New health body proposed to identify emerging threats after lessons of Covid-19 handling

Professor Mary Horgan tasked by Stephen Donnelly with looking at models in other countries to ensure preparedness

Professor Mary Horgan has been asked by the Government to formulate proposals for a new body intended to identify emerging health threats and help agencies here prepare to deal with them.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had announced the intention to form the new body in September on foot of the report by the Public Health Reform Expert Advisory Group into Ireland’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The structure of the new body has yet to be decided, however, and Prof Horgan has been asked to look at models currently employed by other countries, such as the Statens Serums Institut in Denmark which says it was established to “ensure preparedness against infectious diseases and biological threats as well as control of congenital disorders”.

“We aim,” it says, “to strengthen health through disease control and research.”


Mr Donnelly said his intention is that Prof Horgan will enlist the assistance of other experts in the field, study the options and make recommendations regarding the most suitable form of an Irish organisation within six months.

It is understood that it has not been decided whether the body should be part of an existing department or agency or a totally independent organisation.

“This new agency will ensure strengthened preparedness, by consolidating existing expertise across the health service together with additional external resources and expertise,” said Mr Donnelly.

“Through her various roles in our health service, Mary has contributed valuable knowledge and expertise, shaping patient care. Her practical advice as a member of Nphet, encouraging the uptake of vaccines and guidance as the country began to emerge from the pandemic reflects skills that will be instrumental in strengthening Ireland’s preparedness for future health threats.”

Professor Horgan recently completed her second term as President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and is Professor of Infectious Diseases at UCD and the Mater hospital.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times