Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly queried why he was not being mentioned in tweets posted on the Department of Health’s Twitter feed, internal department records show.
According to the records, an analysis of the department’s Twitter feed was completed for the Minister in mid-January in the midst of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and showed no references were made to Mr Donnelly.
It found that other individuals and State agencies had been mentioned 78 times in tweets posted by the department. 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 is a constituency rival of Mr Donnelly’s in Co Wicklow and his predecessor at the Department of Health.
The analysis was shared with the department’s interim secretary general Robert Watt, who in turn raised it with Deirdre Watters, the department’s head of communications.
“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,” he wrote in an email to Ms Watters on January 14th under the subject line “private and confidential”.
The email and one-page analysis of the Twitter feeds – labelled “Health/Higher Education Graph” – were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Minister’s spokesman told The Irish Times he carried out the analysis on Mr Donnelly’s behalf and that the Minister was happy now with the number of mentions he was getting .
Analysis by The Irish Times shows that in the fortnight following Mr Watt’s email, the department retweeted 12 of Mr Donnelly’s tweets and mentioned him in two others.
Mr Donnelly has 68,000 followers on Twitter, while his department has 124,000 followers. Mr Harris has 212,000 followers while his department has less than 10,000.