Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle slams lack of transparency around Donnelly’s special ‘unit’

Pringle slams lack of transparency around Donnelly’s special ‘unit’

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has criticised the lack of transparency surrounding the work of the “pandemic intersectoral and international policy unit” in the Department of Health, saying the department has not answered his questions on the months-old unit.

“Why the lack of transparency?” Deputy Pringle asked.

Deputy Pringle had submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, about the unit, but the response he received “raised more questions than it answered, because they didn’t answer my questions.”

The deputy had submitted a PQ asking the Minister for Health if he would report on the unit: When it was established, the number of staff; its aims, actions and costs; whether minutes were available to the Dáil; and whether the minister would make a statement on the matter.

In response, he was told the unit was established last September “to support the co-ordinated approach to Covid-19 issues”. The unit was reported to work collaboratively across government and internationally as required, and in close contact with the Chief Medical Officer’s office.

According to the response Deputy Pringle received, the unit is led by a principal officer with seven staff and its work is “agile as required, owing to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.” A key responsibility is to represent the department in cross-government discussions in relation to international travel measures regarding the public health response to the pandemic.

Deputy Pringle said: “What is its full purpose? Is it just working on international travel?

“The Minister didn’t answer the full question,” he said. “It seems like one of his ideas, so why won’t he share the full information?”