HSE hires food blogger and other social media experts

Niall Harbison and others were paid to advise HSE staff in recent months

The HSE hired a number of social media experts, including Niall Harbison. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The HSE has hired a number of social media experts to advise staff in recent months, internal documents have shown.

Food blogger and social media consultant Niall Harbison was recruited by the HSE to address staff about his vision for healthcare in Ireland at a recent seminar. Harbison, founder of and occasionally controversial writer for the Lovin' Dublin website, was paid €615 to speak at the Ehealth Ireland 'ecosystem' event in Dublin on June 29th.

He reduced his normal speaking fee of €1,000 to €500 excluding Vat for the HSE, records released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

The HSE initially told Harbison’s team that it didn’t usually pay speakers for such events as they were a collaboration to “raise awareness around health”.


His team then said he was happy to do “charitable events” for a fee of €500.

Topics addressed during the day-long meeting at the Ballsbridge Hotel included advances in electronic referrals and e-prescribing and the role of unique identifiers for patients.

Chief information officer Richard Corbridge addressed the event on developments in the HSE's electronic health record programme.

In a blog post after the event, Mr Corbridge said Harbison had “inspired the audience with his vision for an integrated health system”.

Harbison “brought the audience through a whistle-stop tour of what it means to be in social and digital media today in 2016 with a great emphasis on being mobile first”, Mr Corbridge wrote.


The entrepreneur and former chef to Microsoft founder Paul Allen, spoke "strongly" on the importance of engaging with stakeholders through different social media platforms and commended HSE staff on their "use of Twitter Hours" and its "transparency agenda" for developing relationships.

Harbison commanded less for his speaking engagement than social media trainer Samantha Kelly, who trades under the name 'The Tweeting Goddess' and who was paid €650 to address HSE staff at meeting in Dublin on June 2nd.

Wexford-based Kelly, a former contestant on the television show Dragons’ Den, charges just under €1,000 per month to take over Twitter accounts to help individuals or organisations build their social media following.