Three Ministers unable to make Patrick’s Day trips due to Covid-19

Harris, McConalogue and Chambers test positive for virus along with Taoiseach

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris had been due to travel to France for St Patrick’s Day. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Three Government Ministers were forced to abandon their St Patrick’s Day travel plans after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Ministers, all of whom sit at Cabinet, tested positive for the disease amid rising cases in Ireland in advance of the bank holiday weekend – while Taoiseach Micheál Martin tested positive while on his St Patrick's Day trip to Washington DC.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris, and Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers all had to cancel their plans.

Mr McConalogue tested positive before his planned trip to Canada. Mr Harris cancelled a trip to France, while Mr Chambers pulled out of his planned trip to Los Angeles.


While the Taoiseach's trip, including his Oval Office meeting with US President Joe Biden, was thrown into disarray by his positive test, dozens of Ministers, officials, advisers – and even politician's family members – are pressing the flesh around the world as part of the first full scale St Patrick's Day programme since 2019.

Family members

Two Fianna Fáil Ministers – Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien and Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise Robert Troy – brought family members with them on their respective trips to the United Arab Emirates and India. Their wives, and in Mr O'Brien's case, his daughter, travelled but not at the State's expense. Mr Troy was also accompanied by an adviser and an assistant secretary from the department. Mr O'Brien travelled with Ciara Shaughnessy, his special adviser, and Niamh Redmond, his private secretary.

The Taoiseach travelled with his chief of staff, Deirdre Gillane, two senior officials, Government press secretary Paul Clarkson, his private secretary and his Garda protection detail. His wife also travelled with him.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was accompanied to Colombia and Chile by an adviser, and his private secretary, while Green Party leader Eamon Ryan flew to Washington DC and New York, joined by his private secretary and one of his eight advisers. Minister for Education Norma Foley travelled with her two advisers and the secretary general of her department.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee travelled to Savannah, Georgia, with her adviser Fiach Kelly and private secretary Emma McHugh, while Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was accompanied to San Francisco by his private secretary, a special adviser and the department secretary general, David Moloney.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was accompanied by two administrative officials to Austin, Texas. Minister for Culture Catherine Martin flew to Argentina with her special adviser private secretary. Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe went to London, with his private secretary, two special advisers and a senior official. Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman went to Philadelphia and New York with a special adviser and his private secretary.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton and an adviser went to Australia, while Josepha Madigan, Minister for Special Education, went to Ljubljana and Vienna, again accompanied by an adviser.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, stayed in Ireland, but the junior minister in her department Joe O'Brien flew to Finland and Estonia with his adviser Anne-Marie McNally.

Damien English flew with his private secretary to Stockholm. While Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney remained at home, his junior ministers Colm Brophy and Thomas Byrne went to Mexico City and Rome, respectively. Unlike other departments, it refused to release details of travelling parties, insisting on an freedom of information request.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne, travelled to the Czech Republic with his private secretary, Rebecca Clarke. Ossian Smyth, the junior minister at the Department of Public Expenditure, went to Lisbon and Madrid with a departmental official and his parliamentary assistant.

Peter Burke, Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, went to Japan and South Korea with his private secretary Conor Madden. Ministers of State in the Department of Health, Mary Butler and Anne Rabbitte, went to Belgium and Romania respectively, accompanied by one official each.

The Department of Public Expenditure didn't respond with details for Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan, who was due to go to Chicago.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times