Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he will have “to take a look” when asked about a report claiming he queried why he was not being mentioned in tweets posted on the Department of Health’s Twitter feed.
The Irish Times reported on Monday that internal department records show an analysis of the department’s Twitter feed was completed for the Minister in mid-January, in the middle of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The analysis showed that no references were made to Mr Donnelly, while other individuals and State agencies had been mentioned 78 times in tweets posted by the department.
Asked about the report on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donnelly said: “I believe it was one piece of work someone was looking at.”
When asked if he had requested the analysis, Mr Donnelly said no, it had come up in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request and that he would have “to take a look.”
The analysis of the Department of Health’s Twitter feed found that chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan was mentioned in 21 tweets, while the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and its members were also regularly mentioned.
It compared the tweets to the Department of Further and Higher Education’s Twitter feed and how its Minister, Simon Harris, appeared in 10 tweets, more than any other person or entity.
Mr Harris held the minister for health post before Mr Donnelly, and is his constituency rival in Co Wicklow.
The Twitter analysis was shared with the Department of Health’s head of communications, Deirdre Watters.
There is no reference to the Minister, as you can see. We need to discuss.
The department’s interim secretary general Robert Watt emailed Ms Watters on January 14th under the subject line “private and confidential”, saying: “Deirdre, the Minister completed an analysis of the department’s Twitter feed. There is no reference to the Minister, as you can see. We need to discuss. Thank you, Robert.”
This email and a one-page analysis of the Twitter feeds – labelled “Health/Higher Education Graph” – were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Donnelly’s spokesman told The Irish Times he carried out the analysis on the Minister’s behalf and that the Minister was happy now with the number of mentions he received.
Analysis by The Irish Times found that in the two weeks after Mr Watt’s email, the department retweeted 12 of Mr Donnelly’s tweets and mentioned him in two others.