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Dr Tony Holohan’s return couldn’t have come at a better time


By Jennifer McShane
07th Oct 2020
Dr Tony Holohan’s return couldn’t have come at a better time

Wednesday evening marked the first press conference helmed by Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan since his return following an extended absence for family reasons. It couldn’t have come at a more crucial time


Calm, collected and always reassuring even when faced with the task of delivering highly difficult news. The amount sick with a virus for which there is yet no cure, or worse, those we have lost due to this very illness. Whatever the news, we trusted the CMO.

To lead us on the right path. To be firm but kind. To deliver the news no one wants to hear but had to be heard regardless. His is a thankless job (though we have thanked him) and it is likely only going to get harder in the coming months.

Dr Holohan likely never imagined he’d be in the spotlight during a pandemic, never imagined the whole of Ireland would know him to see and likely doesn’t even have time to imagine the amount of reassurance his very presence gives us.

It’s no coincidence – or perhaps it is just that – that he temporarily stepped out of his role when we were coming out of the worst of Covid-19. He and his team had gotten us through it. Cases were falling, deaths stayed at zero and he rightfully took time for his family.

It all seemed to get messy from that point. A new government stepped in and floundered where the previous had stayed strong. They are doing their best given the unprecedented circumstances, but it wasn’t – and still is not – a patch on how the former handled the pandemic. Gone was the transparency, the talk of unity, of us all in it together.

The CMO was a reliable anchor and once he stepped aside, neither the ship nor its crew seemed to know quite which direction to go in – or what to do. 

And so the CMO has returned but to a precarious situation. Over 600 new cases in the last 24 hours alone. Five more deaths.  He implores us to unite, to fight this, the undoubted second wave together, as we did in March.

He remains as professional as ever, not easy given that he and NPHET were essentially thrown to the wolves this week by the very colleagues who should be supporting him and his tireless efforts. Though they have tried to hastily – and poorly –backtrack on this. He paid tribute to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn for all his work over the last number of months before the briefing on Wednesday began.

His recommendation that Ireland goes to level 5 restrictions to contain the threat of this growing virus was not received well by Government. That they went against his advice may very well have cost us. He is “deeply concerned” at the path in which the virus is taking – and wasted no time in saying so.

“If we do not keep community transmission down we will not be able to keep this out of nursing homes,” he said. He is making very clear his stance on the data: more action is needed now.

And with Dr Holohan now back in the public domain to push home his concerns, the Government will no longer be able to shy away from this data. His is the calm but urgent voice of reason that is needed if we are to come out of this before it becomes unmanageable.

It couldn’t have come at a more critical time.

Main photograph: @ZaraKing


Read more: Thank You: Team IMAGE pays tribute to Dr Tony Holohan