Expert advice and political decisions


Sir, – In relation to the rationale for the oversight committee outlined in the Inside Politics podcast (“Beyond the blunders, does this Covid plan make sense?” September 16th), if the worry is that medical experts would not be aware of the blunt impact their recommendations would have on sports or cultural events, then why are we getting a committee of civil servants to filter the advice, instead of people with actual expertise in the fields concerned? – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I seem to recall from my school days that one of the great dangers in cogging your homework from another was that, especially if you did not understand the homework in the first place, you might inadvertently leave out a key phrase or even a line – thereby rendering “your” work meaningless, and indeed suspicious.

I sincerely hope that the Government’s new Covid-19 Oversight Group (COG) will not similarly mangle the advice of NPHET in order to justify disregarding that advice and thereby facilitate Government in capitulating to the demands of the various interest groups, particularly in the worlds of business and sport, who want to open up society more quickly than the medical experts consider prudent. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Distancing NPHET from the Cabinet is a bad idea (“New Covid-19 oversight group to filter advice from NPHET to Cabinet”, News, September 15th). Now is not the time to dilute the voice of experts in shaping how we live with Covid-19. By all means, establish a Covid-19 oversight group of civil servants, but have it implement Government decisions, not shape them.

Perhaps, instead, the expertise of NPHET could be broadened, accounting for expertise in scientific research, sociology, etc. Regardless of changes to NPHET, I feel the chief medical officer talking directly to the Minister for Health is vital to ensuring expert advice is heard. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – It seems to me that the current Minister for Health and the Cabinet are struggling at the moment. Whereas Simon Harris took the advice given by NPHET and ran with it, now we seem to need a Civil Service committee to screen the same advice to see if it is practical enough to be implemented. Are NPHET’s members not the experts to be listened to in this regard? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – All the advice in the world will not help those who are reluctant to make an unpopular decision. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – While the rationale for the establishment of an oversight group such a body might be a good thing, why was it not set up in conjunction with NPHET in the first place?

The composition of this new body may only add to the confusion if it consists of “senior officials from a multitude of government departments”.

Too many cooks spoil the broth! – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.