the letter, the NHI called on the Government to lift curbs on the recruitment of healthcare assistants from outside the EU and warned that older people’s health could be placed in danger if HSE poached nursing home staff following the lifting of public service recruitment restrictions.

March 11: A woman in the east of the country dies of Covid-19, the  first death to take place in Ireland.

The World Health Organisation says Covid-19 is a pandemic.

March 12: Speaking from Washington in the US, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces the closure of schools and significant public restrictions in Ireland until March 29 because of Covid-19.

Rose Hegarty, an 84-year-old resident of St Mary’s Hospital nursing home in the Phoenix Park, Dublin listens to Mr Varadkar’s speech from her bedroom.

March 16: Dr Tony Holohan says that restrictions will be imposed on visitors to nursing homes, hospitals and prisons.

March 17: During a St Patrick’s Day speech broadcast on RTÉ and Virgin Media One, under Section 122 of the Broadcast Act 2009, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tells those listening and watching that the restrictions will likely go beyond March 29. He adds:

“We’re in the middle of a global and national emergency. A pandemic. The likes of which none of us have seen before. So far, the number of cases in Ireland has been relatively small. However we believe the number will rise to 15,000 cases or more by the end of the month and rise further in the weeks thereafter.”

He also says:

“At a certain point we will advise the elderly and people who have a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks. We’re putting in place the systems to ensure that if you are one of them, you will have food, supplies and are checked on. We call it cocooning and it will save many lives, particularly the lives of the most vulnerable, the most precious in our society.”

It’s also reported that Nursing Homes Ireland is appealing for people within hospitality and retail to look for opportunities to care for older people. CEO of NHI Tadhg Daly is reported as saying:

“One considerable concern is to ensure a staffing complement is consistently available to meet the day-to-day social care needs of nursing home residents, especially at a time of emergency and with visitor restrictions.”

“Irish people have a tremendous ability to support one another during difficult times and this has never been more required.”

March 21: In a HSE memo from David Walsh, National Director of Community Operations, to the chief officers of community healthcare organisations, about revised guidance in relation to testing.

Mr Walsh tells his colleagues:

“Following confirmation of a Covid positive diagnosis within the unit/centre then it is assumed that all residents presenting with symptoms are Covid positive. Multiple re-referrals to NAS for potential Covid cases should be avoided.”

March 22: It’s reported that  40,000 people are waiting up to five days for Covid-19 tests. It’s also reported that “when asked about reports of a cluster of positive cases at a nursing home, the HSE said outbreaks of infectious diseases in nursing homes were not uncommon and staff were used to dealing with this issue. However, the scale and numbers would be extremely challenging.”

A cluster is defined as two laboratory-positive cases in an institution.

The report added: “The HSE has asked the media not to identify any nursing homes concerned.”

March 24: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces further restrictions until April 19.

March 25: The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre reports that there have been six outbreak clusters of Covid-19 in hospitals and four in nursing homes.

It’s also reported that 21 male residents of a nursing home in the Vosges in France, all aged in their 90s, are believed to have died of Covid-19. It’s feared as many as 100,000 nursing home residents could die of Covid-19.

March 26: Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan expresses concern about clusters of cases in healthcare settings such as hospitals and long-stay settings such as nursing homes.

March 27: In a report about the statistic that about 25 per cent of confirmed cases are health workers, at least four Covid-19 outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes and that nursing home operators, and others, are concerned about a lack of guidance and the availability of PPE.

Later, new figures show there have been nine Covid-19 clusters in nursing homes. Dr Holohan says the clusters are a significant concern for public health experts.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces further restrictions for two weeks, until Easter Sunday on April 12, specifically that people must remain at home, with limited exceptions, and must remain within 2km of their homes when shopping for food or exercising. During his speech he mentions the increase of clusters in nursing home and residential care centres.

He also quotes from the movie The Terminator 2: Judgement Day when he says, “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

Continue reading →

This afternoon.

Dail, Leinster House.

Mr Harris also said that wearing a face mask is a behavioural change “we will have to get used to”. In the same way that people put their phone, keys and wallet into their bags, they should now put a face mask into a bag and into their pocket….

OK, Simon.

