The Minister for Older People has been largely out of sight for the duration of the pandemic that has decimated the very population he represents. Jim Daly was moved off the pitch by Health Minister Simon Harris, but he insists he wasn't sidelined.
r Harris took over the media to manage the message in this unprecedented "life-or-death" situation and he agreed. "I think anyone that knows me would know I'm not the kind of guy that you could tell to shut up," he says.
Mr Daly was already on the way out the door before the pandemic erupted. He had announced his retirement from politics, planned to return to family life in Clonakilty in west Cork and was clearing his ministerial desk after the election. He is still in office, if not at his actual desk. He has been "working alongside" the minister for health via emails and teleconferences.
The calls for inquiries into the State's handling of the nursing home crisis have grown louder as the scale of deaths in nursing homes unfolds. Although he was less visible, the minister of state's response to a pandemic that claimed the lives of almost 900 residents will come under as much scrutiny as the minister for health's.
He says he has regrets, as "everyone has". "Could we have done more? I'm not so sure. Could we have done better? Yes. Of course there is always room to do better. But done more? People gave it their all at every level and I think that has to be recognised as well," he says.
"People are clamouring for answers and clamouring to get to the bottom of what happened. But it is really only in the fullness of time that the real learning can be done from this. That is going to take time, and we have to accept that it is going to take time to do it right and to do it properly."
As for his own record, he stands by the decision in March to keep nursing homes open to visitors when Nursing Homes Ireland said they should be closed.
"I heard of a situation where it suggested that passing sweets through a window to a resident could have been the source of a Covid-19 infection, that was a theory being examined."
The sweet-drop theory was later discounted, he says. "The point I am making is there is a lot we don't know about the virus, and says there is no concrete evidence to suggest family members brought it into any residence."
He was aware of the submission sent into the Department of Health by the nursing homes regulator, Hiqa, last March listing 200 nursing homes at risk to Covid-19. He says it was an operational matter which would have been for Hiqa to act on.
He can "clearly remember" in late February being very aware of the impending problem in nursing homes.
"It was quite personal to me at the time because my mum passed away in hospital when the very first case of the coronavirus hit Cork University Hospital [in early March]," he says.
They were "lucky" in that the family was allowed to see her the night before she passed away. "We were one of the first families impacted, because we couldn't go and visit our mum in her final days. I understood a lot of the difficulties that families were going through."
Mr Daly - who supports phasing out nursing homes in favour of "own-door" retirement communities - took a pop at the sector's lobby group, Nursing Homes Ireland. At an Oireachtas Covid committee meeting last week, Nursing Homes Ireland outlined how it had to repeatedly ask the Department of Health for help.
Not all went "cap-in-hand" to the department, says Mr Daly.
"Many nursing homes did what needed to be done there and then, and they got their own systems up and running, their own clinical expertise and advice, and they got their own PPE. And loads of them did and they didn't get the recognition for that," he says.
"I wouldn't like the narrative to be that all private nursing homes looked to the State for help at the time of the global pandemic," he says, adding, "I don't think that to be fair and accurate. That has been Nursing Homes Ireland's narrative but I don't think that represents the real picture of all the private nursing homes."
Was the lobby group misrepresenting the sector? "This isn't a time for creating divisions, it's not being helpful," he says. The point, he adds, is that "there are learnings on both sides".