The Department of Health's Twitter feed had the lowest number of mentions of its Minister in its timeline, according to an independent analysis of tweets by Government departments.
Research firm Kantar Media found the department has mentioned its Minister the least frequently since the start of the year despite being one of the most active departments on Twitter.
Just 6 per cent of the department's tweets between January 1st and April 22nd – or 64 tweets – mentioned Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, mostly relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys was the most mentioned Minister on a department Twitter timeline, featuring in 320 tweets, or 12 per cent of her department's output, largely driven by the number of times she appears in posts relating to the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).
Kantar carried out the research on its own initiative after The Irish Times reported two weeks ago that analysis carried out for Mr Donnelly showed how he was not being mentioned in his department's tweets – an issue that was raised internally by secretary general Robert Watt, according to departmental emails.
The analysis completed for the Minister assessed different departments, though a final graph of the analysis compared his lack of mentions in tweets with Minister for Further Education Simon Harris, his predecessor at health and a constituency rival in Wicklow, who was being mentioned regularly in his department's tweets.
The research by Kantar suggests that there was some merit in the concerns around Mr Donnelly’s lack of mentions on his department’s Twitter account back in January.
However, Kantar's analysis shows that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, rather than Mr Harris, appeared in a higher percentage of his department's Twitter feed, featuring in 57 per cent of tweets.
This was in a much smaller number of tweets overall as the Department of Health tweets more frequently than the Department of Finance.
Mr Harris still appeared very frequently on his department’s Twitter feed; he featured in almost half of the tweets posted by the Department for Further and Higher Education, or 104 tweets, during the period analysed by Kantar.
"It is clear that some departments prioritise social media as a channel for getting their message out and it is unsurprising to see Simon Harris feature prominently given how active he is on various social media platforms," said Peter Scott, an executive in Kantar's media division.
He said there was a “fine balance” to be struck by departments in managing Twitter accounts and the number of times they mention their Ministers.
“It is important that the departments promote updates from their Minister but they need to remain non-partisan. Featuring a Minister too much would leave the department open to accusations that their platform is being misused,” said Mr Scott.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage had "quite a balanced output" – it is the fourth most active department on Twitter and he is the third most mentioned Minister, featuring in almost one in every five tweets they post.
Mr Scott said that since The Irish Times story appeared, the Department of Health had reduced the number of tweets it was posting every day but was mentioning Mr Donnelly more: he appeared in tweets posted every day compared with mentions in tweets in four out of seven days per week previously.