Wearing mask a ‘behavioural change we will have to get used to’ – Harris (Irish Times)

Yesterday evening

In the Dáil.

Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed to Independent TD Denis Naughten that 30% to 40% of close contacts of meat plant workers who have tested positive have not been followed up. More than 1,048 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in meat processing plants to date.

Mr Harris was speaking in response to a query raised by Independent TD Denis Naughten…

Denis Naughten: “With regard to the meat plants, I am informed that, in some instances, only about one third of the close contacts of those who have been identified as positive within the meat industry have been followed up.

“That is completely unacceptable. It is creating a significant community risk and it is, I believe, down to the failure to have an effective contact tracing system.

“This day two weeks ago, the Minister wrote to me in the context of very serious allegations I had made to him in writing regarding meat plants and nursing homes.

“He informed me that NPHET was to consider the report of the national outbreak management team on 22 May, which is now two weeks ago. On foot of that, the Minister was going to be in a position to address the very serious issues I had raised with him. Two weeks later, I am still waiting for answers to some very serious questions.”

Simon Harris: “In the interests of time, I suggest that I respond to the Deputy in writing on the matters he raised. I am reluctant to disagree with Deputy Naughten because he is often right, as I find out in this House, and he highlighted very important issues here before.

“My information, for what it is worth, is that when it comes to contact tracing of meat plant staff, and I specifically asked this on foot of contact from the Deputy, the amount of contact tracing is much higher than one third and is between at least 60% and 70%, although there are a number of cases in which there are contact and communications difficulties.

“We have a national outbreak team chaired by a very good doctor, Dr Mannix. I suggest that I put the Deputy directly in contact with her for a briefing on the work being done in regard to the meat plants, considering the Deputy has highlighted so many important issues.

“With regard to the negative test results, I should have said that, in order to speed up the process, since the middle of last month we have been delivering negative results by text message. I am told by the HSE that, in the community and the hospital, these text messages are now delivered within a couple of hours of receiving the lab results. The HSE has advised that an end-to-end turnaround time of two days for negative cases is now being achieved in about 80% of cases.”

Naughten: “I acknowledge what the Minister has just said. However, I took my concerns regarding the meat plants directly to the HSE six weeks ago in advance of bringing them up in the House. It was well aware of this a long time ago. That is all I will say.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Minister for Health Simon Harris at this evening’s Department of Health briefing

Just now.

Gavan Reilly tweetz:

Simon Harris announces Government decision to require mandatory 14-day self-isolation on arrival at seaports and airports. Will take effect from next week.

“Living alongside the virus absolutely requires doing things differently…”


Mr Harris added:

“From my recollection, already we have a situation where over 70% of people are filling out the form, even though it’s an administrative basis. And I should say that doesn’t mean that 30% of people are saying they don’t want to fill out the form.

“In fact, quite the contrary and a very, very, very small number, I mean single digits-sort of thing on a day is what I’m talking about, not filling out the form.

“But it does mean that as long as it’s on an administrative basis, there’s, you know, it tightens it up I suppose, putting it on a mandatory footing. Now you have to have this form filled. Therefore, airlines, DAA, everybody needs to make sure that this form is in place.

“So you fill out the form, either before you arrive in Ireland or when you arrive in Ireland. You hand over the form to probably a member of the board of management unit. You can then be spot-checked for a phonecall. And if there is a suspicion or a concern, we have the ability for someone in a position of authority, probably a member of An Garda Siochana, to call to that address.

“I do need to say this though: I think it’s highly unlikely that that’s what will be happening in most cases. In fact that’s not what will be happening in most cases. In most cases people will be good and decent enough to tell us where they’re staying.

“And then, and this is a protection for them as well. I mean this is absolutely a protection for them as well, because if you were to find out that a case were to emerge and we needed to quickly contact trace people, we now have the ability. So I see this tool as a contact tracing tool, primarily.

“I also see it as a very clear messaging tool in relation to the fact that we should continue to avoid non-essential travel. And I also see it as another opportunity to remind every single person coming through our airports or our ports as to the fact that the public health advice is you should self isolate.”

There you go.

Previously: “We Are Not Planning To Close Our Airports”