Reid warns against ‘revisionism’ in State’s review of its handling of Covid-19

State’s response to pandemic under fresh scrutiny as Government prepares terms for its review

Former HSE chief executive Paul Reid has warned against “revisionism” in the State’s inquiry into Covid-19.

His comments come as the Government prepares the terms for its review of the pandemic, with the response under fresh scrutiny after a former member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) broke ranks and criticised major elements of the State’s response.

Asked about the prospect of an inquiry, Mr Reid said he would be “supportive” but warned that there was a “need to protect against revisionism” in any inquiry.

He said the pandemic response was a “good example” of the civil and public service acting at pace together. “Process shouldn’t then constrain people from acting quickly in the future,” he said, adding that an “overall assessment [of Covid] is a good thing”.


Last week, a paper by Prof Martin Cormican emerged in which he argued that Ireland “excessively limited basic freedoms” and “depended too much on fear to influence behaviour”.

He criticised aspects of social distancing and masking policies, as well as a “pointless controversy” over the use of antigen testing versus PCR testing for the disease.

Testing, contact tracing and mask use “generated a mass of anxiety and a mass of waste and made some people very wealthy”, he wrote.

Officials in the Department of Health have been asked to map out how inquiries were being conducted in other countries in order to inform the Irish approach. A spokeswoman for the Department said it is “examining the experience of, and learnings from, work of this nature that has been undertaken internationally”. It will be submitted to the Minister for Health and party leaders for consideration afterwards, with the Department of Health coordinating the overall process.

Senior Coalition sources said no decisions had been made on the approach, including important matters such as what powers of compellability an inquiry would have over witnesses and evidence such as text and WhatsApp exchanges.

In Britain, former health secretary Matt Hancock is under pressure after a trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages he sent during the pandemic was leaked to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Some senior sources in Dublin are uneasy with compellability, saying it could lead to lengthy and costly delays as well as an overly legalistic approach. Others say that if a judge-led inquiry is adopted, “any judge worth their salt will require compellability”. Senior officials involved in the response are wary, however, of the approach.

Speaking privately, one warned of a “witch-hunt” emerging, saying some public servants involved do not feel the sacrifices they made at the time were acknowledged, but could now be facing into years of stress during an inquiry.

While it would be “absolutely fine” to learn lessons, one official said it would be “nanoseconds” before becoming a blame game.

It comes after an investigation into a Covid-19 outbreak that killed 22 residents in a nursing home found “significant concerns” with the initial response and management of the spike in cases in the Health Service Executive (HSE) facility.

St Mary’s nursing home in Phoenix Park was one of the worst hit in the first wave of the pandemic, with 60 per cent of its 146 residents contracting the virus.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the State is facing some 121 compensation claims relating to nursing home care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The State Claims Agency (SCA) has confirmed that 54 of the claims relate to deaths from Covid-19. Another 45 arise from Covid-19 infections and 13 are related to the administration of vaccines. A further nine claims are not related to death, infection or vaccine care.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times